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Internet of Things trial set to transform UK schools

21 Aug 2013

Eight UK schools will undergo a trial of technology which may ultimately lead to widespread education adoption of the use of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

The £800,000 scheme is funded by the Technology Strategy Board and backed by the Distance consortium, which includes Intel, the Open University Department of Computing and the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. It will trial various uses of the technology in order to find out where it would best fit into educational institutions.

The IoT is a set of technologies and methodologies that underpin so-called "smart applications", which could be used in areas including transport, energy and environmental studies. It envisions billions of objects containing embedded sensors, which all communicate in a web-like structure over the internet. While not new, the idea is gaining traction as major corporations begin to make significant investments in the technology required.

The Distance consortium is led by ScienceScope, a hardware firm that provides educational institutions with data-logging equipment. David Crellin, who heads up ScienceScope, told V3 that the possibilities for the project will dramatically increase as students' and teachers' ideas evolve. A simple start for the project would be to consolidate data logging from pre-existing weather stations fitted to many schools, something that could not previously be done due to differences in the methods used.

"We're solving that problem, bringing it together in one place," Crellin explained. "Not just in one school but many schools across the country. This project is a demonstrator to start to create teaching and learning ideas to bring data together from other schools."

Chad Jones, VP of product strategy at IoT cloud firm Xively, which is part of the Distance consortium backing the project, said that the concept had an empowering effect on education.

"We believe the IoT has captured the imagination of academia, businesses and consumers around the world, promising to have an enormous impact on the digital economy. While Android and iOS carved a path for almost anyone to participate, many predict the Internet of Things is driving an order-of-magnitude jump in the type of commercial opportunities the economy will generate," he said.

Duncan Wilson, Intel's principal investigator for the company's Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI) sustainable cities project, said teaching children the concepts of IoT is a crucial part of developing future problem-solving technologies. "The Internet of Things is the next big wave of computing. It will touch more aspects of our lives and have a more profound effect on the workforce than we can begin to imagine," he said. "Intel is committed to helping today's youth develop the skills they need to capitalise on the IoT and become the innovators of tomorrow."

This new investment is part of the Technology Strategy Board's IoT Demonstrator programme, which has already seen eight businesses including London City Airport and BT integrate IoT technology into their systems.

In April, Glasgow announced that it would invest £10m to become a world-leading sensor centre with IoT projects including environmental monitoring with backing from IBM and BAE Systems.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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