Researchers investigate the ethics of the Internet of Things

Privacy and security of IoT in the spotlight in £23m project.

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Will people learn to trust the Internet of Things?

Image: Cienpies Design&Communication

Researchers at nine UK universities will work together over the next three years on a £23m ($33.5m) project to explore the privacy, ethics, and security of the Internet of Things.

The project is part of 'IoTUK', a three-year, £40m government programme to boost the adoption of IoT technologies and services by business and the public sector.

The Petras group of universities is led by UCL with Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Edinburgh, and Cardiff University, plus 47 partners from industry and the public sector.

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Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said in the not-too-distant future almost all our daily lives will be connected to the digital world, while physical objects and devices will be able to interact with each other, ourselves, and the wider virtual world.

"But, before this can happen, there must be trust and confidence in how the Internet of Things works, its security, and its resilience," he said.

The research will focus on five themes: privacy and trust; safety and security; harnessing economic value; standards, governance, and policy; and adoption and acceptability. Each will be looked at from a technical point of view and the impact on society.

Initial projects include large-scale experiments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; the cybersecurity 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 a threat to home security.

It's still early days for the IoT but already concerns have surfaced about the security and privacy of the technology, and how the data generated by, for example, fitness monitors or other home systems can be used by the companies that collect it.

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