Thinking digitally for tomorrow: fast-moving and future ready

There’s no escaping the current digital age and its galloping pace. It has been a growing phenomenon and one which permeates every aspect of life with increasing intensity.

This all-consuming cyber age presents many opportunities and some serious challenges. The media is awash with ‘hacking stories’ – individuals robbed of their life savings, personal details hacked, bank accounts drained, organisations raided of their (and their customers’) data, even countries using it to show their ‘muscle’.  Those attacks are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated. Furthermore, they expose the level of vulnerability in the cyber world.

Queen’s University Belfast has four Global Research Institutes (GRIs) - flagships for interdisciplinary research in areas of major societal challenge. One of those GRIs is the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology. Within the Institute are three Centres: Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), Centre for Wireless Innovation (CWI) and the Centre for Data Science and Scalable Computing (DSSC).

The University recently invested £500k in a state-of-the-art cyber security range at CSIT. It is one of the first UK-wide research infrastructures providing an experimental environment for both academia and industry to collaborate, innovate and share equipment, tools, experiments and data-sets.

Within CSIT is also the Research Institute in Secure Hardware and Embedded Systems (RISE) - a £5m multi-university research institute to improve hardware security and reduce vulnerability to cyber threats.

In DSSC, scientists are researching the subject of fraud and commercial vulnerability. For example, a Queen’s University Belfast PhD student from China, Jiawen Sun, recently developed software which could detect insurance fraud quickly. Three years in the making, the innovative student developed a software system which can efficiently analyse graph-structured data. In sifting through an organisation’s data, the software has the potential to rapidly detect insurance fraud.

Over in CWI, 60 research scientists are producing underpinning technologies for mobile, medical and space applications.  CWI is a global leader in physical layer wireless research, development and exploitation, and its researchers invent technologies that enable satellites, connected vehicles, implantable sensing medical devices, IoT, Industry 4.0 (cobotics) and smart cities to improve performance over the next decade. One of the Centre’s scientists, Dr Trung Duong from Vietnam, won the Newton Prize for creating a communication system that can battle through hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Also to emerge from CWI are Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) structures which will be on board MetOp, a new satellite which monitors pollution among other targets, and particularly relevant in light of the Paris Agreement on Climate Control and the EU targets for carbon reductions.


Professor Dimitrios Nikolopoulos, Director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology said: “Cyber technology is developing at an incredible pace and we are committed to being a world leader in this field – addressing vulnerabilities and using world-class research to create practical solutions to robustly equip individuals and organisations.”

He added: “Cyber security and the economy are inextricably linked as the prosperity of many nations is based upon a growing digital technology sector. We are continuing to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and collaborate with industry to ensure we are future-ready and developing cutting-edge technology suitable for an increasingly digital age.”

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