Tuesday, August 02, 2011

TSB KTN Future Internet Report

The Technology Strategy Board has a Knowledge Transfer Network in ICT and it has a Future Internet Strategy Group which published a little noticed report on the "Future Internet" in May 2011 - there's been a lot more meetings of the TSB and its new
TIC (Technology and Innovation Centers). It is a bit of a mystery why these are not one and the samew with the three Digital Economy Hubs created a couple of years back such as Horizon, since those have a lot of industry traction already, but there yo ugo - joined up government seems like another oxymoron for our times.

See articles here and the report itself for background.

For me the report fails to deliver 3 things one would hope for, even in a white paper format such as this.

1. There is no coherent list of challenges which the UK specifically has the knowledge and skill base and economic frameworks to deliver - the DE Hubs all have lists of comanies they work with or would like to - these come with lists of size of companies, profits, employees, etc - this is the sort of thing we'd need in an actual government policy document on future UK internet strategy.

2. there is a mix of level of detail (e.g. mixing up comments on needs for IPv6 with comments on capacity needs for HD video, with vague generalities like "Internet of People and Things" and "Machine2Machine" networking. These are completely different layers of ideas and have quite different constituencies - the IPv6 deployment is a totally different beast from the need of the BBC and Sky for Internet capacity fo HD video. and there is absolutely no notion of the problems of latency for M2M or estimation of the (almost certainly very low) capacity needs for the Internet of Things.

3. Crucially, though, there is no real attempt to make the future
a) Real
b) Personal

a) Making the Future Internet Real - lets look at what the UK is good at - we have:
i) good infrastructures for many things
ii) very good software businesses in games, entertainment (graphics, CGI, etc)
iii) very good software businesses in middleware and applications for cloud, web and mobile devices
iv) lots of bio medical and medical instrument outfits
These first three are distribtued over very very many tiny companies (cottage industry) - don't let that fool you - some people estimate as many as 500,000 people, earning a LOT of money (and a lot of UK GDP)
v) a few specialized and vital largeish companies in aerospace and in mictoprocessors (BAe Systems and ARM)

What we don't have is an innovative telecom sector (please do not mention BT or Vodafone here ever:)
We do have the very fine BBC (and their shrinking but excellent research wing....)

So if one was to do this properly, there'd be a brealdown by Sector and by Opportunity (and risk/strength/weakness, if you like SWOT analyses)

Sector:\Opportunity: Optimisation, Behaviour Change, Analogy, Replacement, Other

Transport x y z w q
Defense a b c d e


So for example, can we use a future internet to optimise transport (obviously, both in terms of efficiency and in terms of safety). Can we usea future internet as an alternative to transport - yes, obviously video conf, teleworking etc

Or can we change people's behaviour in energy use using the Internet - of course we can

Or can we alter a utility (e.g. the energy grid) by analogy with the Internet (yes, we could, if we think of microgeneration and a p2p network instead of a centralised energy production system with a distribution net). See Keshav's work on energy systems for example

b) Making it personal

The biggest problem facing all these wonderful synergies of convergence and removal of silos that everyone mentions in these TSB docs is the personal

Here the problems are many, but are beautifully covered by the Digital Economy hubs (see dot rural and
horizon just for example), dealing with
digital divide
privacy and personal footprints

Most of the challenges of convergence are (as was discussed by the Communications CMI project with MIT and Cambridge for 5 years) not purely technological - so in a) we've looked at the tech side and in b) the DE hubs are looking at the human interface to the tech, the context- the reasons why pie-in-the-skie ideas like Tony Blair's broken NHS cradle to grave centralised database for personal health records was doomed from day 1. But what could (in a Future Internet true decentralised philosophical, technical and human centered way) work properly to achieve a coherent and affordable and sustainable vision.

So, TSB, Marks out of 10? I'd say 3 for effort.

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