Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Pervasive and ubiquitous computing

This research area refers to the integration of computing into everyday objects to create systems which support concepts such as the Internet of Things, edge computing and the tactile internet.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area addresses the integration of computing into everyday objects to create systems which support concepts such as the Internet of Things (ioT), edge computing and the tactile internet.

It includes location awareness and context awareness in sensors and computing systems, sentient computing and fundamental research into smart devices.

It also includes any new, emerging or other research whose fundamentals have mobility as a unique aspect of that research or its application, and relate to challenges unique to pervasive and ubiquitous computing.

To address opportunities associated with drivers such as global demand for the IoT, connected cities and digital health, we aim to support diverse research that includes application-driven work addressing challenges associated with real-world deployments of pervasive and ubiquitous technologies which benefit people in a range of domains.

We aim to support more cross-cutting research addressing three interlinked challenges:

  • the development of new pervasive and ubiquitous technologies
  • the development of reliable, interoperable, efficient and scalable systems
  • the emergent systems that large-scale deployments can create.

This research area’s current portfolio involves a significant amount of work concerned with cybersecurity in pervasive and ubiquitous systems. Consideration of security, however, should not be limited to isolated grants and, in line with EPSRC’s Safe and secure information and communication technologies (ICT) cross-ICT priority, we want to support a portfolio where these challenges are considered and addressed throughout.

We aim to support a portfolio of increasingly large, cross-disciplinary proposals involving hardware and software researchers. We’d like to see integration of fundamental developments from across the ICT and wider EPSRC portfolio, for example human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence technologies, fundamental computer science, data science and networks. Researchers should consider how they can reflect the aims of EPSRC’s Cross-disciplinarity and co-creation cross-ICT priority.

To maximise impact and develop responsible technologies, researchers should make real-world validation a key part of the research process and collaborate with industrial users. In line with EPSRC’s People at the heart of ICT cross-ICT priority, they must also consider and involve a diverse range of non-academic users throughout the research process.

Current provision of research training in this area is not expected to match demand. We will monitor this to ensure it meets academic and industrial needs.

Read more about EPSRC’s cross-ICT policies in the ICT theme.

Why we're doing it

This diverse area is dependent on collaboration with both software and hardware parts of the Information and communication technologies (ICT) portfolio to enable research into the broad range of challenges, including usability, data analysis and cybersecurity, associated with the development of complete pervasive and ubiquitous systems. Links to human-computer interaction, information systems and, to a lesser extent, ICT networks and distributed systems are evident, but links to more fundamental areas are expected to become increasingly important.

The UK has a strong track record in the area, with evidence of world class research in an area which is attracting attention internationally.

The number of academics collaborating on relevant projects is growing, with recent large investments in the field of security in the IoT. However, activity in the broader portfolio is not sufficient to meet research and capacity demands.

The area is often focused on applied work. Recently, there has been an increase in funding, both targeted and responsive, concentrating on more fundamental issues (for example, sensor systems and security in pervasive and ubiquitous systems). However there remains a substantial need for more underpinning research to maintain the health of the discipline.

Through collaboration with the wider ICT and overall EPSRC portfolio on the development of reliable, scalable and validated pervasive and ubiquitous systems, and by taking account of important issues of cybersecurity, the area will be key to enabling development and full use of the ‘second digital revolution’: the IoT, predicted to add $6.2 trillion to the global economy by 2025.

There is substantial industrial activity in the area but there is also the need for complementary long-term research to fully achieve the vision of the IoT. This research area is therefore increasingly important to a number of UK industries and societal challenges (including infrastructure and connected cities, transport and intelligent mobility, energy, manufacturing and digital healthcare). In particular, the area underpins the Healthcare technologies theme’s transforming community health and care grand challenge and is very relevant to the Digital economy theme.

The area is limited in terms of research training, with few directly relevant centres for doctoral training. The community has access to a number of test environments, including the research and innovation in internet environments funding opportunity test beds, but sufficiency must be monitored as the research area evolves.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Last updated: 4 January 2023

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