Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge Data Workshop (in London)

This is a free workshop next week…  Tuesday, 21st October, 2014 – to register and find location go to this Eventbrite page.

The Open Data Challenge Series invites you to take part in the Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge Data Workshop. The Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge will invite participants to use open data to create solutions addressing problems or issues in this sector.

Over the coming weeks, we will compile a bank of open data related to heritage and culture. This bank of open data will form the main ‘raw material’ for the challenge and will be drawn from data.gov.uk, individual organisation websites and personal recommendations. Once the data is compiled, the session on 21st October will explain how we have rated the data, how it will be used in the challenge and will give data publishers some pointers on how they could improve the quality and rating of their open data.

This session is designed to be practical – particularly for those people in relevant organisations who work directly with the data, preparing it to be shared. After the session, we hope to build ongoing relationships with data owners to ensure the improvements made to the data continue to be shared with potential participants in the challenge and to enable them, as data owners to have oversight of the ways in which your data is being used.

Contact – If you have any queries, please feel free to get in touch by tweeting us @ODChallenges or drop us an emai at opendata@nesta.org.uk

Hat tip Simon Whitehouse.




Funding for tech ideas/companies run by tyoung people in Birmingham

iDEA is a funding programme/competition to help young people develop either their digital skills or their digital business ideas, or both.  It’s supported by the Nominet Trust (a charity we’ve worked with before at Podnosh and had a fantastic experience) with the backing of the Duke of York.   They say:

Entrants will gain essential digital enterprise and entrepreneurial skills through the competition and can further develop these skills through our online library of industry endorsed badges. The three winning business ideas in the competition will be awarded £15,000 funding and accelerator support for further development. The project aims to recruit 10,000 young people into the competition in the next few weeks

Schools can get involved – and indeed are very welcome to use it as a way to develop digital skills.  Come on brum – make the most of this!

Go here to find out more:  www.onemillionyoungideas.org.uk/.

Share PSI workshop in Lisbon – call for papers

Following its first workshop on Samos during the summer, the Share PSI network are preparing for their second meeting in Lisbon. This will be 3-4 December at the National Laboratory for Civil Engineering.

The second workshop is entitled “Encouraging open data usage by commercial developers” which is a subject of some interest to Data Unlocked, and so I’m really pleased to be going there to represent Birmingham.

If you are interested in attending there are several ways in which you can participate:

  1. Lead a session. This entails facilitating a discussion. It may begin with a very short set up presentation but 90% of the time should be allocated for discussion. Proposals should not be academic papers but descriptions of the discussion you would like to lead and the experiences you have to offer. These are expected to be 1 or 2 pages in length and will fill slots in the Open Track.
  2. Give a plenary talk. Longer papers, up to a maximum of 5 pages in length, are invited for consideration as the basis of a plenary presentation of which no more than 3 are expected to be presented at the workshop.
  3. If you would like to attend but do not wish to lead a session or give a plenary presentation, please outline your interest in a short position paper. The intention is to make sure that participants have an active interest in the area, and that the workshop will benefit from their presence.

I really enjoyed the first workshop. The network has some strong partners involved and the standard of presentations was really high. We’ve changed the format around for the second workshop so there’s more opportunity for participation by delegates, with both pre-programmed and open sessions planned. We are also running the workshop in parallel with the LAPSI 2.0 and LIDER projects giving lots of networking opportunities.

The call for participation closes on Sunday, so if you want to come along you’ll need to be quick.

SMARTSPACES “Project to Watch” by the United Nations

Big Data Climate challenge

SMARTSPACES has been named a “Project to Watch” as an innovative energy reduction project by the United Nations’ Big Data Climate Challenge. The Big Data Climate Challenge, hosted by UN Global Pulse and the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, aims to unearth data-driven climate solutions and evidence of the economic dimensions of climate change. It is aligned with the UN Climate Summit which was held in New York on 23 September 2014, where the Secretary-General convened world leaders from government, finance, business and civil society to catalyse climate action.
The SMARTSPACES pan-European consortium of Bristol, Birmingham and another 9 pilot sites in 8 countries investigates ways to reduce energy in public buildings using ICT. The project is part-funded by the European Commission’s ICT Policy Support Programme at DG Connect and coordinated by Empirica.

Click here to read the full press release.

ICTPSP logoEU logo Smartspaces_Logo  MBGr Stamp (2)

Alex Chudnovsky and Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO lr

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Majestic links up with Aston Business School to develop innovative big data analysis tools

Majestic – world leaders in distributed web crawling – maintains one of the world’s largest indexes of URLs on the web. The company, based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, is entering into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Aston Business School, aiming to develop a suite of new innovative big data analysis tools. The tools, known as Majestic Analytics, will allow non-programmers to draw previously unavailable inference and insight from large data sets of internet usage and company orientated data.

