Emerging Technology

Innovation that matters.

    IBM ETS and Vodafone Hackday Event


    The IBM Hursley Emerging Technology Centre and ETS team hosted Vodafone on Friday 12th Dec for a one day Hackday. The focus of the day was a hypothetical Car Pooling/Commuting application, designed to encourage employees to share vehicles on their way to work. The prototype applications were rapidly created using services available in IBM's Bluemix Cloud offering.

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    The Vodafone and ETS participants were split into three teams and given the whole day (excluding lunch and coffee breaks!) to come up with their application. To make things interesting, the teams were given a variety of challenges to include in their applications such as geo-fenced areas, league tables and leader boards, 'greenness' scores rewarded by premium car parking spaces nearest to the office and messaging between users of the service.

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    As the day drew to a close (and after a few last minute panics!), all three teams successfully demonstrated their applications to their colleagues. Considering the short amount of time available and the limited brief provided, the range of services displayed was truly impressive – NodeRED, Twilio, MongoDB, Cloudant and what3words to name just a few.

    Niel de Kock, Principal IT Enterprise Architect for Vodafone Group said “What I really enjoyed about today was the experience of building a real, working application in a matter of hours. This really is a new paradigm and has helped stimulate our thoughts about how we can use it to enhance our offerings to our customers.”

    All agreed that the day was very worthwhile and had sparked many discussions about the possibilities that Bluemix provides. Four specific opportunities were identified and these will be the subject of several follow-up meetings between IBM and Vodafone in the New Year.

    Lee Fredricks, 15 Dec 2014

    Developer Eminence Lightning Talks in the Hursley Auditorium

    image ETS assisted in the organisation of a set of Developer Eminence Lightning Talks in the Hursley Auditorium earlier this month. Topics covered included writing blog posts, Google Hangouts, hackathons and how to create podcasts. To really drive home how easy the latter can be, Jon McNamara and Adrian Warmam recorded a live, seat-of-the-pants edition of HursleyFM. To stimulate conversation and provoke questions from the audience, Adrian brought along his original Sinclair ZX80 (circa 1980) and stories of frozen milk cartons placed on the case to prevent over-heating!

    Further Developer Eminence talks are planned for next year...


    Lee Fredricks, 10 Dec 2014

    Emerging Technology Centre Innovation Day

    The Emerging Technology Centre (ETC) was a hive of activity earlier this month, playing host to back-to-back events in support of the UK company’s strategic initiatives – Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social & Security (CAMSS), and more.

    At the first event, colleagues from across the business witnessed a series of new and innovative demonstrations taken from client engagements this year, with a view to bringing their own clients along to see how IBM can help solve their technology problems. And at the second event, several analysts were invited to see demonstrations and hear talks from experts on IBM solutions. Both events received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with one analyst describing the experience as ‘awesome’.

    ‘Potential differentiator’

    Explaining the background to the events, Lee Fredricks, Emerging Technology Client Services Manager, says: “In his 2Q Performance Update, David Stokes, General Manager, IBM UK & Ireland, cited the opening of the Emerging Technology Centre as one of several key investments made earlier this year that will help enable IBM UK to accelerate growth in our strategic initiatives, describing the centre as ‘a forum to innovate with our clients around their most challenging business issues’.

    “He stated that it was now up to us to capture the opportunity that is in front of us – and that was what we set out to achieve through holding these events: to get across to our colleagues the diversity of areas that Emerging Technology Services (ETS) can assist them with, as they focus on 4Q.”

    David is, indeed, a great supporter of what the Emerging Technology Centre – and the lab in general – can bring to bear in client engagements. In the comments section of his blog, he writes: “I learnt the value of the Hursley back in my days leading the WebSphere team in the UK – we have so much talent… and we must engage our colleagues there in opportunities. Hursley is a potential differentiator for IBM in the UK in many sales opportunities."


