Green meets grey as students rise to the challenge of IoT

Some of you may have seen that last week was the second annual Thames Valley Tech Week. The event sought to promote next generation digital skills and is organised and promoted by ConnectTVT–a local body that connects the Thames Valley's fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and digital economy.

One successful event run as part of the week was called Green meets Grey. This was run across sites in Reading, Newbury and Slough and pairs teams of young people aged 14-24 (the greens) with local business leaders (the greys). The greys then mentor the greens as they learn about the internet of thing (IoT). Loubna Berkani from our IoT Solutions Group was more than happy to step in as a “grey” at the Reading session, although she only just falls outside the green age bracket herself!

The day began with two short videos on IoT from Intel and Telefonica. It was soon apparent that many of the young people realized they were familiar with the technologies, but perhaps not with more advanced concepts like data analytics and gateways.

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Loubna says, “At the start of the day most of the students didn’t know what IoT was. And if they did, they couldn’t define it exactly.”

The rest of the morning was then split into smaller workshops where the teams explored ideas. They worked to develop a profile of someone who could benefit from the IoT, and spent time working out how to make their life easier through technology. This all centred on the question: what will Reading look like in 2020?

“When we told the students that they would be pitching their solution at the end of the day they looked at me as if to say, ‘It’s not gonna happen!’ says Loubna. “But because the day was structured into smaller modules, with each aspect introduced gradually, by the afternoon they were doing everything by themselves. They came with very little knowledge and left with a solution – it was amazing!”

Her team – calling themselves Online – designed an IoT system with their grandparents in mind. They noticed that while older people might not be as mobile as they once were, they still need – and want – to get out of the house. Online’s solution is based on a smart wristband that contained personal and medical data, as well as information about family contacts. The wristband could call a driverless car to take the user to a destination of their choice and also measured and recorded basic medical information like body temperature and heartbeat.

This impressed the jury so much that it won first prize: a six-month mentorship from Telefonica plus £300 to put towards developing the project. Loubna’s team joked that the first thing they would do with the money would be to pay a data scientist, proving they had business acumen as well as technical creativity.

Thanks to Loubna, ConnectTVT, and to Mark Mason from Design Thinking who ran the day.

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