Compulsory robotics education.

21/06/2019

Robotics education should be made part of the school curriculum, according to a fifth of British adults polled to mark the official start of UK Robotics Week (20th – 27th June 2019).  20% of a representative sample of adults want compulsory lessons to be given in the nation’s schools so that children can fully engage with learning about robotics technology 1.  A quarter (25%) of respondents also say that they are now starting to see the benefits of using robotics in their daily lives.

UK-Robotics-Week-International-Robotics-Showcase_4

The research was commissioned by the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (UK-RAS) Network to mark the start of the 4th annual UK Robotics Week, which returns this week for a spectacular celebration of robotics and autonomous systems innovation, and is boosted by the recent award of a further three-year grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to the organising EPSRC UK-RAS Network. 

With robotics continuing to inspire stories across popular culture, the survey also reports that 1 in 5 (20%) people would love to see the ‘Iron Man’-style suit in real life, when polled about which robotic developments from films they would love to see.  

In the wider context, the British public feel increased use of robotics would most directly benefit industries such as manufacturing (38%), military and defence (28%), construction (25%) as well as the medical sector (25%).

Other key findings highlighted in the research include:

•        Almost a fifth (18%) of survey respondents said they believe that using robotics is essential for our society and that we need to depend on them more.

•        Over a third of UK adults (34%) believe that robots will take over boring, repetitive jobs allowing humans to do more interesting, fulfilling work.

•        Over 1 in 5 (23%) Brits would like to learn more about the robotics industry and its developments.

Commenting on the survey findings, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, said: “We are really pleased to see this range of positive public attitudes in relation to robotics technology, especially with regard to the desire for a key educational focus in this area. We launched UK Robotics Week to provide a focus for showcasing the UK’s innovation strengths in this increasingly vital sector, and to stimulate a national discussion about robotics and its developing role in our society.  We hope to engage and inspire many more people to explore robotics technology during this week’s activities, culminating in our much-anticipated International Robotics Showcase.” 

UK Robotics Week 2019 is highlighting a wide programme of events nationwide, spanning competitions and challenges to public lectures, open days, symposia, hackathons and workshops. The centrepiece of UK Robotics Week will be the International Robotics Showcase, being hosted on Thursday 27th June at the Royal Geographical Society in London. This highlight one-day exhibition and conference will feature live demonstrations of the latest robotic technologies, the winners of this year’s Surgical and Manufacturing Robotics Challenges, plus a full conference programme hosting talks by world-renowned technologists and experts exploring cutting-edge advances in nuclear robotics, offshore robotics, future AI and robotics for space and much more.

1.  Research carried out online by Opinion Matters throughout 07/06/2019 to 11/06/2019 amongst a panel resulting in 2,014 UK adults responding. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

@UKRobotics #PAuto

Who knows? The Brexit dilemma!

01/02/2019
“So what the hell happens now?”(Daily Mirror 25 Jun 2016)

President Junker & Premier May

Here in Ireland we have been watching with growing incredulous and grim fascination the debates in the British House of Commons. We have also watched the more sedate proceedings in the European Parliament but again with a certain incredulity that the members representing the 27 other countries could by and large have a different conception of what Brexit means and the not ungenerous agreement made with the exiting member. Indeed watching the debate in Brussels the other day (29th January 2019) it was difficult to see if the representatives from the 27 (and there were no contributions from the Irish members) and those from the Britain were actually talking about the same thing.

A few days ago an article was published by Nick Denbow, Editor-Emeritus of the Industrial Automation Insider which pointed out the unpreparedness of British for what will happen on 29th March 2019 – whatever it is. He states that “the past year been disastrous for UK industrial investment in instrumentation and control.” He points out press releases from British companies announcing new products have dwindled. This is something we in Read-out have also noticed. It would appear that industry in Britain has by and large been in a state of stagnation – “torpor” is the word he uses – waiting hoping for a favourable and non-disruptive result to the interminable negotiations. This would appear to be confirmed today by Dharshini David of the BBC when he says, “Business investment is stagnant…” (See bottom of page for link). In our experience no native instrumentation and control body or publication, with few notable exceptions, such as Processing Talk and GAMBICA, seems to realise exactly what is going down the line still less really understands what the implications of BREXIT are! The majority seem to think that everything will be alright on the night!