As a leading source of rich internet link data for search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists and web marketers, Majestic has identified an opportunity for competitive advantage through the partnership. Majestic Analytics will offer users previously unavailable insights and quantitative metrics of clients and markets. For example, where someone may see the Twitter account, email address and name of a friend and know they are all related to the same person, a computer does not see the direct connection. By using leading edge statistical methods, relational distance and probability, these relationships can be assumed by understanding the underlying connections and use this to build up much better views of the data.

The interfaces will be sold commercially, allowing companies to improve their digital marketing efforts by more accurately profiling and better understanding clients.

Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic said: “We are really looking forward to working in partnership with Aston Business School and being able to access the expertise available to help us develop our business further. We hope that this KTP project will provide our clients with valuable insights in their digital marketing efforts.”

Dr Graham Leask, Lecturer at Aston University commented: “Working with Majestic aligns with Aston’s mission to support regional SMEs through impactful research. This project gives us opportunities for new research trajectories, new student projects and case studies for undergraduate and post graduate programmes.”

Paul Howe - Serious Games Studio, Pia Pearson - Innovation Birmingham & Sarah Bowers - Coventry University Enterprises

Coventry’s Serious Games Studio strikes up new partnership with Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH Digital Gaming event programme

Coventry University’s Serious Games Studio has signed up as a partner of Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH event series for digital gaming and mobile app developers.

LAUNCH is the biggest event programme of its kind outside of London, connecting and supporting the region’s burgeoning digital gaming sector. The highlight of the annual programme – which is now in its fifth year – is a two-day conference for over 300 indie games developers, held during November at the Innovation Birmingham Campus. The Serious Games Studio has signed up as a partner ahead of the conference on 20th -21stNovember 2014, in order to promote the ERDF funded support available to West Midlands-based gaming companies needing to develop a proof of concept.

Features of LAUNCH’s November conference include a ‘grads in games’ programme by industry recruitment specialists Aardvark Swift, as well as a dedicated session from Microsoft on cloud gaming.

Pia Pearson, Digital Marketing Manager and Head of LAUNCH at the Innovation Birmingham Campus said: “Working alongside Coventry’s Serious Games Studio is a natural expansion of the LAUNCH programme and a great way to promote the support on offer to indie games developers based within the West Midlands.

Digital Birmingham – part of the Share PSI network

Share-PSI 2.0 is “the European network for the exchange of experience and ideas around implementing open data policies in the public sector”. It consists of 44 partners from 25 countries, including Birmingham City Council. Through my work with the West Midlands Open Data Forum I was invited by Digital Birmingham to attend the kick off meeting in April and then the recent workshop which formed part of this year’s Samos Summit.

The Share PSI Network Logo
The Share PSI Network

The Samos workshop had the title “Uses of open data within government for innovation and efficiency” and consisted of a wide range of presentations, a mini-bar camp and a project meeting. Amanda Smith from the Open Data Institute has already written a post about the workshop and an extensive report of the proceedings has been written up by Phil Archer, the project’s technical co-ordinator from the W3C.

So, instead of a report back, here are just four of the things I took away from the Samos workshop:

  • Data quality, or a lack of it, is still a significant issue for many public sector organisations. It can both be a reason for not publishing as well as something that can be improved through publication, especially where feedback mechanisms are provided. In Birmingham, when Open Street Map volunteers created a gritting map from the city’s data they were able to feedback anomalies to the city, which improved their data.
  • We need to get a lot better at telling stories and helping others to tell them. Open Data evangelists aren’t always great at communicating their work. This can mean that the potential impact of our work is not always reached and/or recognised. At the workshop, Julia Hoxha reported that, in Albania, every “domestic media organization has published or quoted at least once the reports released in the Open Data Albania or Spending Data Albania platforms”.  This has been a result of the Open Data Albania project actively working with the media both inside and outside the country.
  • Good case studies of the benefits of open data are needed to encourage ongoing publication. Bart van Leeuwen’s presentation on “Experiences with Open data in the fire department” [pdf] was a highlight of the conference for many. Bart was able to give a range of practical examples of the benefits of open data for him and his colleagues working as firefighters in Amsterdam. It’s heartening to hear such examples as somebody who promotes and uses open data and it provides great material to share with people who want to know the purpose of publishing open data.
  • Everyone wants to know where crime is happening. Amanda Smith gave a very well received paper about the ongoing development of Police.uk. The site has 60m visits since January 2011 and continues to prove a popular resource (Data Unlocked download data from the site, and Mike Cummins recently used police.uk data in a presentation to the Civic Foundry‘s Skill Share week). Knowing what your popular open datasets are likely to be is really useful. I’d like to see more sharing of this between people working in local government. The work that Hampshire Hub are doing in this area could be really valuable, and it’s well worth following.