    Demos, Lightning Talks and guest speakers

    Describing the first event in more detail, Lee says: “We invited our colleagues from Global Business Services (GBS), Global Technology Services (GTS), Strategic Outsourcing (SO), Chief Technology Office (CTO) and Sales & Distribution (S&D) to come and view a raft of new demonstrations taken from our client engagements in 2014. These varied from Buildings Infrastructure Management controlled by an Oculus Rift, to the handling of sensitive information over the web using Fully Homomorphic encryption to monitoring distributed stock levels using Gaian data federation!

    “In addition, we ran a programme of Lightning Talks throughout the event, which were well attended. We heard how ETS developers have been involved in the fight against cancer; about new open source assets such as NodeRED and Edgware, which were developed by ETS and are now 'out there' with thriving communities; about the state-of-the-art in Bluemix and Watson; about recent developments with the SyNAPSE chip and neuromorphic technology; and much more besides.” (A full list of the Lightning Talks given is provided below.)

    Lee continues: “We were also lucky enough to have four esteemed guest speakers who recounted their experiences of working with ETS. Trevor Davis, Global Subject Matter Expert (SME) in Consumer Products, and a Distinguished Engineer, described how ETS assisted in the task of boot-strapping manufacturing facilities with sensors and instrumentation, bringing them into the world of shared data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Sam Seddon, Wimbledon Client Executive, described the most recent Wimbledon Social Command Centre and the challenges of Social computing. Tony Morgan, Client Chief Innovation Officer, Strategic Outsourcing, described a wealth of projects for which he has engaged ETS, including Innovation Days, dashboards for War Rooms and gamification. And Richard Smith, Chief Architect, Operational Information Systems, described the close relationship between ETS and the International Technology Alliance (ITA), a consortium involving many eminent Research, Academic and Industrial partners.

    “The feedback from the event was excellent with praise for the speakers and demonstrations, with many expressing the view that they had not appreciated the range of projects and technologies ETS and IBM are involved in. Many more have promised to bring their clients into the Emerging Technology Centre so that ETS can show them how we can solve their technology problems. We look forward to welcoming them very soon!”


    On the second day, the Centre welcomed over a dozen analysts from companies such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, Freeform Dynamics, Lustratus and Beecham Research.

    “The analysts made their way around pedestals focused on Cognitive Computing, Cloud Computing, Big Data & Analytics, Mobile Computing, Social Business, Smarter Planet and Security, listening to our SMEs describe IBM's point of view and the recent projects that the Emerging Technology team have delivered in these areas,” says Lee.

    “Once again, the feedback was excellent with one analyst overheard as saying, there's only one word I can use to describe what I've seen, and that is ‘awesome’!”

    Lightning Talks

    Talk Presenter Summary
    Innovation Thinking Kevin Turner Climate and culture for innovative thinking
    Integrating the physical world Christopher Gibson Edgware Fabric is a new open source technology developed by ETS that integrates people and devices at the very edge of the network, bringing the benefits of middleware to the Internet of Things.
    The Bluemix Garage - IBM as a Start-up Andy Bravery With Bluemix IBM now has an offering that is relevant and accessible to tech start-up companies and even individual developers. The challenge is how to sell to this market segment which is unlike any of our traditional customer sets. Bluemix Garage is about meeting these new potential clients on their own turf and encouraging them to make Bluemix the platform of choice for their technology-led businesses as they position themselves for a high growth future.
    Security - What matters most? Saritha Arunkumar ETS works on various interesting and unique aspects of Security, the things that matter most. Come hear about location security, Geo-spatial access control, Biometrics and modern cryptography
    Node-RED: a year in the life of an open-source project Nick O'Leary Node-RED: a year in the life of an open-source project
    Tackling Cancer with Machine Learning Graham White Recent ETS involvement with Cancer Research UK
    Watson Update Andy Naylor ETS involvement in Watson development
    Transatlantic research with the ITA John Ibbotson Innovation from ETS as leader of the International Technology Alliance research programme
    Gaian: And you thought you had seen it all in the information management space? Patrick Dantressangle Introduction to the ETS Gaian asset and the part it can play in information federation


    Please contact ets@uk.ibm.com for more details on any of these talks.

