Sensors and sense abilities

The Internet of Things is a massive opportunity, one that we’re determined to lead. The IoT offers huge scope to improve lives, conserve scarce resources, protect the environment, protect against the environment, and revolutionise civic and business life. It’s a continuously evolving set of technologies that has the potential to reach across millions of different markets on a global scale.

Right now, we’re developing the next generation of IoT networks, data platforms, and applications.

We’re involved in all levels of IoT development, from the applications using the data to the sensors themselves and down through the data platforms to the connectivity that makes the whole concept a reality.

Without connectivity, the IoT would not exist. 


It won’t come as a surprise to learn that sensors sense something about their environment. They detect external information, whether that’s temperature, humidity, pressure, noise, motion, air disturbances, the number of bottles of milk in your fridge, the proximity of a Tesla charging point to your Model X, or innumerable other parameters. We’re looking at three different elements that will contribute to a successful sensor network:

  1. Converged edge 
  2. Distributed ledger technology and 
  3. Zero-touch orchestration.
BT street hub wifi
BT street hub wifi

Converged edge

Customers tell us that they want a way to exploit new IoT opportunities without compromising their network connectivity or security. Edge computing is the answer: processing data at the network edge. This converged edge approach brings the benefits of edge computing, networking, security, and cloud interoperability to a single customer premises device. 

Distributed ledger technology

Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a peer-to-peer networking technology that enables trust in digital transactions. This is particularly useful in an IoT context where multiple devices from numerous manufacturers with different data standards are transferring data between themselves across a connected network.

IoT devices produce lots of different types of data, in diverse forms. Everything from user-created data to environmental data captured by sensors. DLT establishes an agreed consensus between parties about which value to use in any transaction. This is then visible to the relevant parties through an immutable and automated ‘smart contract’, effectively creating trust between the parties.

To help accelerate the development of DLT, we’re investigating its application in:

  • Data marketplaces
  • Decentralised data attestation tools
  • Autonomous (smart) contracts for multi-party agreements
  • Decentralised digital identification systems for devices

Zero-touch orchestration

Connected devices are crucial for IoT. Without them, we wouldn’t have any way of collecting data. There wouldn’t be an Internet of Things: we’d just have Things. One of the most significant challenges in the deployment of IoT is how to securely connect the sensors - the ‘things’ - to a management platform.

A typical smart city might contain three million IoT devices, all of which need to link up to an IoT platform before any useful data can flow. If it takes around 25 minutes to manually connect each device, that’s a total of 1.25 million hours. And on top of this, manual processes are notoriously prone to error and security concerns. 

The need for an alternative approach is both clear and urgent. That’s why we’re working with myriad device partners to define and create the ecosystem that’s needed.

Data platforms

A data platform where the data can be aggregated, shared and analysed is a crucial element of the IoT model. Bringing data together and exposing it in a uniform way breaks down data silos, lowers barriers to participation in the IoT ecosystem and maximises the value of the data.

Sharing data between systems in order to make use of it is vital to delivering IoT services. We’ve found that interoperability between IoT systems equates to up to 60% of the potential economic value that IoT generates.

And that’s why we’re investigating both the technical and commercial aspects of two-sided open data exchange platforms.


No connectivity, no IoT. And stronger, faster connectivity is the driver to wider IoT take-up, the development of innovative, compelling services, and the accelerating rollout of smart cities throughout the UK.

There are three questions to ask when you’re thinking about IoT connectivity:

1.       What amount of data will you need to transmit?
2.       What’s the frequency of data transmission?
3.       How much power does the end device need?

Depending on your answers, you may need different connectivity services.

So we’re exploring a range of options including fixed networks for high-throughput devices, and existing wireless networks using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular.


The number of IoT devices connecting to our converged network is increasing at a blistering pace. We want our customers to get the maximum value out of their IoT devices. One of the ways we’re aiming to achieve this is through 5G.

We’re exploring three key network characteristics based on the frequency of data transmission, the colossal number of devices involved, and the low latency requirements of many of the sensor scenarios:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
  • Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC)
  • Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (uRLLC)

Data analytics

Analytics is the final link in the IoT chain: what insights can you gain from the data that you’ve captured? That’s the whole point of IoT. Powerful insights aren’t just hugely important for customers deploying IoT services, they’re also key to us providing our customers with revolutionary products and services. Things like the next generation of advanced scheduling, smart asset management, and clever automation of their products and services.

As well as our own in-house expertise, we work with a range of analytics tools. Everything from simple dashboard tools through to advanced analytic capabilities provided by hyperscalers.