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Strategic Network for Sensor Research

at Cambridge University

The Sensor CDT hosted another successful Sensors Day conference. Now in its fourth year, 170 delegates attended the conference on 19 October 2018 in Fitzwilliam College, representing UK universities from around the country, including Bristol, Glasgow, UCL, Imperial College, Middlesex, Newcastle and 018 8884Oxford. International students and researchers from Nuremberg, Copenhagen, Eindhoven, Laval and Beijing enriched the scientific mix. A number of national and international companies attended the conference to find out about sensor related research in Cambridge with the aim of deepening collaborations across a wide range of sensor topics, such as materials, security, automotive, environmental sensing, biosensors and applications in the pharmaceutical industry.

Sensors Day kicked off with a keynote presentation by Hermann Hauser on Intelligent Machines. Hermann’s involvement in a number of large and highly successful Cambridge spin-outs in the area of computing and technology over the past 30 years enabled him to provide an insightful comparison between the human brain and the abilities of artificial intelligence now and in the future. This is a topic which is at the heart of many Sensor CDT students, who were impressed by the potential of sensing and AI.

A key thread weaving through several talks was the use of sensory data to make informed decisions, whether in the areas of agriculture, food production, smart civil infrastructure or the environment. Iain Williams from Defra described how the vast and open data sets in agriculture and fisheries can help improve the environment, while Jennifer Schooling from the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction looked at how a more intelligent use of data can increase the safe lifespan of our, sometimes more than 100 years old, bridges and tunnels. David Coomes from the Department of Plant Sciences showed how the combination of new and improved sensor technologies help monitoring and understanding biogeochemical processes and biodiversity at different scales.

018 9087Madeline Lancaster from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge continued the biological theme. Her talk described how cerebral organoids, or “mini brains”, can be used to study human brain development. Studying these processes relies on the sophisticated imaging techniques available across Cambridge.

The Internet of Things, or as the sensor community prefers to call it, the 018 9042Internet of Sensors, was the backdrop to talks by Alan Blackwell and Cecilia Mascolo, both from the Department of Computer Science, and Luca Aiello from Nokia. The interaction between sensors and us, the users, is fundamental to the Internet of Sensors. Alan described how we use sensors in different contexts and how our interaction with them varies as a result. Cecilia and Luca highlighted new ways of using mobile and wearable technology to sense the environment around us with the aim of increasing our personal wellbeing as well as that of a city as a whole. E.g. measuring smell across a city provides urban citizens with a new perspective about the city they live in; wearable technology allows early detection of dementia.

Every year Sensors Day provides a platform for the MRes students of the Sensor CDT to present their team project, which they tackled over the summer. This year, the ten students devised a mobile sensor network which enables citizen to measure air quality in the form of particulateSEP 3325 matter concentration. Not only did the students developed the sensor platform, they also got the public involved in building and using the sensors. They ran a makeathon, taught children how to build sensors and distributed their sensors to more than 50 volunteers. Air quality data was collected in Cambridge and other European cities over the summer, leading to a data set of more than 2million data points which allows to study spatial and temporal changes of air quality across cities.

Sensors Day finished with a dinner at Murray Edwards College attended by the new and previous Sensor CDT MRes student cohorts, supervisors and industrial partners.