Oct 292015

And… After a dash across town I’m now at the Internet of Things Edinburgh MeetUp, which tonight is focused on “The Maker Revolution“…

Introduction – Simon Montford, Founder WEB3//IOT @simonmontford 

The theme tonight is the maker revolution – the opening up of industrial technologies to amateaur makers. The maker movement contributes 30 billion to the global economy, so this is a big and growing thing, with Internet of Things at the centre.

18:20 – 18:40 Dr Patrick Hickey (NIPHT)

From the event page: Patrick Hickey is founder of NIPHT and specialises in a diverse range of disciplines including biology, electronics and art. Recent projects include designing LED systems for laboratories, consulting for TV and film, art installations and providing technical expertise for several guerrilla marketing projects. In 2012, Patrick launched a successful crowd funding campaign creating modular enclosures for Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and plans to launch more projects including smart clocks and gadgets built using rare, vintage LED displays from the 1970s and 80s.

I wanted to just show you some of the things that I’ve been doing. I have a studio here at Summerhall, with a wee lab space. I have lots of projects on the go here. I’m from a biological background so a lot of my projects involve biology. I first got interested in maker things about 7 or 8 years ago. I wanted to take images from a microscope and until then I hadn’t realised that you coul dget all this cool stuff with microcontrollers… I love electronics and electronics and bio complement each other very well.

Back when I was working for the University of California, and the University of Edinburgh I was looking at fungal colony and tweaking and hacking the microscope enabled me to find new patterns that were very exciting. After my PhD I discovered microbial species that you can grow and play with in the lab… And using those as indicators…. I’ve now set up NIPHT which encompasses both art and sciences. So, for instance, I was approached to create living micobial art work to advertise Contagion, the Warner Brothers movie – this was the world’s first living billboards… Essentially using a huge petri dish which caused a great buzz. We did that by projecting the image we wanted, placing the bacteria according to the pattern, and they grew up really nicely.

I’ve done a few other projects with Curb media since then… For instance for 12 Monkeys on SyFy… And that started really interesting conversations… It’s all safe bacterial cultures here… The most recent project we did was a brand of soap called Lifebuoy… with the product a clean outline with bugs around it… It did really well on the Chinese version of YouTube (80m views). And we also did work with BBC for the Magic of Mushrooms – lots of timelapse for instance.

I did a crowdfunding project back in 2012… When I started to work with Arduino I was making my own enclosures… So I started a crowd funder for modular arduino enclosures… I didn’t ask for much cash – £1500 to get these laser cut. I got twice what I needed… Really successful project – I met some interesting people, sharing ideas and projects with me. And I still get orders for them… A lot of enclosures are available cheaply from China now, but they are a quality product. They let me test the market, lots of folks were also using Raspberry Pi along with their Arduino… We keep having to adapt it because of the changes to Raspberry Pi…

A few years ago I got a grant for an art project called Dis-Play… I was fascinated for years by LEDs in calculators and watches… Back before liquid crystal displays. My first computers were Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amiga etc. Witnessing this revolution in computing has been a really exciting thing… But I love this 70s and 80s stuff… So I built up vintage LEDs… Like a clock. Often when you pick these up from eBay they are ex-military so were great high spec pieces… So I’ve been building these up for years for projects… .

I’ve also been making home made LEDs using silicon carbide crystals… One of the first LEDs was Monsanto MV – very dim… Used to be £10-£12 but now pennies! I take pictures of LED tips… And weird and wonderful stuff like Russian diodes… And we have Nixie Tubes – I love them but they aren’t in my collection as I focus on LEDs.

Many many very cool close macro images of LEDs and dissection under microscopes being shown here. 

I’m quite into these old LEDs, the data sheets, images, etc. What I plan to do is to rewrite the data sheets in a simple form so that someone with an Arduino can use these in a very simple way… One of my favourite LEDs is what looks like a prototype, an early dot matrix display… Only ever seen one..

And also smart displays – LEDs with a micro-controller chip. I tend to buy these and then build them into clocks… And you get HDSP Series Intelligent displays, and again I tend to build those into clocks… I will be selling those retro clocks. One of these has a chronodock so that when you unplug the clock, it keeps time… People do ask me why I don’t get PCBs made for these but I do actually enjoy the wiring, it’s very calming… But I will eventually…

So, finally I wanted to talk about some of the hacked devices… The HAL-culator – a calculator that won’t do what’s told. I have the Speak-and-Hell – which speaks profanity, so no longer for children. I did have a great Submarine missile launcher clock – a real one – which I picked up!Really any device can be hacked.

