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Research councils launch IoT competition



Organisers want universities to contribute to looking at trust in the internet of things, a factor that will influence the development of smart cities

A competition has been opened for universities to develop a new £10 million research hub to investigate the security and privacy issues around the internet of things (IoT).

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is running the competition in conjunction with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project is backed by an investment of £9.8 million over three years, part of the government’s broader £40 million IoTUK Programme to support the development of the IoT.

It will look at the interactions, policy and governance around the plethora of sensors and devices that are connected to the internet and have the potential to support radical changes in public services.

The competition organisers want a small group of universities to work together, and provide matching funding, beginning in January of next year.

A spokesperson for EPSRC told UKAuthority that, although only universities can enter the competition, it is possible for other public sector organisations to have a role as partners within bids.

Adoption and acceptability

Its call document for the competition says that adoption and public acceptability of the technology will depend heavily on trust, and the research should deal with fundamental issues around privacy, security and interactions between humans and systems relevant to the IoT.

It is expected to take in ethical, legal, regulatory and business issues, and is also expected to include work on standards, interoperability, supervisory control and harnessing the economic value of IoT.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s chief executive said: “Our lives are becoming ever-more interconnected with digital devices and the internet. The potential benefits are wide, an exchange of information in an emergency could save time and lives.

“However, it is also clear that people have concerns about how their data is handled and kept secure so the Internet of Things Hub will address these challenges. Successful economies are economies that invest in science; this is an investment in the science of the future and will help deliver a successful and secure UK.”

Smart cities role

The IoT is a crucial element of the move towards smart cities, with the potential to coordinate services better and provide some that are not yet available; but the concerns about the use of data are making some organisations cautious about the possibilities. At last week’s techUK event on smart cities it was claimed that unless people feel confident about how their data the UK could be slow off the mark in adopting solutions.

Expressions of interest for the competition have to be registered with the ESRPC by 20 July.

The IoTUK Programme is a collaboration between the Digital Economy Unit in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, InnovateUK, the Digital Catapult, the Future Cities Catapult and EPSRC, and is aimed at building on the country’s strengths in the technology, design and security of the IoT.

In addition to the research hub, it will involve a series of large scale demonstrator projects health and social care and the city services, a programme to accelerate the development of hardware, and IoTUK Central to bring all the elements together.

Image from US Federal Trade Commission, public domain through Wikimedia.

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