After a sticky summer, the cool autumn breeze signaled two things - more excuses to drink tea and eat biscuits*, and the IoTUK Challenger North was here.
Working in collaboration with Digital Catapult and IoTUK, the IoTUK Challenger North was designed to put agile and innovative SMEs in the same room as organisations who were looking for new solutions to pressing problems. This would present a rare opportunity to remove normal barriers to engagement and speed up the adoption of revolutionary ideas. Thanks to some excellent partner organisations who wanted to be 'challenge owners' - Yorkshire Water, Leeds City Council, Bradford Council, the Environment Agency, North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council, and Transport for the North - we saw a great response in applications with a good smattering of local SMEs too!
Over the course of 2 days, the participating SMEs would get time with challenge owners to ask them questions and discuss their ideas, then spend time refining their proposal so that it would be a good fit for the organisation. To end the event, every SME would have to produce a 10min pitch, with prizes for the best solutions.
To get everyone in good spirits and all fired up for the Challenger event, we used this opportunity to schedule a follow-up event to the hugely successful IoT Showcase that we hosted during the Leeds Digital Festival. The Encore, though shorter in length, was still full to the brim with quality speakers (some of whom were also participants in the Challenger), and was open to everyone to attend. As you can see, it was a full house!
We live-streamed the morning talks so that people who couldn't grab a ticket for The Encore could watch from the comfort of their own home or office. It is a heady couple of hours so if you want to watch the talks in full, just hit play on the video below.
The Encore took us right up to lunchtime, at which point the Challenger participants stayed for a hearty lunch as the challenge owners took some time to recap their challenges and provide some more context that would help the participants shape their response. We created a challenge page with further details but we can recap the challenges below.
Leeds City Council, Bradford Council, North Yorkshire County Council, and Harrogate Borough Council
Be Healthy, Be Independent - Helping people stay healthy and independent using IoT, thus improving their wellbeing and confidence.
Keep the City Flowing - Improve transport, mobility, and travel around the city (rural areas for NYCC and HBC).
Home and Away - Managing social housing and corporate property assets, such as monitoring energy use, spotting problems before they require huge repairs.
Bins to Bulbs and Beyond - General asset management across a city/community using IoT.
NYCC and HBC were a late addition to the challenge owners but incredibly keen to take part. They shared many of the same overall aims and goals as the other local authorities but presented additional challenges by having a large rural population and diverse landscape. So the local authorities were grouped together so that SMEs could target their ideas appropriately.
Water Security - How can we use IoT to help ensure that everyone gets the water they need? Through water-use monitoring, encouraging behaviour change, detecting leaks, etc.
Natural Inspiration - Capture and share data in relation to natural flood management, allowing for better analysis and development of monitoring systems.
Transport for the North
Power of the Crowd - Using IoT to crowd-source relevant and quality data that could help individuals make better transport decisions.
Movements and Foundations - Could IoT be combined with dynamic data analytics to understand travel behaviours and see if investment in transport programmes is working.
For the afternoon, SMEs chatted with challenge owners at length. We kept everyone fueled with tea/coffee and provided other support and advice in preparation for day 2, where participants would be expected to produce a tailored pitch for their chosen challenge. We prepared some guidance for the SMEs that outlined what we would be looking for in a successful pitch.
As the day came to a close, participants filtered out to go and explore the vibrant food&drink scene in Leeds. Day 2 awaited!
* you're right - you never need an excuse to drink tea and eat biscuits ;)