When students and real-world challenges come together: IoT Challenge 2019


By Cameron MacLeod — Secretary of Embedded and Robotics Society (EaRS)

Creative people often lack hard problems and hard problems often lack creative people. This is something that really only becomes apparent after putting the two together and watching the sparks fly, something we had the pleasure of seeing this past Festival of Creative Learning at the IoT Challenge.

The IoT Challenge is a 3-day hackathon that runs every year during the University of Edinburgh’s answer to the reading week — The Festival of Creative Learning. During the event, students are taught about IoT technologies and then set some real world problems to tackle. This is the third year it has run, but this iteration really drove home to us the need for events like these.

One great example of this from the hackathon was the Library Study Desk System, built as a solution to the lack of desk space in the Main Library. One of the challenges set this year was to improve the student experience and the team that tackled it, after some brainstorming, realised that a problem many students have is people using their belongings to “reserve” desks in the library without actually using the desk for most of the time that it is “reserved”. This is a very real problem to many students, which made it very satisfying to see students build a system to tackle it. The system the students conceived was placing QR codes, which are images you can scan with your phone to take you to a website, on the desks which you would then scan to reserve the desk for a fixed time. The design also used social pressure in the form of being able to report desks as unfairly reserved and tracked exactly who reserved each desk so that offenders could be identified.

Many other clever ideas were proposed and prototyped as well, including; tracking visitor numbers to attractions using cheap sensors and algorithms, tracking the spread of disease through cattle in sub-saharan Africa using cheap sensors and proximity detection, collecting agricultural data using a novel low-power, low-cost communication mechanism and combatting sheep rustling (a really baa-d problem) using intelligent power-saving tracking. What’s really amazing about this is that many of the students were newcomers to the field and all of them only had three workdays to come up with and implement these ideas.

The winning team tackled a challenge by Camera Obscura to track visitor numbers and engagement. They built a system that could measure the number of people looking at an exhibit and estimate the emotions of these people. This is a real achievement to build over just three days and the entry, including code, can be seen below in the Project Roundup.

All involved in running the IoT Challenge were really proud to see just what the teams accomplished in the limited time that they had. We were lucky to have not only incredible students solving problems, but incredible sponsors proposing them. We would like to say a huge thank you to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Science, Design Informatics, The Bayes Centre, The School of Informatics, Information Services Group and the Embedded and Robotics Society.

See you all next year!

IoT Challenge 2019 Photo Gallery

IoT Challenge 2019 Photos on EaRS Facebook Page

Project Roundup

Camera Obscura Challenge

Camera Clara

The system uses the OpenCV face recognition system to to count the number of people looking at an exhibit at a given time and is also intended to recognise their emotional response.

Camera Obscura Crowd Management

My idea is focused on navigating people to places which are less crowded, by strips of LEDs placed on the floor. This will not affect peoples visit in a negative way, and can even improve the visual appearance of the Camera Obscura corridors. Blinking LEDs will match the “fun” theme of the place and act as an additional attraction.

Visitors will be counted using pairs of motion sensors placed in the doors. Sensors will detect weather someone is entering or leaving the room. Software will then count the amount of people that are currently in specific parts of the building based on the data from sensors. Then it will compare the density of pole in given rooms and identify places that are less crowded. Based on this it will change the colour of LEDs in the floor suggesting visitors where to go.

SEBI Challenges

East Coast Fever Detector

The system uses data science and IoT to find the origin of the contagious, tick-borne disease East Coast Fever. A collar collects sensory information from an individual cow — temperature, gait, location, distance traveled. At 60-second intervals, it aggregates symptoms to gauge the health condition of the cow, classifying it as either ill (high temperature, unsteady gait) or at risk (has been in close contact with a cow previously deemed ILL). The display shows a red or yellow LED accordingly, so farmers are continuously updated on the status of their cattle.

