November 26th, 2018

News: Can Graph Technology Help in Society’s Fight Against Diabetes?



Information management expert David Jones
discusses why digital transformation may be being held back

For some it’s an overused phrase, but every
organisation really is on some kind of a Digital Transformation journey. The
heart of such a journey: understanding, anticipating, and redefining internal
and external customer experiences.

The problem: digital transformation is being
hampered by a rising tide of information that is overwhelming organisations.
According to The State of Intelligent
Information Management
report published earlier this year
by AIIM, the leading association representing the information management
profession, while most organisations continue to increase the number of content
systems they use, the majority of critical business content (54%) remains
outside of these content management systems — making them increasingly hard to
find and manage.

Progress is being made when it comes to managing
specific types of information and processes, but clearly organisations face an
increasing volume, variety, and size of content assets that must be managed.
The increasing volume of incoming
information, and the speed at which we must ingest this information is plain to
see — and legacy/manual approaches to this are struggling to keep pace. But
it’s often under-appreciated how the sheer size
of the files that must be managed is also a factor. There are more digital file
types (videos, images, audio files) that organisations must manage today than
ever before. This creates ongoing information governance challenges, especially
for assets that must be managed over long retention periods.

These new kind of  ‘rich media’ challenges are becoming an
increasing issue in the public sector. For instance, more and more law
enforcement agencies such as the Police are using CCTV and body-worn cameras on
officers as a means to gather evidence, and these rich media files need to be
effectively managed. And it’s not just law enforcement firms — NHS Trusts
struggle with CT/MRI scans, X-rays, photographic records of patient injuries
and progress of conditions, etc. Meanwhile, local authorities are dealing with
the rise of photographic-based citizen records. All of this is contributing to
Information Chaos, and none of the traditional enterprise content management
(ECM) systems were originally designed to properly work with these types of

The Scope and Scale of the Information Chaos Dilemma

Public servants working under these conditions
are struggling, particularly when it comes to information), access and
retrieval. Finding the right information in a timely way is a big problem
identified in the aforementioned AIIM study by three out of every four  (76%) of respondents. Other big issues
identified in the AIIM survey was information overload by (75%) and the cost
and/or difficulty of managing legacy applications by (65%). Keeping up with
compliance regulation (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA) features as a problem for nearly
two-thirds of respondents (64%).

AIIM also asked how easily practitioners could
integrate information across systems:

  • The ‘Inability to connect information from
    different systems’ was an issue for 79% of respondents
  • ‘Scaling our information management systems to
    other processes beyond the original deployment’ is recorded as an issue by 71%
  • Meanwhile, a lack of integration between content
    management system and core business applications is acknowledged as a headache
    by over three quarters (74%) of those polled.

The scale and
nature of information management has changed, and legacy document document
management (DM) systems and  ECM
solutions no longer cut it  in today’s
fast-paced digital world. The good news is that a successor technology, the
Content Services Platform (CSP), is emerging to help, and can deliver real
benefits to the public sector.

The Content Services Platform – a Modern Approach to Information Management

provides  the foundation for a modern
approach to information management because it’s built using modern technology —
not technology that was  built 10 (or
more) years ago, in a time before mobile and cloud had taken off. That means it
can natively manage all of today’s data and content types — video, audio,
social media, etc.— not just scanned documents and Word files.

Plus, CSPs can
act as an organisational information hub
— not just for data and content stored within the CSP itself, but by connecting
to information stored in the multiple (legacy) systems deployed throughout the
organisation. This is key, as a CSP can provide a Police Force, NHS Trust or
Town Hall users with a single place to go to in order to store and retrieve
information, reducing time wasted searching for files across multiple systems.

By connecting
disparate information systems, the actual value of what lies in those legacy
systems can be unlocked, and the many data-driven applications and potential
analytic-led digital public services many of us would like to see can finally
start to be delivered.

No need for rip and replace

Many public
organisations are now realising how they can  deliver significant cost-savings by reducing
search time, increasing access to information, and enabling information sharing
via the cloud and mobile devices. This, in turn, results in higher productivity
and rapid return on investment (ROI).

