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Collective brainstorm on IoT
Kasper de Graaf, 22 March 2016

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Workshops
with end users and service providers for an Internet of Things pilot
took place at Camden Collective in London on March 9, 2016. The pilot,
by the VITAL IoT consortium, explores how the explosion in real-time
data from internet-connected objects and services can better support the
growing number of people and businesses who habitually work on the
move.

The international consortium of software giants, research institutes
and city innovators was set up with the support of the European
Commission to unlock the power of the Internet of Things for developers
by tackling the disconnect between different legacy systems and data
formats with new, easy-to-use technologies. Established almost three
years ago, VITAL has developed a platform and a range of tools which it
is now trialling in two pilots: mobile working in London and traffic
management in Istanbul.

The day before the workshops, the consortium convened at London South
Bank University to discuss progress and rolling out the technology when
the pilots have been completed. Professor Janet Jones, the Dean of
LSBU’s School of Arts and Creative Industries, hosted a lunch for the
consortium to meet with academics from across the university and with
businesses in its enterprise networks.

The workshops – at Camden Collective’s new hub at the disused
Temperance Hospital just behind Euston Station – were designed to try
out and provide feedback on a prototype workspace finder application
that aggregates a range of IoT data to offer the user choices best
suited to their professional and personal needs from five participating
workspace venues. Prototype live data included footfall (from CCTV
camera feeds), transport including cycle hire (from Transport for London
API), air quality (from London DataStore) as well as interior readings
of light levels, temperature and humidity from sensors installed within
the venues as part of a collaboration with the Digital Catapult. This
live data – all integrated through VITAL’s programmeable platform
interfaces (PPIs) – is put together with location maps and other
information from venue providers and other workspace users, then matched
with the user’s profile and preferences to return optimally ranked
choices.

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The morning session took the form of end user testing with a large
group of workspace users and app developers, all born digital and mostly
in their early twenties. Even though the prototype application is still
in its early development stages, the response from this group was
enthusiastic. “We now have smart phones, it’s time we had smart apps,”
said one. Two thirds felt that VITAL would enable developers to work
more easily with different IoT architectures and ecosystems. 78% thought
the technology would deliver more efficient management of smart city
systems and even more – 89% – felt it would have the effect of
innovating such systems.

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Asked what factors would weigh in their choice of workspaces, most
opted for an enjoyable, organised and comfortable working environment,
closely followed by being able to connect with the right networks of
other workspace users: knowing who else is there and communicating via
the app. Distance from the nearest station was the top locational
requirement, followed by nearby lunch places. Cost and availability were
also listed.

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Service providers attended the afternoon session to discuss the app
and the feedback from end users. Participants in this session included
representatives from the participating workspaces, the local authority
(the London Borough of Camden), KPMG, Tech City Ventures and Digital
Catapult. Once again the engagement was positive, with participants
agreeing that aggregated live data would become increasingly useful.
Workspace providers welcomed the opportunity of obtaining more
information about how and by whom their facilities are used,
particularly about networks, connections and users. It was also felt
that this approach might allow development of dynamic pricing models in
addition to existing membership structures, and that this would support
the changing patterns of working.

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Workshops to evaluate the Istanbul traffic management prototype –
which aggregates live data from more than 3,000 fixed and mobile sensors
monitored and aggregated through the VITAL IoT platform – will take
place next month. Further workshops to evaluate the platform are planned
in Turin, Madrid, Lille, Athens and Galway later in the year.

The industrial backbone of the consortium is provided by Atos’ IoT
Lab in Madrid, the Italian software giant Reply and Greece’s largest
software integrator, SingularLogic. The research base is contributed by
Insight, Europe’s top data analytics centre based in Galway, the French
national institute for research in computer science and automation
Inria, the faculty of computer engineering and informatics at Istanbul
Technical University, and the top private-sector academic institution in
Greece, Athens Information Technology. The city partners are Camden
Collective, the London and Manchester-based design and innovation group
Images&Co, and the traffic division of Istanbul municipality.

The consortium sees VITAL as an effective, low-cost, open-source
solution for connecting legacy systems and data sources within and
between cities as well as creating opportunities for bottom-up IoT
application development by startups and SMEs. A beta version of the
platform is due to be released in the fall of 2016 and the consortium is
formulating plans for growing an open-source IoT community and working
with cities, academic and SME partners to roll out the VITAL platform
and tools.