Cow Ontology Web

Our idea, the Cattle Ontology Web, hopes to empower both farms and herds, offering both a useful stream of data to philanthropist organisations but also to the farmers themselves. We are collecting two streams of information – vitals on cattle, but also data for soil, as the two can be quite interdependent.

The C.O.W. is comprised of two major parts. The Sensor Spike is static, whereas the Vital Sensor is strapped to the cattle itself.

Handling communication and computation is the Sensor Spike. It is a four-metre spike, telescopically extending from a more portable 1.5-metre design, containing many useful sensors designed to be inserted into the ground, gathering soil information. This provides stability for the top end to gather weather data, and contain a rather useful camera.

ISG Challenges

Sheep Rustling

System to track stolen sheep

Library Study Desk System

The goal of the system is to allow students claim and reserve library desks by scanning a QR code that would be stuck on the desk by the library. This would give more accurate data for students looking for study space. Students who wanted to temporarily leave the desk they were using could ‘reserve’ it for up to an hour, after which their claim would lapse.

Workshop on Uses and Misuses of Connected Devices

3rd–4th April 2019

The Alan Turing Institute
British Library

Workshop Agenda

Wednesday 3 April
12:15 – 13:15Lunch and registration
13:15 – 13:25Welcome and introduction
Capturing data in public and private spaces
13:25 – 14:05Gilad Rosner (IoT Privacy Forum, Spain)Permission / Permissioning / Permissionless: Three Faces of IoT Evolution
14:05 – 14:20Alison Powell (LSE, UK)Doing, Postponing and Evading Ethics: the politics and economics of
ethics in IoT startups
14:20 – 14:35Lachlan Urquhart (Edinburgh Law School, UK)Designing and Regulating Smart Buildings
Data protection by design
14:35 – 15:15Alexandra Dechamps-Sonsino (Designswarm, UK)Better IoT: It’s not just about the data
15:15 – 15:30Coffee break
15:30 – 15:45Phillip Stanley-Marbell (University of Cambridge, UK)Hardware Privacy Guards for Integrated Sensor Systems
15:45 – 16:00Grace Annan-Callcott and Cath Richardson (Projects by If, UK)Connected devices and designing for safety
16:00 – 16:30Discussion
16:30 – 17:45Wine reception
Thursday 4 April
9:45 – 10:00Registration
10:00 – 10:15Recap and preview
Legibility of IoT-generated data
10:15 – 10:35Adriana Lukas (London Quantified Self, UK)Does it makes sense to talk about personal data when individuals don't have a way of managing them?
10:35 – 11:00Richard Mortier (University of Cambridge, UK)On the Edge of Human-Data Interaction with the Databox
11:00 – 11:30Coffee break
Policy, strategic initiatives, project reports
11:30 – 11:45Paul Comerford (ICO)IoT Regulation: Security and Privacy
11:45 – 12:00Linnet Taylor (Tilburg University, NL)Global Data Justice Project
12:00 – 12:15Ewa Luger (University of Edinburgh, UK)Human Data Interaction Network Plus
12:15 – 12:30Carsten Maple (University of Warwick, UK)PETRAS IoT Research Hub
12:30 – 13:00Discussion
13:00 – 13:45Lunch
Human interfaces for IoT systems
13:45 – 14:25Paul Coulton (Lancaster University, UK)Prototyping Alternate Presents and Plausible Futures for IOT using Design Fiction
14:25 – 14:40Ewa Luger (University of Edinburgh, UK)Ethical Systems by Design?
14:40 – 15:00Antti Silvast (Durham University)Who 'Uses' Smart Grids?
15:00 – 15:30Coffee break
15:30 – 16:15Breakout session: Research roadmap for The Turing
16:15 – 17:00Report back

Abstracts of talks

More information about the motivation for this event and speaker slides

Lead Organisers:Ewan Klein and Charles Raab
Co-Organisers:Jon Crowcroft, Ganna Pogrebna, Phillip Stanley-Marbell, Ewa Luger

IoT Challenge 2019

What it is

We are pleased to announce that the Internet of Things Challenge is running again this year!