But in reality nobody knows.

Who am I dealing with?

In contrast, Irish industry has been inundated with information on State sponsored events, courses, seminars seeking to prepare us for BREXIT whatever form it takes. From this side of the Irish Sea there appears to be no such thing as a soft BREXIT. It is the very nature of the BREXIT beast to be hard.

In the twenty seven countries still committed to the European Union and the rest of the world there is little of this paralysis either. I&C companies are developing new products and marketing them much as before. There are preparations in each country of course to protect themselves and the Union’s standards to a greater or lesser extend depending on their closeness and inter-activity with Britain. Customs and Excise personal are being recruited and passport controls are being augmented in those countries with direct contacts with British Ports, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain as well as Ireland. As I look from across the sea the preparations in Britain appear to be haphazard. What will happen in Holyhead for instance? David Davis, a onetime Minister for Brexit, recognised in 2017, that there “might” be some complexities there.  Have those been identified and confronted?

Nobody knows?

The Northern Ireland Border (inset:before EU)

Let us take paperwork. Every consignment coming from a third country to Ireland, or any EU country, will have to have paperwork, sometimes quite complex paperwork. These consignments are held until that paperwork is scrutinised and passed at the point of entry. In Dublin, and other Irish Ports, these holding places are being expanded as we speak and this has speeded up as the prospect of a no-deal BREXIT hoves into view. Today I can drive over in my car to Britain and pick up equipment and drive back home with nothing more than an invoice. I remember what it was like before waiting interminable hours in what was known as the “Long Room” to clear good. Driving outside of the Ireland I had to have a “Green Card” for car insurance. This applied also to Northern Ireland. Is this coming back? Will driving licences be recognised?

Coming to an airport near you?

Nobody knows?

Then there is the tax problem. I was speaking to a small business owner the other day who had attended one of these BREXIT meetings in Clifden far out in the west of Ireland and they believe that their cash flow will experience problems and they will have to increase cash availability by about 40% – yes forty percent. A lot of that will have to be available to pay VAT and other duties at point of entry in the event of no agreement. I know of at least one company that went to the wall in the eighties prior to the common trade arrangements because of this requirement. Indeed even if an agreement is arrived at then this could very well be the situation at the end of the additional two year period allowed in Mrs May’s December agreement.

Nobody knows?

The other day we published an article by Dominique Stucki of ABB’s Control Technology unit on maintaining standards in the food industry. These are fostered by the EU funded (€30million) IOF2020 Group  aimed at building a lasting innovation ecosystem that fosters the uptake of IoT technologies. Will Britain as a third party country benefit from this work? What about the many other standards implemented throughout the union?

Nobody knows?

That Britain will survive BREXIT there is little doubt but if it reaps any benefit from it depends on how they manage it. The British Press will blame Europe and the Irish for whatever failure happens, that much is clear. But Europe and Ireland did not ask for BREXIT. That Europe strives to defend its institutions and hard fought for advantages is hardly surprising. Britain as an active member for over forty years contributed much to these institutions and policies. That it should choose to put all that productive work at naught is indeed a great mystery. But Britain – or perhaps it is more accurate to say England – is nothing if not resiliant. It is in for a rough time, we all are, but at the end of the day the various nations that make up the United Kingdom, together or apart, will make a go of whatever happens.

When the result of the Referendum was announced and the Westminster administration fell apart we quoted the comment of the President of the European Commission, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Junker, “I thought they had a plan!” As we approach the 29th March 2019 the question of what that plan is remains a mystery.

Nobody knows!


• See also Brexit woes, Nick Denbow, (30 Jun 2016)
Brexit, What this means for you and your business. (24 June 2016)
How has business been affected by Brexit so far? Dharshini David, Economics correspondent with the BBC (31 Jan 2019)



Challenges facing energy industry sector.