So as a sector
let’s consider the future of information management. While modernisation has
pushed many organisations to update their IT infrastructure, many aren’t ready
to take the full leap yet. However, CSPs can actually help with IT
modernisation by preparing organisations to move towards new systems at their
own pace — and in turn, to better serve their employees and service

Rather than using
a ‘rip-and-replace’ strategy, with a CSP connecting systems together, migration
becomes  an ongoing process towards
legacy system retirement, done over a more relaxed timescale that a rip and
replace project. This reduces the impact and disruption on the users and  ultimately delivers a long term reduced cost
of ownership. Indeed, without a CSP — or technology like it — the British
public sector will continue to struggle along, never truly boarding the train
to start the Digital Transformation journey. It will persist with solutions
that were fine for yesterday’s problems, but not for today’s challenges, let
alone tomorrow’s.

The author is VP
of product marketing at



Last week the Government launched its annual Green GB Week
to highlight the opportunities clean growth offers the UK and raise
understanding of how business and the public can contribute to tackling climate
change.  A key theme of the week was
financing the low carbon economy and clean growth.  Heat networks are expected to be at the
forefront of this growth.

The Government has a legally binding commitment to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.[1]   Heat currently accounts for around 18% of the
UK’s existing greenhouse gas emissions (by way of comparison, power is around
21% and transport is 24%).  Meeting such
challenging climate change targets will therefore require complete or
near-complete decarbonisation of heat.   

Heat networks, as proven technologies for providing lower
carbon heat to domestic and commercial customers, have the potential to play a
key role in the long term decarbonisation of heating, and local authorities can
contribute significantly to their success in this emerging sector.  Local
authorities’ involvement, particularly as a principal driver in the development
stages of a project, can help realise the many benefits of heat networks, while
also delivering jobs and growth.

Many local authorities may recognise the potential benefits
of developing a heat network, but lack the expertise and/or finance required to
pursue such ambitious schemes.   The
Government, therefore, is providing support to help facilitate the delivery of
heat networks:

  • Heat
    Networks Delivery Unit (HNDU):
    Established in 2013 the HNDU seeks to address
    the obstacles local authorities face when considering developing heat networks by
    providing grant funding and guidance on project development. Since its
    inception, HNDU has run 7 funding rounds – awarding £17 million in total – and
    is currently running Round 8. Over 200 unique projects have so far been
    supported across 140 local authorities.

  • Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP): Launched by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on the 16th October 2018 HNIP is a major Government investment project which will see £320m of capital funding made available for the development of heat network projects.  The funding, made up of a combination of grants and loans, will be available from April 2019 and is offered as “gap funding”.  Local authorities are encouraged to apply for the funding for a period of up to 3 years and it is hoped that the scheme will leverage around £1bn of private sector and other investment to support the commercialisation and construction of heat networks.
  • Published Guidance: BEIS have also commissioned various pieces of guidance relating to heat networks.  As recently as August this year the following were published with a view to guiding local authorities (and others) on various aspects of heat networks:          

For further information on heat tworks please contact charles.robson@wbd?


Can Graph Technology Help in Society’s Fight Against Diabetes?

Neo4j’s Emil Eifrem reports on how Germany is using graph
technology in combination with AI to make connections in research that no-one
else is doing. Is this something the UK’s health sector leaders should also be

Diabetes is
one of the most widespread diseases worldwide, and increases not only of type 2
diabetes in our ageing population but also of type 1 diabetes will present
major challenges to the NHS in the coming years – type 2 diabetes in children
has risen 40% in three years amid Britain’s obesity epidemic, for instance.

policymakers are using all the tools they can summon to try and help. In
Germany, for example, the country’s national Centre for Diabetes Research (DZD)
is looking to investigate the causes of the disease and, through new scientific
findings, develop effective prevention and treatment measures to halt the
emergence or progression of diabetes. DZD is an instructive example of what can
happen with diabetes research when a new way of tackling the problem is

A ‘master database’ to consolidate diabetes information

Based in
Munich, DZD brings together experts from across the Federal Republic to develop
effective prevention and treatment measures for diabetes across multiple
disciplines, and to see what treatment the latest biomedical technologies may
offer citizens dealing with the condition. In order to better understand
diabetes’ causes, its scientists examine the disease from as many different
angles as they can.

researchers, then, combine basic research data sources – genetics, epigenetics,
metabolic pathways – with data from clinical studies. Connecting this highly
heterogeneous data is a challenge, but necessary in order to answer biomedical
questions across disciplines.

its IT leadership decided it needed a better way of connecting this research
data from various disciplines, locations and species. Besides connecting data
sources, it wanted an easy-to-understand visualisation of data and easy
querying so that scientists benefit from it. The result is a ‘master database’
to consolidate this information, and provide its 400-strong team of scientist
peers with a holistic view of available information, enabling them to gain
valuable insights into the causes and progression of diabetes.

