Cisco’s challenge wins UNSW’s The Maker Games
Cisco Australia & New Zealand
Distinguished Services Engineer
I attended the final of University of New South Wales (UNSW)’s The Maker Games on Saturday, 14 October 2017, and am pleased to announce that one of the Cisco sponsored teams called “Raven IoT” won the $25,000 first prize trip to Silicon Valley!
The Maker Games is a rapid prototyping competition open to all undergraduate students at UNSW. The premise of the program is to address real world problems, where students build a physical prototype in response to one of industry-related challenges submitted by nine leading companies, including Cisco.
86 UNSW engineering students signed up, and from 115 pitches, the industry partners selected 17 teams of four to six students whose proposals they wanted to take forward and mentor, working with the teams over seven weeks to help refine their ideas.
Michael Boland, Cisco Distinguished Systems Engineer, and I provided three Internet of Things (IoT) challenges to UNSW; Gas Cylinder Tracking & Telemetry, Smart Smoke Detector, and Personal Protective Equipment.
I had the honour of mentoring the Gas Cylinder team who won the prize, decided at a five-hour marathon of pitches and demonstrations! It was an incredibly satisfying result, as right from the beginning I could see this team of very bright students were extremely diligent and well organised to solve the problem. Team Raven included Henry Blumentals, Matthew Eyles, Vanja Videnovic, Michael Irwin and Matthew Buffa.
The challenge we set was to develop an advanced capability tracking sensor with very low-power requirements to monitor and track gas cylinders. I think one of the biggest advantages Team Raven had was the variety of disciplines they brought to the project in the areas of computer science, mechatronics, aerospace and renewable energy engineering. The team developed a prototype that they tested by moving gas cylinders around the UNSW Kensington campus and tracking them via a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) radio technology called LoRa.
The prototype developed by the students was well thought out and went beyond just tracking, which is a very common IoT use case. It used a suite of sensors including gyroscope, GPS module, temperature and pressure that transmit cylinder telemetry over LoRa to a management console.
The students put a lot of work into the cylinder collar design to fit all the sensors and battery using 3D prototyping. I was really impressed by the end result which can be retrofitted to gas cyclinders and bottles. I think one of the factors that clinched the prize for them was that they actually built a working prototype using LoRa radio technology on a real gas bottle. Apart from the satisfaction of mentoring the next generation of inventors, what Cisco gets out of this is a working prototype that we can then use in our demonstrations. It’s just a phenomenal achievement by the team given they only had seven weeks to develop the prototype.
I spend a bit of time speaking with various Service Providers around the globe. They are all interested in creating new revenue streams, moving up from the world of connections to collections, where they can add value to the things they connect. Low power technology like LoRa or NB-IOT (Narrow Band IoT) is of great interest as it allows connection to things that have never been connected before. If a Service Provider can extract data and convert it into a service this allows them to become what I term, a Knowledge Provider. Customers will pay for that knowledge if it helps them run their business or improve their lives.
A common theme is tracking services, whether it be for pets, trolleys, medical equipment, or in our case, gas cylinders. We proposed the Gas Cylinder Tracking & Telemetry as a challenge because it was a common discussion point amongst Asian carriers. Small gas bottles are used for cooking in many homes where there is no piped gas. This can cause not only safety issues (fires, leaking gas), but also inadequate visibility of supply and demand for the gas bottle supplier. By constantly monitoring the supply, the bottle can advise the supplier, where it is, when it needs replacing, or whether there are any issues with the integrity of the bottle. This makes gas bottle management much more efficient and reduces operating costs.
To take it one step further, in a future iteration of the solution we could add machine learning capabilities, so that the system can predict with much more accuracy when the gas bottle needs replacing based on usage patterns. If a customer is in default of payment, the supplier could shutoff gas supply from the bottle through a remote command.
The future is bright for LPWA technologies such as LoRa or NB-IoT, and connecting gas cylinder & bottles for tracking and telemetry is just one of the many use cases IoT technologies can bring.