SMEs are already at the forefront of initiatives aimed at placing networked sensors in some surprising places to generate new and valuable data that will make our lives easier. 

Development of the technology got a major boost in the budget earlier this month when the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a £40 million programme of large scale demonstrators, business incubator space and a research centre under the auspices of Innovate UK, the government agency that supports new tech-based projects. The programme will focus on healthcare, social care and smart cities.

Incubator projects

Innovate UK is providing grants to small companies in incubator projects in Cambridge and London’s Shoreditch, both areas internationally noted for their vibrant technology industries.

Some interesting proposals already funded include a scheme to place sensors in bus stops to collect data on passenger numbers and movement; a pollution monitor for pushchairs that can help parents choose walking routes with cleaner air for their baby; a network technology to link sensors in fields to help farmers maximise crop yields; and a bicycle tracking device to help the half million people whose bikes are stolen every year.

Grants

Other grants are going to companies involved in the development of the internet of things itself, in areas including software, data security and extending the life of the batteries that will power most of the sensors.

The internet of things will be a driver for business. It will have a real impact for companies designing hardware, writing software or selling data.

A driver for business

“The internet of things will be a driver for business,” says Jonny Voon, lead technologist for internet technology at Innovate UK. “It will have a real impact for companies designing hardware, writing software or selling data.”

Sensors

Sensors are becoming available for almost any variable from counting pedestrians to monitoring pollution. They use so little power they can be kept going for years on a battery or by a solar panel, and are now cheap enough to be deployed everywhere. 

But it will be the data the sensors generate that will be the major opportunity, Voon says. “New business models are emerging in the collection of data, aggregating and analysing it to create information that has a value.”


Jonny Voon, Lead technologist for internet technology, Innovate UK