In search of
a suitable data tool to build such a system on, Dr Alexander Jarasch, the
Centre’s Head of Bioinformatics and Data Management, drew on experience gleaned
from previous work on a project at Munich’s Helmholtz Zentrum. That had used a
graph database – a positive experience that prompted him to test graph
technology at DZD, specifically Neo4j’s graph software. Dr. Jarasch has thus
offered his colleagues a new internal tool, DZDconnect, built in graph software
that sits as a layer over the various relational databases linking different
DZD systems and data silos. DZDconnect is not fully implemented yet, but DZD
staffers can already access metadata from clinical studies in the prototype –
and are particularly impressed by the visualisation and the easy querying it’s
made possible.

‘The more detailed the information, the easier it is to
identify relationships and patterns’

Many researchers wonder if graph databases
(technology that powered the Paradise Papers
investigation, among other intriguing examples of cracking big data problems)
could help in the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of major illnesses
and so save lives. Why? Because not only is graph technology ideally suited to
depicting hidden relationships and discovering unknowns at big data scale, it
is also able to handle dynamic and constantly evolving data – something that
medical thinkers say is vital with scientific or bioinformatics analysis

“With graph technology we were able to combine
and query data across various locations,” Dr. Jarasch enthuses, adding that, “Even though only
part of the data has been integrated, queries have already shown interesting
connections, which will now be further researched by our scientists.”

In the long term, as much DZD data as possible
should be integrated into graph database, Jarasch believes, noting that the
next step is to see how human data from clinical research will be complemented
with highly standardised data from animal models, such as mice, to find
communalities or other insights.

It’s not just graph software that is being
employed. AI techniques like Machine Learning in combination with graph
software will play a key role going forward, says DZD, with a particular area
of interest being building a system able to ‘read’ scientific texts and
integrate them into the database ready for analysis.

The promise
is that the more detailed the information, the easier it is to identify
relationships and patterns – which could really help in cracking the diabetes
problem. The kind of innovative data management and analysis approach DZD is
pioneering could well be the way forward in precision medicine, prevention and
treatment of diabetes – and, perhaps, other diseases.

Given that the NHS needs as much help combating
diseases as possible, could graph technology’s innate ability to discover
relationships between data points have an important role to play in fighting
not just diabetes, but many other problems? The DZD example does seem to suggest
this is a pathway worth exploring.

The author is co-founder and CEO of Neo4j, the world’s
leading graph database



The collapse of Carillion and cuts in public service capital spending are having a devastating effect on sub-contractors. Major construction companies secure most of the public service contracts who then sub  contract to smaller companies. The pain resulting from the collapse of companies and public sector cut backs is spread across the sub contractors, who often are least able to stand the financial stress. This effect is illustrated by  the case of Newcastle Joinery Limited which was taken to the brink and is now fighting back.

just 27, Jamie Greenwood, the managing director, borrowed nearly £1 million to
acquire a business, which, ultimately, developed into NJL. For two decades, the
company has manufactured bespoke joinery and commercial interiors, delivered
across various sectors underneath the NJL umbrella: NJL Custodial, NJL Secure
and Yorkline.

the years, NJL has employed specialists in their respective field, all of whom
have possessed attributes and skills to deliver an award-winning product. From
craftsmanship to customer service, the offering is exceptional – illustrated by
playing a pivotal part in helping Whitworth Chemists, based in Scunthorpe, win
back-to-back Chemist and Druggist Pharmacy Design awards in 2017 and 2018.

as has been well-documented, the construction sector has been crippled over
recent years. In January 2018, Britain’s second biggest construction firm,
Carillion, collapsed under billions of pounds of debt. Jobs were sacrificed,
pensions were put in jeopardy and approximately 30,000 smaller subcontractors were
left out of pocket and faced with financial peril.

last three years have been particularly tough, but the last six months,
according to Jamie, have been the “worst ever”.