So, finally just a word about Tech Cube… We used LEDs and lighting to install a display here in the building… They are still there… And thats with James from Acus lab – doing very cool stuff with art and science…

Larissa Pschetz  (Design Informatics)

From the event page: Larissa Pschetz is an interaction designer and lecturer in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. Using examples of projects produced by the design informatics team, she will be talking about how designers are being influenced by the maker movement and vice versa, finally discussing the role of IoT in sustaining this relationship.

What I wanted to get out of this talk was to break the usual assumptions that designers “make things pretty”. I think design has contributed a lot to the maker community. I have recently becoming a lecturer in Design Informatics, and Design Informatics is all about the interactions between design and computing…

Design has had a love and hate relationship with crafts over the year… Design has tended towards mass production – with pros and cons around that. Although Design is beyond the handmade, it is still very related to craft activity… They try things, they craft, and that’s where the relationship to the maker movement comes. And, to note, we’ll be hosting Research Through Design next year, which looks at this relationship between research, making and design.

I am an interaction designer by training and part of that process is about building and trying things out… When I started there was no Arduino, you had to figure out how things work… and the maker movement has partly grown out of this need for designers to prototype… That has revolutionised what we do. Design has helped to promote things, by building cools things and trying stuff out…

And we have the idea of Fritzing, allowing designers to produce PCBs without having to go through a full industrial process. And the MakerBot also came significantly from design needs. So, design loves the maker movement, this new way to try ideas and experiment…

So, how does design work with the maker movement? Well design is a lot about sketching.. In design informatics that’s often about sketching with data, trying things out… For instance looking at countries travel rights without a visa…. showing those with balanced, and those with unbalanced relationships… This was written in a couple of lines of code… But you can quickly grasp the idea…

And another project is more sketching with hardware… In this case a toilet roll holder tracking activity over time… We have also used clocks that can track “family time” where the clock can change to reflect the needs and interests of the family… Our approach is to build something and test it in a real situation. So this is about designing interactions, thinking about future technologies, and imagining the world as it could be… And thinking about how the technology could enables people to keep things for longer… Embedding behaviour in objects… For instance the Long Living Chair… which remembers moment of activities… It captures when it was produced, it tracks how often it is used… This speculates the future of the home…

And of course we have final products too… So, of course designers want ideas produced at a certain point. As aesthetic as you can be, you think about how wonderful it would be to have real people consuming and interacting with your products… I haven’t directly produced items myself, but know people who have tried and found it challenging. A friend has created a lamp with Arduino for some robotic features… She crowdfunded for it (Clyde – the expressive lamp for creative home) and it was funded but it was very difficult to get it made as a product… So there is still a lot more to do to make that stage more easy to do, that leap to production. So design and making have helped each other hugely and both benefitted but there is much more to do to make it a revolution!

And now… Pizza break…

Lorna Crawford (IBM BlueMix IoT Hosting)

From the event page: Lorna has been with IBM for the last 17 years and currently manages the Software Business Partner Channel and Global Entrepreneurs for IBM in Scotland. Her presentation will give an overview of IBM’s strategy in the IoT space and the availability of IBM programmes to support IoT and tech start up businesses.

Thanks for asking us to speak to you, people who are the makers and take it to the next level, which is where see this stuff. Over the last few years, particularly the last 18 months, we’ve really realised that developers, young people, makers outside of industry are really shaping future ideas…

IBM are doing various things in the Internet of Things space, about harnsessing data, what IBM can help you achieve – things to play with!

Several years back we had a campaign called IBM Smarter Planet – about instrumenting things, capturing data, and seeing how that data analysis can make business change. For instance…

In wineries (e.g. E&J Gallo) we use high res satellite data on soil moisture, weather data, sensors at an individual plant level, and systems that deliver water accordingly – which saves 20% water as you only provide water where needed…

If you’ve heard of the Fatberg… We have Victorian drainage trying to meet massively more demand than it was ever designed for. Dealing with the build up and reduction of the fatberg is a huge issues. Again we’ve put sensors throughout the system to carefully plan, forecast, and time maintenance to tie in to other road digging, or to less disruptive periods. That again has had a massive impact.

21st March 2015 we announced spending of £5bn on Internet of Things – not only at IBM, but also enabling makers, other etc. So we have invested in Industry wide IoT Ecosystem – for instance using vehicle data to customise insurance policies based on your personal driving and car use. We also have the IoT Bluemix – it’s IBM’s platform, our own flavour of a development platform – APIs and services to play with, and experiment. It’s an Internet of Things foundations services… You mentioned Watson – cognitive computing capability… Plugging in your sensor devices into those could give a real competitive advantage. And we have IBM IoT Cloud/Open/Platform for Industries. Over the last few years we’ve seen the route to market change hugely here… and our offering reflect that, and the ways in which scaling and development moves now.