    Automatic detection of anomalies in sensor data from buildings

    Clients who maintain buildings spend many months building rules to create alarms when something goes wrong. However:

    1. It’s time consuming and tedious to manually enter all the rules
    2. Even once a large number of rules have been established, the system is still rather fragile and produces lots of false alarms.  This is expensive because it wastes the engineers’ time.
    3. The system cannot learn over time (e.g. a new employee who likes to keep their office very cold).

    The objective of this piece of work is to use IBM’s “big data” tools (both from the building and outside it) to learn the conditions that require an engineer’s attention without writing rules, and make it simpler and much cheaper when building, or extending an existing building.  Instead of requiring rules to be manually entered it would sift through all the historical sensor data from the building to learn the dominant patterns and relationships.  Once a model has been learnt, the system should produce an ‘anomaly’ score for any new data, and could also update its model over time.  If a suitable model is used (a ‘predictive’ model as opposed to a ‘discriminative’ model) then the system could also make predictions.  Our plan is to build a prototype of this system, whilst also recording a large, home-grown dataset to show off IBM’s big data tools.

    Data collection

    The Hursley building management system has over 15,000 objects.  These are connected using a protocol called BACnet (Building Automation and Control NETworks) over IP.  This BACnet IP network is physically separate from IBM’s ’9′ network.  We have written an application which continually polls all 15,000 objects on the network to request their present value.  It takes a little under an hour to poll all 15,000 objects once.  We store the data locally on the logging machine.  Every midnight, the logging machine disconnects from the BACnet, connects to the IBM ’9′ network and squirts the last day’s data to the ETS instance of BigInsights and then reconnects to the BACnet to continue data collection.

    Spotting patterns

    Before we can build a statistical model of the data, we need to visualise it to get a feel for what’s going on.

    The plot below shows 3 weeks of data for about 100 BACnet objects.  The X axis represents time.  X axis ticks and grid are positioned daily at midnight.  Each row represents a sensor (i.e. each tick on the y-axis is a single sensor).  The sensors have been ordered by how well they correlate (so sensors close together behave similarly).   The output for each sensor has been linearly mapped to the range 0 to 1.  Red indicates missing data.

    Some objects show daily and weekly patterns (for example the ‘cooling setpoints’ and the ‘internal room temperatures’ marked on the plot below).  Some objects do not appear to follow any obvious pattern.  Some objects return discrete values (e.g. ‘active’ or ‘inactive’) whilst others report continuous values.


     Modelling approaches

    The next phase of the project will be to build statistical models for the data.  The first approach will be to build models using fairly simple statistical techniques (probably little more complex than is taught on A-Level stats modules).  For each continuous-valued objects which follow a regular daily pattern, we will learn a simple normal distribution for each hour of the day.  For continuous-valued objects which do not follow a daily pattern, we will just use regression.  For discrete-valued objects, we will try using Markov chains conditioned on the hour of the day.  Once this is done, we will look at simple ways to model correlations between objects.

    In parallel with this statistical modelling, we will build a pretty user interface to show to clients.

    If this all works, and if there’s time left then we might try some sexier statistical techniques like recurrent neural networks (especially ‘long short term memory (LSTM)‘, which excels at modelling time series data).  These models are computationally expensive to train so we might need to train on a fast GPU.  Or, further into the future, maybe the code could be re-implemented on IBM’s new ‘neurosynaptic’ chips produced under the SyNAPSE project.

    Jack (aka Daniel) Kelly, 16 Sep 2014

    Oculus Rift Hack Day (and beyond)

    For the ETS hack day, the team of Peter J, Markus, Hamish, Yi and I experimented with the Oculus Rift (OR) which we had been lent.