explained: “We have been bullied and lost obscene amounts of money as a result
of the construction crisis.

with main contractors, like Carillion, has left us with terrible bad debts. The
prison service employed us directly for 15 years, but then the maintenance of
prisons was outsourced to Carillion and others and, as we now know, that proved
to be a catastrophic error.

another project, we were employed by a main contractor to assist the build of a
secure hospital; however, once started, the project was delayed, bills weren’t
being paid and, bluntly, we were battered and commercially-bullied as a result
– this happened a lot.”

a commercial and personal point of view, this took its toll on the company –
redundancies were made, contracts dried up, and emergency talks took place
within the company about how to stabilise the business.

explained how this was achieved, changing the company’s condition from
‘critical’ to ‘stable’: “We had to rationalise our business. Letting people go
was soul-destroying – I think people’s livelihoods and state of well-being have
got lost within the fighting and debt collecting – but we had no choice.

we don’t have a choice in working with large construction firms, as they
pick-up most of the new build and refurbishment projects generally, we are now
mitigating the risk; for example, we manage credit very tightly, obtain credit
insurance or bonds and don’t sign up to contracts with clauses allowing the
construction firm to kill us.

Chemists is one of our most trusted and loyal clients; we receive a brief,
we’re paid on time and we deliver a professional service on time – that’s how
it should work. We are going back to our roots, manufacturing bespoke
furniture, and not chasing big money orders – that way we have a more
manageable, sustainable and less-stressful business as a result.”

the last few months, NJL has been pounded, been taken to the brink, but with
the tenacity, dedication and experience that Jamie and his experienced senior
management team have at their disposal, he is confident that the company can
return to its former glory and inject some happiness back into a sector that
clearly needs a positive news story.



Cloud technology is becoming popular in the public sector, but there are downsides. Martin Lipka, Head of Connectivity Architecture at Pulsant, offers advice about taking a migration decision and offers suggestions for minimising the problems that can arise and for getting the full benefits.

The journey from IT stored in a head office to IT stored online, in the cloud, can be long.
There may be pockets of turbulence. But handled well, cloud technology can help public-sector organisations improve their digital services, innovate, cut costs and respond quicker to citizens’ needs.

Cloud technology (software or an IT service that’s delivered over the internet) has been around for more than a decade. The market (which ranges from Google’s email service, Gmail, to vast datacentres and entire back-office financial software systems) has grown steadily. It’s now standard in the private sector.

But the cloud’s benefits (being able to ramp up computing power at short notice; pay-per-use IT; the potential to save money) are not confined to business.
Cloud technology is increasingly popular in the public sector. Organisations in both sectors face similar challenges ? tight budgets, pressure to become digital-service providers.
“ … National governments typically see cloud as a long-term pathway to strategic IT modernization, whereas local and regional governments tend to pursue the immediate tactical benefits of innovation and cost savings,” says Neville Cannon, research director at Gartner, a research company.

Yet, as the private sector has found, the journey to the cloud can be tricky. Challenges include migrating legacy IT systems, which can be more than 40 years old, and training staff in new technology and business processes.

And as the cloud technology market grows, the amount of choice and jargon can be confusing.
How can public-sector organisations decide whether the cloud is right for their IT? And if they do move part of their IT to the cloud, how can they minimise any disruption and maximise the benefits?

Counting clouds

First, let’s be clear about some terminology. Not all clouds are the same.
Computing clouds can be private (used by one organisation), public (organisations sharing computing resources in vast online clouds run by tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Alibaba), or a mix of both public and private, and cloud and IT stored on a company’s premises (“hybrid”).

Computing clouds have different shapes. The main ones are: “Software as-a-Service” (software applications that are hosted and run by a supplier for customers; “Infrastructure as a Service” (hardware, storage, servers and data centre space or network components that customers use to run software applications on, e.g. enterprise resource planning, data analytics); and “Platform as a Service” (PaaS); software developers use it as a platform for running software programmes and apps.

Business case

IT should serve the business, not the other way around. Using cloud technology will require a change in an organisation’s mindset as well as its business processes and software and hardware.

Staff will need training. And spending on cloud will affect an organisation’s balance sheet. (Much cloud computing is charged for pay-per-use, rather than an annual fee for traditional software).

