Pee Power technology returns to Glastonbury Festival for fourth year

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Technology developed at UWE Bristol that converts urine into electricity is set to be showcased at Glastonbury Festival for a fourth year.

An installation of a large 40-person urinal will return to a prominent location near the Pyramid Stage to raise awareness of the system, which is being commercialised as announced last year and introduced to off-grid areas in the developing world.

The PEE POWER® system can turn organic matter such as urine into enough electricity to power lighting or charge mobile phones. At the same time, it sanitises urine and produces plant fertiliser as a natural by-product.

Energy produced at the event will power lighting in the urinal block at night, while a new feature ‘Pee to Play’ will see festival goers playing retro games on Game Boys powered by the system. Visitors can rate their PEE POWER experience via an electronic display and give survey feedback to academic staff available to explain how the technology works.

The PEE POWER urinals – among 5,500 toilets at the festival – have been a fixture at the event since 2015 and used by thousands of people each day. In previous years, they have powered information displays, and helped charge phones and provide urinal lighting.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be welcomed back to this wonderful event for a fourth year and to be part of the festival’s environmentally-conscious sanitation campaign.

“There’s been much activity with our technology since our appearance in 2017, with the introduction of PEE POWER to schools in Uganda and Kenya supporting our aim to improve safety and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities including in refugee camps and slums. Our system is being refined and made more efficient, and for the first time we will be powering some of the applications directly, which means no batteries. We even hope to be generating surplus electricity, especially during the busiest times at the festival.

“As team of scientists, we’re hoping for greater interaction with the public this year and it’s the first time we’ll be recording public feedback on the system.”

Dr Xavier Walter, one of the main researchers in the team, added: “We hope our retro gaming exhibit will resonate with the audience and attract festivals goers to have a look at our technology and ask questions.”

Ahead of the festival, the microbial fuel cell technology will be demonstrated at a Family Day event at Heathrow Airport, where the system is being considered as part of a commitment from Heathrow and waterless urinal technology company WhiffAway to zero emissions and sustainability.

The team’s presence at Glastonbury is the result of a close collaboration with partners Oxfam, log cabin and garden building specialists Dunster House and WhiffAway in a collective effort to improve lives in refugee camps and areas of the world with no sanitation or electricity.

Chris Murphy, Owner and Managing Director of Dunster House, said: “It’s truly amazing what Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team have achieved over the past years. We feel proud and honoured to be part of this project every year since the earliest field trial back in 2015. From that single raised latrine placed outside the University, we are now providing a structure ready to accommodate up to 40 people. We’re glad to be back at Glastonbury 2019 collaborating in a life-changing project that can help people all around the world.”

James McLean, Group CEO of WhiffAway Group, said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be combining our cutting edge technologies at this wonderful event. By putting our heads together we hope to continue making a difference to the wider community and help change the world for the better.”

The PEE POWER demonstration is the flagship research project of a formal partnership between Glastonbury Festival and UWE Bristol signed in 2017 focusing on sustainability projects including waste reduction and energy efficiency.

How PEE POWER® works

PEE POWER® is generated when microbial fuel cells (MFCs) work by employing live microbes which feed on urine (the fuel) for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC taps a portion of the biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity or PEE POWER®. This green technology also cleans the urine so that the by product can be used as a crop fertiliser.

The Pee Power project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

UWE Bristol Alumni wins prestigious award

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UWE Bristol alumnus Neha Chaudhry was announced as the winner of the Innovation Award for the South West Region at the Medilink Healthcare and Business Awards 2019 for her business Walk to Beat.

Consequently, Walk to Beat came second in the national Medilink Healthcare and Business Awards and was the only company from the South West region to be nominated for the Innovation award. 

Walk to Beat is a med-tech start-up that aims to develop smart assisted living products to empower the ageing population. Their first product is a Smart Walking Stick designed for Parkinson’s sufferers to help them overcome freezing and walking problems.

