Everybody is talking about the Internet of Things, the next digital revolution after mobile Internet. From smart watches to connected farms, from connected cars to smart homes to smart cities, the IoT is about connecting everything and everyone to the Internet; It therefore, means new markets, new business models, more efficiency, better management of our environmental resources and innovative possibilities for users.

The potential for this emerging IoT market is huge! A recent study by IDC and TXT estimates annual growth at 20% in the EU, reaching a potential of more than 1 trillion euros in 2020 when you add up all the hardware, software and services that will be included in the IoT markets. How can we get there? In a nutshell, we need a new IoT ecosystem, where different sectors work across vertical silos and on the basis of open platforms and standards and invent together the new IoT cross-cutting solutions.

I am therefore very happy that the Commission has launched specific actions to unleash the potential of the Internet of Things and that we have the potential to lead if we implement them properly. Thus, for the first time, the Internet of Things has been clearly identified as a priority in Horizon2020.

This new Focus Area on the IoT under the work programme 2016-17 of the Horizon 2020 is about taking IoT to the next level, by supporting experimentation and innovation. The Commission has already spent more than 100 Million euros on IoT technologies (platforms, architectures, demonstrators) in the past 5 years (IoT was part of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development). Now that the technology is maturing, we need to address obstacles to investment and deployment. We have just concluded a 51 million euros call focusing on building IoT ecosystems with 9 projects starting in January 2016.

What about calls for proposals on IoT Large Scale Pilots?

Additionally, a number of large scale pilots will be launched. In 2016, 100 million euros funding will therefore be dedicated to IoT pilots, which will be supported by coordination and support actions (CSA) of an additional 4 million euros funding. These CSAs will make sure the pilots form a coherent ensemble advancing common platforms, standards and a framework for IoT trust and security.

These pilots targets five important areas: smart living environment for ageing well, smart farming and food safety, wearables, smart cities and autonomous vehicles in connected environments. Their aim is to test the technology at scale, to deduct business models and most importantly to experiment with real users. 

Other Internet of Things pilots in the area of smart manufacturing and water will not only be offered through an international call with Brazil in 2017, but also through Factories of the Future (FoF) and the upcoming H2020 calls on Smart water. This is complemented by International joint research and innovation calls on IoT with Japan and Korea, and coordination with China. These international calls close already in January 2016, while the call for the IoT pilots and programme closes in April. One more call for IoT research and innovation is foreseen 2017.

However, for this major exercise of experimentation that should accelerate take up and deployment in Europe, an important consideration is to make sure that the pilots are well designed. This is not for the sake of getting funding, but because they will make sense from an industrial point of view, and offer a genuine prospect of commercial deployment and benefits from day one. In addition, an noteworthy challenge is to constitute for these pilots consortia that reflect the full value chain, and include both supply and demand for IoT.

Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI): the biggest European IoT ecosystem

Bringing together supply and demand for IoT to shape a vibrant ecosystem is not an easy task. And this is one of the reasons why the Commission initiated the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) back in March 2015. AIOTI is today establishing itself, with more than 350 members, as a leading IoT Alliance. It offers the possibility to get in touch with business partners and/or with parties interested in a research consortium, and to learn about experiences in different industries. It’s also a platform enabling discussion across boundaries.

Importantly, the Alliance has just published 12 reports that cover very interesting issues: policy, standardisation, but also specific considerations for IoT large scale pilots. These reports are worth reading for whoever is interested in this area and they will represent a useful reference for the Commission too.

In fact, because we are proud of these results, we have decided to host a series of blogs on these recommendations, to be written by the chairs of the various working groups of AIOTI. This will be the opportunity to stimulate discussions and to contribute to the development of a common understanding and vision of what needs to be done to stimulate the IoT ecosystem, reason for which we want to include Member States and regions in this debate. In short: the IoT is a wonderful opportunity; let’s make sure we don’t miss it! So, if you are interested, do not hesitate to apply and to join AIOTI.

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