David Dunn, Chief Executive, Sunderland Software City

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What is the Internet of Things?

By David Dunn, Chief Executive, Sunderland Software City

The ‘internet of things’ or ‘IoT’ is becoming a commonly used phrase across all sectors but particularly the technology sector, however the more people I speak to the more I become aware that people – and I include myself in this – don’t fully know that the IoT is! Yes, there is the obligatory car talking to the kettle story with the former telling the latter you’re on your way home and to welcome you with hot water.

Ultimately however if the role of IoT is to have a cup of tea waiting for us when we get home then we have perhaps failed in exploiting the technology.

The UK Government is investing £40m in IoT, including the launch of IoTUK; a programme of activities that seeks to advance the UK’s global leadership in the Internet of Things (IoT) and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

Following a competitive process Sunderland Software City were chosen as one of four IoT UK ‘Boost’ locations for a series of IoT innovation challenges and incubation activities aimed at helping businesses and public services to maximise and deploy IoT technologies.

We are exploring four sectors in our IoT Boost work; river & marine, social services, smart working and emergency services. The purpose is simple – educate people in the sector to understand how they can be helped through technology, and help technology companies understand the challenges faced by the sectors. Hopefully the benefit will be mutual.

As part of our activities we are having an IoT Residential event on 2-3rd February – put simply we will have a room full of IoT experts, aspiring IoT companies (those who haven’t yet generated revenues from IoT but probably already run a successful tech business), potential IoT users and beneficiaries, some funders, a restaurant, a bar and plenty of stimulating talk and theorising.

The hope is that by the end of the boost programme we will have new solutions to challenges commissioned, developed by SMEs that utilise new technologies to improve businesses and services.

Still sounds a bit vague doesn’t it?

As part of explaining this phenomenon I’ll suggest a ‘what if’ scenario to get people thinking. Imagine if the lampposts in your street could understand when some undesirables were lurking and would change the light intensity or colour as a warning. Yes, CCTV in this instance would help, but this requires people to review the images and let other people know – IoT is about getting ‘things’ talking to each other and making decisions autonomously to make our lives easier, safer and save us money.

In another example; this time around smarter working practices: imagine if your bus, car or even the pavement could tell your boss what time you’d be arriving at work. At first thought this is terrifying, big brother truly manifested. But think of some of the benefits – real delays could be reported and diaries and workloads changed automatically. Overtime could be claimed without any query. Imagine if you are the manager – clarity of working and easier planning of activity if people are going to be late.

These examples are limited by my own environment and imagination but I bet there are people and businesses in the North East that can think of many more uses. But thinking is not enough. If you need IoT to help your work or life someone can build and deploy your idea. If you’re a business you can make money from an idea. The IoT is here but we all need to make it work for us.

We are welcoming applications from current and aspiring IoT companies for the residential event. If you would like to apply, please contact Robert Currie at Robert.currie@sunderlandsoftwarecity.com or call 0191 562 3193.

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