21/05/2018

Leaders from Britain’s  energy industry attended Copa Data’s  zenon Energy Day 2018 at the Thames Valley Microsoft centre. The event, which was held on in April 2018, welcomed industry experts and energy suppliers to address the current challenges the sector is facing — renewable generation, substation automation, IoT and cyber security.

scamaill

A welcome speech from the British MD od Copa Data , Martyn Williams, started a day encompassed a series of talks from industry experts. Speakers included Ian Banham, IoT Technical Sales Lead UK for Microsoft, Chris Dormer of systems integrator, Capula and Jürgen Resch, Copa Data Energy Industry Manager.

Preparing for renewables
Only 24 per cent of Britain’s electricity comes from renewable sources — a relatively low figure compared to some European countries.  However, the percentage is growing. In 2000, Britain’s renewable capacity was 3,000 MW, and rose eleven-fold by the end of 2016 to 33,000 MW.

To prepare for the impending challenges for this market, Jürgen Resch’s presentation discussed how software can alleviate some of the common questions associated with renewable energy generation, including the growing demand for energy storage.
“Energy storage is often used in combination with renewables because renewable energy is volatile and fluctuating,” explained Resch. “In Korea, the government is pumping $5 billion dollars into energy storage systems. In fact, every new building that is built in Korea gets an energy storage battery fitted into the basement.”

BMW’s battery storage farm in Leipzig (D) was also presented as an example. The facility, which uses COPA-DATA’s zenon as the main control centre system, uses 700 high-capacity used battery packs from BMW i3s and could also provide storage capacity for local wind energy generation.

Moving onto specific issued related to wind generation, Resch discussed the potential challenge of reporting in a sector reliant on unpredictable energy sources.
“Reports are particularly important in the wind power industry,” he said. “Typically, owners of wind farms are investors and they want to see profits. Using software, like zenon Analyzer, operators can generate operational reports.

“These reports range from a basic table with the wind speeds, output of a turbine and its associated profit, or a more sophisticated report with an indication of the turbines performance against specific key performance indicators (KPIs).”

Best practice for substation automation
Following the morning’s keynote speeches on renewable energy, Chris Dormer of Capula, presented the audience with a real-life case study. The speech discussed how smart automation helped to address significant issues related to the critical assets of the National Grid’s substations, where Capula was contracted to refurbish the existing substation control system at New Cross.

substn“Like a lot of companies that have developed, grown and acquired assets over the years, energy providers tend to end up with a mass mixture of different types of technology, legacy equipment and various ways to handling data,” explained Dormer. “For projects like this, the first key evaluation factor is choosing control software with legacy communication. We need to ensure the software can talk to both old legacy equipment in substations as well as modern protocol communications, whilst also ensuring it was scalable and compliant.

“The National Grid will make large investments into IEC 61850 compatible equipment, therefore for this project, we needed an IEC 61850 solution. Any system we put in, we want to support it for the next 25 years. Everyone is talking about digital substations right now, but there are not that many of them out there. That said, we need to prepare and be ready.”

The case study, which was a collaborative project with COPA-DATA, was recognised at the UK Energy Innovation Awards 2017, where it was awarded the Best Innovation Contributing to Quality and Reliability of Electricity Supply.

“Our collaboration with COPA-DATA allows us to address modern energy challenges,” explained Mark Hardy, Managing Director of Capula upon winning the award last year. “It helps drive through the best value for energy customers.”

Cyber security – benefit or burden?
“Raise your hand if you consider cyber security to be a benefit?” Mark Clemens, Technical Product Manager at Copa Data asked the audience during his keynote speech on cyber security. “Now, raise your hand if you consider it to be a burden?”

substn2Clemens’ question provided interesting results. Numerous attendees kept their hands raised for both questions, giving an insight into the perception of cyber security for those operating in the energy industry — a necessary evil.

“A cyber-attack on our current infrastructure could be easy to execute,” continued Clemens. “95 per cent of communication protocols in automation systems don’t provide any security features. For those that do provide security, the mechanisms are often simply bolted-on.”

Clemens continued to explain how substation design can strengthen the security of these sites. He suggested that, despite living in the era of IoT, energy companies should limit the communication between devices to only those that are necessary. The first step he suggested was to establish a list of assets, including any temporary assets like vendor connections and portable devices.

