PETRAS Announces Seven New Research Projects Transforming Knowledge into Practice

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The PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity announces seven new research projects funded through its Internal Strategic Projects and Engagement (ISPEF) Fund.

PETRAS’s work considers issues of Privacy, Ethics, Trust, Reliability, Acceptability, Trust and Security as they apply to IoT systems and networks, as well as associated technologies at the edge, such as AI and Machine Learning.

These new and cutting-edge research projects look to tackle social and technical challenges of emerging technologies by transforming academic knowledge into practice. The projects provide technology solutions for the betterment of society and the UK economy, as well as identify potential issues and risks across sectors, ultimately helping to ensure the UK is a safer and more prosperous place.

Solutions orientated projects include those with aims ranging from supporting vulnerable groups such as the elderly, to providing privacy preserving methods for healthcare providers, as well as efficiency savings in ‘smart’ shipping ports.

For example, the RED-AID project utilises AI technology to help individuals with impaired autonomy, e.g. a person with dementia, who can be especially vulnerable to voice-based social engineering attacks. Attackers are finding ways to use voice-based conversations for malicious intent that can involve taking victims’ data and encouraging them to download malware. Research suggests that, as AI systems are being applied by adversaries for automated open-source intelligence (OSINT) and execution, these attacks will become even more effective. Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) remain one of the top targets for such attacks.

RED-AID Project Lead Prof Max Van Kleek at Oxford University and Co-Investigator Dr Peter Novitzky explained:

‘Phone fraud (aka ‘vishing’) accounts for one of the most significant types of crime against individuals in the UK, and has become a huge source of personal financial loss. Yet, people have few defences against this form of crime, which are becoming even more effective through AI-powered methods and techniques. With the support of Howz, a company with an extensive portfolio of IoT devices for assistive ambient living in the home, our multi-disciplinary research team will involve key stakeholders in its design and development to ensure the device is not only effective, but respects individuals’ autonomy, privacy, and dignity at all stages.  Our collaboration across the socio-technical landscape aims to not only contribute to the responsible development of a novel AI-based technology addressing a pressing societal challenge, but also to contribute to the formulation of a more widely applicable ethical design framework for ambient assistive devices in the home.’

In addition, the Digiports project looks to provide efficiency saving solutions in shipping ports, using a Logistics Digital Twin consisting of Distributed Ledger Technologies. There is an increasing demand for goods flowing through ports making them highly important for the UK and global economies, hence the importance that such systems are secure.

Digiports project lead, Prof Julie McCann at Imperial College London added:

‘This work contributes to ensuring that “a particular Digital Port technology” is more secure and the data is trusted.’

These examples demonstrate how technology can be used to assist society from end users to commercial activities alike. These same emerging technologies also present society with new and ever-changing risks and challenges. Therefore, two of the new PETRAS ISPEF projects focus on identifying how technologies such as IoT and AI can create new issues:

News organisations increasingly use AI and connected IoT devices to gather, produce, and distribute their news content, posing new potential threats and risks in journalism. The PubVIA project aims to build public value via intelligible AI (Artificial Intelligence), enabling news organisations, such as project partners, the BBC, to consider potential threats and risks posed by these technologies.

IoT-AI generated data between the Edge and the Cloud is contributing to ICT’s global carbon footprint which is now estimated to account for around 3.9% of worldwide CO2 emissions. Looking at the impact IoT and AI technologies have on our climate, the Edge of Reality project will help BBC audiences and the wider public to better consider how the lack of legibility, negotiability, and agency of IoT-AI data at the Edge, is contributing to CO2 emissions as well as creating cybersecurity concerns.

Edge of Reality project lead, Dr Mike Stead at Lancaster University added:

“Our continued collaboration with BBC R&D will allow us to further to explore how design methods can be applied to raise awareness amongst citizens and communities of the important environmental issues being associated with IoT-AI generated data. In doing so, the project aims to feed into BBC objectives to develop improved interactive devices and services that help people to manage their data-driven carbon footprints more sustainably and securely, as well as societal debates on data sustainability more broadly.”

The PETRAS ISPEF call has awarded funding to 6 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to undertake research projects. They collaborate with valued PETRAS User Partners, who are part of a network of 120 partners in the public and private sectors. User Partners collaborating on the ISPEF research projects include:

Alan Turing Institute
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
British Broadcasting Corporation Research & Development (BBC R&D)
Dstl
Howz
Modini
The NHS (Surrey and Borders Partnership)
Openbrix
Thales UK

If you are interested in hearing more about these projects or collaborating with PETRAS, please email petras@ucl.ac.uk.

The full list of all seven ISPEF projects (including details of Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators) is available below. For further information on each of the projects, please click on the relevant hyperlink below:

  1. From Logistics 4.0 to Digital Ports: A study in transformability using DLT (DigiPort), Prof Julie A. McCann, Imperial College London.
  2. Edge of Reality (ER), Dr Michael Stead, Lancaster University; Dr Adrian Gradinar, Lancaster University; Prof Paul Coulton, Lancaster University.
  3. Integrity Checking at the Edge (ICE) for Operational Decision Support (ICE-ODS), Prof Pete Burnap, Cardiff University; Dr Charith Perera, Cardiff University; Dr Neetesh Saxena, Cardiff University.
  4. Privacy Preserving IoT Security Management (PRISM), Dr Hamed Haddad, Imperial College London.
  5. Building Public Value via Intelligible AI (PubVIA), Dr Ewa Luger, University of Edinburgh; Dr Chris Elsden, University of Edinburgh.
  6. REspectful and capability-centreD AI Device for Preventing Call Fraud (RED-AID), Prof Max Van Kleek, University of Oxford; Dr Peter Novitzky, University College London.
  7. SDRIOTSS 2, Dr Matthew Ritchie, University College London.

Please note that due to space restrictions, we are not able to list the full research teams here. This information is available via the project webpage clickable above.

Notes to Editors

About PETRAS & the ISPEF Fund Call

PETRAS is part of the Securing Digital Technologies at the Periphery (SDTaP) programme funded by UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund.

£465K will be awarded to 6 UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) through PETRAS’s ISPEF Call to undertake 7 projects.

PETRAS exists to ensure that technological advances in the IoT and associated systems at the Edge of the internet are safely and securely developed and applied in private and public sector contexts. We do this by considering social and technical issues relating to the cybersecurity of IoT devices, systems and networks.

PETRAS is a consortium that connects 22 research institutions with outstanding expertise in securing the connected world. They are UCL, Imperial College London, University of Oxford, Lancaster University, University of Warwick, University of Southampton, Newcastle University, University of Nottingham, University of Bristol, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, University of Surrey, Coventry University, Northumbria University, De Montfort University, Durham University, Cranfield University, The University of Manchester, Royal Holloway University of London, University of Strathclyde, Tate and University of Glasgow.

About UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Securing Digital Technologies at the Periphery’ (SDTaP)

UKRI is a non-departmental government body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. They aim to maximise the contribution of each of their component parts, working individually and collectively. They work with their many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

The £30.55m SDTaP programme is funded by UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund and lead by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The programme aims to ensure that the IoT systems are safe and secure, particularly as more critical applications emerge meaning there is increased vulnerability to broader, more sophisticated cyber-threats.