Before moving to cloud technology, public-sector IT heads and other executives should answer three questions.
• What’s the compelling business reason for cloud technology and digital transformation?
• What are the technology challenges that the organisation must comply with?
• And what technical solution can be put in place to solve it?

Moving to the cloud

Map your applications, workflows and IT infrastructure.
You’ll probably discover IT systems you didn’t realise you had. Where’s your most important data e.g. financial, personal data on citizens that may highly damaging if hacked or leaked. When are IT systems used? By how many employees? How do they share data?
Work out how much your IT costs to run and their efficiency, e.g. how often they’re unavailable each day.

These calculations can help you work out if the new cloud technology is performing better than your old IT. Migration in IT is notoriously tricky ? particularly for old, back-office systems that few of your staff may fully understand. Some of your IT may be old and complex, meaning that it’ll be hard to integrate it with new cloud technology. It may be easier to carry on running old IT yourself and not to bother trying to connect it to the cloud.

Working with a trusted partner, an IT supplier or consultancy, can make the move into the cloud less daunting and help you save time and money.

Your IT partner will help pick the right type of cloud (public, private, hybrid) and the layers of technology within it (e.g. Infrastructure as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service).
You can also get help picking the right supplier by using the UK government’s “G-Cloud framework” – an agreement between the government and supplier on the basic terms and conditions of cloud computing services. The government says that using the procurement framework is quicker and cheaper than doing individual deals with suppliers.

The human factor

A successful move to the cloud involves three things – technology, people and process.
Technology will include picking the right hardware and software, keeping data secure and creating a plan for moving different parts of your business to the cloud.

The people part of a cloud project will include training staff how to use the new technology and adapt their ways of working to the new technology.

The process part of a cloud project may include changing administrative procedures (e.g. payroll, HR forms) and checking that they’re compliant with regulations, such as Europe’s new data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What access to IT systems does each employee need? Where’s personal data stored. Does your supplier comply with data and financial regulations?

It’s a lot to consider. But as the benefits of cloud computing become clearer, delaying a move into it (even a gradual move) could leave your organisation playing digital catch-up with your peers.



The POLE data model – Person, Object, Location, Event – is a great fit with graph databases and graph algorithms to help security and investigative teams operating in areas such as policing, anti-terrorism, border control and social services, according to Emil Eifrem.

Put simply, graph databases are designed to treat relationships as first class citizens in the data model, making it simple to join up the dots in large amounts of seemingly random data. Graph database technology has been central to a number of global investigative projects such as the Panama and Paradise Papers where it was used to mine enormous datasets at scale.

Graph database technology is a powerful enabler at effectively spotting criminal activity such as uncovering fraud rings and uncovering patterns to break up organised crime. Providing these insights based on data connections is an invaluable way of supporting law enforcement agencies, social services and other government departments in their fight against crime.

A decade ago, a G8 country’s immigration authority, for example, adopted graph database technology to allow it to visualise relationships and connections to help them work more effectively with individual cases that had been flagged up by border control officers. It found that knowingly hidden connections stood out when viewed via a system created to manage connected big data. This allowed the team to run real-time queries to spot criminal networks and fraud rings. Something that previously had been complex and extremely time consuming.

Graph database technology is also being explored as a way to enable a highly responsive informal learning system including social media, designed to support rapid decision-making.

The concept is centred around how people are connected. If one person has come to the attention of the authorities, who are they connected to and are they worth monitoring. They may be in a relationship with someone who has previously been convicted for fraud, for example. These insights can be used to support ongoing criminal investigations or start new ones based on findings.

This level of complexity is very hard to capture through conventional database technologies. Graph database technologies have been designed specifically to mine this connected data and visualise the connections.

Taking POLE position

Law enforcement agencies are examining the use of the POLE (Person, Object, Location, Event) data model for working with crime data.

Graph database technology and graph algorithms’ ability to join the dots and find connections in large amounts of data makes it a natural fit for POLE, which can be extended even further by linking in data visualisation using software tools such as Bloom.

We recently took a public dataset of a one month’s worth of street-level crime in Greater Manchester, for example, and linked it to a number of data sources ranging from geotagging data to addresses to randomly generated personal data to see how intricate a picture of these connections we could create. We soon built a database of 29,000 crimes in 15,000 locations, generating a staggering 106,000 relationships between the nodes. This test [] shows the sheer power that graph technology can bring to POLE investigations, maximising resources – especially where policing departments are under budgetary constraints. Together they can quite literally re-shape criminal investigations on large and small scales.

