The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has called for “An urgent need for a targeted and coordinated government initiative similar to that which sparked the semiconductor revolution fifty years ago,” in order for the nation to realise the full benefits of the Internet of Things and big data and to build the foundation for future technologies that convert data to ‘insight’.
The call comes from a report Rebooting the IT Revolution: A Call to Action, based on a March 2015 workshop supported by the NSF and sponsored by the Semiconductor Industry Association and Semiconductor Research Corporation. According to the NSF the report ”details research needed to spur major advances in the science and technology of information infrastructure and to unleash broad opportunities for innovation.”
The US is clearly very different to Australia, but what we do have in common is a recognition that future prosperity will be based on the fruits of research, on the exploitation of new technologies and on innovation. And if the high tech industries in that bastion of free enterprise, the US, are calling for government initiatives to co-ordinate and advance research then surely there are lessons for Australia.
Private sector investment “insufficient”
The report summarises the expected impacts of IoT and IT in general. It contends that, in the near term, “product-driven investment by the private sector alone is not sufficient to create the significant advances in IT infrastructure and insight technologies needed for these innovations” and that “Without substantial United States investment, innovations in future information systems will occur elsewhere, and the economic vitality and national security benefits will flow to other nations.”
The 40 page report identifies critical research challenges in a number of areas and, specifically for IoT research calls for the establishment of an IoT Test Platform.
Need of an IoT test platform
“Due to the bourgeoning complexity of the IoT, there is a significant requirement for infrastructure to test new technologies,” it says. “Today there is no representative test platform or system demonstrator to stand in for the anticipated IoT of the future. Without such a test platform, solution verification and benchmarking is not possible. Definition and support of such a system demonstrator will be required for rapid and meaningful progress. Such a platform should be accessible to researchers from academia, industry, and government.”
To reboot the IT revolution and to ensure the US of “unassailable long-term leadership in information technology and information management areas critical to economic vitality and national security” the report calls for a new targeted research initiative — a National Computing and Insight Technology Ecosystem (N-CITE) initiative.
It says the goal of the initiative should be to coordinate research in the areas outlined in the report:
- Energy efficient computing and sensing
- Cyber-physical systems
- Intelligent storage
- Real-time communication ecosystem
- Multi-level and scalable security
- Next-generation manufacturing paradigm
- Insight computing
It concludes: “The breadth of technical challenges that must be overcome to fully achieve the benefits of the Internet of Things and the massive amounts of data that are anticipated require a significant effort with support by both the public and the private sectors. To expedite critical science and engineering advancements and efficiently transition results to practical use, the initiative should include a government-industry-academic partnership.”
It says that such progress demands iterative and coordinated research in materials, circuits, and systems. “Hardware and software will need to be co-designed. Security will need to be considered at multiple levels, from the chip to the application layer. Design should be done with manufacture in mind.”
The next step should be for government, academia, and industry to develop a more detailed set of research priorities based on the recommendations in the report. “Such a plan, or roadmap, can be used to assess gaps not adequately addressed by current research programs and can serve to guide future programs. The N-CITE initiative will provide a framework for interagency, as well as public-private, collaboration and coordination.”