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Oxford's Participation in the Consortium Led by the E-Research Centre and the Oxford Internet Institute (OII).

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, has confirmed a new interdisciplinary Research Hub to drive forward UK research in the Internet of Things (IoT).

The PETRAS consortium of nine leading universities, led by UCL with Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University will work together over the next three years to explore critical issues in privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security.

Oxford’s participation in the consortium is led by the e-Research Centre and the Oxford Internet Institute, and also involves the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Engineering Science and the Saïd Business School, with further collaborations planned. Work at the OII will focus and lead on the socio-ethical aspects of IOT research, technologies, and applications.

Funding for the Hub includes a £9.8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which will be boosted by partner contributions to approximately £23 million in total. The Hub will also draw in substantial support and leverage from over 47 partners from industry and the public sector.

The project is part of IoTUK, an integrated £40 million, three-year, Government programme that seeks to advance the UK's global leadership in IoT and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister, said: “UK universities are renowned for their creativity, and pioneering research and development. We want the UK to be a world leader in the adoption of Internet of Things technologies, and I know that bringing these universities together with partners from the UK's thriving tech industry will be instrumental in making this a reality.”

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said: “In the not too distant future almost all of our daily lives will be connected, in one way or another, to the digital world. Physical objects and devices will be able to interact with each other, ourselves, and the wider virtual world. But, before this can happen, there must be trust and confidence in how the Internet of Things works, its security and its resilience. By harnessing our world leading research excellence this PETRAS research Hub will accelerate IoT technology innovation and bring benefit to society and business.”

Designed to help create and deliver real-world impact, the investment will support the Hub's work over the next three years. The research will focus on the challenges associated with the IoT, including the various interactions, policy and governance, beliefs and behaviours between people and the IoT systems.

Professor Jeremy Watson, Hub Director and Vice-Dean of UCL Engineering, said:

“We will maximize the economic and societal opportunities of the Internet of Things by removing barriers to adoption.”

“Working with business, public, and third sectors will enable the PETRAS IoT Hub members to investigate questions of safety, security, privacy and trust within real life settings.”

“The UK has the potential to be the world's most supportive environment for the development and deployment of a safe and secure Internet of Things. We will raise the bar using innovative collaborative and interdisciplinary research methods.”

The PETRAS IoT Hub will focus on five themes:

  • Privacy and trust (Lead Universities: Warwick, Oxford)
  • Safety and security (Lead Universities: Imperial, Lancaster)
  • Harnessing economic value (Lead Universities: Imperial, Oxford)
  • Standards, governance and policy (Lead University: UCL)
  • Adoption and acceptability (Lead Universities: Warwick, Lancaster)

Each theme has both a technical and a social science lead. The multidisciplinary nature of the PETRAS IoT Hub's work will enable research that aims to cause a step change in the way IoT systems are conceived, designed and implemented.

Across these themes, projects sharing core technologies will be linked in cross-cutting “constellations”:

  • Infrastructure (Lead Universities: UCL, Cardiff, Warwick, Oxford)
  • Health and care (Lead Universities: Imperial, Oxford)
  • Control systems and supply chains (Lead Universities: Warwick, Lancaster, UCL)
  • Ambient environments (Lead Universities: Lancaster, Surrey, Imperial, UCL, Edinburgh)
  • Identification (Lead Universities: Warwick, Oxford)
  • Transport and mobility (Lead Universities: Surrey, Lancaster, Imperial)
  • Design and behaviour (Lead Universities: Warwick, UCL, Oxford)

Innovations will be created hand-in-hand with those who will use them, connecting cutting edge science and engineering, through social sciences to concrete action. By doing so, it will create the necessary solid foundations for technological innovations that are socially beneficial.

The initial 17 projects include large scale experiments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; the cybersecurity of low power body sensors and implants; understanding how individuals and companies can increase IoT security through better day-to-day practices; and ensuring that connected smart meters are not a threat to home security. Future projects will adapt and respond to new issues, trends and innovations, as and when they emerge.

Evidenced based policymaking in the UK will be supported by the outputs of the PETRAS IoT Hub. Hub members aim to influence standards that facilitate interoperability and opening to new market entrants and inform policy options that are responsive to technological change whilst balancing potential benefits and harms.