ODI Leeds Showcase 2017
One day to celebrate ODI Leeds and friends
The Leeds Digital Festival returned for 2017 and we kicked off our jam-packed week of events with our Showcase - a one-day extravaganza of passionate speakers talking about their work within the digital industry. It was a chance to celebrate all of the ace people we have had the immense pleasure to work or collaborate with, and highlight the vibrant talent in Leeds and beyond.
Events like the Showcase are only possible thanks to the support of like-minded sponsors, and we were thrilled when OpenDataSoft said they wanted to sponsor the Showcase. A former ODI startup, OpenDataSoft are working to create a data platform that makes it easier to publish and access open data, whilst also providing a range of entry-level tools for visualisation and analysis. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect partner!
Paul Connell, founder of ODI Leeds, opened the Showcase with a whistle-stop tour of what ODI Leeds, a Pioneer Node of The ODI, has been up to - our innovation work, our team and our most recent projects, highlights being: the Leeds Bin apps; working with Adobe to create data-friendly PDFs; our work with Bradford to create a flood sensor network; and the Datacity - IoT Nation Database. Paul took us through The ODI Leeds Dashboard and how we measure ourselves - you can check it out here.
Paul also revealed that ODI Leeds had successfully pitched for a small portion of the Leeds Tech Hub Fund to improve the space and services that we can offer. With a slew of new projects on the horizon and investment in the space,there was much to look forward to!
Lorna Mitchell from IBM briefly took to the stage to introduce herself and her colleague Glynn Bird (who would be giving a presentation later). IBM had kindly sponsored the whole week at ODI Leeds for Leeds Digital Festival, supporting such events as open data training, innovation labs, digital workshops, and our first ever live-stream. IBM, giants in computing history, are looking to make waves with the Watson data platform.
First in the long line of stellar speakers for the day, we had Fanny Goldschmidt and Carl Rodrigues from OpenDataSoft. They had come to demonstrate their data platform, showing it in action as well as showing who was already using it and what impact it was already having. To explore a demo of the OpenDataSoft platform, they created this demo portal for West Midlands data. There has been a very enthusiastic take-up of the platform in France, with impressive data portals for the cities of Rennes and Paris plus the STAR transportation network. This map of LIVE bus locations is particularly impressive. The platform is quite flexible, and the team are dedicated to continuing support and adding further features in the future.
Following OpenDataSoft was Tanja Lichtensteiger, who leads the Business Systems Software Development team at Leeds Beckett University and is a 'Northern Voice,' campaigning for better representation of women in tech roles. She had brought a personal project with her - a better way for cricketers to manage their training sessions and matches. Previous systems involved dates and times scribbled on paper that would inevitably go missing, or emails that would never get read. The sportsmen needed something simple, easy to use, and accessible from their phone. In steps Tanja. She crafted a no-frills app for the cricket team and coaches (see the slides for screenshots), and has received glowing praise from Andrew Gale, first XI coach for YCCC. Her future aims include data gathering to better inform the coaches about the health and wellbeing of the players. Tanja's slides
Glynn Bird was next with a cheerful and short talk about the IBM Watson Data Platform. He first highlighted IBM Bluemix - their Platform-as-a-Service which supports several languages as well as integrated DevOps, allowing users to build and deploy applications in the cloud. Within Bluemix, there is a lot of support for data and analytics, and Watson brings a whole host of machine-learning libraries and tools. Finally, Glynn revealed Data Science Experience from IBM - a community built around data science and a place to learn new skills with the IBM data platform. Glynn's slides
Practically part of the furniture now at ODI Leeds, Tom Forth was next to talk about his work on open data projects. For him, some of the most interesting work actually comes after the project is complete. In his continuing technical support for the Leeds Bins App, Tom looked at postcode lookups, which revealed the areas in Leeds that used the app the least. Some might find it surprising that it's actually in the student heartlands of Headingley and Hyde Park that have the least postcode lookups on the app. Tom confirmed that students were the hardest to reach and engage with when it came to council services. His slides can be viewed at the link below but we've got to mention an interesting finding that came out of Tom (and Dan's) efforts to make the Mini Car Counter. Though still in development and testing, the car counter has been able to capture several uninterrupted days of data (before crashing for days with no apparent reason). Using two whole days of data - one day in a normal week and one day from a school holiday week - Tom investigated the adage that getting to/from work during the school holidays was so much easier. His graph showed two interesting things - in the morning, the amount of traffic eased off after 8am, which makes sense; during school holidays, people tended to go home earlier (or on a normal day, people went home later). Driver behaviour that anyone in planning or infrastructure should be asking for before they try to make a 'Leeds loop' in your city! Tom's slides
Moving from cars to buses, James Bennett from WYCA was next, talking about Beacons. Nothing to do with lighthouses, and definitely not a 'hip' name for a music festival. Beacons is a bluetooth Oyster-style payment system for bus transport. Designed to remove barriers to travel (physical and otherwise), customers would simply enable bluetooth on their phone, use the app, board a bus and then have the app calculate the best fare at the end of the journey. In theory, it would speed up bus boarding and customers get the fairest fares. James' slides
Alex Craven from Bloom was the last speaker of the morning, with good reason - he had brought gadgets with him! Specifically, a VR suite. Over at Bloom, which recently became part of Jaywing, they have been working on ways to explore data using virtual reality. With a brief introduction and run through of the project, Alex then said the suite would be open to demos throughout lunchtime. Cue excited grins and childish gleams in eyes.
