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ITaaU Network+: spring 2015: Issue 10
Collaborating with research teams, businesses, entrepreneurs and policymakers to understand the information technology behind the digital economy

ITaaU - the road ahead

Steve Brewer


The path that the IT as a Utility Network+ has taken so far has been exciting, stimulating and enriching primarily as a result of the people who have joined the community during the course of our workshops, pilot projects and other activities. As we prepare for our 2015 community conference in July we will be seeking to learn more about what this interdisciplinary community has gained from the network and what you might want in the future.

From what we have heard so far, there is strong interest in continuing, in some form or other, these activities and conversations that cut across traditional academic disciplines and sectors. If you share this view, let us know. We can then discuss these ideas further when we all meet in Southampton in July.

ITaaU community conference


The ITaaU approach to the digital economy has been to foster interdisciplinary interaction, research and understanding. This has led to fascinating clusters of activity around libraries for the future, security of information in the food chain, the importance of trustworthiness in IT utilities and the crucial role of design thinking in all aspects of this convergence.

This second ITaaU community conference will build on all of these activities that have unfolded across the network and anticipate the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The network has always sought to connect with academic researchers in universities, innovative thinkers in commercial organisations, and enlightened policymakers at all levels.

If these themes appeal to you then do join us on 6 and 7 July in Southampton.

Keynote speakers confirmed so far:

- Andy Stanford-Clark – IBM distinguished engineer for Internet of Things
- Amanda Smith – Open Data Institute
- Alana Wood and Narges Jalali – ustwo
- Elena Simperl – University of Southampton
- Tracy Keys – EPSRC/RCUK
- Erinma Ochu – Film-maker
- Roger Maull – University of Surrey – RCUK New Economic Models Network+
- Paul Watson – Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy (SiDE Hub), director of the Digital Institute at Newcastle University

Registration and further details


UX Boot Camp at ustwo


We have been running these hands-on workshops with leading digital design and product development agency ustwo for some time now. As with the previous events, the participants were impressed with the rapid prototyping approach that facilitators Isabelle and Georgios led them through and also enjoyed the insight offered into the stimulating work culture of the Shoreditch studio.

The rapid prototyping methodology used by ustwo is influenced by the agile software manifesto and the lean start-up approach developed by Eric Ries. The workshop also provided an opportunity to get a glimpse into the workings of The City deep in the heart of Shoreditch. The company is based in the iconic Tea Building and appears to be taking over more of the building every time we go back to visit.

We aim to continue the workshops later on in the year and details will be announced in the near future.


weM2M 2015:making sense of the Internet of Things


Radical changes in the way we interact with objects are happening right now. While intelligent, connected devices offer almost real-time information, if they are to become the foundation for more accurate predictions and recommendations we need to interconnect billions of devices and integrate data streams from multiple sectors and geographies.

The second WeM2M workshop brought together leading academics, software developers, innovators, opportunity creators and public authorities to share ideas, opportunities and solutions to make possible the evolution from simple connectivity (M2M) to the real internet of things (IoT). With a broader, business and policy focus than the first event, this meeting generated many stimulating discussions on stage, among the audience and during the breaks.

The workshop was organised with Yue Frank Gao from QMUL and Rafael Cepeda from InterDigital who also co-sponsored the event.

We are already anticipating weM2M 2016 but look forward to addressing the myriad opportunities associated with the Internet of Things before then.


Cloud computing workshop: technology transition for business transformation


This event at the Apex Hotel, Edinburgh (September 30 – October 1, 2014) was a joint symposium/mini conference arranged by the Services to the Cloud Project (now over) and ITaaU. The aim was to share knowledge between two mature networks with overlapping interests in cloud computing. The audience comprised SME decision makers, academics, policy makers and regulators.

The two day programme consisted of a rich collection of compelling talks about how cloud computing is rapidly and radically altering how people do business. Follow the read more line below to read more about the talks and discussions.


Healthcare and wellbeing: ITaaU and SiDE workshop in Newcastle

Now that the Social Inclusion Hub for the Digital Economy (SiDE) has settled into its new building in Newcastle we are pleased to announce a celebratory event focused on innovation and the role of disruptive technologies in research and business relating to healthcare and wellbeing and cloud computing.

