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March 12, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:11am

5 things you need to know about the Government’s £45m ‘Internet of Things’ funding

How will it work and what are the challenges?

By Amy-Jo Crowley

The UK government has pledged to double the amount of funding it gives to technology companies working on devices for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The idea of IoT, first coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a project manager at Belkin’s cleantech division, refers to appliances enabled with sensors and assigned their own IP address – thus creating a world where everything from fridges, to beds, to teapots communicate with each other and make intelligent decisions in real-time.

David Cameron, the UK prime minister, announced an extra £45m, bringing the total figure up to £73m, as he arrived in Germany for the CeBIT 2014 trade fair earlier this week.

CBR tells you five things you need to know about it.

1. How will it work?

The funding will be provided by the UK’s government-funded innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which it will divide into different IoT areas.

This includes £18.5m for its smart cities programme, £10m on digital health and location-based services, £4m on freight transport, and about £8.5m on remote working and high street innovations.

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The funding will be distributed in the form of R&D grants to universities, public sector organisations or businesses that are working together on a particular project via a series of competitions.

Another £9m will support IoT innovation through TSB’s Satellite Applications catapult centre, which works with SMEs, universities and end users to develop satellite-based applications, while £3.5m has already been put aside for research projects to support the digital economy.

The government also set up a £1m European funding competition designed to support startups in Shoreditch and Cambridge working in the space. The government’s East London Tech City organisation will be running the grant fund in conjunction with the TSB.

Further details on TSB’s annual delivery plan will be available in a few weeks from now.

2. What about Transport?

According to TSB, the government is looking at IoT to improve transport and logistics, with IoT facilitating the remote monitoring of everything from bins, vehicles and traffic lights, which it hopes will make cites more efficient and improve decision-making in real-time.

Nick Appleyard, head of digital at TSB, says: "We ran a competition about a year ago and invited city authorities to put forward their proposals for how they use these kinds of IoT technologies in order to manage their cities better."

About £24m has already gone to Glasgow’s city authorities, which has been distributed to businesses collaborations looking to apply IoT to buses, bins, building and lampposts.

"Bristol has also received funding, so has Peterborough…although it’s a small city, there are some advantages because you can actually get your arms around the whole thing," says Appleyard.


3. What about Healthcare?

Businesses collaborations are also encouraged to put forward proposals in healthcare, where Appleyard says IoT is being applied to reduce costs and improve the quality of care.

"We’ve got three major parties already out there in what we call delivering assisted-living lifestyle at scale (DALLAS), which involves 600,000 patients in these trials," he explains.

"We’re trying to keep people out of hospital as it’s very expensive to keep them in hospital. If you’re going to have them leading independent lives in their own home it’s better for them and saves money.

"In order to be able to do that, you need the IoT capability, which includes sensors, alarms, information systems linking back to their GP."

4. The challenge

Failure to agree a standardised approach for components in this emerging technology sector could result in failure, according to Appleyard, who studied 200 smarthomes across the UK a couple of years ago.

"The problem is that you couldn’t pick up a sensor or dashboard from one of them and use it on any of the others because they had all been developed by different people for different purposes," he explains.

"So the challenge is to get to the point where you have a marketplace where you can make a new box, which would work in any of the smarthomes or smart transports or urban environments because you’ve got standards, which allow you to operate these things…making sure that they can all talk together."

He also worries how Ofcom will manage the limited amount of radio spectrum.

"As we increase the number of devices connected, we risk overloading parts of the Internet itself. IP addresses are already in short supply, and wireless spectrum is becoming scarce," he says.

"The industry will need to work out how to manage these scarce resources, and government has a role to play in helping them to agree how."

5. Collaboration

Appleyard makes the point that the true vision of IoT will require a collaboration among vendors with differing areas of expertise.

"Businesses naturally compete with one another. They don’t naturally cooperate with one another to solve these problems, so that’s what a lot of the public intervention is around, is helping the businesses to cooperate with one another."



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