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ITaaU Network+: Issue: 5
Collaborating with research teams, businesses, entrepreneurs and policy makers to understand the information technology behind the Digital Economy

Design approaches for IT Utilities

Steve Brewer


The two-day design workshop focusing on user experience and user interfaces to ICT systems of all sizes certainly lived upto expectations. Our two host companies, IBM and ustwo put much into the event and this was greatly appreciated by the participants. The workshop explored design practices within both of the organisations and its prominent role was made clear through the weight given to constantly improving techniques and practices and the tight integration that design has within what, historically, have been technically focused processes.

On the first day we visited the elegant and modern IBM Client Centre located on the South Bank. After a fascinating history of IBM's strong ties with design in many areas including architecture we were given an overview of the company's latest design-friendly development processes within the company.

On the second day we visited ustwo which is based in the Tea Building, a creative hive and architectural landmark in the heart of Shoreditch. As a digital design studio delivering interaction and user interface design, app development and digital entertainment to the world’s leading brands, the company offers a unique insight into dynamic and flexible working practices. As can be seen from the photograph, participants were fully immersed in rapid prototyping around user modelling techniques. No one was more surprised than the participants when the day ended with functioning prototypes serving various scenarios. At the same time the workshop also delivered some valuable discussions about the benefits and opportunities that robust user interaction design processes can deliver in terms of usability, usefulness and inclusiveness.


Digital Economy All Hands: DE2013 Open Digital, 4 - 6 November


We have previously mentioned that the fourth All Hands meeting for the RCUK Digital Economy Theme will take place from 4-6 November at Media City, Salford. The ITaaU Network+ will be present and running a technical demonstration on 3D printing. We hope that many of the members of the ITaaU Network+ will be able to join us in Media City to share the experiences and achievements of the various activities that are emerging from our contribution to the Digital Economy.

Human-Data Interaction: big data gets personal


We believe that the time has come to recognise the emerging topic of Human-Data Interaction (HDI1). It arises from the need, both ethical and practical, to engage users to a much greater degree with the collection, analysis and trade of their personal data. HDI puts the human at the centre of the data flows that concern them, which requires provision of mechanisms for citizens to interact with these systems explicitly.

HDI is inherently interdisciplinary, encapsulating elements not only of traditional computer science ranging across data processing, systems design, visualisation and interaction design, but also of law, psychology and sociology. This workshop will explore HDI from a few of these perspectives, with the aim of initiating conversations that will result in future collaborations around this exciting topic.

The workshop is being held at the Open Data Institute in Tech City, Shoreditch, London. Follow the link for further information.

This workshop is near capacity, however we are monitoring the cancellation situation closely, so do get in touch if you are interested in the topic of Human Data Interaction.


Adoption of ICT to improve security and trust in the UK food chain - 2-3 September, 2013


This two-day residential workshop held in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on the 2 and 3 of September set out to explore best practices from around the UK and beyond and strive to identify tools and ICT systems that could be harnessed to improve food product security, traceability, nutritional benefits and consumer confidence with the social, health and economic benefits that can arise.

Scientific experts, policymakers and technology practitioners from across the spectrum of government agencies and subject domains that are responsible for everything from “field to fork” were generous enough to spend time at what proved to be a very pleasant location in rural County Antrim to explore the topics and capture the key issues and opportunities.

A report will be published shortly to present the discussions and preliminary conclusions along with some propositions for further actions to address these critical issues.

One of the strongest metaphors for the topic was suggested by guest speaker Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Food security is like a sleeping volcano: it requires continual monitoring, constant risk assessment and rolling contingency planning in order to be prepared for the day when a spectacular blow necessitates a rapid but considered response.

Call for Secondment Proposals (Call 2) - deadline: 31 October 2013

The ITaaU Network+ is looking for individuals with research interests who are based in academia, industry or within policy bodies including government who wish to spend up to 2 months working in a complementary professional environment. Applications can originate from individuals or organisations wishing to propose Secondment Projects that will lead to the production of a report detailing the achievements of the secondment.

The ITaaU Network+ provides support for secondments that provide a valuable opportunity for researchers to benefit from a temporary transfer to a different research environment. Within the context of IT as a Utility, secondments offer opportunities for career development, sectoral knowledge transfer and access to short term skills for project development. In return for assisting with financial support and matchmaking, all we ask for is a report highlighting your achievements at the end of the secondment and a series of lively blog posts during the experience.

If you have any questions regarding secondments, please contact: [log in to unmask]

Secondment Call 2 application and information form

Libraries of the Future - 2 & 3

For those interested in the opportunities and benefits that IT utilities offer to the Libraries of the Future we are organising another workshop, this time at the British Library in London on the 13 November. Following the success of the first Libraries of the Future workshop held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford back in April a steady dialogue has continued amongst the participants over the following months. A smaller, but equally valuable meeting is being held on the 18 September to help capture these ongoing discussions and help draw together the challenges and issues for the British Library event.

Further details are available on the website: Libraries of the Future 2 - Southampton, Libraries of the Future 3 - British Library

IT utilities: promoting and discovering services

The concept of IT utilities realised as essential services that we can take for granted offers many benefits to users, as well as developers looking to build new utilities on top of existing ones. Various challenges therefore exist in terms of how these utilities will be provisioned and discovered, not to mention more specific business differentiators such as cost, add-on benefits, service levels and other quality matters.

The essential needs for utility delivery are different from those of services in a number of ways but key amongst these is dependability. When we subscribe to the traditional utilities: gas, electricity, water and telephone (and increasingly, broadband and email) we take it for granted that they will always be there. Whilst achieving this may be quite complex, from the users point of view, delivery must appear to be seamless.

The goal for this workshop is to examine these issues from the software developer's perspective. What utilities might they depend upon, what utilities might they be able to offer? What services might be needed that have thus far not been identified? How might IT utilities affect the role of IT services in research environments whether in universities or commercial organisation's research labs?

This event has been planned as a joint venture between the Software Sustainability Institute and the IT as a Utility Network+ and will take place at The University of Southampton's Wide Lane Conference Centre next to the airport and Parkway railway station.

Promoting and discovering services: workshop

IT Utilities: Security and Trust

When the ItaaU network+ was set up and topics for investigation were considered, it soon became clear that security and perceptions of security in relation to IT utilities would be an important issue. A recent scoping meeting identified some of the key issues that this meeting will address.

The audience that we are targeting encompasses researchers, businesses, policy makers and other experts with an interest in either or both topics: trust and security.

The agenda has yet to be formalised but we envisage one day focused on trust, and one on security. Other topics including trustworthiness, risk and cybercrime will all feature on the agenda at some point. The event will take place at The University of Southampton's Wide Lane Conference Centre next to the airport and Parkway railway station.

IT Utilities: Security and Trust: workshop

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