There is little doubt that graph database technology and crime data can work together to drive data driven investigations and help law enforcement authorities, police forces and government agencies to better protect the public in a world where crime and security threats are on the increase.

The author is co-founder and CEO of Neo4j, the world’s leading graph database (



João Fernandes looks at the way navigation software has the potential to bring a whole range of improvements to everyday life.

Outdoor navigation technology matured many years ago; we now walk around with a detailed map of the world in our pockets. But what happens when you enter a building? The navigation drops out. That’s because map technology is enabled via GPS (satellite technology) is rubbish at picking up phone frequencies from within buildings.

Fortunately, solutions to this particular problem have already been developed. Most use Bluetooth beacons positioned around a building’s interior to ping a user’s mobile device, allowing an app to pinpoint the user’s location to within a few feet. Of course, there are more sensitive solutions which allow for centimetre-accurate positioning, but that’s usually overkill for something the size of a person.

These beacons are steadily becoming cheaper and more reliable, making them a cost-effective solution for most large and complex indoor environments, such as hospitals, airports, and sports stadiums. Every environment has its own unique technical challenges to be ironed out, however, meaning indoor navigation requires an expert consultancy rather than a DIY approach.

BuzzStreets, for example, is working on a number of pilot projects with hospitals, offices, and stadiums to iron out these kinks, while Google is offering DIY indoor mapping without navigation features.

Soon we will see the combination of these technologies, providing a quick and simple solution for public buildings, towns, shopping centres, businesses and hospitals of any size. At this point, we will quickly reach a critical mass and the whole world will be navigable – indoors and out. You’ll be able to go from your front door to the specific room, that you need to be in, within the building you are visiting. Navigation will take you all the way – not just to the outside door by reception.

But It’s not just about getting to the right place – it’s about the journey too. Indoor environments, particularly hospitals, civic offices, even shopping malls and offices, will need to change in order to engage visitors and supply them with the information they need.

Indoor navigation could also pave the way for a more automated system of moving people around. Doctors’ and patients’ schedules could be integrated so they know when to move from Orthopaedic Outpatient waiting area through to the x-ray room when it is their turn, for example.

While they wait, they could be provided with information about the procedure in the form of an augmented reality (AR) demonstration. The orthopaedic department may offer physiotherapy instructions, for example, making better use of the patient’s waiting time.

Imagine going into a shopping mall and seeing marine animals swimming through the air, with games and news appearing on virtual screens around you. As you approach your favourite footwear shop you can already see whether they have the shoes you wanted before receiving a special discount code. As you step inside the lighting changes and your favourite band plays softly in the corner.

When visiting an office or public building, indoor navigation data could be used to trigger events, such as pop-up videos and other information.

Some offices already display promotional information on screens dotted around the building. These could be made a lot more immersive, allowing the client to select the information they are interested in and save videos to view later on. They could even get a visual demonstration of how the council has been spending tax payers’ money and the benefits this brings.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a sci-fi vision. BuzzStreets is already playing around with AR ideas such as these to offer patients useful information and keep them entertained while they wait.

When handsfree, wearable devices become the mainstream, this futuristic vision will become a reality. Until then, we will still need to use our smartphones and tablets as a window to this world.

Data is the key. It’s big, it drives decisions and choices, it can make life easier. For hundreds of years we’ve been improving our transport systems, our public services, healthcare, and everything else, through a combination of guesswork and the scientific method. Results are slow to come and never seem to capture the whole picture.

With a global population of over 7,000,000,000 people and rising, the world can’t wait for the results of a five-year trial before making important changes. The world is too complex and fast-moving for that traditional approach. Gathering data in real-time allows us to put our theories to the test, develop new models, and make useful changes quickly and accurately.

How do people move around your hospital? What route do they take to the airport? Where does your mall get the highest footfall? When are people most likely to buy food at a stadium? Why are people visiting your office block?

Data can help answer all of these questions and many more. Businesses can optimise their environments to improve the user experience, save money, and change our lives.

