The importance of funding in the development of the Internet of things(IoT) was front and centre during a conference in Brussels on Thursday.
“Building a gadget is very different from embarking on a socio-technical system.” That’s according to Atta Badii of Reading University, addressing participants at the event.
For many, the Internet offers access to information, convenience and entertainment, and IoT allows the use of smart wearables and household utilities.
But, Badii says, IoT has the potential to do so much more, such as “raising the bar for the vulnerable, or the privileged and for people needing help or assistance, like elderly caregivers”.
He added that Europe is facing a lot of “pressing issues”, and cited elderly care as an key example, pointing out that even if every new school leaver became a carer there would still not be enough people to look after the ever-growing elderly population in Europe.
“IoT,” he explained “Is about transformative government and the empowerment of citizens. It often involves a variety of stakeholders, and it is part of a policy strategy for enlightened governments.”
Therefore, he explained, IoT “really needs a multi sectorial, multi stakeholder involvement”.
Drawing on his experience working on the Future Internet Public-Private Partnership Programme (FI-PPP), Hans Schaffers of Saxion University told participants that “We have to look at what would happen if we were not stimulating these developments.
“It looks like it is always very difficult to get people or organisations together to share resources and to really come up with something of interest to Europe, instead of their particular interest.
“The idea that individual parties are looking too much to their own interests should be met with activity at the European level to bring together these different resources, and then to add resources on top of it.”
According to the European Commission, the aim of FI-PPP is to harmonise European technology platforms and their implementation, and that of the relevant policy, legal, political and regulatory frameworks.
Schaffers said that although FI-PPP had been largely funded by the Commission, there were also other organisations working on it.
He added that it is difficult to launch these kind of developments, “The first stage of getting things evolving, getting them on track, is very important in terms of public funding.”
Patrick Kennedy of the European Factories of the Future Research Association explained the logic for EU level funding saying, “The reason why there’s funding there is first of all it’s not really government intervention, because there’s a community out there who want this and there are companies and organisations who aren’t interested in borders, quite frankly.
“There is often a problem with national funding when it comes to international or transnational cooperation. And so to bring it to the European level allows us to simply facilitate people to cooperate across borders.”
He said that the European Union is unique as it has the institution that can channel cross-border collaboration, and that it has “responded to the needs of the community” and done so.
He concluded saying that, in addition to the social benefits of IoT, “There’s a community out there that wants it, and they’re not necessarily particularly political about it either, they want to do business and they want to compete.”
The conference was organised by the Digital Enlightenment Forum, Huawei and The Parliament Magazine.