Organised annually by the IoT Forum, IoT Week provides experts in industry and academia with a platform to discuss the strategic role of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the digitalisation of our economy and society. From 20-23 June 2022, over 380 speakers and almost 700 participants from 49 countries were able to gather physically once again, this time in Ireland, after last year’s event was made completely virtual due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Commission representatives organised and participated in numerous conference sessions, sparking discussion over the strategic orientation around sustainable IoT, standardisation and security. The sessions pushed a strong momentum on data policy, data spaces and data marketplaces, supported by the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) and the Big Data Value Association (BVDA).
For Europe to maintain its strengths in the computing continuum, it needs to create future European platforms for IoT and the edge, which are community driven and open. On 22 June, there was a launch session dedicated to a new cluster of 6 meta-operating systems research and innovation actions (RIA) – ICOS, FluiDOS, NEMO, NebulOus, aeROS and NEPHELE – and 3 coordination and support actions (CSA) – OpenContinuum, Unlock-CEI and HiPEAC – in the cloud-edge-IoT domain, receiving €64 million in EU funding and kicking off on 1 September (with Unlock-CEI and HiPEAC launching on 1 June and 1 December respectively). The session also discussed the launch of a new eucloudedgeiot.eu web portal acting as a platform to support the Horizon Europe ecosystem and promote opportunities for open calls and large-scale piloting.
Outside of the event’s 115 conference sessions, registrants were able to learn about various other EU-funded research and innovation initiatives showcasing their work at the IoT Week’s exhibition space, opened by Irish Green Party Minister of State Ossian Smyth, which included projects such as Demeter, GateKeeper, InterConnect, NGIoT, OpenDEI and VEDLIoT.
Power to the edge
Representing the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), Director of Future Networks Pearse O’Donohue outlined the EU’s global IoT vision at the event’s opening ceremony. In the geopolitical context that Europe currently faces, he highlighted the need to reinforce our technological sovereignty and reduce our dependencies in certain critical areas. In order to address these challenges, the Commission has continued to deliver on its digital priorities as well as launching ambitious new initiatives.
The first of these is REPowerEU: a plan to halt Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels before 2030 by diversifying, saving, and accelerating the clean energy transition. In parallel, the Commission is developing a Digitalisation of Energy Action Plan, acting as a synergy with REPowerEU. An IoT-supported smart energy system can bring energy efficiency benefits for consumers by providing the tools to understand and manage energy consumption, production, and storage, in times of increasing shares of renewables, decentralised generation and electric vehicles. A key innovative principle of the next-generation IoT that enables this smart energy system is decentralised intelligence, acting as a facilitator technology in bringing power to the edge of the network.
Another point raised was that of the European Chips Act. In February 2022, the Commission adopted a €43 billion proposal to reinforce the semiconductor ecosystem in the EU, ensuring the resilience of supply chains and reducing external dependencies. This will allow Europe to double its global market share of semiconductors to 20% in keeping with the EU’s technological sovereignty goals. One target is to create semiconductors for future smart sensors and edge computing systems, again supporting the “power to the edge” paradigm. As such, Europe must lead the way in exploring and exploiting emerging paradigms, such as decentralised intelligence, swarm computing, and cognitive computing.
With computing power moving closer to the edge, data legislation influences the rules across the computing continuum. The Commission has put forward the legislative framework for a prospering data economy, such as the Data Act which was proposed to the Council and Parliament in March 2022, with the goal of making more data available and setting rules on data usage and access.
The European Data Strategy aims to create a single market for data that will ensure our global competitiveness and data sovereignty. Through Digital Europe, the Commission is co-investing in the deployment of common European data spaces for sectors like agriculture, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, and transport, to ensure that more data becomes available for use in our economy and society, while keeping the companies and individuals who generate the data in control.
The EU is investing in a European federated cloud-edge continuum offering that would meet the high data protection, safety, security, energy-efficiency, and portability standards necessary for the digital transition. From 2021, the Commission is investing up to €2 billion under funding programmes such as the Connecting Europe Facility, Digital Europe, Horizon Europe and NextGenerationEU. National governments are set to complement these investments, along with their commitment to the Member States’ cloud declaration and through the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Collaboration is key
These European initiatives demonstrate how responding to geopolitical challenges can be an opportunity to accelerate the green and digital transitions. To do so, we must join forces at EU level and continue investing to build a sustainable, competitive, and sovereign Europe for its citizens.
But working with like-minded countries who share our goals and values is also key. International collaboration can start early in the technology development cycle: on 21 June 2022, in an exclusive IoT Week session with American speakers, the EU began a new collaboration on fundamental research between the Commission and the US National Science Foundation, focusing on new concepts for distributed computing and swarm intelligence.
Both parties agreed on the next steps to focus on the fundamental research of new concepts for distributed computing and swarm intelligence by establishing a CSA for landscaping and brokering, as well as bilateral cooperation between project pairs through research partners, and setting up regular rotating workshops (both online and physical) for knowledge sharing, with the first to take place in September 2022.
Working together at a pre-competitive stage will be of mutual benefit for all innovation actors on both sides of the Atlantic and pave the way for common standards and architectures of the future.