Tech City UK Blog

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Solving Challenges with Future Technologies

The annual RE.WORK Technology Summit is taking place at LSO St Luke’s next week to showcase the latest advancements in emerging technologies and scientific breakthroughs impacting society and business. RE.WORK founder, Nikita Johnson takes a look at three topics being covered at the upcoming summit.

View the full agenda and speaker lineup for the RE.WORK Technology Summit taking place 18-19 September here. Use the dedicated Tech City UK discount code: TC20 for 20% off tickets.

Swarm Robotics & Real-life Applications

Flocks of birds, social insects and crowds can exhibit seemingly complex behaviours including collective motion, optimisation, decision making, and structure building. These swarm systems don’t need a leader, can scale up to large numbers, are robust to failure, and rely on simple individuals with limited capabilities. Similar concepts could help engineer artificial swarms for real world applications.

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RE.WORK Technology Summit speaker Sabine Hauert, Lecturer in Robotics at the University of Bristol is applying swarm strategies in the biomedical field to develop more effective treatments and diagnostics, for instance, magnetic materials working in very large numbers to deliver drugs to a tumor.

Sabine explains: “Bioengineers are now capable of designing nanoparticles that can move, sense and act in the body in a controlled fashion by changing their size, shape, charge, coating, cargo and material”.

Jacques Penders, Deputy Director at the Sheffield Centre for Robotics is also applying robot swarms in a real-world setting to assist fire fighters in searching large buildings filled with smoke. “A systematically advancing swarm of robots is able to provide a mobile infrastructure of radio beacons. This enables the robots to locate the humans and provide guidance information”.

The Third Wave of Computing

We stand on the brink of the third wave of computing, where machines become capable of learning and self reflexively developing knowledge about the people and objects around them.

With the creation and circulation of so many data points defining our behaviours, interactions, activities, and locations, the next step in emerging technologies is a service that consolidates our experience. Think of it as a mash-up of the powerful natural language processing of IBM’s Watson, the voice-activated intelligent assistance of Apple’s Siri, the productivity augmentation of Google Now, and the biometrics and physiological quantifying of the self through wearable technologies.

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Chris Brauer from Goldsmith University will present the findings of a research project: ‘Virtual Assistant’ exploring what the next generation of technologies like Apple’s Siri or Google Now might look like, and importantly, what people really want from such a powerful service augmenting our humanity with technology.

Electricity from Waste & A 3D Printed Water Sensor

Mirella Di Lorenzo, Lecturer from the University of Bath has developed low-cost sensors that use 3D printing technology and bacteria to measure water quality. The internet of things device can help to detect levels of water pollution in lakes and rivers in real-time and can be used in developing countries where some water sources are undrinkable or not clean enough to wash in safely. When the bacteria come into contact with toxins in the water, the electric current drops, acknowledging the presence of pollutants in the water. “When the bacteria feed in a microbial fuel cell, they convert chemical energy into electrical energy that we can measure”, says Mirella.

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