SYNERGIA Publicised and Published

By Dr. James Pope

Over the past couple of months the SYNERGIA Project has been busy collaborating and participating in numerous events and developing quality research publications.  The project engaged numerous academic and industry organisations during the following events.

  1. Smart Internet Lab Conference
  2. Bristol CSN Lab – BT Visit
  3. Toshiba UMBRELLA Launch Event
  4. FutureSpace Founder’s Meeting Presentation
Smart Internet Lab Logo

On 23 September, the project presented at the University of Bristol’s SMART: 2021 Future Networks Research Conference.  The conference is a chance for academic and industrial experts to discuss future ambitions and challenges in telecommunications research.  The SYNERGIA virtual presentation had over 50 attendees from industry and academia.

On 6 October, The University of Bristol’s Communication Systems & Networks Group (CSN) hosted a visit with senior members from the BT communications conglomerate.  The visit was conducted in the Merchant Venturers Building, CSN Lab.  The SYNERGIA Project was presented along with several other applied and theoretical communications research projects.  There was particular interest in how the SYNERGIA AI/ML solution generalised beyond the IIoT.

Poster of SYNERGIA at UMBRELLA Launch Event

On 18 October, Toshiba held the UMBRELLA Launch Event on the University of the West of England’s Frenchay Campus.  There were over 70 attendees from industry, academia, and local government.  The SYNERGIA Project engaged with attendees in a booth / short discussion format.  Numerous attendees approached SYNERGIA project members to discuss our AI/ML, system, security, and multi-tenancy research.

On 21 October, the SYNERGIA Project met with Future Space companies to discuss possible use cases and collaboration.  There were approximately twelve attendees, half of them at the executive level.  The meeting was facilitated and supported by Oxford Innovation.  Two Future Space companies have subsequently been in contact regarding potential future collaboration.

Future Space image

Finally, the SYNERGIA Project received notification that one of its publication had been accepted as part of an upcoming Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on 17 November.  The publication includes 14 project members across 3 consortium organisations.  The publication is available via the ACM Digital Library.

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How the SYNERGIA project supports COP26 objectives

By Mark Davies: With the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November 2021, we take a look at how the SYNERGIA project will support the conference’s goals.

COP26 will focus on four major objectives:

  1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
  3. Mobilise finance
  4. Work together to deliver

Cities, whilst only cover 3% of the earth’s surface, consume 78% of the worlds energy and produce and account for over 60% of global emissions. The goal of connected places not only enhances the quality of living for its citizens by using data to improve its operations including transportation, public services, utilities and infrastructure, but will also support the environmental changes needed to achieve these aggressive net-zero targets being set over the next decade.

Connecting and integrating services and systems within large scale, multi-tenanted environments, brings huge challenges as organizational boundaries are crossed, not least the security aspects. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) commissioned the PAS 185 framework along with the BSI to specify a “security minded approach” to the implementation and establishment of Smart Cities.

The SYNERGIA project has the potential to help address some of these challenges to support the implementation of a secure smart city environment through its work on the development and implementation of a secure platform, making it easier for central and local governments to achieve their goals.

SYNERGIA, consisting of a consortium led by Toshiba and includes the University of Bristol, Ioetec, Smartia, MAC Ltd and Configured Things, is developing and will demonstrate a novel secure-by-design, endpoint-to-core IoT platform for large-scale networks of low-power resource-constrained devices. This novel solution will help to keep and monitor IoT devices and the data they create secure, whilst connected to the network.

Smart cities can help to

  • Reduce the levels of carbon emissions, e.g. Currently, the transport sector makes up 14% of global greenhouse emissions. As more people gravitate towards them, the population of cities are set to grow to over two thirds of the world’s population by 2050. Transportation in urban areas will increase which, if not addressed, will result in a continued rise in emissions. IoT data to improve traffic management, shared transport and improved parking can assist a more efficient movement of a city’s residents and visitors.
  • Protect communities & natural habitats with improved environmental monitoring, optimised services like waste collection and by using smart building solutions
  • Improve the efficient use of energy and water resources contributing to a more sustainable society.
  • Establish safe and secure cross-operational data-sharing to bring disparate stakeholders together to deliver better outcomes for its inhabitants.

