April 15th, 2019

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



This feature describes how a Scottish Council has successfully used prepayment cards to make crisis payments from its welfare fund.

Fife Council is third largest Scottish Council, providing hundreds of different services to the residents, businesses and visitors of Fife. In 2015, Fife Council first started working with one of the leading UK payment specialist allpay, to disburse crisis payments for the Council’s Scottish Welfare Fund scheme through allpay’s prepaid card solution. The programme provides cardholders with funds to purchase items classed as living expenses, fuel, food, clothing, travel, utility payments and essential and day to day living expenses. In 2018 alone, the Council loaded more than £85k onto prepaid card accounts.

Those eligible for a prepaid card are citizens entitled to ‘Crisis Payments’ as defined by the Scottish Government, with card holders deemed to be in ‘Crisis’ where they have no living expenses until their next income. Often the instant issue card will be loaded due to an emergency and the funds spent within a few hours.

The introduction of prepaid cards allows the council to track and evidence successful and unsuccessful transactions made from the prepaid cards, negating the need for the cardholder to provide physical receipts.

Mary Williamson, customer service lead advisor, Fife Council explains: ‘We had a customer who had a very small baby and had applied to the fund for a pram, she wasn’t entitled to any DWP assistance, as she had previously had received a sure start grant. Due to the size of the baby it required to have a pram that it could lie flat in, however the customer was unable to afford this kind of pram. We were able to give this lady an allpay card to allow her to purchase the pram that she required.”

Rob McCloy, regional sales manager, allpay Ltd explains: “The preloaded Mastercard® can be distributed and used to pay for goods up to the value loaded on the card, offering a bespoke, managed and efficient solution to payment distribution. allpay currently works with around 50 councils across the United Kingdom enabling them to distribute the benefits of the prepaid cards for a variety of projects. Councils have used the cards to provide accessible funds for emergency accommodation for example, or to provide the facility to purchase specific products, or in Fife Council’s case, to provide payments for emergency living expenses. The prepaid cards offer a practical and efficient alternative to cheques, cash and vouchers.

Rob McCloy continues: “The award-winning prepaid cards ensure goods and services can be purchased at the point of sale, online, or over the telephone offering a prepaid solution for those in need, regardless of their financial situation. Potential users do not have to have a bank account or credit check ensuring full financial inclusion. All transactions made using the card are recorded and monitored to provide an audit trail and there is no credit or overdraft facility. Councils using the prepaid cards have been able to reduce the cost and administration normally associated with paying out funds.”

Mary Williamson, customer service lead advisor, Fife Council explains: “allpay allows us to get funds to customers in crisis quickly and efficiently. By using allpay, it allows our customers to have control over the money awarded to them. The card looks like a normal debit card and therefore there is no stigma for the customer using it. ”Fife Council required the facility to re-load the cards which was a restriction on the original product. Following the project approval and upgrade, Fife Council staff were able to reload the cards on an ongoing basis to cardholder accounts accessed through an online Organisation Portal.

Mary Williamson, continues: “The move to re-loadable cards was in response to the start of Universal Credit full service where much larger amounts are being awarded to customers for longer periods of time. This function allows us to split payments where necessary to help our customers budget more easily.”

When it came to implementation, the Council met with allpay to scope the project and understand the parameters of the scheme. Staff from allpay also assisted in the completion for the Council’s ‘Programme Overview’ document, which detailed the scheme’s and card usage requirements outlining how the cards can be used for point of sale (POS) and online transactions. The council also has the ability to allow or disallow access to ATMs, which enable the cardholder to make cash withdrawal, make PIN changes and balance enquiries.

Onsite training was provided for staff enabled them to gain knowledge of the use and functionality of the Cardholder and Organisation Portals along with the reporting capabilities of the system. Weekly calls monitored the progress of the overall implementation.

Transaction monitoring is completed by a lead advisor at Scottish Welfare Funds on a regular basis.

For further information please visit: www.allpay.net



Mike Winter, CEO of MIW Water Cooler Experts, explains how drinking fountains can counter the blight of plastic waste.

Barely a day goes by when we don’t see a story in the media about the blight of plastic on our society – its effect on wildlife, rising litter levels in our rivers and on our beaches, and the emergence of microplastics in some fish and seafood. According to DEFRA, the UK recycling rate for waste from households is steadily increasing (up to nearly 46% in 2017), and we seem to be on track to meet the 2020 target of recycling at least 50% of household waste; but recycling alone will not solve the problem – we need to take steps to reduce the amount of plastic we actually use on a daily basis.

A prime contributor to plastic pollution in the UK is the single use drinks bottle – 38.5 million plastic bottles are bought in this country every day, but only just over half are recycled, while 16m are put into landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day. Plastic bottles can take up to 450 years to break down once they reach the sea. Many of the popular bottled water brands consumed are transported hundreds of miles from their source, contributing to the 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year by the bottled water industry in the UK.

Blue Planet II and Blue Planet Live contributed to pushing the plastic pollution issue onto the front pages of national media and into the public consciousness – now residents, consumers, visitors, students and staff are increasingly demanding that organisations take action to reduce their plastic usage. Over the last couple of years this has led to more and more areas in the UK taking a stand against plastic water bottle waste by turning to the contemporary free-to-use public drinking fountain.

