There’s something in the air, maybe it’s an idea, or maybe it’s just coal dust. In Newcastle, the line of difference between the booming industries of coal and innovation aren’t always plain for the eye to see.
Over the month of October, a group of smart, young citizen scientists further blurred this line through their involvement in the Backyard Detectives project. Eighteen local, IoT intrigued 8-12 year-old kids were tasked with building, programming and monitoring their own LoRaWAN sensor nodes to measure air quality data in Civic Park.
UoN’s RAPID team developed the compact sensor kits, which our head engineers led the Backyard Detectives to use in connecting their accrued data through The Things Network; a globally connected and free, crowdsourced IoT network. The smart citizen detectives then put their LoRa-enabled magnifying glasses up towards the air particles in their own backyard in order to observe the differences in the air quality of each environment. We’ll soon be meeting up with the Backyard Detectives team again to assess this data and explore not only what the data tells us but what actions this information could advise for a cleaner Newcastle moving forward.
This is what a real, smart city in action can look like and our young people are leading this movement. Evidently, the next generation is gaining a firm grasp on the applications and solutions that smart data can offer for themselves and the community around them. Imagine how smart these kids’ smart homes are going to be when they move out? Picture the efficiency of their commutes to university and work, where the smart data they’ve collected over the years to track travel times and mobility choices have informed their transport scheduling and allocation of infrastructure. Think of how luminous the untapped night economy will be for them when they start developing sensor-activated LEDs, where smart sensor data is tracked to inform future public lighting solutions.
And then, imagine what will they invent? What exceptional R&D initiatives will they drive and which of our current key industries will they turn on their heads?
Whilst many may look upon this with a nervous eye, fearing the unforeseen disruption that may await beyond the horizon - we’re inspired. The inquisitive and imaginative capacity of young people is confident in its own skin. Many of us grown-ups, when struck by an idea are predisposed to doubt its validity through an array of external pressures. Kids however, sometimes stubbornly, pursue invention. Guidance is trusted. Collaboration is explored and responded to. These are things we adults aren’t necessarily open to, particularly when IP is involved.
As we continue to cultivate our future’s seemingly unstoppable creative force, what is left for our jaded innovations? Can we, the IoT pioneers, R&D dreamers, and Hackathon heroes see past our adulthood inhibitions? What’s more, in an age of over-information - where uncredited advice is shared as frequently as a misinformed presidential Tweet - how can we regain confidence and trust?
Many of our clients have found themselves in this product advisory firing line. Too many times have we seen fantastically simple solutions made over-complicated through overly technical, superfluous product development referrals. And then, after all of the flashing lights and moving parts are added, not only is the budget blown out of proportion but problems around control and ownership come firmly into play.
Our Agtech client South West Stone was a stand out victim of this product development appraisal confusion. Before connecting with our IoT specialists, South West Stone’s smart trough monitor idea was quickly looking like something unattainable for the family-run trough manufacturing business. Outside of the unprecedented costs and unclear development timeframes, the technology that was offered was something that their customers wouldn’t easily jump onto. Although our farmers are some of the most adaptable and innovative people in the country, they’re significantly time poor and thus require a product that’s easy to use. The Agtech industry can be a little infamous for dreaming up high-tech efficiencies - often done within a research environment - that only end up providing the user with a new set of challenges.
Instead, we gave South West Stone our undivided attention, as their wealth of knowledge regarding their product’s users was invaluable to the development process. Through consistent communication and nimble design, the LoRaWAN powered trough monitor could quickly enter the market and show tangible efficiency for our client’s customers.
This client experience, like a number of others before it, has inspired us to make things even easier for the R&D innovator or smart product pioneer. Just as we’re providing young citizen scientists with the resources and knowledge to monitor coal dust pollution, we hope to clear the air of solution pollution by facilitating the trust and confidence you and your innovative product idea needs for successful development.
That's why we've recently been working hard on distilling all our learnings into a package that guides innovators through the tricky first steps of the product design journey. Drop us a line to find out more about this unique package offering.