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Written by Emily Gam
on February 28, 2020

This month saw the kick-off of a joint research project between Newcastle based IT company Strategic Group and the University of Newcastle into the secure management of Internet of Things (IoT) devices within the agribusiness sector.

The research project is supported by an Innovation Connections grant as part of the Australian Government's Entrepreneurs' Programme, in partnership with Strategic Group. Set to run over 12 months, the joint research project aims to produce a new system for agriculture businesses to monitor and maintain their fleet of IoT devices.

Strategic Group’s Director of Business Development, Aron Robertson, said they utilised the Federal Government’s Entrepreneurs Programme which assisted in connecting the Business to the key researchers at The University of Newcastle after identifying a gap in the market.

“Many of these businesses have amassed a range of IoT devices over time to help monitor and measure all different areas of the land. This collection of IoT devices are usually from all different brands and manufacturers, with an array of diverse price points.” explained Aron.

Currently farms and agriculture producers use a range of different smart technologies, from monitoring soil moisture and PH levels, through to drones taking aerial photographs of crop fields. While all these devices are beneficial and can help improve productivity, they also have the potential to create vulnerabilities in information and cyber security.

“It’s been well publicised how easy it can be to hack into different IoT devices which leaves these agribusinesses open to having their data stolen or accessed for nefarious purposes

The project will see the University of Newcastle allow Strategic Group staff to use their Advanced Cyber Security Engineering Research Centre (ACSRC) and associated Cyber Security Labs. This will allow researchers to undertake this research development and testing within an environment that allows for a range of scenarios to be trialled.

The University of Newcastle has a world recognised School of Electrical Engineering and Computing with extensive facilities, knowledge and expertise in the area of cyber security and IT as well as producing high quality graduates.

The University’s labs are separated into two environments; the System Security Lab and Smart Network Infrastructure Security Lab and the Malware Lab.

“We are excited to be working with the University of Newcastle and having access to their world class facilities. These labs give our team access to research and development technologies that we would not normally have,” Aron said.

“Additionally having the ability to work with the ACSRC research staff is really valuable and will assist us in our architecture design and testing of the IoT provisioning system.”

Peter Speirs from Strategic Group will be working part-time at the University, in conjunction with Professor Vijay Varadharajan, the Global Innovation Chair in Cyber Security, Dr Rukshan Athauda, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computing (Information Technology) and Mr Kallol Krishna Karmakar, Research Fellow in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computing.

They hope to work collaboratively to research and develop a new solution for provisioning IoT devices that will enable secure data collection and devise a plan to trial the developed system in customer environments.

“Once our research term is complete we hope to have a finished product to trial in real world scenarios with our agribusiness based customers. Our aim is to deliver our clients and the wider agriculture industry a safe and secure way to manage a range of different IoT devices and third party software

The research project is set to be completed in February 2021.

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