The IoT Challenge is a 3-day ‘making’ challenge where you will get together into teams, be given some equipment and have a go at tackling a real world challenge using IoT technologies! Whatever your experience level, even if you are a completed beginner or want to learn the basics of coding and working with hardware, come along and learn something new in a fun, relaxed environment.

We will have workshops and mentors throughout the event, so you will receive all the support you need to make something you can be proud of.

Project challenges

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is made up of five floors of interactive exhibits based on themes of light, colour, optical illusions, perception generally, with a little bit of Edinburgh heritage thrown in. 360,000 people visited in 2018, of all ages, from all around the world. It is, we believe, the most fun attraction in the world (based on the number of times ‘fun’ is mentioned in TripAdvisor reviews compared to every other attraction worldwide).

Your challenge is to find ways to map the customer journey, from start to finish, so that we can track how long people spend at the attraction, what order they do things in, how long they spend on each floor and at each exhibit. The analysis from this has the potential to transform the visit, helping us make the best use of our building, our exhibits and our staff, to best serve our visitors, at different levels of trade, all year, especially at peak, and to make it even more fun.

  • Can we use IoT technology to gain a better understanding of how visitors to the Camera Obscura interact with the space and the different exhibits?

Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Science

The goal of Supporting Evidence Based Interventions (SEBI) is to enable smallholder livestock keepers to fulfil their potential through better-informed decisions and technologies. We do this by mobilising and apply data and evidence to help the livestock community make better investments that improve livelihoods for smallholders in low and middle-income countries.

In Low and Middle-Income Countries, livestock offer a pathway out of poverty for hundreds of millions of smallholders. Milk, meat, eggs and other animal products and services provide vital nutrition, income and security for families and their communities. But productivity remains low, and poor animal health and ongoing threat.

The world has most of the technologies and techniques to improve livestock health and productivity in these countries, but we lack reliable information on which diseases to confront, where to target interventions, and which interventions work best in a given context. Vital data on disease and productivity is disparate and scarce, leaving governments, investors, businesses and farmers guessing at the best solutions. This data gap also means that we cannot track progress on achieving global sustainable development goals for agriculture. We need to close this gap and strengthen the evidence-base in order to sustainably transform the livestock sector. This work has the potential to be very high profile given the connections the project has with global livestock community and current initiatives.

  • How might we use IoT to predict or combat the spread of disease in livestock in sub-Saharan Africa? 
  • How might we use IoT or embedded sensing to accurately predict the produce created by African Farmers (e.g. milk, eggs, meat etc.)? 

Information Services Group

  • How could IoT help combat sheep rustling?
  • How could IoT improve student experience at the University?

When and where

Lunch will be provided across all three days. The event will run 9:30 am – 5:00 pm, and will take place in the Design Informatics teaching space (ground floor between The Bayes Centre and Inspace) except for the final afternoon, which will be in G.07, Informatics Forum.

On the last day you will present your ideas to industry experts and professionals. Prizes will be awarded and you will have a chance to attend drinks and networking at the end of the day.

The schedule for the event is as follows:

Wednesday 20 February
09:30Tea / coffee / biscuits at arrival
10:00 Welcome, challenges presented
10:45Team formation and challenges assigned
11:15Technical workshop: Electronics I
13:00Technical workshop: Electronics 2
14:00Technical workshop: LoRaWAN
15:00Induction session on using equipment room
16:00Data privacy & ethics workshop
Thursday 21 February
10:00Daily stand up
Friday 22 February
10:00Daily stand up
The remainder of Friday's events will take place in the Bayes Centre
13:00Lunch with industry partners
14:00Project presentations
15:00Judges confer
Talks by industry experts:
15:00Stuart Traynor, Technical Specialist at Cisco
15:15Ross McLennan, LAUNCH.ed ‘Start-up/Spin-out Support’
15:20Simone Mattsson, Thermodrones UK
15:25Michael MacDonald, Casta Spes Technologies
16:15Drinks and networking

We hope to see you there!