    We started by deciding the goal for the project – To create an interactive virtual environment that assists in controlling the real environment (including display of real-world data in the virtual world).

    The aim would be to help

    • Trainee engineers – they could learn how to maintain buildings to some extent without having to be in the building
    • Emergency services rescue planning tool
    • Engineers to peel back the building to see locations of pipes etc
    • ETS – gaining experience in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 3D Models

    There were 5 activities that needed to be done:

    • Get the 3D model showing in the OR.
    • Change the socket based interface to the client centre for an MQTT one
    • Publish MQTT messages from within virtual environment
    • Allow highlighting of objects from within the model
    • Create a control menu within the virtual environment.

    By the end of the first day, the 3d model was working reasonably well in the OR, and the MQTT interface to the lab was ready to test. MQTT messages could be published from within the environment. There was a lot more work to be done to embed html within the virtual environment which did not move around with the world.

    By the end of the second day, the five activities were complete – but did not all string together seamlessly.

    Markus and Yi (and a bit of Peter) have since spent a couple of days ironing out the bugs and improving the performance – and this led to its first customer demonstration to a large energy company, in the context of Building Information Modelling, on Wednesday. A nice demonstration is now packaged with start-up script, and available for lab tours in the ETS lab.

    Kevin Brown, 12 Jun 2014

    Edgware Fabric

    Edgware Fabric

    A service bus for the physical world

    The boundary between the digital and physical worlds is blurring. Sophisticated new sensors are affordable, easy to deploy and capture detailed information about the world in which we live. Mobile (and increasingly autonomous) devices are commonplace and reaching out to inaccessible and inhospitable places so that people no longer have to. Smart machine-to-machine (M2M) interaction — often driven by sensor data — is creating an ecosystem of intelligent devices that is rapidly changing the way that we live and work in the physical world.

    Edgware Fabric is a lightweight, agile service bus that was developed for M2M solutions. It provides many of the features found in an enterprise service bus - discovery, routing, message transformation etc. - but built for resource constrained, dynamic and/or unreliable environments. Edgware Fabric integrates systems at the very edge of the network into a service-oriented architecture, running on (or alongside) the devices that it connects.

    Edgware Fabric has been developed by IBM Emerging Technology, and released as an open-source project on GitHub, under the EPL license.

    Related Focus Areas


    The Inaugural ET Bluemix Experience Day

    Participants in the dayOn Monday 12th May, 15 Emerging Technology engineers gathered in the Client Centre for our inaugural Bluemix Experience Day. The objective of the day was to bring together experts from across the IBM Emerging Technology Focus Areas to take a deep dive into IBM's Codename: Bluemix platform and come up with ideas for new innovation projects which could exploit this new technology that is currently in Open Beta.

    Bluemix is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, which takes open source Cloud Foundry as its base and extends it with a Dashboard for developers to manage their applications and services, a rich set of browser based development tools called IBM DevOps Services and an extensive catalog of IBM, Partner and Community created runtimes and services to support the rapid development of new Systems of Engagement.

    Cloud Focus Area leads Mike Edwards and Andy Bravery hosted the day, assisted by Marc D'Arcy who already has extensive experience of using Bluemix to create mobile applications through client work eariler in the year. The other 12 participants quickly organised themselves into pairs, and selected particular areas of interest to go and explore. These included the various development tool integration options that Bluemix offers, which include Eclipse plug-ins for Cloud Foundry and integration with Rational Tooling. Individual pairs selected to develop in their preferred language, such as Java, Node.js and Ruby, exploiting the polyglot capabilities of the Bluemix environment.

    As the day progressed, there was lively discussion around how other emerging technologies such as the Gaian database and various security technologies could add value to developers working with Bluemix, and the rapid development lifecycle capabilities of a PaaS environment meant that these discussions could quickly move on into prototyping of ideas, without having to spend time provisioning new machines and installing software stacks. Bluemix even allows the developer to specify the web address they want their application to have, and makes it available at the click of a button eliminating the need to involve IT network management in the deployment of new applications.

