Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne today unveiled a £40 million plan to improve the Internet of Things (IoT) in the UK, as part of his 2015 Budget announcement.
The Internet of Things – the idea that almost everything will be connected to the internet in the future (from traffic lights to medical devices and even your fridge) – is a much talked about buzz-phrase and has been for a few years now.
It may seem far away to some, but to well established tech companies like Intel, Cisco and Dixons Carphone to name a few, it’s a very big deal. If you’re a smaller retailer or reseller, there are opportunities for you too.
Gartner estimates that 1.1 billion connected things will be used by smart cities in 2015, rising to 9.7 billion by 2020.
And that grand IoT vision took a step closer to becoming a reality today, with the UK Government investing £140 million in ‘world class’ research on the infrastructure and cities of the future, plus £40 million in research into the Internet of Things.
In addition, the Government is investing up to £600 million to deliver better mobile networks, and has set itself a new goal of getting ultrafast broadband (at least 100Mbps) in ‘nearly all’ UK premises in the future.
Osborne also revealed that the Government is launching a new UK research initiative into the future potential of digital currency technology, supported by a £10 million increase in funding in this area, plus he wants more funding for Wi-Fi in libraries.
It’s not clear yet what the digital currency research, or the IoT research, will actually involve at this stage.
During his IoT talk, Osborne also took a pop at Labour leader Ed Miliband for having two kitchens.
Osborne said during his Budget 2015 speech today in the House of Commons: "We’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.
"So should – to use a ridiculous example – someone have two kitchens, they will be able to control both fridges from the same mobile phone.
"All these industries depend on fast broadband," he added. "We’ll use up to £600 million to clear new spectrum bands for further auction, so we improve mobile networks.
"We’ll test the latest satellite technology so we reach the remotest communities.
"We’ll provide funding for Wi-Fi in our public libraries, and expand broadband vouchers to many more cities, so no-one is excluded.
"And we’re committing to a new national ambition to bring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes in the country, so Britain is out in front."
Elsewhere, EPSRC and Innovate UK announced £5 million investment in UK cybersecurity research and innovation for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things. This will go to the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast.
Additionally, the Chancellor used his last budget of this Parliament to reconfirm his commitment to carry out the most "radical" review into the business rates system in a generation.
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, welcomed this. She said: "We welcome today’s official announcement of a ‘radical’ review of the business rates system and we’re looking forward to working with the government throughout the process to make sure a new system is modern, sustainable and crucially – competitive."
Finally, Osborne provided an update on the so-called ‘Google Tax’ that aims to prevent large multinationals from avoiding paying the correct amount of tax on their UK revenues.
"I can also tell the House that we will conduct a review on the avoidance of inheritance tax through the use of deeds of variation. It will report by the autumn," added Osborne.
"Let the message go out: this country’s tolerance for those who will not pay their fair share of taxes has come to an end."
You can read more announcements from the 2015 Budget here.