Workshop on the Ethics of IoT (6 February 2019)

Date: Wednesday 6th February 2019
Time: 12:00–17:30
Location: Lister Learning and Teaching Centre, Room 1.16

The Governance and Ethics Action Group invites University staff and students to take part in shaping the process of conducting ethical and responsible research and innovation with emerging technologies like IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. We want to move away from the vague and unbounded uses of “responsibility” and “ethics” and find ways to effectively enact ethical principles in research and design practice.

This half-day workshop will be facilitated by the Action Group, which will propose different scenarios involving the use of the IoT service. The aim is to co-design a guideline for the ethical use of the infrastructure upon reflection and deliberation on the challenges researchers and society face. Everyone’s input is welcome and desired; we encourage participants from industry, students, academics, designers, ethics experts, engineers, and makers.


13:00Introduction to IoT
Ewan KleinThe UoE IoT Initiative
James Stewart and Charles RaabGovernance and Ethics Action Group
Richard KenwayData-driven Innovation
13:30Jonathan Silvertown, Simon Chapple and Ewan KleinProject overviews: ParkLife, Library Occupancy, IoT Challenge Hackathon
14:15Small group discussions
15:15Tea break
15:30Small group discussions
16:30Report back plus feedback from Ethics Boards

IoT for Data Driven Innovation (31st May 2018)

Date: Thursday 31st May 2018
Time: 09:00–15:00
Location: Informatics Forum G07, School of Informatics, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB View map
Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/iot-for-data-driven-innovation-tickets-45592391069


Following on from the IoT Scotland Conference, this workshop organised by the IoT Research & Innovation Services and the University of Edinburgh Bayes Centre, provided an opportunity to forge new collaborations to accelerate the local development and adoption of IoT, a key component of the upcoming Edinburgh and South East Scotland city region Data Driven Innovation Programme.

The new IoT Research and Innovation Service establishes an end-to-end system from sensor to insight, involving an extensive network of devices and gateways, together with software tools for data analysis and visualisation. This workshop provided an opportunity for participants from industry to hear more about the new IoT Service, help us shape our future direction and explore how they might benefit from IoT in your own organisation. This is an exciting time as we prepare to open the IoT service up to partners across the Edinburgh and South East Scotland city region.

We were joined by expert speakers across industry, academia and the public sector, then participants took part in discussions focused on developing new collaborative opportunities. You can access the slides from our speakers below, and a report will be shared later this summer.


Time Speaker Title
 09:30 David Richardson, Director of Partnerships (Bayes Centre), Informatics, UoE Welcome
09:40 Ewan Klein, Professor of Language Technology, Informatics, UoE IoT Programme Sponsor & Programme Board Chair, UoE &
Simon Chapple, Snr data Technologist & IoT service owner, UoE.
The Edinburgh IoT iniative
10:00 Gary Clemo, Principal, Strategy and Policy, Ofcom. IoT: Regulatory Overview
10:05 Gareth Wells, Senior Policy Officer, Scottish Government. LoRa Scotland: From Policy to Practice
10:15 Stephen Milne, Business Development Manager, Censis Scaling up new technologies on the national IoT network
10:25 Rhidian Williams, Senior Telecoms and Digital Marketing Executive, Huawei NB-IoT for Smart Cities
10:35 Alyson Edmunds, Head of Digital Innovation, Telefónica UK Limited Future IoT Use Cases
10:45 Andrew McPartland, Principal Engineer, BBC IoT within the BBC
11:20 Paul Beastall, Director, Advisory Services, Wireless and Digital Services, Cambridge Consultants. IoT in Edinburgh and beyond
11:40 Breakout Discussion 1: “How can we find new ways to make IoT valuable to businesses and organisations (creating opportunities, solving problems, addressing needs)? “
12:20 Breakout Discussion 2: “How can we make the UoE network attractive to partners?”
14:00 Feedback from group discussions
14:30 Panel discussion and Q&A
15:00 Wrap-up and thanks – David Richardson

