How the UK is Preparing for the Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Posted on: 4 May 2015
  • By: Patrick Oliphant

After one year of gathering feedback, Ofcom, the UK’s telecom regulatory body has published its findings.  They have recognise the impact IoT will have an the UK’s industries and have identified the priority areas that will facilitate IoT implementation and growth.  These areas include data privacy, Network Address, spectrum availability, network security and resilience.

IoT

Ofcom said the UK already has 40 million devices connected via IoT alone.  This number is predicted to pass 300 million by 2022, with hundreds of millions of devices carrying out more than a billion data transaction daily.  Ofcom proposed to work with UK industry bodies, government and business to develop framework that will foster the growth and evolution of IoT in a way that will benefit UK’s citizens and consumers.

As part of a smart infrastructure Ofcom realised that IoT cannot be ignored.  Acting Ofcom Chief Executive, Steve Unger said, “the Internet of Things will bring benefits to a range of sector and could change the way we live our lives”.

Ofcom highlighted the benefit of IoT to the farming industries, where the use of the technology could produce better tasting and nutritious craps with less fertiliser, pesticides, water and energy.  IoT would offer smarter irrigation technology that produced sweeter fruits with higher vitamin C levels.

With the potential of billions of smart gadgets and devices wirelessly connecting to internet spectrum availability is a priority area.  Spectrum defines the wireless frequency that wireless devices can communication over – depending or the protocol use i.e. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee etc.

So far Ofcom has made spectrum 870/915 MHz bands available and liberalised licence condition for existing mobile banks.
Ofcom thinks the low data rates typical of the majority of emerging IoT applications mean that they can be supported within existing allocations, including the 870/915MHz bands that Ofcom has made available.

The correct spectrum available is expected to cater for most IoT communication needs.  Ofcom believe spectrum availability is unlikely to be a barrier to entry for service provider and solutions developer.  However, Ofcom said there are prepare to expand the current range should the need arise.

IoT with its varied services, applications will require varied level of security and network resilience.  Ofcom see this as another key area and also a challenging one.  Ofcom thinks that as IoT evolve and matures it will offer an increasing number of services that citizens and consumers will come to rely on, “It will become increasingly important to ensure that the networks delivering these services are robust and reliable and that data is delivered over them securely.”

One challenge Ofcom pointed out was that the “traditional security approaches used in telecoms many not be applicable to the high volume, low cost devices likely to be used by many IoT services”.

The diversity and scale of the IoT will lead to the proliferation of devices and services, many of which will be entirely new, said Ofcom.  Therefore, it will become increasingly important to ensure that the networks delivering these services are robust and reliable and that data is delivered over them securely according to Ofcom.

The UK already has regulations in place to govern the security and resilience of the country’s communications network.  However, this does not dictate how robust and flexible the network has to be.  Therefore, Ofcom said they hope to play a coordinating role in working with the telecom sector to boost the infrastructure in readiness for IoT.

With regards to spectrum availability Ofcom thinks the available spectrums (licensed or licence exampt) in the UK to support the current IoT solutions and those in the near future. For example, consumer IoT devices that operate over short ranges, such as health or fitness trackers do not typically require highly reliable, real time communication.  These applications, Ofcom believes are likely to use technologies such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which transmit on a license exempt basis.

With the introduction of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) Ofcom does not see providing addresses for IoT devices an issue. 

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