So, Bluemix you can find at https://console.ng.bluemix.net/catalog/ – a range of tools to try out for free! And if you are looking to get started, and get some help, we’ve made essentially recipe cards for getting started, also on that website. It’s really easy to use – I’m not technical and I’ve used Bluemix.

In Gartners report they started there are 4.9bn connected things, and that’s rapidly rising! That’s a huge opportunity – $69bn of opportunity this year according to that work. Take something to market, there’s such opportunity…

So IBM are building a working IT Alliance ecosystem… Trying to make free and open innovation spaces, IBM programs for HE and FE (Bluemix free for this market for 6 months). And we have a Global Entrepreneur programme for small technology start ups – do come on board. We’ll give you $1000 per month of Bluemix usage – for private server or virtual server… If you have a great business proposition we’ll give you up to $120k per year… We also give you access to the IBM Software Access Catalog, and support, Bluemix, IBM Watson.. And IBM, as a massive procurement organisation, have discounts that we’ve negotiated and share those with business partners too. And we have IBM Smart Camp – to pitch your ideas… A local girl, Victoria, has been using our hardware to develop her shortlisted idea for a recent Smart Camp, and she’s now working with some of our clients and business partners. We have expertise, people connected to customers in areas you want to work in -get in touch.

So, what we are saying here… Harness intelligent data… If you buy a washing machine, the people you brought it from know nothing about you and what you’ll do with it… An intelligent washing machine using sensors, who brought it… You can understand the actual usage versus your prediction – maybe it’s people always washing their dog blankets – and also predictive maintenance and quality work. Applying that technology to real life examples.

PhotonStar are a British organisation working on connected devices. They have a light project, called Halcyon, using intelligence wireless lights… And Nasa invested $12m to design products for the space station… PhotonStar apply that technology to household solutions – and they are an IBM partner using our technologies.

So, do go try things, engage with the community that are also using this technology. We have staff that can help with finances, business planning, etc. And if you want to get your own kit… It’s cheap and easy to get started!

We play in all these areas, please do get in touch!

Dr Benjaman Schogler (Skoog)

From the event page: David Skulina and Ben Schogler, and their small team of creative-developers, have spent the last 4 years demonstrating their ‘music for everyone’ concept (in the shape of Skoog 1.0) in the world of education. Tested, honed and developed internationally, Skoog 2 is the evolved result: a nifty, wireless, thing of beauty that everyone can play. Ben will give an overview of their journey so far, including raising investment, manufacturing, crowdfunding and more…

I’m Ben from Skoog! We were founded in 2009… We make this, a Skoog, a musical instrument. It was originally for kids with disabilities but we’ve just launched new Skoog. We started before crowdfunding, we did classic University spin out fund raising… But before I talk about this, a wee bit of video on how Skoog is used, and I’ll be ending on a demo on new Skoog!

Cue some awesome video of Skoog in use, e.g. being played with an orchestra, enabling play, playing along to Rush and such… 

You saw a range of different people using Skoog… Young people, old people… People with cerebral palsy, autism, paraplegic people, and able bodied people too. The mission was to create a new musical instrument. I love and am a passionate musician… If you can’t play an instrument you already have a disability, and it’s harder still if you also have a physical or mental impediment too…

So our first prototype was pretty crude – its harder for you guys now as the expectation of prototypes is so high now! But we worked with schools, hospitals, through the University and really built up relationships with our communities… Crowd funders can be quite isolating in a way, that creates challenges… You need to get your product in the hands of users, to understand your audience… Those crowd funding schemes are great but you need that connection with community, share ideas, speak to people, get out there… We spend 2 years researching… We had a block of foam… It worked…

Part of the thing of the maker revolution… People look at Skoog and ask if there is an arduino inside… No! We were working before that… But that meant using off the shelf sensor products, and working within the constraints of what was available. But that did allow us to go to market quickly – it was all tested and ready for market… But it did mean we were tied to one supplier… A problem when pricing changed… There is such vibrancy for creating now, but that brings its own challenges…

Anyway we went to market in 2009, with this cube, with squishy bits… Now just to note that musical instruments of any type is technology – technology isn’t computers. People can be protective of their instruments – but I always say anything you can make music with is an instrument, and that’s defined by people not by the technology we use. So Stomp for instance is a brilliant example of that – they make a matchbox into a musical instrument!

