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12 March 2015

Will the Internet of Things change ‘data’ forever?


The Internet of Things is going to be huge. In fact it’s going to be so far beyond anything we have known that our entire understanding and concept of ‘data’ will become useless.

Who says so? None other than respected technology pioneer Kevin Ashton, the man who actually coined the term ‘Internet of Things’ back in 1995.

Kevin was the guest speaker at the latest BT Tower Talk, the third in a series of events organised as part of BT’s Ingenious programme.

Addressing an audience from the world of business, technology, government and the media, Kevin’s presentation stressed the importance of the connected society. It also outlined the opportunities being made possible by the Internet of Things.

Here and now

Kevin said: “The Internet of Things is not something that is going to happen. It already is happening.”

He gave the example of the smartphone, and how the sensors within these devices were being used to help model the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, by plotting the movement of people through their phones, and working out their connections with other people.

Other examples of networked devices in action included a fleet of driverless trucks in mines in Western Australia.

No steering wheel required

“The self-driving car is already real,” said Kevin. “Five to 10 years from now, every car will have self-driving capability, whether you want it or not. We're 15 years away from cars without steering wheels at all.”

Kevin was joined at the event by Dr Tim Whitley, head of research at BT. Tim explained how BT is playing a crucial role in the development of new, economy-boosting technologies - including the Internet of Things.

Said Tim: “BT is excited to be working closely with the UK government on some very high profile Internet of Things projects, including a Smart City project in Milton Keynes Council and a major telehealth initiative for the NHS in Cornwall.”

State-of-the-art data hub

The Milton Keynes Smart City programme aims to resolve growth constraints for the city and improve quality of life for its citizens.

At the heart of the programme is a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’ which uses cloud and big data technology to combine information from a range of sources, including energy, transport, water-use, weather, pollution, social and economic datasets to improve management of the city’s infrastructure.

Improving care

And in Cornwall, BT is helping to innovate in healthcare delivery in a number of ways. For example, sensors on patients, assets and equipment are already being used to monitor and track status inside hospitals as well as protecting staff.

Real-time data can be transmitted over wi-fi or 4G linking the location of staff and patients into security and monitoring systems. This quick sharing of information will help improve staff and patient safety as well as increase the quality of care and reduce costs.

As the Internet of Things gathers momentum BT will continue to play a leading role in its growth and development, whether that’s research, collaborating with the government or developing new products and services based on it.

Watch highlights of the Tower Talk