Is the UK economy IoT ready yet?

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‘How far away are we from seeing the Internet of Things (IoT) in our personal and business lives?’

This question was put before attendees of techUK Public Services 2030 conference opened by Francis Maude MP and techUK CEO Julian David. Using electronic voting devices 75% of attendees said they expected to see it within the next 5 years.

Forecasts from stakeholders vindicated their vote; Cisco believes that within 5 years the number of connected devices worldwide will have grown from 12-13 billion to 50 billion. Meanwhile McKinsey and Company says that IoTs could have a potential economic impact of $2.7trillion to $6.2 trillion across sized applications by 2025.

"It has to happen in 5 years," says Julian Bowery of the Department for Communities and Local Government. "It is not excusable for us to be talking about a technology that is here now and allow cultural issues to get in the way."

Attendees also voted IoT and data analytics as the two areas in which the UK could show the most leadership in. However, almost everyone agreed that a lack of understanding regarding IoT was the biggest barrier to its success.

Gary Atkinson, director of emerging technologies at ARM, noted that the IoT infrastructure is out there and operates on a lower bandwidth than the mobile network it runs parallel with.

Daniel Myles MP says in terms of IoT’s adoption, "it comes down to business and real world cases, it comes down to why would we do this, how would we do this." Byles noted that many local government authorities may well see this as an unnecessary add-on, especially when under financial pressure.

However, Byles believes that central government can give local a "nudge" when it comes to the latter bidding to the former for construction contracts. Byles says this can be done without mandates but by simply asking them how they will ensure technology is up-to-date and that they are making the best business choice. Byles hopes that within time it will be seen as a risk not to adopt the IoT changes that we are seeing in today’s risk takers like Milton Keynes and that within time the UK will be exporting IoT smart cities to other nations.

Geoff Snelson, director of strategy for Milton Keynes council, outlined how data was being attained through a number of IoT systems throughout Milton Keynes which showed the number of available parking spaces and had sensors on bins to alert waste removal when they were overflowing.

"To get people to volunteer data there needs to be some contract of understanding that there will be some benefit that accrues back," Snelson said.

Sarah Eccelston of Cisco says that consumer demand will drive the public sector once expectations of service are raised in the private sector: "They are simply not going to tolerate being able to wear a T-shirt that can connect them to the internet but the government can’t provide their 85-year-old grandmother who has Alzheimer’s a t-shirt that connects the grandmother to the internet so that they know she’s lost."

Looking ahead to 2030 Atkinson suggested that, "digital identity, assigned at birth, is kind of the way we should be going and then as you go through your life different services and capabilities are added to that."

However, as Robert McNamara of techUK noted that the issue of privacy and security is one area that needs to be addressed before any kind of IoT system can be put in place.

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