Through a series of compelling talks from leading practitioners in the field with a particular focus on the North East of England, this one-day event will explore the transition from diagnosis and repair to observation and prevention as more technologies come on stream that could be considered IT utilities. Many businesses large and small are already bringing solutions to market and yet there is clearly much more to be done in exploiting state of the art research to achieve more and better solutions.

The target audience is researchers and practitioners, professionals and entrepreneurs interested in the use of cloud computing to enable innovative solutions in the field of health and wellbeing.

The event will take place on Thursday 14 May.

Participants will need to arrange their own transport and accommodation. Tickets are only £50 for the day including lunch. Some bursary support may be available, please email [log in to unmask] for further information.

The event is being organised as a partnership between the Social Inclusion Hub for the Digital Economy (SiDE) and the IT as a Utility Network+ which are both part of the Research Councils UK Digital Economy programme.


09:00 – 09:45 registration
09:45 – 10:15 – Welcome and introduction
- Paul Watson (SiDE director, Newcastle University)
10:15 – 11:15 – the challenges for health and well-being:
- SiDE perspective on challenges
- Mike Trenell (Newcastle University)
- Software City : Naomi Morrow

11:15 – 11:30 – coffee break
11:30 – 12:45 – the technologies (IT utilities) for health and science – Introduction: Jeremy Frey
- SiDE technologies – an insight to the key technologies responsible for disruption in the health and well-being sector
- Other technologies – a perspective on the wider disruptive technology landscape

12:45 – 14:00 – lunch – a light lunch will be served

14:00 – 15:15 – future opportunities
- Emma Cheshire – @germinates, @dotforge (developing an accelerator focused on data driven applications for health)
- Seamus ONeill, Nicola Wesley – Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria
- Liam Sutton - Digital Catapult perspective

15:15 – 15:30 – coffee

15:30 – 16:30
Discussion and networking opportunity

16:30 – 17:00 Wrap-up – Paul Watson

See web page for registration and further details

Seed Library: vision and pilot project proposal

The vision is to establish a publicly accessible seed library for individuals and communities to discover more about the natural cycle of plant life. Libraries will act as the point of contact for people wanting to know more about the scheme as well as handling the issuing and depositing of seeds. The plan is that citizen scientists will take out seeds, cultivate them and return, at a later date, a new set of resultant seeds together with a report capturing the data and observations on their experience. Capturing the data and observations will be enhanced through the use of IT utilities such as sensors, monitors and other low cost devices as well as pervasive networks and cloud resources.

The IT utility angle will enable us to collect near-real-time data and potentially create a stimulating discussion around the emergent data. Smart phones and tablets will permit easy adoption of the technical aspects of the initiative; Raspberry Pi and Arduino devices will be used for more advanced data gathering. The experience should expand the knowledge and curiosity of participants regarding the natural world and also the potential for IT utilities to enhance our engagement with the natural world. Furthermore, dissemination of information about the initiative should achieve this on a wider scale.

If you are interested in getting involved in this pilot project, please get in touch: [log in to unmask]

Emerging economies workshop

Having explored this theme at the outset of ITaaU, we now want to return to it and explore what is happening in those countries where economic results are emerging but risks are still significant. As we found last time, there is much innovation and creativity in the use of technology in emerging economies and therefore much to learn.

The event will take place in central London in June. Details to follow shortly. The format for the event will be a series of speakers with particular insights into this important topic. Please get in touch if you have suggestions or requests for speakers.

Records in the digital age: holding scientists and the executive to task

On the 24-25 November we will be co-hosting a conference exploring the issues surrounding digital records. The event will be held at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne. The aim is to discuss the threats to the archives in the digital age. More information will be available on the ITaaU website shortly.

Future events

Other future events being planned include:

- UX Boot Camp with ustwo
- Ontologies for the digital economy
- IT utilities and business - Glasgow
- Records in the digital age (holding the scientists to task)
- Hackathon for devices and gadgets
- Digital Economy conference
- Strategies for clusters: creative, digital and tech sector

Further information will appear on the website.

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