2nd University of Edinburgh IoT Research Workshop


Date: Monday, 11 December 2017
Time: 09:45–16:00
Location: Informatics Forum G07, School of Informatics, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB View map
Registration: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/university-of-edinburgh-iot-research-workshop-tickets-37581958650


Building on the success of the first Internet of Things Research Workshop last July, we are expanding our scope to embrace new disciplines such as electrical engineering, civil engineering and design informatics. This is giving us an exciting line-up of topics.

We are using a deliberately generous interpretation of “Internet of Things” in order to cast our net as wide as possible. As before, our goal is to bring together people from across the University whose research contributes to this complex picture, to facilitate new collaborations, and to identify new research opportunities. Not all of the talks in the programme will present solutions or explicitly address IoT issues — we are also covering areas which are promising targets for future IoT research and applications.


Time Speaker Title
09:45 Kevin Collins Opening
10:00 Session 1: University IoT Research & Innovation Service
Simon Chapple Introduction to the Research & Innovation Service
Mark Strevens / Jimmy Angelakos Demo of the Iot Research & Innovation Service
10:30 Session 2: Communications for IoT Applications
John Thompson Theme Overview
Mahesh Marina Network Slicing for 5G Wireless IoT
Tughrul Arslan Automatic Crowd Sourcing of IoT and Sensor Big Data for Driving the Next Generation Location Based Services
Wasiu Popoola Optical Wireless Communications for IoT
11:15 Coffee break
11:30 Session 3: Ethics and Governance for IoT
Ewa Luger Theme Overview
James Stewart Ethics and Governance for supporting the University IoT Research and Innovation Service
Renate Gerz Rena’s 5 Top Tips for Data Protection
Michael Rovatsos Responsible Algorithmic Governance in IoT systems
12:15 Session 4: Infrastructure and Built Environment 1
Gordon Masterton Theme Overview
David Rush Fire Warning in Informal Settlements
Rory Hadden Wildfire Sensing and Response
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Session 5: Infrastructure and Built Environment 2
Yuner Huang Big Data for Offshore Structures
Stefanos Papanicolopulos The Internet of Grains: Tracking Granular Flows
Cristina Nan Architectural Robotics
Miguel Paredes Collective Sensing and Mapping for the Urban Environment
14:45 Session 6: IoT and Blockchain
Chris Speed Theme Overview
Aydin Kheirbakhsh Abadi Applications of Blockchain Technology and Smart Contracts in Charities
Andriana Gkaniatsou Bitcoin Wallets
Ella Tallyn & Larissa Pschetz Using a Technology Probe to Investigate the Effect of IoT Devices on Coffee Consumers
15:30 Final discussion
16:00 Close

University of Edinburgh IoT Research Workshop

Connecting things, connecting people


We held our first Internet of Things Research Workshop on 3rd July 2017, in the Informatics Forum. The event generated a great deal of interest amongst participants, and was particularly interesting for the issues that were raised for medical applications of IoT. We are grateful to ARM for contributing a final pair of talks.


09:45 Introduction and Welcome
Ewan Klein – IoT Research Perspective
10:00 Session 1: Ubiquitous and secure computing
Paul Patras – From Ubiquitous Computing to Internet of Everything
Jane Hillston – IoT: the case for quantitative analysis
Kami Vaniea – Usability Security, Privacy and Trust in the IoT
Pramod Bhatotia – PrivApprox: Privacy-Preserving Stream Analytics
11:00 Session 2: Medical Applications
Colin Simpson – IoT: Medical Applications
Thanasis Tsanas – Objective characterisation of activity, sleep and circadian rhythm patterns using wearables
Riinu Ots – TWIST: Tracking Wound Infection with Smartphone Technology
Hilary Pinnock – Technological support for self-management
11:45 Session 3: Argyle House Monitoring Project
Ewan Klein – Project overview
Cat Magill – Perceptions of IoT and Possibilities for Engaging ‘Users’
Benjamin Bach – Visualizing Spatio-Temporal Data
12:15 Session 4: ARM — Research Challenges
Hannes Tschofenig – Iot Security: A journey through standardisation
John Goodenough – ARM IoT Research Challenges

