DISTANCE Project aims to put the Internet of Things into schools

A consortium of IT suppliers today unveiled a project to develop 'Internet of things' teaching materials and services to get school children familiar with the technology and its potential.

The project, which is led by educational technology specialist ScienceScope and counts chipmaker Intel and IoT platform operator Xively among its partners, won £800,000 in backing from the UK's Technology Strategy Board earlier this year.

See also: Is the IoT too big an idea?

According to David Crellin, managing director of ScienceScope, the materials that DISTANCE is developing will help teachers and students to set up sensors, in the classroom or even around the school, visualise and analyse the data, and even integrate with online datasets such as weather patterns and traffic data.

The materials include lesson plans and worksheets, as well as data services and visualisation tools.

"The Internet of things is an opportunity to transform what goes on in the class room," Crellin told Information Age yesterday. "This will enable kids to get immediate access to data, in a way that is easy to use and understand."

According to Chad Jones, VP for strategy at Xively, the project has three main aims: the first is to develop a teaching curriculum around IoT. The second is to capture the imagination of school children to identify and develop innovative new applications of sensors and data. The third is to lay the foundations of a workforce with skills required to prosper in the IoT.

"The IoT is the next phase of the Internet, so this is about how they can participate in the next step of the digital economy," said Jones.

Crellin adds that a condition of the TSB funding is that the project seeks commercial applications. "Schools spend an enormous amount of money on technology, but we've got to investigate the models that they will be keen to engage with."

DISTANCE Is the eighth of eight IoT demonstrator projects, or 'hubs', to win funding from the TSB.

The other seven are as follows:

  • The Internet of Moving Objects and Vehicles Ecosystem (i-MOVE)
    Led by cloud provider AIMES, this project will examine the potential for sensor, traffic and social media data to alleviate road congestion 
  • Open IoT project
    An initiative to develop open standards for the IoT, led by chip designer ARM Holdings
  • Smart Transport IoT Data Ecosytem (STRIDE)
    BT-led project to allow transport and logistics companies to share data to make the UK's transport network more effiicent
  • EyeHub
    A project to use the University of Surrey's campus and the town of Guildford as a proving groung for IoT applications
  • Smart Streets IoT Hub
    Smart City software vendor LivingPlanIT leads this programme to build an IoT 'cluster' around London's City airport
  • IoT Bay
    Scheme to create an interoperability platform for Westminster City Council's siloed data systems, run by the Smart Homes and Buildings Association (SH&BA)

IoT hype

Yesterday, Gartner's new Hype Cycle for emerging technologies placed the Internet of things on the 'peak of inflated expectations' and predicted that the technology will not reach mainstream adoption for at least another ten years.

"I actually think that's dead on," Xively's Jones said yesterday. "We're certainly at the height of the hype cycle."

See also: We're the AWS of the IoT, says Xively

He pointed to Cisco's estimate that the 'Internet of everything', i.e. the combination of the IoT and the conventional Internet, could be worth $14.4 trillion by 2020.

"That's encroaching on the GDP of the US economy," he said. "The hyperbole is really out there."

"But at the same time, if it comes in at 30% of those projections, it's still an incredibly large market," he added. 

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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