“There are lots of entry points into a substation, not only through the firewall but through vendors and suppliers too. This doesn’t have to be intentional but could be the result of a mistake. For example, if an engineer is working in the substation and believe they are testing in simulation mode, but they are not, it could cause detrimental problems.”

Collaborating with Microsoft
The address of Microsoft’s UK IoT Technical Sales Lead, Ian Banham focused on the potential of cloud usage for energy companies. When asking attendees who had already invested in cloud usage, or planned on doing so, the audience proved to be a 50:50 split of cloud enthusiasts and sceptics.

“IoT is nothing new,” stated Ian Banham, IoT Technical Sales Lead at Microsoft. “There’s plenty of kit that does IoT that is over 20 years old, it just wasn’t called IoT then. That said, there’s not a great deal of value in simply gathering data, you’ve got to do something with that data to realise the value from it.

“The change in IoT is the way the technology has developed. That’s why we are encouraging our customers to work with companies like COPA-DATA. They have done the hard work for you because they have been through the process before.”

He explained how Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure, could be integrated with COPA-DATA’s automation software, zenon. In fact, COPA-DATA’s partnership with Microsoft is award-winning, COPA-DATA having won Microsoft Partner of the Year in the IoT category in 2017.

@copadata #PAuto @Azure #Cloud #IoT


Interesting facts emerge from financial report.

15/05/2017
E+H reports sales flat, but sees growth in Ireland, reports Processingtalk.info‘s  Nick Denbow from Basel.

This year, Endress+Hauser expanded the presentation of their annual financial results, inviting journalists from not only Germany and Switzerland, but including others from Belgium, the Netherlands and Great Britain. In all 70+ attendees heard Klaus Endress and Matthias Altendorf say that the consolidated Group sales fell slightly between 2015 and 2016, by 0.2%, achieving Euro2.1Bn. This fall was actually only because of currency fluctuations. “Currencies created a headwind for us last year,” said Altendorf. Working from the value of sales in local currencies, sales in total actually increased by 2.1%. Whilst the Group is family owned, their annual report is published and audited to the standards expected of any other international business.

CEO Matthias Altendorf emphasised that “When compared to overall industry growth, we held our own”. E+H performed well in Europe, but sales in America declined. Africa and the Middle East experienced solid growth, but in the Asia-Pacific region business stagnated.

Within Europe, the best performances for E+H came from Ireland, Italy and Finland. The best performing sectors in all countries were food & beverage, life sciences, and water & waste water. Overall business declined in oil & gas, chemicals and primary industries like metals. The power and energy industry sectors showed good performance outside Germany, where E+H also felt the effect of weak German exports and some internal restructuring. The oil & gas decline badly affected sales in USA, UK and Norway, although the UK sales centre gave a good performance by aligning efforts with other active market sectors.

Investment continues.

Production

E+H plans for investment and growth continue for the current year. Earlier in the week a new factory extension was opened in Reinach, where flow products are manufactured. (see Read-out Signpost – “Flowmeter output growth requires new facilities” – 5 May 2017).  The journalists were given a tour of the manufacturing facility in Maulberg (D), where a new extension to the production area is in operation, and a new NMi level measurement system calibration facility for radar based systems has just been completed. This is certified suitable for calibration of the Micropilot NMR81 radar system, working at 80GHz, which achieves a +/-0.5mm accuracy over a 30m range, for use in oil storage tanks and oil terminals. There are plans now to extend this calibration facility to allow such calibration out to 40metres, as well as to extend the factory yet further: 1912 people work at E+H Maulburg, and 5200 people in the Basel region, out of the total E+H staff of 13,000.

Analytical measurements
The biggest growth area in E+H is actually in the analytical instruments that use Raman spectroscopy to analyse liquid and gas streams on-line. The major industries now applying this technique are within the life sciences sector, where immediate analysis of input and both gaseous and liquid effluent streams enables much closer control of biochemical and fermentation processes. Indeed the 2017 issue of the E+H corporate magazine “Changes” features a major focus on new applications in the Life Sciences industries.

