Ten UK companies stand to receive up to £50,000 each from a government-backed project, to participate in preparatory studies to better understand how the country can move towards an application and services marketplace in the so-called Internet of Things.

The £500,000 project constitutes the first investment in a government-backed initiative, and will be managed by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s national innovation agency.

The project is aimed at encouraging and stimulating the formation of an ‘Internet of Things ecosystem’ of applications and services. After the preparatory studies have finished, the Technology Strategy Board will then invest up to £4 million later in 2012 through a funding competition that will subsequently lead to the development of a convergence demonstrator. This will highlight the benefits to be gained by merging applications and services together through an Internet of Things.

If you’re new to the concept of an ‘The Internet of Things’, it describes the trend for environments, buildings, vehicles, clothing, portable devices and other objects (or ‘things’…) to have more information associated with them, and be able to sense, communicate, network and produce new information. The idea is that a global spread of an ‘Internet of Things’ could ultimately transform how we live our lives and the way we interact with the physical world.

“The Internet of Things has the potential to stimulate large scale investment, create jobs and bring substantial economic growth,” says David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board. “The number of connected objects is estimated to reach 50 billion by 2020, and the potential added value of services using the Internet of Things is likely to be in the range of hundreds of billions of pounds a year, with new business models, applications and services across different sectors of the economy.”

The ten companies leading the preparatory studies have been selected, and they are: AIMES Grid Services, BT, Cambridge Wireless, Focus Innovation, Globosense, Housing 21, In Touch, InteliTap, Swirrl IT and WattBox.

The Technology Strategy Board has also set up a Special Interest Group of organisations to help raise awareness of some of the opportunities provided by the Internet of Things. In particular, the group is carrying out a research and development road-mapping project, in collaboration with the Research Councils. The results should be released within a few months.