Freezing in Parkinson’s feels like your feet getting glued to the ground and not being able to walk any further, eventually leading to falls. Scientific research has shown that any type of rhythm can help the patients to get moving again.

The Smart Stick monitors walking patterns and gives a cue through the handle in the form rhythmic vibration when a person freezes. This prompts the user to come out of the freezing episode and keep walking. This results in reduced duration of the freezing episode and lower number of falls.

Neha, who completed her Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees at UWE Bristol, is based within Launch Space, a graduate incubator within the Universities Enterprise Zone. The start-up also has support from the Health Tech Hub to progress the development.

A new version of the stick is now in development to further meet the needs of its users. Walk to Beat is currently looking for investment in order to mass produce the product. 

Congratulations to Neha! For more information on Walk to Beat please visit their website

Invest, Connect, Explore 2019

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On Wednesday 08 May, the University Enterprise Zone hosted their annual networking event: Invest, Connect, Explore (ICE) 2019.

ICE 2019 gave local businesses the chance to meet the ambitious businesses based in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone and hear about the support available to growing and innovative businesses across the region.

The event saw businesses from each hub share stories from inventors and business leaders about their cutting edge solutions to real-life health, technology and business challenges that society currently faces.

Over 100 delegates met with the diverse group of leading entrepreneurs from graduate start-ups to established SME businesses who are pushing boundaries and providing new ways to look at the world and businesses.

They were able to experience hands on the technology that is available within the University Enterprise Zone – experiencing robotic solutions to mobility, having fun with the latest motivational fitness technology and learning about how written mass marketing can be tailored and personal.

The University Enterprise Zone is an entrepreneurial community housing four hubs:

Launch Space: A graduate incubator that provides free desk space and business support for start-up businesses in the heart of our University Enterprise Zone.

Future Space: Future Space connects entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory: Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK.

Health Tech Hub: The Health Tech Hub helps businesses to develop and bring to market new technology solutions which promote health and wellbeing, particularly focusing on independent living and citizen-centric health

To find out more about The University Enterprise Zone please email UEZevents@uwe.ac.uk

Gestural musical gloves now available on pre-order

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Featured Researcher: Dr Tom Mitchell

Gestural musical gloves, technology originally developed at UWE Bristol by Dr Tom Mitchell, are now available for pre-order through a company called MI.MU. The gloves use motion capture and AI to enable wearers to create music with their movements.

The technology, which has been developed in partnership with Grammy Award-winning musician Imogen Heap, has already produced a small run of bespoke and handmade gloves for a select few musicians.

The product’s commercialisation now means that the gloves are half their original price and currently cost £2500 a pair. They have been designed according to the needs of musical artists and contain enhanced build quality and gesture control, improved electronics, and faster wireless communication.

In 2014, Ms Heap founded MI.MU, a partnership with UWE Bristol that also comprises fashion designer Rachel Freire, E-textiles designer Hannah Perner-Wilson, electronic engineer Sebastian Madgwick, scientist and musician Kelly Snook, musician and UX designer Chagall van den Berg, as well as Managing Director Adam Stark.

It was then made available to the public and saw the growth of a burgeoning community of performers making use of the gloves’ potential – from classical pianists, to film composers, beatboxers, and pop stars including Ariana Grande, who used the gloves on her 2015 ‘Honeymoon’ world tour.

Since 2014, Dr Mitchell and colleagues have refined the technology, streamlining designs with initial support from private investors and a range of academic and enterprise support including the EU Commission and Innovate UK.

Dr Mitchell said: “It’s exciting that we have managed to get to a point where the gloves will soon be available to all musicians. The gloves bring a new creative dimension to music performance, enabling musicians to create the movements that perform their music. I can’t wait to see what people will do with the technology.”

Imogen Heap, who uses the gloves as part of her performances, said: “So happy that we are finally able to extend the incredible superhuman feeling of having music in our hands out to a wider audience. You just have to remember to open your eyes during a performance, as it becomes so second nature!”
Adam Stark, Managing Director of MI.MU, said: “We are hugely proud to release the MI-MU gloves to musicians everywhere, and we can’t wait to see what they do with them.