The same approach can also be applied to inanimate objects, such as hospital equipment. If you need a specialist piece of equipment, but it’s not where it should be, location data can help you track it down. Perhaps you find that some equipment is regularly moving long distances through the hospital building, in which case perhaps it would save time and money to buy a second machine.

There are almost infinite ways in which the data gathered by navigation software could be used to improve our lives. The only limit is our imagination.

About the Author
João Fernandes is the Founder and CEO of BuzzStreets, a B2B navigation and location-based services solution. We combine indoor and outdoor navigation with technologies such as augmented reality and proximity-triggered offers, to create a bespoke solution for customer engagement. The analytics the solution can also be invaluable in improving building efficiency and keeping track of vital equipment. Particular verticals that could benefit from BuzzStreets include: Shopping Malls, Stadiums, Hospitals, Airports and Offices.




People who think differently have unique skills and talents which can be squandered without managerial awareness and careful thought. People who think differently have different brain functions which include dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia.

According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body for HR and personal development, only 10 per cent of organisations include neurodiversity in their HR People management practices.

The CIPD highlights the unique strengths of neurodivergent people which range from data-driven thinking to sustained focus over long periods, an ability to spot patterns and trends, and the capacity to process information at extraordinary speeds.

As a result of the findings of the survey, the CIPD, in collaboration with Uptimize, the leading provider of neurodiversity inclusion training, has developed a guide for employers to raise awareness and understanding of neurodiversity at work, and the simple workplace adjustments needed to enable people to perform at their best.

Dr Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD, said: “We’re just scratching the surface of understanding how neurodiversity at work can help organisations be more creative and innovative, but the insights we already do have show the unique value that neurodivergent individuals can bring to the workforce.

However, even at a time when employers are under pressure to identify new talent pools to fill skills gaps, recruitment and development practices are screening out such individuals and the unique skills they possess. Rather than measuring potential employees against a long wish list of capabilities, we need to be clear on the key skills each job requires and enable people who possess those to play to their strengths.”

“Ultimately, everyone has the right to feel accepted and included at work and organisations have a responsibility to be a place where everyone can reach their potential. While workplace adjustments will be dependent on individual need, they are often small and inexpensive, and many actually benefit everyone. Why wouldn’t you want a more navigable intranet or clearer communications with your manager?”

Ed Thompson, CEO of Uptimize, said: “In the past, attention was solely on the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals at work, but now leading employers are documenting the huge advantages of employing people who literally think differently. We believe that embracing neurodiversity can be a significant competitive advantage – organisations have the opportunity to leverage the skills of this high potential, available talent pool. Our guide can develop employer awareness and understanding of neurodiversity and provides practical suggestions to make your organisation neurodiversity smart.”



New analysis by the leading think-tank for the North of England, IPPR North, has found that London will receive £4,155 per person, compared to £1,600 in the North. A gap of £2,555 per person.

This means that planned transport investment in London is almost 2.6 times higher per person than in the North. Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East are the English regions set to receive the least planned transport spending.

The new independent analysis comes after government published its own regional breakdown before Christmas and wrote to MPs claiming it had reversed the historical trend.

IPPR North has commended the government for sharing new data and producing its own “official analysis” of the national infrastructure pipeline but it claims many will find government figures misleading as less than half of planned spending is included.

Crucially, the government analysis excludes all spending which takes place after 2020/21 despite the infrastructure pipeline being a long-term planning tool.

Nearly £12 billion Transport for London spending is also excluded following a deal between the Transport secretary, Chris Grayling, and London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, allowing London to keep its own business rates to spend on transport. The deal means that London will no longer contribute to transport spending in the rest of the country and stands to benefit by £240 million next year and more in the years after.

Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North, Luke Raikes, said:
“Despite the Transport Secretary’s recent statements, London is still set to receive almost three times more transport investment per person than the North. This is indefensible.
“The North has been underfunded in comparison to London for decades, and our figures demonstrate that ministers have failed to redress this imbalance. This failure will continue to hold back the North and the country until the government acts.

“The government has improved their analysis of these figures but they have then excluded almost half of the spending for which they are responsible. A disproportionate amount of that excluded money is for London.

“Instead of disputing the figures the government needs to invest in the big, transformative projects being developed in the North such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“The government is making Transport for the North a statutory body but it must give it similar powers to Transport for London so that it can encourage business investment and borrow for its own infrastructure instead of going cap in hand to central government.”



