The UK government is to launch a new framework to allow small digital developers in the regions, especially the SouthWest, to bid for work. This is a major opportunity for small companies to bid for government contracts, and there is a deliberate focus on regional companies.
In February 2016, the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) will replace Digital Services 2 (DS2) with Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS). All suppliers who are currently on the DS2 framework will need to apply to Digital Outcomes and Specialists, and small suppliers that found DS2 too time-consuming are being encouraged to apply for the new framework.
The aim of the Digital Marketplace is to make the commissioning process simpler, clearer and faster. Buying and selling through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework will reduce the time and cost traditionally associated with procurement and allow buyers and suppliers to talk to each other so they can decide whether there is a good fit.
This will be broken down into four separate categories, the first being suppliers who can provide teams to build and support a digital service. A digital outcome could be a discovery phase to create an information systems vision of an NHS department. This can include performance analysis and data, security, support and operations, testing and auditing or user research. The second category is Digital Specialists who can work on a service, programme or project. A digital specialist’s work must have deliverables and a defined scope. This could include a business analyst, content designer or copywriter, cyber security specialist, developer, technical architect or product manager.
The other two categories are aimed at suppliers who can offer user research-related services, from user research studios to user research participants.
One way the application has been simplified is that the majority of the evaluation of suppliers won’t be carried out at the application stage as it was with DS2. As each buyer has specific requirements, they’d prefer to evaluate suppliers themselves. As a result, under the new framework, most of the supplier evaluation will be done by buyers when suppliers respond to a brief for a specific piece of work. However, buyers may use the information that suppliers provide on their services in their application to help them evaluate. There will also not be a cap on the number of suppliers on the framework, so there are significant opportunities for smaller companies in the region to benefit from government contracts.
The draft Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents were published last week (as detailed in the High Tech Newsletter), including the framework agreement, supplier declaration and the service description questions. The Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework is now open for applications, and suppliers can create an account in the main navigation on the Digital Marketplace homepage.
Bristol is aiming to create a 3D-printed large-scale city model that can have real-time data and sophisticated analytics projected onto it, for example, showing real-time pedestrian and traffic flows; the energy use of buildings or even the air quality at different times of the day or night and at different times of year.
The really ambitious part is to make the model into an immersive digital environment that will use virtual and augmented reality and haptic touch technologies to allow people to ‘leap-in’ to the city model. Bristol citizens will be able to experience new developments before they are built and see how they impact on the city’s systems. This will allow different scenarios for future developments to be explored as if they are real, and for the impact on energy, transport, air quality, noise, light and other factors, to be fully understood.
Bristol is well placed to develop a city ‘Brain’ as a large investment has already been made in hardware and software in Bristol is Open to create a city research and development platform.
Bristol can pioneer this approach thanks to its credentials as a high tech and sustainable city, says Stephen Hilton, Director of Bristol City Council’s Bristol Futures team, with two leading universities and businesses at the cutting edge of developing technologies that utilise data, augmented reality, sensors, analytics, visualisation, virtual environments and interactive digital media.
The project was announced at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, and Bristol City Council is now seeking £10-15m investment to build the full model in such a way that it can be openly shared with cities around the world.
… as Bristol is Open boosts partners
Smart city networking testbed Bristol is Open has added two new partners, bringing projects from Rolls Royce and technology licensing firm InterDigital.
As a Project Partner in the UK’s first interactive Data Dome, Rolls Royce will investigate the use of the fully immersive hemispherical display system in the 100-seat facility, for high-end visualisation of its products and associated big data. The first visualisation is of the Trent XWB, the world’s most efficient aero engine.
“Visualising and creating value from a wealth of data is really important to us, and this partnership provides us with a great opportunity to tap into the Bristol and Bath area’s rapidly growing innovative digital media capabilities. It’s also a great opportunity to engage and inspire young people with immersive sound and vision experiences of our products and show them how exciting engineering can be,” said Paul Stein, Chief Scientific Officer at Rolls-Royce.
Housed inside At-Bristol Science Centre’s Planetarium, the Bristol Data Dome is the only projection environment in the world connected to a city-scale high performance network and a high performance computer and is one of the highest definition digital projection environments in the UK today.
