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The value in Internet Of Things

Posted on: Tuesday 13th of March 2012

The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution is already underway and machines are ‘talking’ to each other. Buildings, transport infrastructure, cars, healthcare equipment, industrial resources, mobile devices and even consumer goods are able to communicate, sense, analyse and produce useful information with the potential to completely transform how we live, work, travel and manage our lives. Growth estimates vary but according to Ericsson* there are 100 to 200 million connections today, growing to 1 billion over five years.

However, at the moment the full economic potential of the Internet of Things or the Machine to Machine (M2M) market is thwarted by lack of a common infrastructure for data sharing, poorly understood business models and multiple barriers to application and service development. According to a recent article in the Guardian, “the changes required across all sectors are profound. It is difficult to find an organisation that has the authority, the knowledge, the desire or the financial capacity to take a leadership role in bringing together the partners in order to create smarter solutions.”

That’s why the Technology Strategy Board has stepped in. The TSB has a £5m managed investment fund to develop a demonstrator or demonstrators to support industrial and economic growth in the future IoT market. The preliminary phase of work seeks to gain broad-based learning from some compelling IoT scenarios (each of the 10 consortium are focused on different scenarios), understanding some of the compelling use cases and business opportunities and envisaging the route to an IoT market place for applications and services. They want to do this in a transparent way ensuring the results and learning are widely disseminated. This preparatory phase will help define the demonstrator activity in a real voyage of discovery.

We’re really pleased to be one of the organisations at the heart of this ground breaking investment. Working with BT and the University of Southampton we are analysing what would make the transport and logistics sector increasingly ‘smart’, both in the way infrastructure is planned and managed and how users access and use real time and historical information to make informed decisions. Our challenge is to understand what would encourage and support an environment where information providers in this sector are incentivised to share multiple streams of information, have a common secure platform on which to store and exchange it, and application and service users have access to it. Over the next few months we’ll be talking to stakeholders including transport infrastructure providers, logistics management companies, utilities, Councils, the Police, and the Highways Agency to explore how to create such a sustainable ecosystem.

Last week we shared our project aims with the other nine other project teams. The day centered around understanding the common challenges and opportunities. Sure enough, when ably facilitated by 100% Open, it was not long before common ground was found even where the scenarios were as different as helping retailers provide a personalised in shop experience or helping a haulier deliver bananas from Dover to John o’Groats. I have to admit that I went into the day thinking that I’d be in a room full of Big Data fans and that I’d mostly have the pleasure of discussing the details of road sensor data – but this was not the case. I found myself participating in discussions about Personal Information Assets (PIA) and the challenges associated with releasing their value. Many IoT data generating devices will be owned by individuals. Cars, phones, radios, televisions are all PIAs generating data. The question arose over and over again about who owns that data, or rather, who has the right to benefit from it? This question pervaded the debate.

Over the day there were four key topics:

  • Business Models and Value Chains – how to make data available ‘upstream’ and how to prove connectivity, efficiencies and value ‘downstream’.
  • Trust, Privacy and Ethical – the need for transparency of data use, clarity around methods for gathering data and ROI.
  • Busting data silos – looking for a simple and repeatable ways to push and pull data as well as easy ways of sharing across organisations, from person to company and company to person.
  • The user as a consumer and a producer – where the issues of data ownership, benefit models, accuracy and use merged with the design question. The opportunities for individuals are significant but the consumer adoption curve may be the limiting factor rather than legislation, regulation or technology.

The benefits of this TSB investment will be significant. We’re delighted to be a key player at the forefront of this innovative and thought leading work.

* Wireless World Research Forum