Onward and upward at Innovate UK

Britain’s technology strategy board (now rebranded as Innovate UK) held an exhibition of the inventions that can make Britain’s industries leaner and greener

Having spent weeks falling through the cracks between the many fiefdoms of the NHS, I’m convinced that IT could improve the processing of patients – as long as it doesn’t involve anyone associated with the National Programme for IT (NPfIT). 

We will be looking at this in more detail later, but one particular aspect of patient monitoring is already being addressed by ActiCheck, a Cambridge-based wearable technology start up. It demoed this technology at Innovate UK in London last week.

If, say, a cyclist is lying paralysed in the middle of a field, Acticheck’s SmartBand can make an intelligent decision for them. It can sense that something’s wrong (by the wearer’s lack of movement, and lowering body temperature) and start communicating with the right people. A text message could be dispatched to their next of kin, say. If the emergency services are contacted, the system uses GPS to pinpoint the location, which is more than a human could do in the same circumstances. 

Inventor Karl Gibbs conceived of the idea as a security product, for people going into remote dangerous locations – like telecoms engineers going into bleak landscapes or auditors visiting certain dodgy IT distributors. But the potential applications of this technology are exciting, and NHS approved suppliers could save many a life by their creative application of this cloud based technology.

Meanwhile, Birmingham based Synapse Information has created a new way to automate the dumb, manual processes that can bring both the private and public sector down to a plodding pace. They’ve achieved this by using nano apps to create intelligent spreadsheets out of  inert systems. 

These can automatically stimulate users in, say, a hospital fracture clinic to be more proactive in the way they work with their peers in, say, the X Ray department. According to my own research these are two links in a chain that rarely communicate and have no real motive to make life easy for the client. So any reseller who can get the most out of Synapse Information’s rules based, data integrity checking, AAs-kicking (as a service kicking) software will be worth their weight in gold.

Elsewhere in the cloud, Intelligent Data Systems could save many a farmer from going to the wall with its application of algorithms. If you thought data centre downtime was ruinously expensive, the figures for milk manufacture are not far below. Currently, farms can lose a blood (and milk) curdling €400,000 a day if one of their machines goes down. Thanks to the pioneering work of this University of Portsmouth technology spin off, big data can be used to nip problems in the bud. Their analysis of machine data can predict, up to six weeks in the future, if a milking system is about to run into trouble, allowing the operator to make plans for business continuity. This is another cloud application with a silver lining, for both the dairy industry and its specialist IT systems integrators.

Another planet saver comes from Lontra, which has invented a way to help the IT industry use less power. Ten per cent of all the electricity used in British industry is burned by compressors – such as the ones running all the cooling systems in every data center. But – despite being power hungry - compressor design hasn’t been updated since 1935! So inventor Steve Lindsey has designed new compressors which aim to create massive performance improvements and cut the CO2 consumption of data centres.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh based Li-Fi Centre has created a way to broadcast data using cheap LED lights. The beauty of the light local area networks is that the broadcast is unhackable, targeted, efficient to manage and – for the moment at least - massively expensive, so the margins would be phenomenal. Likely customers could include the military, secret services, banks, GCHQ and any company with more money than sensible employees.

At Innovate there was even an invention to improve IT packaging and peripherals and make them greener. Birmingham based Floreon, which has created a way of making bioplastics out of corn, has made it possible to wrap all your IT equipment up in biodegradable packaging. So big companies won’t have to send skips full of poly-poisonous crud into landfill any more, which must be good for their carbon footprint targets. Better still, Floreon’s new organic based consumables for 3D printers smell a lot livelier than the burnable plastic that is used in these printers currently.

Talking of 3D printer inventions, Intimate Objects has created a way for people to create highly personalized products for their own pleasure. Inventor and MD Cassie Robinson did this by ‘building a language for intimacy’ which enables users to express desires that they don’t talk about. This pioneering work was funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Council. (There’s a source of funding few of you will have heard about). There is obviously a demand for this service, as someone stole one of the 3D printed intimate objects, which they must have smuggled out the building, secreted somewhere about their person. That’s one of the perils of selling Wearable technology I suppose. Still, as they say, onward. And upward.

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