By Madeline Carr
The recent IET / PETRAS Living in the IoT conference took place at Savoy Place in London over March 28 and 29.
On one level, it was a real celebration of the research excellence of a diverse community of UK academics who work closely with government and industry stakeholders. Woven through much of the conference, though, was the international dimension of the Internet of Things. This was particularly evident in the keynote addresses and plenary panels which tended to explore the IoT through broad, over-arching lenses rather than focus too closely on specific technologies or implementations.
A thread running through much of the conference was the important ethical considerations in the way we collect, handle, secure and use data. There were several sessions dedicated to ethics but it also featured in many of the panels, from CAVs to IoT in the home. In her keynote address, Dame Wendy Hall made important observations about the need for diversity in all of these practices so as to avoid building in bias – particularly in developing artificial intelligence. Crucially though, in a global IoT ecosystem, perceptions of what is ethical will differ and reconciling these differences will be important to the international collaboration on IoT data flows. Indeed, the relevance of ethics to so much of the conference content signalled the challenges (but perhaps also the opportunities) of the necessary discussions about the ethical use of data in systems that do not adhere to jurisdictional arrangements like national borders.
The necessity of taking up IoT policy discussions at the international level was also the primary focus of a ‘day 0’ event on March 27. This was motivated by a recent PETRAS study which found that very few international policy fora where cyber security is discussed, have made any substantive progress on issues specific to the IoT. We were fortunate to have Apostolos Malatras from ENISA and Nick Davis from the World Economic Forum leading colleagues through facilitated discussions on how to tailor technical knowledge for policy consumption. A full report from this working group will be available in the next few weeks on the PETRAS website.
In his keynote address, Joe Butler, Chief Scientific Advisor to DCMS, brought these threads together to point towards a global leadership role for the UK. The UK investment in research into ethical considerations of data use, coupled with technological excellence and a policy landscape that is agile and able to accommodate trials like the connected autonomous vehicle corridor, are exactly the elements needed to maximise the benefits that the IoT has to offer while mitigating against negative impacts. Ensuring these extend into the international landscape will be substantially reinforced by successful examples like the UK.