Emma Toublic, head of education information and business systems at Essex County Council, talks about the local authority’s quest to create a single record of a child from birth to adulthood, and the positive impact this is having on the lives of children and families.

The benefits of joining up disparate sources of data to create a secure and central pool of knowledge on children and families cannot be underestimated. This has been our aim here at Essex County Council for the past two years.

We launched an initiative to bring different pieces of data together so that authorised staff within our education support teams have the information they need to see a fuller picture of a child’s life and circumstances.

It was not until we embarked on this journey that we realised what a difference it would make, both to our staff and to the families we work with.

Building a clear picture

Our ultimate vision is to create a single record of a child, from birth to adulthood that can be accessed by those staff who have the appropriate permissions and we are well on our way to achieving this.

The starting point to taking a more joined-up approach to data was to review the way our teams shared information about the children and young people they support. This was key to ensuring that the right information could be put in the right hands, at the right time.

If you are a caseworker for a young person with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who suddenly stops attending school, for example, your objective is to get the child back into the classroom as quickly as possible. But to devise an effective action plan, there are some key pieces of information you need.

You could make a more informed decision about how to support the child if you know that they were excluded from their primary school two years ago, for example, or that an older sibling in the household has a history of truancy.

The aim was to ensure practitioners can access the details they need to make good decisions for the children and families they are in contact with.

Creating a knowledge hub

The review of data sources revealed that Essex County Council had no fewer than 700 disparate databases, spreadsheets and filing cabinets of information used by children’s services teams.

This meant that it could take time for practitioners to gather the information they needed to establish the reasons why a child with SEND might start missing school, for example. Could it be due to problems with their daily transport? Or had the child been struggling to cope with incidences of bullying?

We wanted our staff to have these key details to hand so that they can
prevent delays in getting a young person such as this who has disengaged from school back into the classroom. So, using Capita’s One management information system, we changed the way we recorded and stored data and created a central hub for information on children and families.

Timely interventions

The system is the foundation stone for a single record of every child that will follow them through to adulthood. This view of a child draws together data right from early years, through primary and secondary school and into youth services.

Staff with the relevant authorisations can access this record, and add to it, whenever it’s necessary, smoothing the way for more effective multi-agency working.

So now, a caseworker can look at child’s record and see if there is a change in their circumstances or a parent who is receiving additional help from the council, helping them to make the right decisions at the right time to make a difference.

Information exchange

With a more effective way to share data in place, we can work more efficiently too. Previously, we would need to arrange meetings for up to 10 different people to discuss the support requirements for a vulnerable child and each professional would bring with them their paper records and notes.

But these days, authorised practitioners can access the system in a few clicks and see the details they need. With key data being shared securely across relevant teams, staff are much better equipped for informed decision-making.

Another key benefit of storing information centrally is that it is easier to support staff when they are out visiting families. Everything a practitioner needs to know about the family is on the system, so they will know and can prepare in advance if there is a dog at the address or there has been an incidence of violence reported, for example.

Future provision

One positive impact of launching this initiative is that it has enabled us to make appropriate arrangements for children not just now, but in the future too, as we have the tools we need to support accurate financial forecasting.

When we are notified of a toddler in the area with a disability, for instance, the relevant team has the information they need to support the family appropriately. It will also enable us to look ahead to the type of provision the family may need in the years to come, from transport to school, to help entering the workplace once they reach adulthood.

And if parents need to inform us of any changes in circumstances, it’s much easier for them to do so. They can go online and register a change of address, a new school or care need, and having told us once, everyone who needs to know will be informed.

Cloud technology

We want our staff to be able to focus their time on activities that support children and families. With this in mind, we opted to hold our data securely in the cloud, so staff don’t need to spend time dealing with day-to-day software issues, or systems maintenance.

With our software upgrades scheduled to take place overnight, or at a time that is convenient for us, the system is ready to use when our staff come into the office in the morning. One of our key tasks, processing offers for school places, took just 15 minutes this year.

Next steps

The next step is to bring in key information from our children’s centres, such as hearing test appointments and parenting classes. With registrar services incorporated, we will be well on our way to delivering our vision of a single record of a child.

This hub of knowledge will sit at the heart of the joined-up service delivered in Essex County Council, enabling us to provide early help where it is needed to improve the future prospects of children and young people across the region.