Home Cyber WMG’s Cyber Security Centre set to play key role in new £23 million Internet of Things Research Hub

WMG’s Cyber Security Centre set to play key role in new £23 million Internet of Things Research Hub

by Brian Sims

The Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick is to play a significant role in a new £23 million interdisciplinary Research Hub designed to drive forward UK research on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, has confirmed that the University of Warwick is now one of nine leading UK universities in the PETRAS Consortium which will work together over the next three years to explore “critical issues” around privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability and security.

Funding for the Hub includes a £9.8 million grant bestowed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). This will be boosted by partner contributions to reach an estimated funding total of £23 million.

The project is part of IoTUK, an integrated £40 million, three-year Conservative 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 private businesses and the public sector.

The Hub’s consortium of leading universities includes the University of Warwick, UCL, Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, Lancaster University, the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, the University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University. The Hub will draw in and leverage substantial support from over 47 partners resident within industry and the public sector. 

Speaking about the news, Ed Vaizey commented: “UK universities are renowned for their creativity as well as their pioneering research and development work. 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 that desire a reality.”

Privacy, trust and ethical issues

Carsten Maple, Professor of Cyber Systems Engineering in the WMG Cyber Security Centre at the University of Warwick, will lead on the Hub’s Privacy and Trust research theme.

Maple said: “The significant data generated by, and used within, the Internet of Things compels us to thoroughly understand privacy, trust and ethical issues. We need to examine how data is stored, transmitted and used to ensure that privacy is maintained. If consumer and industry trust in the Internet of Things is diminished, there will be a great loss to business and society alike. How we address consent, privacy and protection issues will be vital towards ensuring that the Internet of Things develops in a way that’s both acceptable and beneficial to us all.”

Professor Philip Nelson, CEO at the EPSRC, stated: “In the not-too-distant future, in one way or another almost all of our daily lives will be connected to the digital world. Physical objects and devices will be able to interact with each other, ourselves and the wider virtual world. Before this can happen, though, 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 substantial benefits to society at large and the business community.”

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

Professor Jeremy Watson – the Hub’s director and vice dean of UCL Engineering – told Risk UK: “We will maximise the economic and societal opportunities of the Internet of Things by removing barriers to adoption. Working with business, the 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 now raise the bar by using innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary research methods.”

Five key themes to explore

The PETRAS IoT Hub will focus on five key themes. These are as follows:

  • 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 PETRA 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 enable concrete action. By doing so, the necessary solid foundations for technological innovations that are socially beneficial will be realised.

The initial 17 projects include large-scale experiments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a focus on the cyber security 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 in any way a threat to home security.

Future projects will adapt and respond to new issues, trends and innovations as and when they emerge.

Evidence-based policy making in the UK will be supported by the outputs of the PETRAS IoT Hub. Hub members aim to influence standards that facilitate interoperability and openings for new market entrants and inform policy options that are responsive to technological change, while also balancing potential benefits and harms.

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