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IET hosts communications technology House of Lords briefing

2018 marks the tenth anniversary in a series of successful annual briefings to discuss policy matters involving communications and the information economy.

This event was arranged by the IET Communications Policy Panel, which provides impartial advice and guidance to policymakers and Government. The Panel draws on experience of some of the most knowledgeable and respected engineers in the field of communications from industry, academia and the public sector.

The purpose of the event was to brief attendees about likely future developments in communications and what they mean for the country, and to discuss the likely consequences. The event also focused on how a digital UK would give all citizens, places and businesses access to the physical infrastructure they need such as energy, transport and digital services.

With ever more reliance on delivering a robust and secure communications network as an enabler for the UK's Industrial Strategy, the speakers sought to describe what will happen in the future. An important aspect of this will be the implementation of a joined-up approach to 5G roll-out - one that reaches across silos and allows for a truly connected UK.

Lord Broers, the ex-House of Lords Science and Technology Committee chair and former Cambridge Vice Chancellor welcomed guests. On  "Connecting People - maximising the user experience," the topic of the event, he said: "Technology is still evolving and we are right at the transition, going from 4G to 5G and to Industry 4.0 as well."

Professor Will Stewart chaired the event and referred to the important work of Sir Charles Kao, the "father of fibre optics." His original paper was published by the IET in the mid-1960s. Professor Stewart referred to the international nature of top-level research by speaking about Sir Charles' background: "This guy has a real claim to have created the modern world. It is a fantastic achievement. He was also born in China, worked in the UK, married to a British engineer, and also had US citizenship."

Professor Stewart then introduced the speakers who each delivered a talk on a current key aspect of communication technology: what 'quality' services will need to look like in the future to deliver what we need; examining the impact on society and the challenges these pose; and the way smart cities will evolve in the future.

He added that the IET was promoting an initiative to DCMS and Ofcom with wide industrial support aimed at ensuring the benefits reach out to all, especially in rural areas, and encourage maximum innovation. More details can be found on the IET 5G web page.

Chi Onwurah MP, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation referred to her own career as an engineer for 20 years before entering parliament. She said of her two career choices: "Engineering and politics are the twin drivers of progress."

Ms Onwurah referred to the two real challenges for the Engineering and Technology sector for itself and policymakers: "When you come to data, giving people control and ownership of their data, I don't really see the tech sector and particularly engineers stepping up to how that would work in practice. It is too much to expect people to read 30 pages of terms and conditions and manage their own data, but if data isn't under the control of people, we're not going to be empowering them."

She concluded: "As Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, one of our ambitions is to create an innovation nation. Innovation technology is part of our DNA and culture but for that to happen it's not just about the skills crisis, it is also about making sure technology is more humane, more representative, because it's designed by people who are representative."

Larissa Suzuki, Senior Product Manager for Automatic Machine Learning at ORACLE focused on 'The role of 5G in AI-powered Smart Cities.' She said: "The infrastructure of cities has evolved through many eras of technology, often separately. This lack of connectivity can make city utilities and services operate sub-optimally, limiting the creation of new value-added services and challenging the efficiency of existing services.

"5G will be the key to unlocking the fast and precise interactions in smart environments, providing extreme connectivity and capability at the edge of networks, supported by a multi-gigabit-per-second speed, location accuracy and ultra-low latency. Though we have many infrastructure issues to address, the ability to connect and process information in real time will unleash the power of AI to realise the vision of Smart Cities."

Photos from the event are available on our Flickr account.