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In the vanguard of a new internet revolution

Celebrating its 20th birthday last year, Nominet was set up to manage the UK’s official country-code .UK domain and now runs the registry for more than ten million domain names, including,, .cymru and .wales, and provides registry services for many more.

Every time someone types in a web address or an app makes an internet request, a domain name system (DNS) query is generated. Building on its DNS expertise, Nominet is now pushing the boundaries of technology, and exploring products and services that would have been impossible two decades ago. Yet this work is vital to keep pace in a rapidly evolving industry that is changing the way people use and access the internet.

More than 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet worldwide by 2020, excluding smartphones, tablets and computers, according to technology researcher Gartner. That is around three times more than the number of people in the world, making the internet of things (IoT) an integral part of life, for individuals and businesses alike.

The billions of devices connected to the web, from driverless cars to smart meters and drones, are likely to need a registry that will allow the IoT to operate efficiently and securely, and Nominet could be well placed to provide that service.

Our aim is to deliver emerging technologies that anticipate what lies ahead

Russell Haworth, chief executive of Nominet, believes the DNS expertise and trust the company has built up in running domains gives it a vital role in the explosion in the IoT, not just as a potential registry for devices, but as a technology partner to harness emerging technologies.

He says: “Our history shows that we can deliver a safe and reliable service on a large scale.”

One thing Nominet is certain of is that the technology behind IoT is developing rapidly and its eventual scope could be much greater than its current relatively limited use in intelligent home devices.

“I think we are heading to another inflection point like we saw with the introduction of smartphones,” says Simon McCalla, Nominet’s chief technology officer.

“They were initially seen as handy for a bit of web-browsing and messaging, but they are changing the way we live, transforming entire industries such as banking and transport. We think the spread of the IoT will trigger a similar revolution. It will be part of the fabric of our lives.”

The R&D experts at Nominet have developed a broad range of IoT and dynamic spectrum technology initiatives focused on solving associated infrastructure challenges. These include work on IoT privacy issues, a smart parking system and exploring the application of IoT to help prevent wildlife poaching.

Nominet has also been one of the pioneers in the use of TV white space (TVWS), employing dynamic spectrum management technology to enable IoT devices to communicate with each other via unassigned or unused UHF and VHF broadcast frequencies in the radio spectrum. This technology has the ability to create a virtual internet infrastructure, providing a low-cost wireless broadband network where others cannot and is transforming communications in remote areas or places where it would be inconvenient to put in traditional connections.


Piloted successfully on Oxford’s Flood Network, the company’s TVWS database now powers Broadway Partners’ broadband connectivity to consumers and businesses in remote locations on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. As a low-cost alternative to cable networks or satellite systems, this has massive potential. In November, the company joined forces with Microsoft to deliver broadband to the African continent using Nominet’s dynamic spectrum management technology.

Mr Haworth says: “We have shown that our technology can work in the UK and we are very excited about how it can be used in Africa, which has lagged behind the rest of the world on internet connectivity. It has enormous scope to help link communities and businesses.”

The rush to everyday devices connected to the internet will bring huge benefits, but also dangers from criminal activity, misuse, malware and botnets. The risks were highlighted by denial-of-service hack attacks through webcams and digital recorders that affected millions of people in the United States and Europe in October.

“Cyber crime and its mitigation will be one of the top priorities in 2017, and customers will veer towards devices that can demonstrate a security pedigree,” says Mr McCalla

As a company that processes vast amounts of data, more than three billion DNS queries daily, Nominet focuses on running a safe and secure .UK and uses its insights to fuel exploration.

Building on its expertise in monitoring DNS traffic and identifying security threats, it has launched a unique analytics and security surveillance tool for organisations running DNS services that detects suspicious patterns of behaviour and alerts users.

Called turing, it was originally developed to help Nominet as a registry, both as a monitoring tool and to thwart attacks, allowing users to see billions of data packets and making it easier to spot trends. Today, it is used by some of the world’s largest companies for its near-real-time and historic overviews of network activity and its visual way of working with vast amounts of data.

Another core thread of Nominet’s work is a focus on public benefit and, since it established Nominet Trust in 1998, it has donated £44 million to the charity to support “tech for good” projects spanning research, education and innovation. Nominet has also worked with the Prince’s Trust and is a founding member of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, working to provide young people with technology skills for the future.

As Mr Haworth acknowledges, the Nominet of today is a very different enterprise to the one established two decades ago.

He concludes: “We’ve always been known as a world-class registry, but today’s internet is very different to the one first created. The internet is constantly evolving and our aim is to deliver emerging technologies that don’t simply keep pace, but anticipate what lies ahead.”

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