“Our world is overwhelmed by data, making a lot of it inaccessible and unintelligible. Visualising data in a shared environment like the Bristol Data Dome enables people to identify new patterns, and jointly examine new ways of seeing the world, the city, and products and services,” said Paul Wilson, Managing Director of Bristol Is Open. “Rolls-Royce has understood this, and been quick to spot the opportunity the Data Dome provides. We’re very pleased to announce this partnership with them, and to exploring similar partnerships with others.”
Mobile technology research and development company InterDigital licenses key patents for wireless systems and has also joined Bristol is Open.
“Bristol Is Open is an exciting initiative with a vision that aligns perfectly with InterDigital’s 5G and IoT focused research and development efforts. Collaboration on this innovative project serves as another positive example of InterDigital’s strong and open innovation model,” said Alan Carlton, Vice President of InterDigital Europe.
The December issue of High Tech News is now out, with the latest news from the Bristol and Bath region and a roundup of some of the key events over the year. This definitely highlights the significant scale of activity here and in the wider area. Sign up for free and download it here .
This has been, on the whole, a great year for technology in the Bristol & Bath region. With new entrants such as Cray and Oracle, large investments in existing startups such as ClusterHQ (p6) and Ultrahaptics (p3), and new venture funds (p3), there is a distinct feel of optimism. All of this is charted in the roundup that starts on page 6 and shows the strength of the technology development throughout the region in the last year.
There have been significant changes though: we had to say goodbye to NVIDIA, and we didn’t win the national centre for smart city research, but this has opened up new opportunities across the region. A new smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol (p4) and new partners for Bristol is Open highlight how strong the technology is in the region, and this was demonstrated at the recent UN Climate Change conference with the launch of the Bristol Brain (p5).
This optimism is also bringing new conferences to the region, with a cloud technology conference called Voxxed days coming to the UK for the first time in Bristol in February (p14).
Awards season is also upon us, and the region is hosting not one but two in the middle of February, with nominations closing in the first week of January. The Sparkies (p14) and the Edge Awards (p15) are celebrating all the great technology, innovation and people in the region, and the emergence of two such award programmes highlights how far the region has come in a few years.
Invest in Bristol and Bath are also looking for Ambassadors region to help boost the profile of the region (p12), and there are opportunities for small companies in the regional to access government contracts thorough a new Digital marketplace (p13). For more information about the High Tech activity in the region, please sign up for the newsletter.
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) replicate biological processes to generate energy, and researchers at UWE in Bristol have embedded the technology in a pair of socks. The key is that the MFC takes in urine and produces enough energy to power a wireless transceiver, creating a personal area network (PAN) link without having to use batteries. This is the first self-sufficient system powered by a wearable energy generator based on microbial fuel cell technology and the research paper, ‘Self-sufficient Wireless Transmitter Powered by Foot-pumped Urine Operating Wearable MFC’, is published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
The paper describes a lab-based experiment led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England. The Bristol BioEnergy Centre is based in Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaborative partnership between UWE and the University of Bristol.
|Researchers at UWE have developed socks that convert urine into energy to
power a wireless transceiver for a personal area network without batteries
Soft MFCs embedded within a pair of socks was supplied with fresh urine, circulated by the human operator walking. Normally, continuous-flow MFCs would rely on a mains powered pump to circulate the urine over the microbial fuel cells, but this experiment relied solely on human activity, which is a key step forward (pun intended). The manual pump was based on a simple fish circulatory system and the action of walking caused the urine to pass over the MFCs and generate energy. Soft tubes, placed under the heels, ensured frequent fluid push–pull by walking. The wearable MFC system successfully ran a wireless transmission board, which was able to send a message every two minutes to the PC-controlled receiver module.
“Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology. We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump,” said Professor Ieropoulos. “This opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics. For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person’s coordinates in an emergency situation. At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator‘s urine fuels the MFCs.”
The challenge now is how the MFC cells are refuelled with urine.
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) use bacteria to generate electricity from waste fluids. They tap into the biochemical energy used for microbial growth and convert it directly into electricity. This technology can use any form of organic waste and turn it into useful energy without relying on fossil fuels, making this a valuable green technology. Parts of this work were funded by the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The research is important in other areas of robotics as it would allow autonomous systems to generate power from waste materials to operate for days or even months at a time.