IBM master inventor Andy Stanford-Clark’s discusses past, present and future IoT trends
After two years of disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, we were absolutely thrilled to welcome so many people back to the CENSIS Technology Summit. While online events provided a much-needed stop gap during that time, there is really is nothing quite like having people physically in a room together, sharing their ideas and experience.
At this year’s event we welcomed a broad range of speakers from the Scottish, UK and European technology sector. We had leading academic researchers, such as Professor Lynne Baillie from Heriot-Watt University and the National Robotarium, next to entrepreneurs, like Krucial’s Allan Cannon, case studies from iOpt Assets and Utopi, two fast growing SMEs who’ve worked with CENSIS, and a panel session featuring European scale ups, BeFC from France and Sensoneo from Slovakia.
Highlight of the day was our keynote address from from IBM master inventor and distinguished engineer Andy Stanford-Clark. During his talk ‘Innovation begins at home’, Andy took a look back at IoT trends to examine how they have developed over time and outlined the three tech trends he believes will shape the next ten years. Here is what he had to say:
- (Physical) Digital twins
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical product or system that mimics the behaviour and operation of its physical counterpart. Using sensors to collect real-time data, digital twin technology can help optimise product life cycles by performing scenario-based testing to predict operational failures and generate potentially valuable improvements.
During his presentation, Andy presented the model of (physical) digital twins – a relative term that describes the physical equivalent of the virtual, digital twin. Taking examples from his own innovations, Andy demonstrated a (physical) digital twin of Hursley House – the IBM UK head office – that displays a heat-map of the building and can be used to monitor and modify the heat distribution across its various rooms. He also presented a (physical) digital twin of the IBM Mayflower Autonomous Ship which reflects the orientation and speed of the existing ship in real time.
When compared with digital twins as we conventionally know them, Andy argues that (physical) digital twins are more useful and consumable by humans and predicts that they will become far more prevalent in the next ten years.
- 3D Printing
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process in which material is laid down, layer by layer, to form a three-dimensional object using a computer aided design. Product designers and engineers regularly use 3D printers to quickly create product models and prototypes and, more recently, they have been used to create final products that are ready for sale.
Among the items made with 3D printers are shoe designs, eyewear, furniture, dental products, toys, and architectural scale models. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Andy worked alongside a team of volunteers to create PPE for key workers using 3D printing. The accessibility and fast prototyping capabilities of this technology allowed for an easy, low-cost, and rapid fabrication method which helped to assist with global shortages of essential medical equipment.
Andy predicts that in the next ten years 3D printing will replace many traditional manufacturing methods. And, by enabling decentralisation, businesses will benefit from 3D printing by saving on supply chain costs and driving down overall logistic expenses.
- Virtual and augmented reality
Virtual and augmented reality are two technologies that are changing the way we use screens, creating new and exciting interactive experiences. Using a headset, virtual reality places its user in a computer-generated world that they can explore. Alternatively, augmented reality projects digital images on the real world around you and it can be accessed by almost any individual with a smartphone. In recent years, virtual reality has also become more accessible as the cost of headsets has lowered and the top manufacturers have addressed issues surrounding cyber-sickness.
As part of a challenge to link the virtual world with the physical world, Andy used virtual reality technology to control his real-life Christmas lights from inside a virtual reality app, using MQTT (an open-source communications ISO-standard protocol invented by Andy himself that offers a scalable and cost-effective way to connect devices over the internet, making it perfect for IoT). Apple has also embraced this emerging trend by adopting LiDAR technology in its devices, creating a 3D map of its users’ surroundings to add further depth to augmented reality creations.
Thank you to everyone who made it to the CENSIS Technology Summit this year. Keep an eye on our social media over the next few weeks for photos and highlights of the event and we hope to see you again next year when we’ll be celebrating 10 years of CENSIS.