Other new analytical techniques are developed for monitoring water treatment processing, for example in the new Swiss plants which by law have to have a fourth stage of purification, to remove hormones, phosphorus and other drug residues. The strength of E+H here derives from their strategic decision a few years ago to invest in the process analytical area, particularly in the field of spectroscopy, acquiring Kaiser Optical, Analytik Jena and SpectraSensors. “Our analytics strategy has been validated by the market,” said Matthias Altendorf.

Bundling IIoT activities

Digitization

The acquisition of German SensAction AG in early 2017 also ties in with Strategy 2020+ which was rolled out last year. The company, headquartered in Coburg (D), manufactures innovative systems for measuring concentrations in liquids. Endress+Hauser is tackling the challenges of digitalization by bundling a number of activities. A new subsidiary in Freiburg in Breisgau,(D), is working exclusively on products, solutions and services related to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The significance of digitalization can also be seen in the growing number of patent registrations. There were 273 first filings in 2016. The intellectual property rights portfolio thus boasts more than 7,000 active patents. R&D spending rose to 7.8 percent of sales. Endress+Hauser introduced 64 new products to the market. “We are investing in innovation for our customers,” underlined the CEO.

Trends in automation.
The focus for E+H sales and their customer base is broadly on automation engineers, so it was interesting to hear Matthias Altendorf comment that the statistics for industrial output show that the Britain has now dropped out of the top 10 countries in terms of automation business activity, whereas they had held a prominent position there some years ago.

The other aspect of interest was that there are distinct differences between countries, in terms of the sex of the engineers involved in the major projects served by E+H. In Germany they are mostly male, whereas the majority of engineers in Turkey are female. In South Korea and India there are high percentages of female engineers (and engineering journalists). Also, by industry, it is noticeable that in the biochemical and life science sectors the engineers are predominantly female.

 @Endress_Hauser #PAuto #IoT

Research and development – industry’s road to success!

23/05/2016
Andrew Keith, engineering director of power resistor manufacturer Cressall Resistors, discusses the role of research and development in the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturing flexibility has never been as important for industry as it is today. In a world of interconnected devices and smart factories, the ability of a manufacturer to innovate and adapt to its customers’ requirements is vital. For many manufacturers, the road to innovation starts with research and development (R&D). 

CRE167-Research_and_developmentI joined Cressall Resistors full-time in 2009, after completing two summer placements with the company during my university studies.  Back then, the existing standard product range catered for most applications. Five years later, the R&D demands have skyrocketed. To respond to the industry need, many manufacturers find themselves investing in their research, design and test capabilities.

Many of the products Cressall manufactures are made in small batches for specific customer requirements. The ability to develop, manufacture and support bespoke solutions puts Cressall at a significant advantage in the market. However, the conditions are more competitive than ever and to ensure our solutions are price competitive, we have to be able to explore through simulation and testing all design possibilities.

Developing our in-house R&D capability allows Cressall to adapt its product range, meaning that when a customer gives us their product specifications, it’s likely that we already have a close fit. Expanding the product range isn’t the only positive outcome of having an onsite R&D facility. Here are the five advantages you need to be aware of when considering R&D.

Global success
Manufacturers with constant R&D investments have a higher chance of succeeding in the global market. To attain the best professional advantage, investment in R&D comes hand in hand with processes such as market development and new business processes.

Innovate and flourish
Manufacturers should be firm about what they plan to accomplish with their business. The most successful businesses are always innovating. They are always finding new ways to build up their competitive advantages. R&D is necessary in boosting the vision and objectives of a business, so companies should never be reluctant to take action toward innovation.

Cressall’s testing facility provides the means to carry out impulse tests of up to 400,000 Volts. This facility is allowing us to explore the limits of existing designs. We can make refinements to designs and change the materials we use to extend the limits of the technology we have already developed. 

Better business outcomes
There is a solid relationship between the amount of effort put into research and development, and the way a company performs. Companies that use R&D investment as the main driver for progress are inclined to achieve better outcomes for investors and overall be more innovative than their competitors.

Cressall has recently invested in a temperature regulated water circulation system that can be used for developing our water cooled resistors. The continued success of the innovative water cooled EV2 resistor has merited investment for further development. We have a development program in place which is based on feedback from the market place. As a result we are looking to create smaller designs with lower pressure drops as well as reducing cost.