To perform these tasks effectively, smart cities will have millions of connected IoT devices but crucially they cannot be implemented fully without effective and robust cybersecurity.

As part of the UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund and of the Security of Digital Technologies at the Periphery (SDTAP) programme, SYNERGIA is addressing the challenge of a near-to-market secure and energy-efficient IoT system in resource constrained environments such as smart cities.  Incorporating, utilising and combining technologies in a novel way, the SYNERGIA platform, supports the new NCSC’s “Connected Places Cyber Security Principles” to enable key stakeholders to enhance the quality of living for its citizens, improve the co-operation between siloed sectors and to achieve those targets promised at this year’s conference.

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By Theo Spyridopoulos: On the 15th of July, the Industrial Advisory Committee of the Security of Digital Technology at the Periphery (SDTaP) programme met, to hear updates from the three Demonstrator projects in Round 1:

  • i-TRACE: IoT Transport Assured for Critical Environments, a collaboration between the University of Warwick, Cisco, BT, Senseon, and Costain working with Artificial Intelliegence and Distributed Ledger technologies.
  • Secure-CAVs: The world’s first on-chip and in-life monitoring solution to rapidly detect cyber security threats in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), a collaboration between the Coventry, Southampton, Siemens, and Copper Horse.
  • ManySecured: Collaborative development of Secure IoT Gateways & Routers, a collaboration between Cisco, NquiringMinds, the University of Oxford, and our friends at the IoT Security Foundation.

and from Round 2:

  • SYNERGIA: Secure bY desigN End to end platfoRm for larGe scale resource constrained Iot Applications, a collaboration between Toshiba’s Bristol R&D Lab, Configured Things, Ioetec, MAC Ltd, and Smartia.

In addition, we heard from two projects, led by PETRAS researchers, funded under SDTaP’s commercialisation stream through CyberASAP (Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme), the only accelerator programme in the cybersecurity ecosystem for pre-seed funding:

  1. TAIMAS: Timing Anomalies as an Indicator of Mal-Intervention in Automation Systems (UCL and CUBE 2 Ltd in Worthing)
  2. THuVA: Improving Security with Techno-Human Vulnerability Analysis (UCL)

SYNERGIA falls under Theme 2 “Secure and energy-efficient IoT systems in resource-constrained environments” of InnovateUK’s “Demonstrators addressing cyber security challenges in the Internet of Things” round 2 call and focuses on end-to-end cyber security for IoT systems with resource-constrained devices. It involves Involves AI as part of the security detection and mitigation mechanism at the Edge and plans to demonstrate the results in a real environment based on an existing Edge IoT platform. Similar challenges and areas of interest, especially in the field of AI at the Edge Gateway and Secure Configuration Management of thousands of IoT devices at the Edge, were also identified during the meeting. Project TAIMAS in particular, uses autoencoders for anomaly detection to perform intrusion detection in Building Automation Systems in a similar way to us. In SYNERGIA we push the detection to the Edge providing a human-in-the-loop under a Federated Learning Architecture to improve the model’s performance in case of low confidence outputs.

SYNERGIA focuses on a secure-by-design end-to-end platform for large scale resource-constrained IoT applications. We follow a three-tier architecture that includes i) the resource-constrained Endpoint Tier where battery-powered sensor devices are scattered in the field, ii) the Edge Tier that is geographically located close to the Endpoints and is responsible for collecting the sensor data and provide processing capabilities used for data analytics and system configuration management at the Edge and iii) the Back End Tier that is responsible for aggregating the processed data from the Edge Tier and providing a User Interface to End-users.

To inform the design of our security solutions, we conducted a threat analysis for the whole end-to-end system based on NIST’s threat modelling process in the 800-30 special publication. The main threats we are interested in revolve around unauthorised/malevolent users, services and devices trying to access or disrupt our system, targeting the Endpoint and Edge Tiers. To address these threats, we develop a series of security solutions operating at the two Tiers.