There was a time when free-to-use drinking fountains were found in every place of public gathering in the UK. The motivation then was the prevention of cholera, but as overall sanitation improved public fountains fell out of favour. Now they’re making a comeback and it is apt that our capital is championing the refill revolution – high profile venues such as Borough Market, ZSL London Zoo, Chelsea Football Club and Heathrow Airport have joined the public sector to offer free public drinking water to visitors. London pioneered its first public drinking water fountain in 1859, which at its peak was used by up to 7,000 people each day. Philanthropists started to contribute funds, and so more fountains were erected, and within 11 years there were 140 fountains in place across London.

Now London is once again providing safe drinking water to people on the move, with the recent rollout of public drinking water fountains and bottle refill stations by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority. MIW Water Cooler Experts donated 20 water fountains and helped to jointly establish the London Drinking Fountain Fund with the GLA and #OneLess last year, with the aim of reducing the capital’s reliance on plastic. The fund called on land and site owners across London to bid for a drinking water fountain. Bids were assessed by #OneLess and the fountains have been installed in high footfall areas in a mixture of busy shopping areas, business districts, universities, public visitor attractions, transport hubs, community spaces and open parks.

The average London adult currently gets through 175 single-use plastic water bottles every year; adding up to one billion at the city-level. The problem will be on a comparable scale in every area in the UK, and I would encourage local authorities and other public sector organisations to follow cities such as Bristol and Hull in rolling out drinking water facilities.

Compared to other European cities, Britain is rather behind the times when it comes to drinking fountain provision. Zurich is famous for having 1,200 historic water fountains around the city, all issuing drinkable water – yet The Guardian reported in 2017 that across Greater Manchester, with a population of almost 2.8 million, there were no council-maintained drinking fountains – with those that had been installed, decommissioned. However – this is set to change with MIW’s installation of two water fountains in Bury in partnership with Refill, United Utilities and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) as part of the Mayor of Manchester’s Plastic Free GM Campaign – the first of many which we hope to see rolling out across the North West.

Perhaps we should also look further afield to Australia – where residents of the town of Bundanoon in New South Wales voted to ban plastic water bottles in 2009 – or to the US, where in 2017 San Francisco banned packaged water on city property.

We have to remember that bottled water is a relatively recent phenomenon, in the 30 years since we founded MIW, we have seen vast changes in attitudes to single use plastic. Bottled water only became mainstream in the late 1970s following slick marketing campaigns, and initially consumers were sceptical about paying money for something they would normally get for free. That initial scepticism soon gave way and the consumption of bottled water in the UK has almost doubled over the last 15 years.

However, there are positive signs that we are starting to revert back to our refill heritage. More and more of us are switching to using a refillable water bottle, instead of hundreds of single-use bottles. In fact, according to a recent survey, 65% of us wouldn’t buy bottled water at all if tap water were more freely available.

Schools, universities, museums and hospitals are taking the plunge – along with local councils up and down the country – including sites in historic locations such as the Natural History Museum and the Horniman Museum in London. Organisations planning new buildings or extensions, such as the V&A in Dundee, are including public water provision at the design stage.

A report released last year by Keep Britain Tidy found that 78% of people in the UK would like there to be greater availability of free tap water, and the public sector can show its commitment to a plastic free future for users by providing free, filtered drinking water in a range of key areas – if last year’s scorching summer was anything to go by, it’s more important than ever that people are able to keep hydrated on the move without resorting to buying bottled water. Authorities can track the number of bottles they’ve saved from ending up being bought and thrown away by using the device installed in the fountains and refill stations –an effective way of demonstrating the impact to residents and key stakeholders.

The latest models of outdoor fountains are tougher, safer and more accessible than ever before. Hygienic and efficient, they can be plumbed into practically any indoor or outdoor space, delivering water without any of the waste, litter or expense associated with contained drinks. Clever design means that once they’re installed – something that can usually be completed with minimal disruption if a sensible site is chosen – very little maintenance is required. Unlike their predecessors, current models of water fountain and bottle refill station are also vandal proof, weather-proof and corrosion-resistant, so there is very little in the way of on-going costs – and the evidence is that people love to use them.

Kingston Council recently unveiled the first of a number of new fountains to be installed across the borough in its historic market place, which has proved to be a hit with the public, providing clean and readily available drinking water for cyclists, families, shoppers and tourists alike.
While plastic waste is an issue that is not going to go away, we hope that we continue to see forward thinking public sector organisations making bold decisions to help hydrate people whilst they’re on the move – and make drinking fountains as much part of our street landscape as the post box – you might even find communities sharing an outdoor ‘water cooler moment’!

By Mike Winter, CEO of MIW Water Cooler Experts (www.miw.co.uk)
Formed in 1989, MIW now supplies over 7,000 businesses and public sector organisations with Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) approved public drinking fountains, bottle refill stations and water coolers, and is the UK’s leading authority on outdoor drinking fountains. For the last 30 years MIW has been developing and building innovative, high quality products for some of the UK’s leading public and private sector clients including Southampton and Bournemouth Universities, London’s Borough Market, ZSL London Zoo, Greater London Authority, Staffordshire County Council, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, Chelsea Football Club, Scottish Water and The Bank of England.



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?uk.com


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 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK-QCYAFmx0] 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 (http://neo4j.com/)



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.”