Just before we broke for lunch, we had a very entertaining diversion from Stuart Lowe, who works on web development and data projects at ODI Leeds. A personal project derived from a conversation with a comedian who had never heard the word 'gyratory' before, Stuart looked in to other words that might be hard to find around the country. He eventually stumbled upon 'garth.' And no, not *that* Garth. The use of 'garth' in street and place names is almost unheard of outside of Leeds (except for some hotspots in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and a few way up in the Shetlands). You can read Stuart's blog post, and explore a map of Garths. Party on.
After an impressive buffet lunch, everyone gathered again for the afternoon speakers. It was a special privilege to have Jeni Tennison with us and she kicked off the afternoon. Before becoming CEO of the Open Data Institute, Jeni was technical architect for legislation.gov.uk and worked on the early linked data work for data.gov.uk. She talked about open data in general and then three of her highlight projects for the year ahead - open banking, with a mention for the Nesta OpenUp Challenge; OpenActive, where data from sporting and activity providers can help people become more active; and Data Pitch, which is a Europe-wide startup programme for data-driven businesses. She finished with an empassioned plea for people to open up their data and not to be afraid of doing so. Opening things makes it accessible and available for all. Jeni's slides
Donning another of his many caps, Paul returned to the stage, this time as Data City to talk about the IoT Nation Database. Peter Laflin, from Bloom, joined him. Working together as Data City, the challenge was set - create a database of the UK's IoT businesses and organisations, and a way to analyse said database that anyone could use. Bloom took an original database compiled by IoT UK and 'taught' an AI engine how to identify an IoT business. The engine was then used to sift through the web and pluck out the relevant businesses or organisations. The resulting database was newer, bigger, and could be kept up to date. Then it was on to making a web-based interactive report, showing businesses by sector, revenue, location, etc. It is best appreciated in real time, so we highly recommend you go explore the data - IoT UK Nation.
On to matters of time and space...no, I promise we're not about to fall into a black hole or talk about The Twilight Zone. Lex Comber, from Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, came to talk about modelling with space AND time. We're very good at each on it's own but what problems do we encounter when we try to do both? Using camels and their roaming range as an example (camels make everything interesting), Lex had modelled the change in range over time. This could then be put to use for predicting future change. Now apply this, at least in theory, to climate change, drought or flood prevention. Lex's slides
Chris Barnes from Highways England was next, with a highly relevant topic - connected and autonomous vehicles. Looking after some of the busiest roads in England, Highways England are now trying to look forward and see how they can prepare for autonomous and increasingly connected cars. Projects they would like to trial - sending journey information directly to road users; and sending traffic warnings (such as accidents and closures) directly to road users. Working towards connected and autonomous vehicles has its moral and ethical challenges. Connected cars are no different to other connected devices. They will generate data but who owns it? And how personal is it? Highways England are keen to open their data and see it used. They joined ODI Leeds as a sponsor last year and let people explore their data at HighwaysHack. Chris was enthusiastic for the future. They want to engage more with local authorities and other transport operators. Chris' slides
Matt Edgar of Stick People had come prepared - with paper and markers! He wanted us to engage our brains and draw stuff! It doesn't sound as bad as the exclamation marks would have you believe. Masters of service design and engagement, Stick People regularly organise 'jams' such as Service Design Jam and GovJam, and also extol the virtues of getting outside your bubble and talking to people. The exercise Matt had for us was to take the sheet of blank circles and turn them into something recognisable. You then had to swap with someone and count how many of the objects you could recognise. Designed to get you seeing and communicating things in a different way, it is one of many activities at Matt's disposal. Man of many talents. Matt's slides
Another familiar face to regular attendees of ODI Leeds events, Stephen Blackburn was up next to talk about Data Mill North (which was known as Leeds Data Mill at last year's showcase). As Data Mill North powers so many projects that were already highlighted during the day, Stephen inside chose to talk about some of the projects coming up this year. He began with Smart City Leeds, which was split into two areas of focus - connected IoT devices for the elderly to help improve their independent living; and a smart parking pilot to help understand the busiest parts of the city. Then he talked about 100% Digital Leeds, which is an ongoing initiative from LCC to teach digital skills to citizens and help them do more online. A talk about Data Mill North isn't complete without mentioning their amazing win at the ODI Summit - best Data Publisher, beating off such contenders as Defra! Stephen's slides
To close us out, we had Julian Tait from OpenData Manchester to talk about the Things Network. Using LoRAWAN (long range, low power wide-area network), a Things Network can create an environment for internet-of-things projects. He showed the massive potential for LoRAWAN gateways and sensors - which provide a great deal more coverage than Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi enabled sensors - and also emphasised the open nature of it. It is for everyone, anyone can join, and everyone can build. A LoRAWAN network is made stronger the more people that get involved, bringing their sensors and even their gateways. If you would like to know more, or want to know how you can help bring a robust LoRAWAN network to Leeds, email us. Julian's slides
Done and dusted, at least for another year, the Showcase ended with a final thank you to the sponsors and to everyone who attended. It is at events like these that we can forge amazing new collaborations and connections, and by bringing like-minded folk together to celebrate digital and data projects, we help strengthen the community. Leeds is fast becoming the biggest city for digital outside of London, and the Leeds Digital Festival is a call to arms - be a digital champion for your city and show the rest of the UK, the rest of the world, what we can do.
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