So we evolved this new approach,  thinking about what do we need to enable access to music… Needed to make a sound, be tactile and engaging. We went to market, we had the product… Manufactured in the UK – expensive but real benefits to having it local, so when we have to make a change we can pop over to Livingstone and ask them to make the change. We went out to traditional equity investors… People see Skoog and say “Go on Dragon’s Den!” but that’s just a programme using a well worn real world idea – and we have brilliant networks for start ups, for VCs… Things like Link. Anyone looking for capital to start these things… Go to Business Gateway, go to Scottish Enterprise, just get out there… So we did that, we raised about £800k through that… And we were very much a business to customer organisation.

There are about 2000 Skoog’s out there but they cost about £500 each, so more an educational purchase. Many of our sales have pretty much been face to face, we had coverage, BBC Scotland news etc. But on the business side I’d say that people will offer help and mentorship… You may be quite suspicious of them but actually having more experience around you as an entrepreneur… Having them on your board… They are so valuable, can help you monetise your idea, think about new opportunities… Be open to offers of help. There are also a lot of people trying to make money from you – marketing etc – that’s just how it is, they are just trying to make money.

So we make the Skoog and we also make software… But because our product was equity investment based they wanted us to get out there and sell them and ship them… That meant feedback, developments, improvements… interaction with users. So that got us to a place where we knew what we wanted to do next… Children and young people have no set idea of music and how you take part… So if you can learn and try rather than learn a musical instrument… So then we had two specific uses, one for increasing access to music for people with significant disabilities. But in parallel we had people who just loved playing it for fun! And to do this stuff you need to know what notes you need… We use pentatonic tuning, tune it to the right scale, then you can jam along to Taylor Swift…

So, we found out where we wanted to get to… Rather than equity route we decided to go on IndieGoGo – we’ve run 3 campaigns… Failed spectacularly… Then had a successful one… Then some small ones. Its a great space to test ideas, get feedback and interaction… One thing about IndieGoGo and KickStarter… If you are thinking of doing one there is so much good help there… But be careful with traffic, PR and marketing… One of the best ways to improve your ranking is to up your conversion rate. Our first campaign had loads of press and interest, but actually few purchased… and that messed our ranking. So do a lot of marketing offline, send just those you know you can convert. Press coverage isn’t the thing – that can be difficult – you need that niche that will buy your thing… Equity great for expertise, advice, etc. Crowdfunding is so quick!

Finally, a quick demo.

Old Skoog had wires… New Skoog has blue tooth which connects to iPad… People don’t buy music anymore… they subscribe, stream etc… So now you can play along… So on my iPad I’ll pick a tune… And that tunes the Skoog to your favourite tune… Everything is interactive… I can play, mess with this stuff… And you can now work with Skoog in GarageBand too… Allows loads of stuff but it’s fun, it lets kids play with stuff they want – age appropriate and culturally engaging – but that has evolved quickly from our product…

Panel Discussion / Q&A 

Q1) When did Skoog start?

A1 – Ben) We started 2006/7, then participatory design from 2008, trying them out getting feedback, developing the idea. Then 2009 we went into production, at first entirely in house by hand. But Skoog 2… That still has taken maybe 2 years to develop, with new technology, software, etc.

Q2) How do people get hold of what you are doing… Do you make or protect IP first… How does that work?

A2 – Ben) Just get on with it… In academia you are very protective of your ideas… That slows you down… In our case, with Skoog… Just go see a lawyer. The people we worked with needed the PR for what we’d done – announced that an article will go in the Times… So, panicked that it would go in the public domain so we couldn’t patent it and make revenue from it, so we had to do a patent in 12 hours… Which is possible… And we got it and it was granted. But, just do it, ask for advice but you can solve that issue if you need.

Simon) In the start up community, ideas are a dime a dozen and it’s easy to replicate ideas so it’s not always worth it, especially internationally…

A2 – Patrick) If you are expecting to make 50k when it could make 100k it’s probably not worth it… But if you’d be missing out on 10 million, its worth it.

A2 – Ben) For us the benefit of the patent was about investment, and it was therefore worthwhile.

Q) Has anyone copied it?

A2 – Ben) Not yet!

Q3) With the maker movement it’s vibrant, energetic, and engaged but how do you see the future… Do you think as costs go down further, do you see collaboration falling off?

Simon) At the moment we have collaboration by neccassity… so what do we think about that?

A3 – Larissa) It’s hard to have great ideas you need a team…. To be truly creative you need that interaction.