    By the end of the day, a long list of follow-on project ideas had been drawn up, which will hopefully soon start to bring valuable new capabilities to the Bluemix platform and our clients who want to exploit it. Why not sign up for your free Bluemix Open Beta account today, and see why the Emerging Technology team are making this one of their key enablement tools going forward.

    Dr Dave Watson appointed Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering

    Dr Dave Watson, Director, Emerging Technology has been elected as a Fellow to the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Academy honours the UK's most distinguished engineers. It aims to take advantage of the enormous wealth of engineering knowledge they possess and, through the interdisciplinary character of its membership, it provides a unique breadth of engineering experience to further the art and practice of engineering in all its forms.

    This significant accolade recognises Dave's leadership of IBM’s Emerging Technology Team, and the extent of his involvement with national research bodies.

    Raising awareness, influencing change

    The Royal Academy of Engineering is the principal national body for engineering, bringing together outstanding engineers from across a wide range of industry sectors. The Academy works to improve public awareness of engineering, and to influence change in government policy on behalf of the engineering profession. It is very vocal in its support of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in schools.

    The Academy comprises around 1,500 Fellows, with up to 60 new Fellows being elected each year from nominations submitted by existing Fellows. Three other UK IBMers are already Fellows of the Academy: Ian Nussey (University Relations), Mandy Chessell (Information Management) and Pieter Lindeque (Global Business Services). 

    Dave, who is also a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and a chartered engineer, received significant backing for his appointment from existing Fellows in both academia and industry.

    Superb platform

    Dave began his IBM career in the UK Scientific Centre in Winchester, and progressed via senior management positions in Websphere MQ and CICS product development at Hursley, to become the Director of ETS around 12 years ago. He is also the joint leader of a major US/UK defence research project - the International Technology Alliance in Network Science - which involves more than 20 partners in industry and academia.

    Dave has also been actively involved with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) since 2004, and has chaired a number of EPSRC and Research Councils UK advisory boards. In 2009, Dave was appointed to the governing body of the EPSRC, which allocates research funding across UK universities.

    He describes his election as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering as ‘a fantastic networking opportunity which will enable me to engage with the top echelons of the engineering profession in the UK’.

    “Also, as a representative of one of the newer engineering disciplines, I will aim to encourage the development of professional recognition for engineers who are working in the IT industry.”


    Node Red available on GitHub

    Node-RED is the visual tool for wiring the Internet of Things that  Nick O’Leary and Dave Conway-Jones have been working on. What started as an educational exercise to get to grips with technologies such as Node.js and d3, soon turned into a tool that provided real value in client engagements.

    One of the goals all along was to open-source the tool; to build a community of users and contributors. All the approvals needed are in place and at the start of September Node-RED has been released as an Apache v2 licensed open source project on github.

    You can find out more here: nodered.org.

    Saritha Arunkumar shortlisted for a Women of the Future Award

    Women of the future Congratulations to Emerging Technologies Saritha Arunkumar. Saritha, an expert in Security, was shortlisted for the Technology & Digital category of the 2013 Women of the Future awards. Saritha has built a reputation for knowledge & presentations in the field, and is also currently working for a PhD in mobile security.

    This Category is brand new to the awards and has been introduced due to the strength of the candidates.

    The Women of the Future Awards is the largest national search for exceptionally talented women. The hunt unearths the next generation of high-flying women across nine industries, including technology, media, business, arts and science. 

    This is the second year that members of ETS have been recognised in these awards, last year Helen McAllister (nee Bowyer) was selected for the Science and Technology Shortlist.


    Who are ET?

    Based at IBM's Hursley Labs in the UK, Emerging Technology are a small and highly skilled team with experience across a wide range of industries and technologies.

    Learn more