Team Flow invited to the Pycom Hackathon

Edinburgh students visit Eindhoven

As a prize for their winning contribution to the Edinburgh IoT Challenge, Team Flow — a multidisciplinary student team from the University of Edinburgh — has been invited to attend the Pycom Hackathon, Eindhoven, Saturday 17th June 2017.

Team Flow consists of four students from different degrees and schools:

  • Ondrej Bohdal (Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics, 3rd year undergraduate)
  • Wojciech Jakub Nawrocki (Physics and Computer Science, 2nd year undergraduate)
  • Yining Zhou (Electronics and Electrical Engineering, 3rd year undergraduate)
  • Catherine Chi Wang (MSc in Design and Digital Media)

The Edinburgh IoT Challenge, which took place during the 2017 Festival of Creative Learning, was organised by David Richardson, Simon Chapple and Ewan Klein as part of the broader University IoT initiative, and was sponsored by a number of organisations including Pycom. Team Flow developed an IoT-based system for route-detection to improve commuter safety by informing car drivers about the presence of cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to sponsoring their trip to Eindhoven, Pycom will also give the students an exclusive tour of their offices.

During the Pycom Hackathon, teams will have the opportunity to develop their innovative solutions using Pycom devices to address an interesting challenge announced on the day of the event.

Pycom bulds a wide range of products for IoT, most notably integrated communication technologies (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LoRa, Sigfox, LTE-M) on a small, low-cost boards.

We look forward to seeing what our team can create at the Pycom Hackathon. Good luck, Team Flow!

IoT Challenge 2017

Hacking with LoPy Devices

The IoT Challenge 2017 was a 5-day student hackathon focussed on building innovative uses with low-cost IoT devices and sensors. Modelled loosely on the School of Informatics Smart Data Hack, the event took advantage of the break in teaching offered by 2017’s Festival of Creative Learning.


The first couple of days were devoted to getting the basics in place for participants: hearing the challenges, forming teams, getting everyone registered on Slack, learning how to use LoPy devices, how to capture data from sensors and how to send data across the LoRaWAN network to the TTN server.

We started Monday with presentations from three partner organisations. George Lowder, CEO of Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) gave an overview of TfE’s new five year strategy, and emphasised the need to base transport decision-making on good evidence. He then posed the challenge of identifying gaps in the current data around travel, and exploring whether IoT technology could help close those gaps. [TfE Slides] Next, Simon Gage, Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, explained the goals and activities of the Festival, and raised two challenges for IoT: how can we improve the experience of visitors to the Festival; and how can we provide event organisers with better mechanisms for collecting feedback from attendees. Finally, Ritchie Somerville, Innovation and Futures Manager at The City of Edinburgh Council, picked up on the travel theme, and challenged participants to develop techniques for measuring the volume of different types of traffic — motorised, cycling, pedestrian — using only fixed sensors. [CEC Slides]

Kevin Power, CENSIS

IoT Challenge: Festival of Creative Learning


Date: Monday, 20 February 2017
Time: 10:00–18:00
Location: uCreate Studio (Room 1.12), 1st Floor, Main Library, 30 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LJ View map
Registration: https://www.events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleId=23205

The IoT Challenge is a 5-day hackathon (20–24 February 2017) during the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning which will bring students and researchers together to build tools and applications using Internet of Things technology.

For more information, see the main IoT Challenge 2017 page.