Connect With Us


UK universities form consortium to research IoT technologies

Steve Rogerson
January 12, 2016
Nine UK universities will work together over the next three years to explore critical issues in IoT privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability and security. The Petras consortium will be funded by a £9.8m grant from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which will be boosted by partner contributions to approximately £23m in total.
The project is part of IoT UK, an integrated £40m, 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.
The hub is a consortium of nine leading universities led by University College London, with Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University. It will draw in support and leverage from more than 47 partners from industry and the public sector.
Ed Vaizey, minister of state for culture and the digital economy, announced the consortium. He 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.”
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.
“In the not too distant future almost all of our daily lives will be connected, in one way or another, to the digital world,” said Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s chief executive. “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.”
The hub will focus on five themes:

  • Privacy and trust: Lead universities: Warwick and Oxford;
  • Safety and security: Lead universities: Imperial and Lancaster;
  • Harnessing economic value: Lead universities: Imperial and Oxford;
  • Standards, governance and policy: Lead university: UCL; and
  • Adoption and acceptability: Lead universities: Warwick and Lancaster.
Each theme has both a technical and a social science lead. The multidisciplinary nature of the 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 and Oxford;
  • Health and care: Lead universities: Imperial and Oxford;
  • Control systems and supply chains: Lead universities: Warwick, Lancaster and UCL;
  • Ambient environments: Lead universities: Lancaster, Surrey, Imperial, UCL and Edinburgh;
  • Identification: Lead universities: Warwick and Oxford;
  • Transport and mobility: Lead universities: Surrey, Lancaster and Imperial; and
  • Design and behaviour: Lead universities: Warwick, UCL and Oxford.
“We will maximise the economic and societal opportunities of the internet of things by removing barriers to adoption,” said hub director and vice-dean of UCL Engineering Jeremy Watson. “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.”
Innovations will be created hand-in-hand with those who will use them, connecting science and engineering, through social sciences to concrete action. By doing so, it aims to 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 policy making in the UK will be supported by the outputs of the hub. Hub members aim to influence standards that facilitate interoperability and openings to new market entrants, and inform policy options that are responsive to technological change while balancing potential benefits and harms.