Pervasive and ubiquitous computing

The integration of computing into everyday objects to create systems which support concepts such as the Internet of Things, edge computing and the tactile internet. This research area includes: location awareness and context awareness in sensors and computing systems; sentient computing; and fundamental research into smart devices. It also includes any new, emerging or other research whose fundamentals have mobility as a unique aspect of that research or its application and relate to challenges unique to pervasive and ubiquitous computing.

We aim for this research area to grow as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio, to address opportunities associated with drivers such as global demand for the Internet of Things, connected cities and digital health.

To address these varied opportunities, we aim to support diverse research that includes application-driven work addressing challenges associated with real-world deployments of pervasive and ubiquitous technologies which benefit people in a range of domains. By the end of the current Delivery Plan, we want to support more cross-cutting research addressing three interlinked challenges:

  • The development of new pervasive and ubiquitous technologies
  • The development of reliable, interoperable, efficient and scalable systems
  • The emergent systems that large-scale deployments can create.

This research area's current portfolio involves a significant amount of work concerned with cyber-security in pervasive and ubiquitous systems. Consideration of security, however, should not be limited to isolated grants and, in line with EPSRC's Safe and Secure ICT cross-ICT priority, we want to support a portfolio where these challenges are considered and addressed throughout.

To address the challenges and opportunities identified, we aim to support a portfolio of increasingly large, cross-disciplinary proposals involving hardware and software researchers and integration of fundamental developments from across the ICT and wider EPSRC portfolio (e.g. Human-Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence Technologies, fundamental computer science, data science and networks). Researchers should consider how they can reflect the aims of EPSRC's Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation cross-ICT priority.

To maximise impact and develop responsible technologies, researchers should make real-world validation a key part of the research process and collaborate with industrial users. In line with the People at the Heart of ICT EPSRC cross-ICT priority, they must also consider and involve the diverse range of non-academic users throughout the research process.

Current provision of research training in this area is not expected to match demand. We will monitor this to ensure it meets academic/industrial needs.


This diverse area is dependent on cross-collaboration with both software and hardware parts of the ICT portfolio to enable research into the broad range of challenges, including usability, data analysis and cybersecurity, associated with the development of complete pervasive and ubiquitous systems (Evidence source 1). Links to Human-Computer Interaction, Information Systems and, to a lesser extent, ICT Networks and Distributed Systems are evident, but links to more fundamental areas are expected to become increasingly important. (Evidence source 1,2) The UK has a strong track record in the area, with evidence of world class research in an area which is attracting attention internationally (Evidence source 2,3,6). The number of academics collaborating on relevant projects is growing, with recent large investments in the field of security in the Internet of Things. However, activity in the broader portfolio is not sufficient to meet research and capacity demands (Evidence source 1).

The area is often focused on applied work. Recently, there has been an increase in funding, both targeted and responsive, concentrating on more fundamental issues (e.g. sensor systems and security in pervasive and ubiquitous systems), but there remains a substantial need for more underpinning research to maintain the health of the discipline (Evidence source 1,2).

Through collaboration with the wider ICT and overall EPSRC portfolio on the development of reliable, scalable and validated pervasive and ubiquitous systems, and by taking account of important issues of cyber-security, the area will be key to enabling development and full utilisation of the 'second digital revolution': the Internet of Things, predicted to add $6.2 trillion to the global economy by 2025 (Evidence source 4,5,6,7). There is substantial industrial activity in the area but there is also the need for complementary long-term research to fully achieve the vision of the Internet of things (Evidence source 1). This research area is therefore increasingly important to a number of UK industries and societal challenges (e.g. infrastructure and connected cities, transport and intelligent mobility, energy, manufacturing and digital healthcare) (Evidence source 4,5,6,7,8). In particular, the area underpins the Healthcare Technologies theme's Transforming Community Health and Care Grand Challenge and is very relevant to the Digital Economy theme (Evidence source 8).

The area is limited in terms of research training, with few directly relevant Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) (Evidence source 2). The community has access to a number of test environments, including the recently funded Research and Innovation in Internet Environments call test beds, but sufficiency must be monitored as the research area evolves (Evidence source 1,2).

This research area is expected to contribute in the short and medium term to a number of Ambitions within the Connected, Healthy and Productive Nation Outcomes, particularly:

C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things

This research area will contribute to development of reliable and scalable Internet of Things technologies.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

This area will provide building blocks of an increasingly connected digital world.

C5: Design for an inclusive, innovative and confident digital society

This area will develop technologies to promote/enable increased inclusivity.

H1: Transform community health and care

This research area will provide reliable and scalable technologies which enable collaborative community care.

P4: Drive business innovation through digital transformation

This area is expected to provide building blocks to accelerate digital innovation.

  1. Engagement: discussions with the ICT Strategic Advisory Team, relevant Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 panellists, the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) Executive Committee, ICT Theme workshops and leaders in the research field.
  2. EPSRC application and student data and bibliometric data analysis.
  3. REF 2014, UOA 11 Panel, The REF UOA 11 Report (PDF), (2014).
  4. Knowledge Transfer Network, IoT Tree of Life White Paper (PDF), (2015).
  5. IoT Special Interest Group, A Roadmap for Interdisciplinary research in the Internet of Things (PDF), (2012).
  6. Government Office for Science, The Internet of Things: Making the Most of the Second Digital Revolution (PDF), (2014).
  7. Morgan Stanley, The Internet of Things is Now, (2015).
  8. EPSRC, Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges Report (PDF), (2014)

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.


We aim to grow this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

Support by Research Area in Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (GoW)
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