Our Connected World

I was recently invited to the Microsoft UK HQ, where I delivered a talk, as C5 Alliance Group CTO and demonstrated how Jersey has been using the Internet of Things (IoT) and Microsoft Azure to innovate. IoT is such a new and hot topic in the digital sphere, and the technology is extremely versatile, the Microsoft IoT team was keen for their colleagues to gain insights into how all this great technology is being used “in the wild”.

I presented a few case studies, two of which are transport solutions that will soon be launched in Jersey;

Car Park Availability – This solution involves building on car park monitoring devices that are already in place, giving them the capability to send up-to-date information on spaces available. This is already being used by local radio to advise drivers commuting into St Helier.

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Bus Tracking – Using data from Liberty Bus, we have created an app which includes an accurate real-time map of the positions of all the buses and detailed information on any bus stops near to you.

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Islanders will soon see the positive impact of both these solutions, and I can see the bus tracking app becoming particularly useful for tourists during the Summer.

While I can’t reveal too much yet, my friends at Microsoft have informed me that we will soon be able to join up these solutions, giving us the potential to surface information in exciting new ways.

Having completed an online Machine Learning course on Coursera, I know first-hand that learning and applying this knowledge can be hard work!

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It’s good news then, that Machine Learning API capabilities are now available as part of the Azure stack, meaning even those with just a rudimentary understanding of the algorithms available can now benefit from Azure.

You can already see this in action, for example, the recommendation algorithm has already been perfected by Amazon (‘other people with X in their basket also bought Y’). You can see some more great examples of Machine Learning in use on the Azure site.

The ability to spin up a Hadoop cluster for processing and analysing Big Data used to be a convoluted process, but now it’s just a few clicks away with Azure. This can be coupled with PowerBI for rich reporting, it’s just a matter of connecting them in the right way.

This technology will take us a step towards our vision of Jersey as a ‘connected island’, and poses some exciting possibilities to join up different data sources so we can access useful information that we can benefit from in our everyday lives.

This holds potential for the Jersey’s new transport solutions mentioned earlier. For example, by joining up historic, current and forecast weather data with the car park data, and the bus tracking data, we could apply predictive analytics to estimate, with a degree of certainty, whether it would be better to take the bus, or drive, and which car park to use at any time.

Of course, there would never be 100% certainty (at least not with Jersey’s parking problems!) but individual risk appetite could be built in and taken into account. For example, if you wanted to guarantee getting in on time, you could adjust your preferences to a 10% chance on your route, this app would then suggest an earlier bus or tell you to leave earlier if you choose to drive.

Taking this one step further, all of this could be linked to Microsoft’s ‘intelligent personal assistant’, Cortana. Leveraging information on where you need to be and when, Cortana could wake you up in the morning, tell you what time to leave the house and what mode of transport to take (including where to park, if driving) to make sure you get to your meeting on time!

Other individuals who presented to Microsoft provided further innovative examples of IoT in action, including a Formula 1 team, who are using biometric data from drivers to compare and gain an understanding of different drivers’ performance and make decisions based on the data. Other suppliers also offered practical industrial solutions such as monitoring water pressures and applying predictive analytics to reduce the cost of maintenance of machinery.

In the not-too-distant future, all of our lives will be improved by exciting and futuristic solutions and while some of these scenarios may sound a little Sci-Fi, the connected world is now a reality!

You can discover more about IoT and how it may effect the future of St Helier at this presentation from Cyril Dyer, an expert in open data who has been instrumental in the success of Glasgow’s Open Data project.

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