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2020-11-09

Iot Meetup November / Report & Videos

The November IoT webinar had insightful talks about IoT applications and the solutions to IoT development challenges, including projects’ funding and device management. Co-hosted, as usual, by Pitch-In Project and sponsored by Newcastle University and https://www.goto50.ai, the webinar featured three guest speakers. Joe Routledge, Innovation Specialist at Lumo (www.lumo.tax) gave a brief overview of HMRC schemes, covered eligibility criteria to claim support and went through a few relevant case studies. David Tischler, a Developer Advocate from Balena.io (www.balena.io), presented a management platform for building IoT projects. David McGarry from Tharsus (www.tharsus.co.uk) talked through a new social distancing product that helps keep business running during COVID-19 and beyond.

Joe Routledge represented a Lumo team, who work to support businesses by helping them benefit from HMRC initiatives. The aim of the initiatives is to relieve companies from the financial burden and cut expenses on innovative activities. The government offers a few types of schemes for companies and subcontractors, including Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit Schemes, R&D Capital Allowances, Patent Box Savings and other services. R&D Tax Credit is a government tax relief which helps innovative UK companies reduce R&D activity costs, improve the competitiveness in the market and future business opportunities. Companies with fewer than 500 staff and no more than EUR100 mln turnover are eligible for the SME Tax Credit Scheme. Business entities with a higher number of employees and larger turnover qualify for the R&D Expenditure Credit Scheme (RDEC). To claim tax credits, projects should be involved in either the development of a prototype, new process, innovative computer code or the utilisation of new materials, potentially contributing to the efficiency of costs, processes and environmental sustainability. These schemes represent an opportunity to boost the development of IoT projects in the country, as they help improve services and industrial capabilities. Such projects might concern the development of hardware (e.g. sensors) and software designed to generate and process data to achieve environmental sustainability, operational optimisation and cost-efficiency. The partnership with Lumo is the first step for businesses to understand the opportunities they have for developing their business and capitalising on funds. For example, one of Lumo’s IoT clients was Evolto. Their team was involved in the development of products integrated with AI for the detection of environmental conditions. To help companies benefit from R&D initiatives, Lumo gets involved in the claim procedure from the very start. They begin by conducting a holistic review of a business, looking into the financial aspects of the company and the project to establish a compelling strategy, and, if necessary, advising on the structure of the project to maximise the success rate. Against the backdrop of the economic stagnation caused by the pandemic, cash injections can help innovative companies to get through this turbulent time.

David Tischler presented Balena – a complete set of tools for building, deploying and managing fleets of connected Linux devices. Tools are designed to work as a platform, as well as independent elements that can be easily adapted for a particular use case. The three core components of the set are balenaCloud, balenaOS and balenaEngine. BalenaCloud is a container-based platform encompassing devices, server, and client-side software - all designed for deploying IoT applications. Devices in the balena ecosystem are set up with balenaOS - an operating system tailored for containers. Based on Yocto Linux, the system is easy to port, open, reliable and tolerant to infrastructural disruptions, enabling a productive workflow. BalenaOS comes packaged with balenaEngine, which is a Docker-compatible container engine, purpose-built for embedded and IoT use cases. It uses a lower amount of RAM, saves bandwidth and is tolerant to faults. The workflow starts from the creation of an account, the creation of an application by logging into the balenaCloud dashboard and adding as many as 40-50 devices to the application dashboard. When adding a device, a balenaOS image is generated and configured to the device, which needs to be flashed to SD cards & USB drives through Etcher, representing a cross-platform SD card writer and validator. Once devices are set up with balenaOS, developers can push code to the balena-built servers, where it will be packaged into containers and delivered to their fleet. The balena toolset has been applied in logistics, agriculture, oil and gas and other industries, helping clients effectively solve a problem rather than focusing on infrastructural intricacies.

David McGarry talked through the functionality and the benefits of Bump – a specially designed device invented by a Tharsus team to ensure a safe return of people back to work and adherence to social distancing measures. Bump is a Personal Motion System, which enables the planning of maximum capacity in the workplace and easy contact tracing. It helps make informed procedural decisions and empowers employees in the workplace. The device refers to strategic organisational solutions, as it helps prevent the massive contraction of the virus, mitigates the financial losses incurred by the closure of industrial sites and offices and ensures employees’ safety. The bump system consists of a wearable device attached to an employee. It gives an understanding of the way employees move around a workplace and how they interact by recording the time and duration of interaction and the proximity of devices to each other in the space. Devices produce an alert if a safe distance is not adhered to. The recorded data is processed through a bump hub, which scans data from each wearable device, making it possible to identify people at risk in case any employee in the office tests positive. The bump system provides the possibility of tracing contacts as well as increasing an individual’s sense of accountability for interactions. In line with GDPR standards, the data can be logged in under the real name of an employee, or another preferred type of identification. The applications of the device can be extended potentially to ensure undisrupted work of devices, manage groups of people, generate data in areas through embedded sensors and offer reminders about health measures.

To learn more about the application and impacts that AI and IoT have in social, business and other spheres of life, follow the schedule of events here at the IoT North meetup web site: https://iotnorth.uk/