LoRaWAN for Microbit – the verdict

Many thanks to all of you who took part in our survey, it has been very helpful. Apologies to those who had problems with the survey towards the end of the week – not sure why it started playing up.

I had intended to share the survey results but “free” Survey Monkey has some limitations and annoyingly exporting the results is one of them.

Nevertheless here’s a summary. I have excluded a few responses – A.Penguin from Antartica was a favourite Continue reading “LoRaWAN for Microbit – the verdict”

Who wants a LoRaWAN shield for the micro:bit?

Last year our friend Richard Ibbotson designed a LoRaWAN shield for the BBC micro:bit and they have been used in several experiments and projects since then, including a great project at the Museum of English Rural Life (the MERL) monitoring the impact of environmental conditions on the growth of sugar beet!

Richard’s shield is a popular conversation piece at various meetups and demonstrations. His write-up on hackaday has been read well over 11,000 times and has attracted interest from several organisations.

The shield features include: Continue reading “Who wants a LoRaWAN shield for the micro:bit?”

Thingitude has graduated!

Digital Catapult is a government funded non-profit company that aims to grow the UK economy by encouraging digital innovation in specific areas it has targeted. One such area is the LPWAN technologies that are of growing importance in the Internet of Things.

This year the Catapult ran its first Things Connected innovation programme for startups and SMEs – giving access to their London LoRaWAN network and support in developing products, providing a showcase and introductions to potential clients, partners etc.

Thingitude applied and was accepted onto the programme, and over the first half of the year we developed a method for enabling LoRaWAN solutions to work across multiple networks (write-ups here and here) and got several devices working on The Things Network and Things Connected. Continue reading “Thingitude has graduated!”

Is the Smart City hype over? Is it finally HAPPENING?

I first got interested in Smart Cities and the Internet of Things in the summer of 2015. In November that year I dived in and got very excited by The Things Network.

I have just spotted that this coincided with two peaks on Google Trends for the topic “Smart City”. So much for me being a unique, visionary thought leader (or whatever we are meant to strive for these days)– I was just one more snowflake in a veritable blizzard!

In the last 12 months the Google Trends chart for “Smart City” web searches has been very flat. But since January there has been a noticeable month on month increase in the number of “Smart City” news searches (I’m disregarding the drop-off during the election period).

Does this mean anything I wonder? Are city leaders (or their giant IT partners) beginning to announce Smart City projects – is the hype over …is it finally HAPPENING?

On Twitter @OpenSensors.io recently shared an article by Boyd Cohen in FastCompany that describes the 3 generations of Smart Cities. It’s well worth a read, but the gist of it is that:

  • Generation 1 was technology-led
  • Generation 2 is city-led, and
  • Generation 3 is/will-be citizen co-creation.

One of the aspects of The Things Network that I really like is its bottom-up, grass roots approach to innovating and building IoT solutions. I love that a whole town (hello Reading!) or city can be covered by LoRaWAN for a few thousand pounds. I think it is truly game-changing. We don’t need Vodafone or BT or anyone, we can run it ourselves for free. How liberating is that?!
It has taken me a while to get to the bottom of what upsets me so much about Local Authorities partnering up with the corporate IT giants to design their Smart City. After all, who expects a city to rely on a crowd-sourced, casually managed wireless network for its critical services? Of course cities need to work with the likes of Cisco and Microsoft to provide infrastructure that guarantees the availability of critical services.

But here’s the problem:
The smartest cities – the ones that will grow, the ones that people are eager to live and work in – will be those smart cities that have personality and identity. And you simply cannot get that through top down design by some IT giant.
Not convinced? Let’s do a test:

  1. Hands up if you honestly think Brighton or Bristol would be more vibrant, more exciting places to live and work if they were designed by Dell. Incidentally Dell’s UK base is Bracknell – ’nuff said?
  2. When you are planning your Friday night out– who thinks to themselves “hey, let’s go wild and hang out where the Oracle guys go”?
  3. When you are picking a city break, what do you look for? Is it a tough call between one that has the most predictable shopping mall, and another that has the finest automated taxi queues? Or do you go for something a bit more …you know, human?

I have written previously about my fear of cookie-cutter smart cities. It is why when I talk to people about starting a Things Network community I emphasize the need to build a community not a club.

City leaders – if you want your city to prosper, then you NEED the communities you serve to be engaged in the Smart City agenda. Look closer to home, there might be a Things Network or similar Internet of Things community already happening. If not you can easily start one or find another way to involve local people in your Smart City plans. There are almost certainly a few startups and small businesses in your city who would be very excited to work with you and your communities, and they’d be happy to work with your big IT partners too.

You need to be this Generation 3 kind of Smart City that FastCompany talks about. And you need to meet the needs of ALL your residents and workers. This means not just listening to the well paid white male consultants your IT partners put in front of you (but please listen to this one, obvs!)

I love all the IoT technology that will help remove friction in city living, but it is the unique mix of communities and businesses – the people – who will breathe life and personality into any city or town. They, and the people looking to relocate to a better city are the ultimate judges on how successful, how smart your city really is.

Recognised as Thames Valley game changers!