How can we build trust in IT utility services?

Posted by s.hettrick on 13 August 2012 - 5:34pm

iPhoneAndNews.jpgBy Jeremy Frey, Principal Investigator, ITaaU Network.

We rely implicitly on things like our cars and our electricity supply. How can we encourage the same level of trust in our IT utility services?

The ITaaU Network is a consortium of UK universities, led by the University of Southampton, that will focus on the challenge of IT as a Utility (ITaaU) as part of a £1.5 million investment by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme. The network will arrange a variety of workshops to initiate new collaborative research and provide academic and industrial secondments. The next workshop takes place on 4 September at the Royal Society (see below for more details).

What is IT as a Utility?

In our digitally-driven society, people are accustomed to broadband access to unlimited-storage email accounts, social networking, and web-based services for managing and sharing documents, music and photos. Increasingly, commerce and industry use the same technologies to support their staff, market their products and service their customer base. These services are provided through digital content, multi-functional sensors and other connected devices and, as their use increases, user communities and infrastructure will become more integrated with the Internet and the Web.

Information Technology is now crucially important to almost everyone in the UK. We are already used to the Hawkeye system at Wimbledon, up-to-the-minute internet news, and the move to deliver governmental services over the Web. And all of this is accessible even while we are on the move, via our smart phones. In the public arena, smart phone apps have shown that there is a demand for easy-to-use IT functions, yet the potential scope is much greater.

The ITaaU Network is a three-year project that will bring together researchers from universities and industry, and representatives from the many disciplines needed to understand the provision, uptake, usability, management, robustness, security, trustworthiness and sustainability of future applications and services.

The ITaaU Network project will work towards simple, usable and safe IT provision from smart services, surroundings and information stores. It will also examine the perceived barriers that inhibit new users of these services. I am leading the Network with the help of my co-investigators Professor Mark Sandler (Queen Mary, University of London), Professor Gerard Parr (University of Ulster), Dr Michael Surridge (University of Southampton) and Dr Richard Mortier (University of Nottingham).

ITaaU is one of the four sub-themes of the RCUK Digital Economy programme. The purpose of ITaaU Network is to promote and enhance the community interested in this aspect of the Digital Economy programme and help co-ordinate activities in this area.

Next ITaaU Network event

An ITaaU Network information event will be held at the Royal Society on Tuesday, 4 September 2012. A draft programme is available. At the meeting, we will describe the opportunities for involvement with the ITaaU Network, outline the programme of events planned so far and how to apply for funding for the Workshops, Sandpits, Pilot Projects, Secondments, and Conference Fund.

For more information on future ITaaU workshops, see the website.

Want to know more?

Further details of the ITaaU project and targeted areas for pilot activities and workshops are available on the ITaaU website (a new version of the website is currently being prepared), and we have a mailing list.

The ITaaU Network has a group on LinkedIn (IT as a Utility) and Facebook site and a Twitter account. We plan to make great use of these tools in the future.