Dublin Month #4 - Smart DCU: "Bridging the gap between academia and industry"

Episode 16 September 14, 2022 00:23:44
Dublin Month #4 - Smart DCU: "Bridging the gap between academia and industry"
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
Dublin Month #4 - Smart DCU: "Bridging the gap between academia and industry"

Sep 14 2022 | 00:23:44


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

In the third episode of our Smart Dublin mini-series, we focused on Smart DCU, a collaboration between Dublin City Council and partners EnableInsight and DCU Alpha. Smart DCU aims to develop, test and trial cutting-edge technology innovations within the university campus.

We thus sat down with Kieran Mahon, the Smart DCU Projects Facilitator, and discussed living labs, autism-friendly campus, Digital Twins, robot delivery and more!


Overview of the episode:

01:50 - Teaser: Did Kieran attend Dublin City University?

03:07 - What is Kieran's background?

03:54 - Who are the partners within Smart DCU and how do they collaborate?

04:34 - How did this collaboration come to fruition?

05:39 - Are there limitations to using a university campus as a living lab?

06:56 - Kieran's favourite projects: Digital Twin

08:39 - Pieces of Advice for people looking at Digital Twins and its related challenges

09:37 - Does this kind of work can be replicated in other places?

10:24 - Talking about the Smart DCU: Robot Delivery project

11:21 - What are the next steps for Smart DCU?

11:05 - Trial and Error: what went wrong? What mistakes were made along the way, and what lessons were learned?