The next workshop is going to be in Lisbon in December. It’s topic area is Encouraging data usage by commercial developers, an area of obvious interest to us at Data Unlocked =0) The call for participation is already open. I’ve agreed to be on the organising committee and we’d really like to hear from people who are interested in presenting a paper at the workshop. I can certainly recommend taking part, as I gained a lot from the Samos workshop.

Radu Judele, founder of ScoPerks

Innovation Birmingham Campus start-up launches customer-focused price comparison site with seven million products

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based ScoPerks has launched a new price comparison site that has been 12 months in the making. Seven million products from over 600 retailers are featured on the site, which is focused on rewarding customer loyalty.

While online price comparison sites are becoming commonplace, beta.ScoPerks.com is differentiated from the competition by giving a proportion of each retailer referral fee to the customer. It does this by tracking order transactions and enabling customers to withdraw the credit placed into their ScoPerks account as cash, or use it towards the purchase of their next item.

Electronics and electrical goods account for the largest product segment on the site. Retailers with the most comprehensive product range on beta.ScoPerks.com include Amazon, BHS Direct, Currys/PC World, Dabs.com, Debenhams Plus, Disney Store, eBuyer, Halfords, Homebase, Marks & Spencer, Microsoft Store and Ticketmaster.

Radu Judele, Founder of ScoPerks said: “There is no doubt the prevalence of online comparison sites is rapidly increasing. We have spent the past 12 months developing a huge search engine of live products, with multiple ways that customers can filter the search, including length of warranty, ‘click and collect’, preferred retailers, vouchers and other perks, as well as the price. Once customers have made their decision and the transaction is processed, they receive a credit back into their ScoPerks account.

“The site is free to use, and with the money back credits it actually saves people money, compared to buying products direct from a retailer’s website.”

ScoPerks was accepted onto Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme in 2013. The programme’s Entrepreneurs in Residence have assisted with the development of the business plan, and the start-up has received some early-stage investment from a local angel investor.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “ScoPerks is a great example of a tech start-up that has developed an innovative platform within a marketplace that is competitive, but has significant growth potential. The founder’s ambition, commercial drive and technical ability is exactly the combination we look for when welcoming new ventures onto the Entrepreneurs for the Future programme.”

The Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) business incubation centre, provides bespoke mentoring and business planning to achieve investor readiness, as well as free telephone usage, 20Gbit/s broadband and office space for six months; a package which has a monetary value of £10,000. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, e4f is unique to Birmingham and is specifically designed to harness and support the city’s burgeoning tech community.

PS Vita web

Creative England and PlayStation® open accelerator programme

Innovation Birmingham Campus – based Creative England has launched GamesLab Campus, the exciting new Incubator and Accelerator programme ran in association with PlayStation®.

Creative England’s GamesLab Campus programme will invest a maximum of £250,000 into five Games companies (up to £50,000 each) from across England to support the development of new and innovative entertainment experiences on PlayStation®3, PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®Vita. The successful studios will also receive a package of mentoring, support and technical benefits including the provision of PS3®, PS4® & PS®Vita Dev Kits2.

Jaspal Sohal, Head of Games and Digital Media at Creative England, said: “GamesLab Campus is a fantastic opportunity that combines investment with the invaluable industry support from a major platform holder. Whether you’re a start-up or an experienced developer, we’re looking for exciting and innovative projects that really demonstrate the technical and creative gaming talent we have in England.”
Andrew Parsons, Director of Publisher and Developer Relations at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said: “We are working hard to make PlayStation the best place to develop, publish and play games. This excellent program organised by Creative England is a great opportunity to support the innovative talents of UK independent developers and we’re delighted to be a part of this.”
For full guidelines on how to apply and for further information on Creative England’s support for games developers, visit http://www.creativeengland.co.uk/games or follow GamesLab on Twitter at @CEGamesLab. Applications close at 9am on September 24th, to apply click here.

BBC Birmingham plays host to U18’s Coding Club

YRS BBC Coding Club

Young Rewired State Festival of Code 2014 hailed a success once again, and what’s even better is that several teams from Birmingham were shortlisted in the finals! See more info here  http://festivalofco.de/

BBC Birmingham’s Coding Club will commence again on Saturday 30 August 2014 (last Saturday of the month thereafter). The club runs from 1pm to 4pm and will take place at BBC Birmingham in the Mailbox (B1 1AY).

Coding Club is open to all under-18s with an interest in coding – prior knowledge is helpful but not required.  Coders aged 13 and under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

All coders need to bring their own hardware and software – wifi is available.

For more info or to book a place, email codingbrum@bbc.co.uk

A place to share ideas and developments for a Smarter Birmingham


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