Economic growth
R&D is recognised as an important factor in economic growth and balance. R&D can easily lead to highly valued technologies, strategies and designs for your company that could be the origin of potential value when considering sustaining a competitive advantage.

Tax credit
Qualified R&D projects allow manufacturers to defray relevant costs with the help of the Research and Development Relief for Corporation Tax. This option allows a business to reduce its tax bill. Small to medium size businesses also get tax credits in cash disbursed by British Revenue and Customs. Each country will have different procedures of course.

The build of Cressall Resistor’s R&D facility is ongoing. Earlier in 2015, the space was opened and since then, we have focused on bringing in major test equipment. The test area facilitates for thermal testing of Cressall’s naturally ventilated or water cooled resistors and lightning impulse testing up to 400kV for high voltage equipment.


Air pollution – the invisible roadside killer.

14/12/2015

The VW emissions scandal has helped to raise awareness of the deadly threat posed by air pollution in many of our towns and cities. In the following article, Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors, an instrumentation company, explains why diesel emissions will have to be lowered and how the latest monitoring technology will be an essential part of the solution.

Background
The World Health Organisation has estimated that over 500,000 Europeans die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution – especially fine particulates from combustion processes and vehicles. Of these, around 30,000 are in Britain; however, experts believe that the figures could be substantially higher if the effects of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) are also taken into consideration.

London Smog - now less visible!

London Smog – now less visible!

Historically, air pollution was highly visible, resulting in air pollution episodes such as the Great London Smog in 1952. However, today’s air pollution is largely invisible (fine particulates and NO2 for example), so networks of sophisticated monitors are necessary.

The greatest cause for alarm is the air quality in our major towns and cities where vehicles (main diesels) emit high levels of NO2 and particulates in ‘corridors’ that do not allow rapid dispersion and dilution of the pollutants. Urban vehicles also emit more pollution than free-flowing traffic because of the continual stopping and starting that is necessary.

As a result of its failure to meet European air quality limits, the Government was taken to the UK Supreme Court in April 2015 by ClientEarth, an organisation of environmental lawyers. In a unanimous judgement against Defra (English Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the Court required the urgent development of new air quality plans. In September 2015 Defra published its Draft Air Quality Plans, but they have not been well received; respondents have described them as disappointing and unambitious. CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) , an organisation representing environmental management professionals, for example, said: (the plans) “rely on unfunded clean air zones and unproven vehicle emission standards.”

Some commentators believe that Defra should follow Scotland’s lead, following the publication, in November 2015, of ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future’ (CAFS). Key to this strategy is its partnership approach, which engages all stakeholders. Under CAFS, the Scottish Government will work closely with its agencies, regional transport partnerships, local authorities (transport, urban and land-use planners and environmental health), developers, employers, businesses and citizens. CAFS specifies a number of key performance indicators and places a heavy emphasis on monitoring. A National Low Emission Framework (NLEF) has been designed to enable local authorities to appraise, justify the business case for, and implement a range of, air quality improvement options related to transport (and associated land use).

Traffic-related air pollution
In addition to the fine particulates that are produced by vehicles, around 80% of NOx emissions in areas where Britain is exceeding NO2 limits are due to transport. The largest source is emissions from diesel light duty vehicles (cars and vans). Clearly, there is now enormous pressure on vehicle manufacturers to improve the quality of emissions, but urgent political initiatives are necessary to address the public health crisis caused by air pollution.

A move to electric and hybrid vehicles is already underway and developments in battery technology will help improve the range and performance of these vehicles, and as they become more popular, their cost is likely to lower. The prospect of driverless vehicles also offers hope for the future; if proven successful, they will reduce the need for car ownership, especially in cities, thereby reducing the volume of pollution emitting vehicles on the roads.

Vehicle testing is moving out of the laboratory in favour of real-world driving emissions testing (RDE) which will help consumers to choose genuinely ‘clean’ vehicles. However, the ultimate test of all initiatives to reduce traffic-related air pollution is the effect that they have on the air that people breathe.