19:12 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Kieran Mahon 00:00:00 I don't live in a city that's not ethical or invades people's privacy. So we never do things that you can do, because you can do them. We do things which are there to approve the life of people who live, work or visit the university. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:19 Welcome to Smart in the City - the BABLE Podcast, I am your host Tamlyn Shimizu and really at BABLE, we aim to connect the players in the smart city industry with high quality information and ideas through our platform and services. This podcast is really an extension of this goal and mission to drive the change for a better urban life. Before we get started, I wanted to inform all you lovely listeners about a great opportunity. BABLE has extended the deadline for the innovation market watch for 2023. So top smart city companies are invited to apply before the 30th of September and it's completely free. So just follow the link in the show notes. So I think you all want to stick around for this journey today. Um, we're journeying further into our Dublin mini series. So today we are speaking all about smart DCU, which is a collaboration between Dublin city council and partners enable insight Dublin city university DCU alpha. So today to speak to me about this collaboration is Kieran Mahon, who is the smart DCU projects facilitator with, uh, smart DCU. So yeah. Welcome onto the show. Kieran Mahon 00:01:39 Hello. Nice to be here. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:41 Yeah. So lovely to speak to you today. So, um, and I'm really interested to dig into what makes DCU really different also and what others can learn from it. Um, so, uh, I guess before we get started, we can maybe take a little rewind back into memory lane. Um, I would, since DCU is very much focused on, you know, university and collaboration with the university. I'm just wondering if, um, you can tell us a little bit about your background. Like what university did you attend? Um, and yeah. Would you have liked to go to DCU instead if it wasn't DCU? Kieran Mahon 00:02:18 I did go to DCU as well. So, um, a long time ago I left secondary school and I loved engineering. So I studied electronic engineering. Um, in those days it's a while ago it was analog was big and I loved that. And then after a short while I realized everything was going digital, so then I actually decided I had to re reach three skill and I actually went to double city university to study computer applications and little did I realized that made me jump to, to tracks. I got a new career and eventually I ended back in my new role as smart DCU projects, facilitator. So love the university. It's, it's been good to me, you know? Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:57 Yeah. Yeah. I, I sometimes reminisce of it about university times when I'm like super busy at work, you know, and I'm like, ah, I remember when I was like busy at university. Good times though. Um, so, uh, yeah, so you talked a bit about, um, how you came into the role, but how long have you been at the role? Um, and how did you kind of come into that position? Kieran Mahon 00:03:22 So previously, um, I worked in Vodafone for 19 years and I was looking for a role which was exist between academia and industry mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I saw this role in DCU, which bridged that gap between academia and industry, um, which is where I am at the moment. Um, and that's what attracted me to it because it's an area that is, there's two different worlds, academia and industry. And if you combine the two together, bingo, you got gold. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:51 Yeah. I, I really believe in that power of combining these forces. So, uh, can you, so with that being said, can you talk about the partners a bit about, um, who, who is enable insight DCU and how do you all collaborate? Kieran Mahon 00:04:06 Yes. And so smart DCU is part of the smart Dublin ecosystem. So one of the districts and it's funded three ways. One is true business, which is the DCU alpha campus supply part of my salary. The other one is through local government. This is where Dublin city council funds part of it. And then at the university insight centre for data analytics funds the rest of it. So we have local authority with industry and academia come together to support the smart DCU project. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:04:38 And so how did it, um, how do you form this? Like how does it come to fruition actually? Kieran Mahon 00:04:45 So Smart Dublin had launched one district called smart Docklands, which was very successful and that was in the city centre around the European HQs of big multinationals. And then they looked, you know, the district model was very, very good. They looked at other options and the university campus was chosen because it's a microcosm of a city. So on the university campus, it's got everything city has except a miniature, we have road network, we've buildings, we've accommodation banking, retail we've sports. So it's chosen, this was made an ideal testbed for smart city innovations, a living lab. And one of the unique things about this district is it's owned and controlled by the university. So this simplifies permissions. If you go to city centre, somebody owns light poles, someone owns electricity, someone owns the building here, 100% owned and controlled. So we even agility to look at propositions and agreed and very, very quickly. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:05:43 Ah, yeah. That's I didn't think about those really nice benefits of using actually a campus as a living lab. Um, I guess, uh, my next question would be, are there limitations to doing it like that? Um, for example, maybe you don't, um, engage students the same way that you would engage with citizens at, at large, or are there any kind of limitations with using, uh, a campus as a living lab versus an actual city environment? Kieran Mahon 00:06:08 No. Um, because it's got everything a city has including a university and a lot of, a lot of societies there as well, which we engage with. Um, it's also as we're engaging students, it's the world's first designated autism friendly university. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:06:23 Wow. Kieran Mahon 00:06:24 So one of my first things was to go to the per the officer in charge of this initiative and ask her what is the biggest issues for people with autism. Um, and she had to say, it's navigating the, the, the labyrinth that is the campus it's can be very stressful. So one of our projects is actually building seamless outdoor, indoor, autism friendly path finding. So we're taking on board, I would call the citizens off the campus, beat staff and students to make their life a better experience. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:06:55 That's wonderful. And would you say that that's one of your favourite projects or would you name a different project that you want to talk about? Kieran Mahon 00:07:03 So that is my most emotional project because when we get this over the line, it makes so many people's lives, much happier. Yeah. And what we've many other projects and one of the flagship projects would be our digital twin. So a digital twin of course, is a digital representation of something which is physical. So in this case, it's a digital 3d model of the university campus. And we've already modelled all our campuses from outdoors. We're now going to model them indoors as well. So we have complete model of that. And then we've put them on a platform, a digital twin platform. And this is where we put every type of data we can find that's digital in the same platform. Now this means the data sources be it simple like room occupancy, room booking systems, air quality are no longer in silos. They're all in, in, in one location, the digital twin platform where they're all aligned in time and space, temporal and spatial. Kieran Mahon 00:08:01 So you're no longer going to silo those. So now you can cross pollinate the different databases. A simple version of that is the room booking system says the room was booked, but the occupancy centre says, no, it's not. There's nobody in the room. Um, so this is where you, you combine two more, two data sets and you get far more information out them. So the digital twin is probably the most prestigious project we have at the moment. Um, so we've lots of IOT sensor rented campus and the company called Bentley solutions, American based, they've actually sponsored digital twin research in DCU, the push, the boundaries of where digital twins would go. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:08:40 Yeah, that's incredible. Um, so can, what would you give us kind of advice to other people looking at digital twins and what are really the biggest challenges there? Kieran Mahon 00:08:52 So sometimes PE the definition of a digital twin can be many things, too many people. Yeah. So I see it as having many different components. Um, one component is the 3d model, and that's really used where you visualize the data that you've analysed back on the 3d model. So every you understands exactly intuitively what we're talk, what you're talking about. You don't need to be taught. You don't need to be explained to you. Um, so I see digital twin as well as a business tool, improve operational efficiency. It's not an engineering tool. And very often, because you do have to use engineering tool put together, it's seen as an engineering tool, but it's actually a business tool that you can then use to address any challenges you have in life in business or whatever. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:09:40 Yeah. Cool. And so do you think that this work, um, you know, I, I think Dublin is, is a large city, there's many resources allocated to these types of projects. Um, do you think that this type of work can be replicated in other places? Or do you think that there's a limitation to it? Kieran Mahon 00:09:57 It's once you crack the formula, it is very simple to replicate. Absolutely. And one of our things is we do, we give talks to lots of people explain the lessons we've learned and where we see things going in the future. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:10:10 Yeah. And you're talking to us today, also sharing more, and we really appreciate that. And also, um, it's a, it's a huge passionary of ours, as well as this sharing of lessons learned. That's why we created our, you know, digital platform as well for sharing these lessons. So, um, and I saw a project at smart DCU where the students are getting burger and chips delivered by a robot. Um, are you afraid of an uprising? <laugh> Kieran Mahon 00:10:39 <laugh> that was a, it's a very slow moving robot and it was driven by tele operation. And we were, we were, there's a second robot there that robot used tele operation, where it was driven remote remotely by a person who had the video feed and we were tested capability of you can order and have it delivered. And that was that part of this ecosystem for delivery bots. It was check, it was testing. So the kitchen in the local restaurant was able to take the order, put in the robot, the robot could deliver to a student. So, so eight out of that, um, and everybody we were wondering about what, what happened when people saw the robot and people were amused, it's got a small, little happy face on it. <laugh> Tamlyn Shimizu 00:11:20 Good Kieran Mahon 00:11:21 People saw it as sort of a happy little delivery person. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:11:25 So what do you think, um, what, what do you think is the next, what are the next steps for smart DCU? Um, any other projects in the works things to talk about for future things? Kieran Mahon 00:11:39 So with, I'll just finish off digital twin with digital twin. Um, one of the strengths of the university is the insight center for data analytics. So we are looking to overlay on digital twin data sets that have been automatically analyzed. Now, what I mean is there are pre-filtered and then we could even use predictive analytics to predict what could be happening in the future as well. So that's one of the that's growth areas for digital twins. We see, um, we're also compliment by a com university in Lithuania KTU, which I great architectural expertise. So we're using, we're combining direct architectural expertise, which are data analytics. So I just part the data, the data, the digital tune for a second next would be mobility. So we have lots of things in micro mobility. If you go down to the campus today, you will see E scooters, which are illegal to use Irish roads, but because we have our own closed road network, we can use them on the campus. Kieran Mahon 00:12:38 And we have a company called Luna and they're pioneering their AI enabled computer vision on these E scooters. So the E scooters are supplied by TIER, which is the largest micro mobility company in the world. And these scooters then have the ability to detect hazards in front of them. So be it pedestrian riding in the footpath potholes. That's what we're perfecting on the campus at the moment with micro mobility. Um, we also working with re and our mobilize, um, platform. We have two shared e-cars for intercampus travel and the telemetry of these e-cars is coming in real time. Cause a company called Transpo has put up their equipment on it. Um, we've also do analysis of shared e-bike user behaviour in Dublin city centre. Um, that's a huge thing. Two years of data and now shared e-bikes are a game changer for any city. And now we've done, um, advanced analytics about the behaviour passions of people. Kieran Mahon 00:13:34 So it's not just about technology. It's also about the dimension of how people use technology now in context as well. And very, it's not announced publicly. So account mentioned the partners, but we're looking to make DCU a smart 5g university. Now I see 5g is not a ver a faster version of 4g. It's a new ecosystem and it's an ecosystem of course has fast speeds as we all know, but also it's got other many characteristics and one is low latency, no delay in getting your answer back, what you need and the ability to edge computing. So you'll hear more and more about this thing called a MEC, which is a multi-axis edge computing. So this is computing done at the base station itself. So now you can do things at the base station that previously you may have had to go into the cloud to do, but if you go to the cloud, you introduce latency. Kieran Mahon 00:14:31 So with this ability to do this intelligent edge computing, you open up a new dimension of the internet. And an example of this would be the E scooters instead of having to do all the computation on the E scooter in an expensive module, they can just send up a piece of information, an image every half second to the base station where it's then maned and then sent back the answer to the DCU saying, oh, yes, that is a person in front of you. And now there's no latency because it's 5g. It got just the intelligent edge computing. It reduces the cost of hardware on the very edge and even better. It gives you holistic view of what's happening on the campus. So if a scooters at a corner and sees a person, the scooter around the corner can also be alerted that there's a person nearby. So, you know, holistic view what's happening. So we hope to have that a, a live by January 2023, um, on campus. So now we're bringing together all these things together in one new ecosystem. And so we welcome all kinds of partners because the ecosystem of a smart city is complex and no individual partner can do A to Z. So we hope to have an ecosystem where any partner can easily come in, pilot, their, their proposition, perfect it, and it will help them promote it as well. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:15:58 That's all really incredible. And I, I love your knowledge base on all these, how all this ties in together. So, um, and, and I guess I just want to open up the floor to you as well. Um, is there anything that we haven't spoken about yet that you think is really important for our listeners to know about smart DCU? Kieran Mahon 00:16:19 So what we, everything we do is to address a challenge. So micro ability is about the challenge of safety. Mm-hmm <affirmative> for pedestrians and for, and for users. So everything is stripped back to us is back to a challenge. We don't ever pioneer technology for the sake of a tech of it, of a technology. Um, we do everything and we try to be as ethical as possible and preserve people's privacy as much as possible. Um, I don't live in a city that's not ethical or invade people's privacy. So we'd ever do things that you can do, cuz you can do them. We do things which are there to improve the life of people who live, work or visit to university. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:16:59 Yeah. Yeah. That's good. And that's good. Uh, to end on our main, um, question, uh, part of our interview, um, and then I will just take us along to our, uh, segment and it's a segment called trial and error. What went wrong? What mistakes were made along the way, and more importantly, what lessons were learned. Uh, you already touched on a few things, but I wonder if you can share something else with our, with our listeners on, on a mistake and the lesson learned, Kieran Mahon 00:17:36 Um, different. So if you have academia and industry and eventually find something they both agree on and both focused to deliver on that address, that challenge and deliver something, the timeframes are so different. Academia could think two years is quick. Whereas industry thinks two weeks is quick and you have to manage that continually that, um, the expectations of both sides. So I would say managing expectations, um, academia or business can give you funding. Um, but academia can say, yes, we come back in in two years and talk to you and that's so that it's not a mistake. It's just, it's, it's a lesson. That's both sides have to understand. Um, other things lessons would be, um, if I'm explaining a concept to somebody, I do it in three phases. First of all, I tell them, I'm going to introduce it to them. And then you, they, they may not understand what you're talking about, but he give them a week or two to, to reflect. And then the second time it gives them a bit more information and then they may have questions and really not to the third one, are you asking them to make a decision? Because if you try to do it too soon and they're just do not know enough about it and you need to gently, gently bring them up to speed. People are naturally afraid of change. Especially if you think it could affect our role mm-hmm society. And you have to explain that you're there to a system deliver their objectives, you know? Tamlyn Shimizu 00:19:08 Yeah. Yeah. The communication piece is super important as always that we see. Um, so now I want to ask you a question that I know you're very accustomed with, cuz I saw it in your video as well. You explaining it. And it is a question that we ask every single guest, interesting to hear everyone's perspectives on it. So the question is, um, what is a smart city to you? Kieran Mahon 00:19:32 A smart city is a city that is more sustainable, accessible, inclusive, and it uses it leverages technologies to do all of this. Um, up to recently technologies didn't exist, but we have certain things. We have the emergence of advanced wireless networks, which is freedom to connect at. And I can come back to wireless networks. In a moment, you have the ability to have low cost sensors. So the agreement on standards allows you to start building sensors like Lego blocks, where you need a module for, for communicating. That's a module. You need a module that measures something. That's a module. You need a module for power. There's the module. So you can do things with sensors now and make them extremely low cost. So you can have lots of sensors and now you get information in real time what's happening. The next thing would be artificial intelligence at the edge. Kieran Mahon 00:20:26 You're going to have so much information coming off. The sensors, you now have to filter this. So, and happily AI at the edge is emerging as, as, as a, as a key neighbor of this, that it will filter and it'll baseline normal activity. And then only alert you when something unusual happens. So, so the, the emergence of all those things previously, weren't physically possible. Now I spoke about 5g networks, but there's also low power wide area networks. And these are networks optimizes for the internet of thing. If you want to send a tiny piece of information, like a temperature, every 15 minutes along, great distance use these low per wide area networks. And these are gonna be empowering the internet of things in. So the other 15 minutes, the device goes asleep, not like your phone, staying awake all the time. Now you have the ability to use batteries that can last up to five years, maybe even longer, the par these devices it's even possible that if you had a switch at the power view, clicking the switch could actually be enough to actually power these things forever. It could be self powering. So we all live. These amazing technologies are happening as we speak. And the whole idea of spar city is to bring them all together to address the challenges that cities have worldwide. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:21:46 Yeah. Good. Very nicely. Well rounded answer. Um, have you seen just as a small follow up question here, have you seen technology, um, make a city dumber? Kieran Mahon 00:21:59 Um, I, I, I don't think so, but I always think there, when I'm looking at something, I always wonder, is there unintended consequences of what you're doing? Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, we all can be blind to see what we're doing is super duper idea. We have to also wonder, is there a negative consequence for somebody else? Um, I haven't, I, I can't put my finger on anything else say that is, is made things cities worse and no, I can't say this at well on top Tamlyn Shimizu 00:22:30 <laugh> <laugh> good. Good. I'm glad you haven't seen any examples of that. So, um, yeah, and that's, that's all we have, unfortunately, this is a mini series, so I don't get to talk to you for too too long, but, um, I just want to say a huge thanks to you, Karen, for coming onto the show being so open talking about these matters. I can tell you're very, very knowledgeable about all of these, uh, the technologies, but also to do with, uh, building the ecosystems that are really, um, yeah. Making these technologies possible for the citizens. So, uh, yeah. Thank you so much. Kieran Mahon 00:23:03 Take care. Thank you very much. A pleasure being on. Thank you. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:23:05 Yeah, thanks. And to all of our listeners, don't forget. You can always create a free account on bable-smartcities.eu to find out more about smart city projects, solutions, implementations, and more. So thank you all. Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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