Similarly to the TAIMAS project, SYNERGIA uses an autoencoder running at the Edge to model the Edge device’s normal behaviour and detect abnormal behaviours. To improve the model’s performance, we use a human-in-the-loop approach under a Federated Learning architecture, providing a user interface for security experts to extract system data corresponding to low confidence model inferences for external analysis and data labelling. We also employ AI deployed at the Edge to detect malicious drifts in the data collected from the Endpoint devices.

A point raised during the meeting was the challenge of configuring and managing thousands of Endpoint devices scattered in the field; Intel has faced this issue with IoT deployments in the US. The existence of multiple actors and devices with different roles and owners respectively requires dynamic configuration management and control of the IoT. Providing this closer to the Endpoint Tier improves scalability as well as security and user privacy. In SYNERGIA, we address this challenge by delivering secure configuration and management of Endpoints, as well as secure Endpoint data processing through signed data flows deployed at the Edge.

SYNERGIA security is targeted at multiple resource constrained IoT for Smart Cities applications, and will demonstrate the solutions developed in just one particular Use Case: securing “Multi-tenancy Smart Buildings”. Working with Oxford Innovation (, a number of Edge nodes and Endpoint sensors will be installed in the Future Space multi-tenancy building providing environmental monitoring, weather monitoring, green energy, and access control services etc. Synergia’s solutions will allow the building operator to deploy solutions around Variable billing based on room utilisation, heating, cooling etc. and also allow users a “Bring your own IoT device” policy. Furthermore, it will enable space users to ensure compliance with investors’ Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance policies.

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Cyber Security of Connected Places

By Simon Arnell:  The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre recently released its “Connected Places: Cyber Security Principles” guidance document to advance the state of security in connected places.

Increasingly, systems that would have previously been considered SCADA systems are now starting to appear in all sorts of new applications using commodity hardware of unknown origin and risk; little to no air gapping exists between these new forms of critical systems allowing potential attacks to spread. Additionally, security cannot be assumed to be inherent in the acquired devices unless care is taken during procurement or the cost of system design accommodates a great deal of focus on security. Therefore it is critical to understand your connected place and the risks associated with it in the event of it being compromised. 

The SYNERGIA project was formed to investigate the challenge of how to provide “secure and energy-efficient IoT systems in resource-constrained environments.” So you may ask, what is a “resource-constrained environment” and why do they require special security consideration? We characterise these as systems that rely on battery power and low-power wireless networking technologies. Resource-constrained devices may not have the compute capabilities to perform otherwise standard cryptography or full networking stacks – instead relying on lightweight alternatives.  

A connected place should be designed to be secure – not allowed to grow organically with ill-fitting security bolted on. A data-centric end-to-end approach is needed to protect data throughout its lifecycle across every part of the network. 

The sorts of applications we would see resource-constrained systems being applied to are ones with multi-year lifetimes such as precision agriculture, smart buildings, smart logistics, smart cities and smart countryside. By their very nature, devices and the network are exposed to the public and therefore have to be assumed to be in hostile environments and potentially compromised. 

Therefore these systems must be designed and implemented to be cyber resilient, the reverse engineering of any one device should not lead to the entire system being compromised. Data should also be protected at rest and in motion – despite operating on a compromised network the data should not be readable or subject to undetectable changes and replays. Likewise the system should be able to detect and respond to attacks, with strong recovery properties that enable it to return to a secure default state.

The SYNERGIA project is now in its ninth month and we are into our full collective swing of design work, we look forward to sharing the outputs of which once we move into development and testing stages of the project where we will operationalise the security of the connected place.  The project will have the first of two demonstration events on 31 January 2022. 

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SYNERGIA has kicked-off

The SYNERGIA Innovate UK-funded collaborative project has kicked-off.

Funded by Innovate UK under the “Demonstrators addressing cyber security challenges in the Internet of Things: round 2” competition, the 6-partner SYNERGIA consortium will devise, develop and demonstrate a novel secure-by-design, endpoint-to-core IoT platform for large-scale networks of low-power resource-constrained devices.

We are currently in the process of organising an end-user engagement workshop.

Bookmark this page for news and follow @ProjectSynergia on twitter.


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Quick Facts

Funder: Innovate UK
Project Cost: £2.2M
Total Funding: £1.6M