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The internet of things: Opportunities and threats


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09:00 - 18:30


The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Connectivity via tablet. Credit: yoh4nn.

Over the past decade the Internet of Things (IoT) has seen a huge growth in interest, due to its extensive applications and potential to rapidly increase productivity and change lifestyles. However, during this time the topic has also become entrenched in discussions about security, economic, ethical and legal issues. This meeting will address the IoT’s disruptive potential, and how the future of technology and society will be shaped.

This conference will describe the state of the art of the field, and highlight key issues which pose a challenge to the translation and adoption of technologies that fall under the umbrella of the IoT.

Attending this event

This open event is intended for participants from industry, academia and government who have an interest in the IoT.

Contact the Industry team for more information.

About the conference series

The conference is part of the Society's Transforming our future conference series, launched to address the major scientific and technical challenges of the next decade and beyond. Each conference will focus on one topic and will seek to cover key issues, including:

  • The current state of the key industry sectors involved
  • The position of the UK and how it can benefit from the technology
  • The future direction of research
  • The challenges faced in turning research into commercial success
  • The skills base needed to deliver major economic scientific advances
  • The wider social and economic impacts

The conferences are a key component of the Society’s five-year Science, Industry and Translation initiative which demonstrates our commitment to reintegrate science and industry at the Society and to promote science and its value by connecting academia, industry and government.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

03 October


Arrivals and registration


Opening keynote

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Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte FRS, Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Ministry of Defence


There is much hype around IoT with much discussion about what could be achieved if everything is connected – smart buildings, smart highways, smart and autonomous mines, for example . The reality of IoT is more prosaic. Many technical elements of IoT have been around for at least 20 years – distributed sensing, wireless connectivity, data processing. Indeed, point solutions for many notable IoT applications (process control, automation, for example) have been demonstrated - without any recourse to “IoT technologies”.

However, there is a strong sense that the world has reached a tipping point - ubiquitous low-cost sensing, pervasive communications, an ability to store and process huge amounts of real-time data – these are all driving both technology and business change. What is needed, and what will be the big paradigm shift over what has been done in the past, is to provide a standard way of connecting sensors and communicating data, coupled with a philosophy of open and reusable information.

This talk will focus on the IoT business proposition: First an open market for sensors, actuators, devices and other systems with standard interfaces. This will open opportunities for a large number of new device developers, reduce costs and build adoption in end-user industries. Second is an open market for data using common platforms and common standards to make data available to many users. This will open huge opportunities for many new companies and individuals to easily develop analytics and application tools. Third, and most important, is the combined use of these systems and data to transform business practice – increasing efficiency, improving safety, managing maintenance and maintain quality of product. There are endless business opportunities to apply IoT to business and industry – and realise much of the “smart” system vision of IoT.

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Technology: presentations and panel discussion

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Professor Dame Wendy Hall DBE FREng FRS, University of Southampton/Web Science Trust, UK

Professor Julie McCann, Professor of Computer Systems, Imperial College London
Professor Sadie Creese, Professor of Cybersecurity, University of Oxford
Professor Derek McAuley, Professor of Digital Economy, University of Nottingham
Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi FREng, Professor of Computer Engineering, University of Southampton


This session, on IoT Technology, will feature short presentations from our panel members, followed by a panel discussion open to the audience.

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Security issues: presentations and panel discussion

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Professor Jeremy Watson CBE FREng, UCL/BRE/Institution of Engineering and Technology

Professor Chris Hankin, Director of the Institute for Security Science and Technology and Professor of Computing Science, Imperial College London
Robert Hayes, Senior Executive, Global Engagement, root9B
Dr Irina Brass, Lecturer in Regulation and Public Policy Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy, UCL


This session, on Security issues, will feature short presentations from our panel members, followed by a panel discussion open to the audience.

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Business and economic issues: presentations and panel discussion

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Dr Jeremy Silver, Digital Catapult CEO

Caroline Gorski, Head of IoT, Digital Catapult
Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO, The Conversational Century
Charlie McMurdie, Former Head of Law Enforcement National Cyber Capability, Met Police
Dr Mike Short CBE FREng, Vice President, Telefonica


This session, on Business and economic issues, will feature short presentations from our panel members, followed by a panel discussion open to the audience.

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Social science, ethical, legal and global issues: presentations and panel discussion

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Dr Patricia Lewis, Chatham House

Maria Farrell, Internet policy consultant and writer
Professor David De Roure, Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford, UK
Emily Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, Oxford Information Labs
Professor Laura DeNardis, Professor at American University Washington D.C., Author and scholar of internet governance and infrastructure


This session, on Social science, ethical, legal and global issues, will feature short presentations from our panel members, followed by a panel discussion open to the audience.

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Closing keynote

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The internet of things from the perspective of cybersecurity

Marina Kaljurand, Chair of Cybersecurity Commission, Dutch Government


The Internet of Things (IoT) is an emerging phenomenon that merges cyber and physical, brings together cyber infrastructure with the physical world. The IoT is believed to create new opportunities for economic growth and development, make the use of ICTs "smart(er)", improve the lives of users. According to a European Commission study the market value of the IoT in the EU is expected to exceed one trillion euros in 2020. Today it is impossible to predict all opportunities and challenges of the IoT. But it can be predicted that immense enlargement of activities in cyberspace, accompanied by a vast increase of actors in the field, will have a huge impact on all aspects of cybersecurity.  

In my presentation I would address the IoT from the cybersecurity perspective, more specifically the following questions:

-IoT and international security, including reflections of the discussions within the 2016-2017 UN GGE

-IoT and the security and privacy of individual stakeholders, including the role of private sector

The global effects of the IoT were discussed in the 2016-2017 GGE (Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.1 The GGE addressed the issue under the section „Existing and emerging threats“. The group addressed the IoT in the context of the fast pace of technological innovation combined with rapid and widespread technology adoption and acknowledged that the IoT could be exploited with implications for international peace and security.  

At the same time also individual cyber threats will become more serious concerns for the IoT. Even when users take precautions to secure their information, there are factors that are beyond their control. Privacy risks include inter alia insecure data transfer, data sharing with third parties, application vulnerabilities. 

1 GGE could not produce a consensus report that it was mandated  to do pursuant to the UNGA resolution 70/237, but it had good discussions and made progress under almost all questions of the mandate, with the exception of applicability of international law to the use of ICTs. Therefore, the progress made by the GGE in other areas should not be ignored but rather addressed in different discussions.

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Reception and close

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The internet of things: Opportunities and threats

This conference will feature discussions looking to the future, to consider benefits and challenges of the development of Internet of Things technologies.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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