Ambient air quality monitoring
Networks of fixed air quality monitoring stations provide continual data across the UK, accessible via the Defra website and the uBreathe APP. Many believe that this network contains an insufficient number of monitoring points because measurement data has to be heavily supplemented with modelling. However, these reference monitoring stations, while delivering highly accurate and precise data, are expensive to purchase, calibrate and service. They also require a significant footprint and mains electricity, so it is often difficult or impossible to locate them in the locations of most interest – the pollution hotspots.

Public sector budgets are under pressure, so the cost of running the national monitoring network and those systems operated by Local Authorities is a constant source of debate. The challenge for technology companies is therefore to develop air quality monitors that are more flexible in the locations in which they are able to operate and less costly in doing so.

Air Monitors’s response

New technology
Air Monitors has developed a small, battery-powered, web-enabled, air quality monitor ‘AQMesh’, which can be quickly and easily mounted on any lamp post or telegraph pole at a fraction of the cost of traditional monitors. Consequently, for the first time ever, it is possible to monitor air quality effectively, where it matters most; outside schools, on the busiest streets and in the places where large numbers of people live and breathe.AQMesh_podAQMesh ‘pods’ are completely wireless, using GPRS communications to transmit data for the five main air polluting gases to ‘the cloud’ where sophisticated data management generates highly accurate readings as well as monitoring hardware performance. In addition, it is now possible to add a particulate monitor to new AQMesh pods.AQMesh does not deliver the same level of precision as reference stations, but this new technology decreases the cost of monitoring whilst radically improving the availability of monitoring data, especially in urban areas where air quality varies from street to street.The flexibility of these new monitors is already being exploited by those responsible for traffic-related pollution – helping to measure the effects of traffic management changes for example. However, this new level of air quality data will also be of great value to the public; helping them to decide where to live, which routes to take to work and which schools to send their children to.

Engineering is no longer a man’s world!

24/08/2015

Amy Wells, business development manager of specialist industrial connectors Electroustic compares unusual roles women have played in the past with the current struggle to get more women into science and engineering.

Amy Wells

Amy Wells

Women’s roles throughout history have varied dramatically from one civilisation to the next. For Britain, the sharply defined domestic role of women lay relatively untouched from the Middle Ages right through to the end of the Victorian era and beyond. But when we look further into history, gender roles were not so sharply defined.

Take the Viking era as an example. Historical attestations show that whilst it was rare for women to take part in warfare, the few that did take up arms were given legendary status as a shieldmaiden, a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior amongst Viking men. Over 1250 years ago, these rare women were considered to be exceptional and highly respected figures. Through positive portrayal in modern film and literature, they continue to capture attention and admiration today. 

In recent years, there has been a plethora of media coverage and awareness campaigns to encourage and praise the small number of women working in the engineering industry. As a result, female engineers are finally starting to be held in high regard.

A number of recently launched initiatives such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and the Women in Science and Engineering campaign (WISE) suggest that the engineering industry is successfully bridging the gender gap. Yet still, only six per cent of Britain’s engineering workforce is female.

There are a myriad of barriers preventing women from entering the engineering sector and inevitably, the gender stereotype remains a large factor. >From a young age, gender conditioning teaches us that hands-on, practical activities like LEGO and Meccano are not for girls. So it comes as no surprise that just 20 per cent of all A-level physics students are girls and that nearly half of UK state schools do not send a single girl on to study higher education physics at college or sixth form.

Perhaps more worryingly, even women who are currently working as engineers have acknowledged the gender gap associated with the industry. Results from the British Engineering and Manufacturing Census state that 75 per cent of the 300 female engineers surveyed still consider engineering to be a ‘male career’.

Although small in numbers, there is an army of proud and exceptional female engineers in Britain. In fact, 98 per cent of female engineers consider their job to be rewarding. These engineering women have built a strong network of support to praise and encourage women in industry. Launched in 2014, The National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) celebrates the achievements of female engineers across the country. Similarly, the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) presents the annual Young Woman Engineer Award to acknowledge the work of exceptional female engineers under 35.

Much like the legendary shieldmaidens of the Viking era, successful female engineers are held in high regard beside their male counterparts. Industry awards and increased media coverage have elevated the importance of the ‘female engineer’ to nationally recognised status, encouraging ambitious young women to conquer the engineering stereotype – perhaps with less pillaging and more programming.