Posted on: Thursday 5th of July 2012
Last week we took part in the Technology Strategy Board’s Internet of Things Showcase. We presented the results of our study (collaborating with University of Southampton and BT) which scrutinises what could make the transport and logistics sector increasingly ‘smart’ and highlights the barriers and commercial opportunities in a future IoT scenario. The large room was packed, but at frequent points you could hear a pin drop the audience were so attentive.
We were one of ten consortia coming together from across the UK to share our study learnings and the insights we’ve gained in this preliminary phase of work over the last few months. Each project, all focusing on different scenarios, will inform the next phase of TSB investment – £4million in a demonstrator to support industrial and economic growth in the future UK IoT market, creating new products, services and applications and unlocking innovation in this critical area.
Here’s a link to a video about the TSB project and to the Showcase presentations. I think it is fair to say it has been a real journey of exploration for everyone involved. It is interesting to see how a shared understanding of the technical, organisational, legal, ethical and business challenges is emerging, along with ideas on business models to realise value and kick start innovation. We’ve summarised below the key themes which seem to be emerging across the ten studies, and the consensus about the shape of the demonstrator.
- Legal issues around ‘whose data is it?’ There is a reoccurring issue of the need for clarity around the legal ownership of data, including who should reap the value from sharing it and who bears the liabilities for its veracity. What agreements and processes need to be put in place to answer these questions?
- Cross-sector synergies. There is agreement that we should look for the technical, legal, commercial and social enablers which support synergies across domains and sectors. There is further need for collaboration to understand what these are.
- Combining data sets. How to bust data silos, connect and share data, between ‘things’, across domains and between individuals and organisations is key. Open standards, language ‘protocols’, and use of technology enablers such as semantic mapping to overcome interoperability issues and gaps in the value chain will be one way to achieve this.
- The human challenges. This is one of the most interesting themes. There is widespread recognition that most data belonging to ‘things’ links back to a person in some way or another. Cars, phones, radios, televisions are all Personal Information Assets generating data. Smart meters, although owned by energy companies, will be generating personal data which needs to be safeguarded. There is a critical need to explore issues around personal data, trust, security and privacy because without understanding of how to value, manage and share personal information IoT innovation will be inhibited.
- Business models and value chains. Internet of Things will create opportunities to reassess and redesign business models, creating entirely new ways of generating value as well as improving the efficiency of current commercial operations. The potential is huge. As a recent article in Science Daily comments, “Technology optimists claim that IoT technology will be the vital missing link enabling us to meet the major challenges associated with climate change, energy efficiency, mobility and future health services.” New business models and value chains will be at the heart of developments bringing together technology developments and economic value creation for IoT.
Our project – which will be published and which we will discuss further in the next few weeks – touches on all these key themes.
We’ve analysed the commercial, technological and legal requirements for an environment where ‘smart’ transport applications and business process improvement can be generated by exploiting a critical mass of diverse, real-time and historical data. By engaging directly with stakeholders including the Highways Agency, Police, local Councils, Isotrak and Turners (a logistics organisation), we’ve explored how to create an end-to-end digital asset value chain and an approach which can be used to redefine business models in an IoT scenario. There are ideas on how to kick start the necessary business ecosytem and which components might be replicable in other sectors. We’ve looked closely at what the generic and specific technology enablers are and outlined the applications and the infrastructure services that play an essential role in the value chain and which allow the converged scenario to function.
The demonstrator phase
Consensus is thus starting to emerge from across the ten projects about what the demonstrator phase should look like and the key issues/themes that should be addressed. The Technology Strategy Board is currently assimilating everyone’s suggestions. They don’t have all the answers yet but some areas of agreement are emerging. Firstly, the need for a specific location, test bed or ‘campus’ which is not too big or small. Secondly, the creation of an self-sustaining and open ecosystem which supports and encourages ‘bottom-up’ innovation. Thirdly, an open data platform, or what we have called in our project an ‘information hub’, that enables data to be shared across domains. There’s complexity and some contradictions to be overcome. How do you encourage ‘bottom up’ innovation whilst providing ‘top down’ standards and support? How do you create a ‘closed’ environment for tests and experimentation whilst still enabling and encouraging new entrants and an ecosystem that can grow? How do you ensure standards and interoperability whilst promoting agility and flexibility?
The most important aspect of the demonstrator is to create an environment where the key questions – around personal data, trust, privacy, security, enablers, business models and value creation – can be asked, and where we can hopefully find some answers. This first preliminary phase, with ten consortia collaborating and sharing their learnings in a transparent way, has been fascinating. The benefits of this TSB investment will be significant in helping the UK to gain a competitive advantage in IoT technology, services and adoption, bringing together and stimulating all the ideas and work that is currently taking place in the UK. We’re delighted to be involved. Watch out for further posts discussing the findings from our report.