The BT Tower hosted the awards ceremony for the BT Infinity Lab SMA Awards 2016 : Connected Cities. From a list of 70 competitors the winner of the Smart City and overall Connected Cities awards was the Northern Irish company SEE.SENSE. A worthy champion of the overall award the company has turned prevailing thinking on its head by delivering an IoT solution that has been profitable virtually since its launch and its innovative idea helping to save lives, personal property and hopes to save city councils money in the future with its connected product.
SEE.SENSE have developed an intelligent connected set of bicycle lamps that for cycling enthusiasts who have not come across them are well worth a look. The lights use a sensor array to detect road imperfections, movement changes and other telemetry. For the cyclists the benefits are obvious. Designed primarily as an excellent light it delivers day light visible light that varies depending upon it sensing impending danger. For example as a cyclist reduces speed approaching a junction the light flash speeds up and becomes brighter. When left unattended an alert is sent to the phone for the owner to be aware that his precious possession may be about to be stolen.
The collected data is currently being stored on SEE.SENSE own servers, in a small trial in Milton Keynes. The anonymised data is freely available for others to access traffic movement at key locations in the city and also it can be used to detect pot holes before they appear. According to Phillip McAleese, Co-Founder and CEO the sensors detect the rough ground that presages the presence of a pot hole. The council can be made aware of this data using GPS, thus helping the refinement of maintenance schedules and reduction of reliance on expensive road quality detection vehicles. The question is whether the whole road is covered by bicycles but certainly this is data freely collected and available for use. That the data is instant means that emergency services can plan routes far more efficiently than using the google traffic updates which are often up to fifteen minutes out of date.
As winners they receive £15,000 from BT and six months membership of TechHub as well as the opportunity to work with Milton Keynes for their connected solution. They were presented the award by Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General who commented “Being a smarter government is about recasting the relationship between the citizen and the state, making public services simpler, clearer and faster, and taking advantage of state-of-the-art digital technologies.”
He continued “I am delighted to be supporting these awards, and give my heartfelt congratulations to the winners.”
For BT this competition is a second iteration, in its second year. The increase in interest and the quality of the competitors made the decision around the finalists and eventual winners a tricky task. The competition was co-sponsored by the Cabinet Office. With Gerry Pennell, OBE, Crown representative, Cabinet Office assisted BT throughout the process. The final judging panel included people from the NHS and MK Smart. MKSmart is a large collaborative initiative, funded in part by HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) with academic support from the Open Univeristy. It looks for innovative solutions to support the economic growth of Milton Keynes. The expectation is that technologies developed for Milton Keynes can be piloted there and rolled out across the country and beyond.
For BT this is now about connecting up with exciting new start ups that might just be larger companies in the future. Nurturing their growth in the early stages and one assumes hoping that they will use BT platform. Talking to Peter Mildon, COO of Vivacity labs, the winner of the Internet of Things category they are looking for BT expertise, or perhaps notably EE expertise to help grow. Vivacity Labs have developed a sensor technology that recognises the difference between pedestrians and bicycles, a challenge that is tricky apparently. Though he acknowledged that at the moment telling the difference between a motorbike and bicycle has not been fully developed.
Again MKSmart are piloting a trial in Milton Keynes. The aim is to better understand traffic flows around the town. At the moment around 100 sensors have been deployed and are collecting data from car parks, 20 buses and four roundabouts. Unlike CCTV no personal data is stored. The camera’s record and analyse an image within three seconds, forwarding only the metadata into the cloud for storage and analysis. The sensor uses neural network technology to identify whether the image collected is a car, bike or pedestrian and is almost as good as a human at telling the difference in any light condition.
There is still clearly development to be done on this solution, but it could make a considerable difference to city planning especially as they understand the traffic flows around the city. Vivacity have also looked to extend the technology into London linking the data collected into Scoot. This is technology in development, unlike Scoot however the sensors are placed above ground, often on lamp posts and are therefore a lot cheaper to deploy.
The third winner, Sitekit Ltd, won the Connected Society Award for its development of the eRedBook. This is the first digital personal Child Health Record that could replace the NHS Red Book that all new parents have for their child in the UK. Sitekit worked with the commercial organisations, the government, NHS and the Royal colleges and has been running in Liverpool successfully. It is now being field tested in London with a plan being developed to rolling it out across the London Region.
One of the biggest concerns for Sitekit was addressed early. Information governance for health data is strict. They have resolved this by placing the data in the Microsoft Healthvault and ensuring that data is secure wherever it is accessed by professionals or parents. Both Vivacity and Sitekit received £7500 from BT as a reward and six months of help from BT to develop their solution further.
While the financial awards may be small compared to larger headline making donations these awards help companies achieve the next stage of their growth. Vivacity was certainly more excited by the advice that BT can offer them over the next six months as they look to expand the business. Ian Dalton, as president of Government and Health at BT who sponsored the awards commented, “This competition has really highlighted the rich vein of dynamism and innovation that exists in the UK’s SME market. It demonstrates how they can make a big difference not only to the public sector but in helping to shape our cities of the future through their imaginative digital products and services.”
Dalton confirmed that BT has no intention of entering into an equity agreement with these companies, but it will certainly look to benefit by helping these companies grow, providing cloud services and networking as and when they require it.