A3 – Patrick) I keep looking for an excuse to buy a 3D printer but I really can’t, I’d rather talk to guys who have that kit and engage and share ideas with them…

A3 – Ben) There is a really vibrant community of start ups, there is a shift there of sharing manufacturing issues and solving those – seeing highly specialised hardware startups setting up to address that. Princeton has an internet of things startup of that ilk.

Simon) Some of those take equity in exchange for that help and support, but that’s often worth it. And often supported by retained profits from innovation funds.

Q4) For Patrick: how many LEDs do you have?

A4) The actual figure is in the millions! In terms of unique displays maybe 200 different types – some I have 1 of, some I have hundreds of!

Q5) I’m a marketer, used to be an industrial chemist working in electronics. On crowdfunding I think that’s elegant for testing designs and ideas… But those platforms are not there to connect up market and products… I’ve asked about that… You are supposed to bring market and product – this was IndieGoGo. Is there scope for somebody to crowdfund, crowdsource a makers community… To actually match up those makers and those people who will be interested.

Simon) I blog in this area and am pretty connected… I want a dashboard to track all the interesting projects across all of the sites…

A5 – Lorna) Build it on IBM, We have Watson personality intelligence, that can analyse someone’s Twitter feed for instance!

A5 – Larissa) I think one of the problems of crowdsourcing issues is that when people want a product, their expectations aren’t always aligned with how long it can take to actually get through the design and manufacture process…

Simon) So, some quick announcements…

Jeff Ballinger) People into internet of things, are always interested in mobile. Our next Mobile Monday will be on making money out of mobile. We have some great speakers, it’s on 23rd November – Google Mobile Monday Edinburgh.

?) I am run of the directors of Hacklab, we’re based here at Summerhall… We have 3D printers, laser cutters, kit to play with – all the stuff you might want to play with. We have 45 members who can help you with your ideas. Open nights are Tuesdays 7.30 onwards, or check the website. And we have a reasonably active IRC channel as well. We tend to be more about physical hacking, rather than software but do come along!

Ben) We are hiring at the moment, looking for digital marketing, iOS development, get in touch!

Finally we have a presentation from ChangeCard winners of ProductForge4, John, Johnny, Liam and Pavel (their fifth member couldn’t be here today).

John and Johnny (switching between each other): We were working to a brief of digital participation and the idea we came up with was donation to the homeless, in a way that would ensure that your donation would make a real difference every time. So we came up with the idea of the Change Card, a card to help you give to the community. This will allow you to buy a card in a store, then the homeless person can pay for what they need.

We need social and political change to solve homelessness, giving money isn’t always useful, particularly when those requesting money have drug or alcohol problems. And we are also entering a world of contactless payment, so we don’t have change to give these people… Last time you saw a homeless person begging, did you give them money or did you not have change? Or worry about safety or how any money would be used. What if you could go and buy a coupon, a card to give that person, that could be use only to buy specific goods. We know not all homeless people have drug or alchol issues, many don’t. And we know that homelessness is far greater than what we see on the street. But this is a means to make a difference and help.

The card will have expiry dates, and any money left on card, will go back into the community through Shelter, and support projects including elearning skills for these same communities. That fundraising for the wider homeless population will have even greater impact.

For shops, for companies, this helps them meet their Corporate Social Responsibility, and to be leaders in this area. And data gathered through the card can feed into government policy and interventions.

For consumers – those buying the card – they can see the difference their donation has made. And with that lets look at our website… Which includes various areas including a “Change Wall”. When you buy that ChangeCard you get a receipt that you can scan and add that to your social media profile, to show and share your contribution. And we’ll have some graphing and maps to encourage an element of competitive giving between areas.

The idea is to use the guys in the street to help them AND the wider homeless community at the same time.

Liam: And now over to Liam… We had 24 hours to build end to end… We have an API for our sales to interact with, we had an Android App point of sale app for buying, and also redeeming the card – and we have a demo video here… So a card is purchased… And then that goes through… The user logs into the website… and adds to their profile.

Pavel: We’d like to thank everyone at ProductForge for helping us get here. And chat with us and follow us on Twitter: @changecardpf.

Simon: We have a wee prize from our CEO of Tusi, a startup specialising in speedy text entry on smart devices, particularly smart watches!

Quick aside: I had the delight of being a mentor at ProductForge4 on Sunday and it’s awesome to see this team presenting their finalised pitch and to know it’s going forward with development! For more on ProductForge see: http://productforge.io/

Simon: And our next IoT Edinburgh event is on 30th November, on the future of drones – see you then!

And with that I’m calling it a night here too! 

 October 29, 2015  Posted by at 6:51 pm Uncategorized  Add comments

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