“They are the result of years of research and development into new ways to compose and perform music. We believe they will enable musicians to discover new forms of expression, leading to new ideas, new performances and, ultimately, new forms of music.”

Featured researcher Dr Tom Mitchell

Tom is a Lecturer in computer music in the department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies at UWE Bristol.

Email: Tom.Mitchell@uwe.ac.uk

Phone: +4411732 83349

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore attends the official launch of the Foundry Technology Affinity Space at UWE Bristol

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Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, attended the official launch of the Foundry Technology Affinity Space at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

The Minister, who is also MP for Kingswood, met a number of university and digital industry representatives during the visit, including Professor Jane Harrington, UWE Bristol Deputy Vice-Chancellor; co-chairs of the Institute of Coding Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK and Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath; and Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding. The purpose of the visit was to hear more about this new facility, which is funded by the Institute of Coding and will equip students with vital digital skills and ensure they are ready for the workplace. This is a key part of the objectives of the Institute of Coding, a £40million project funded by the Office for Students and led by the University of Bath.

Developed through a research-led design process led by UWE Bristol Associate Professor Andy King, the industry-themed Foundry at UWE Bristol is intended as an ‘other space’ on campus, where students can build their professional identity through working with industry partners on paid projects that fit around their studies. Aside from being home to UWE Bristol’s Enterprise Studios, the Foundry will also be a digital event space, hosting a high-profile calendar of technology outreach and engagement events across cybersecurity, computer science, creative technologies and STEM subjects designed to widen participation around coding and digital skills.

Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said: “As we rely more on new technologies and cyber threats become more sophisticated, the Foundry Technology Affinity Space will provide the vital skills needed to meet the opportunities and address the challenges of the future. The impressive state-of-the-art facility with its cutting edge technology will introduce a range of innovative new courses for students, enabling them to go on and compete successfully in the global digital economy.

“This builds on our commitment to tackle this issue, and this government is funding projects to design out many forms of cyber threats to online and digitally enabled products and services through our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Professor Harrington said: “We were delighted to welcome Minister Skidmore to this fantastic new facility on our Frenchay campus alongside the Institute of Coding. The Foundry is a major investment that will connect our students with globally-renowned industry partners, and will give them invaluable insight into what digital skills and innovation the future workforce will need. Deep and meaningful collaboration with industry and the world of professional practice will hugely benefit our students not just during their degrees, but in their futures as they progress into the digital industry. I look forward to seeing what our students will create in this innovative new space.”

Dr Hourizi said: “The Institute of Coding is pleased to launch and support a new Foundry Technology Affinity Space, which will serve as a gateway for students to gain critical on-the-job experience through paid work with industry without disrupting their academic studies. With employers crying out for new candidates who are workplace-ready, and students seeking valuable experiences to bolster their CVs, this new facility will enable thousands of young people to begin the first step in their career.”

The Institute of Coding is a national consortium announced by the Prime Minister in January 2018 and UWE Bristol is a full member. To help fund its contribution to the Institute of Coding, UWE Bristol was awarded £1 million from a £20 million funding pot allocated by the Office for Students (formerly known as the Higher Education Funding Council for England -HEFCE) to improve the way universities train people for digital careers.

Facial recognition technology aims to detect emotional state in pigs

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Featured researcher: Professor Melvyn Smith

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology is being used in an attempt to detect different emotional states in pigs.

Machine vision experts at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have teamed up with animal behaviourists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Edinburgh for the study, which it is hoped will lead to a tool that can monitor individual animals’ faces and alert farmers to any health and welfare problems.

Pigs are highly expressive and SRUC research has previously shown they can signal their intentions to other pigs using different facial expressions. There is also evidence of different expressions when they are in pain or under stress.

At SRUC’s Pig Research Centre in Midlothian, scientists are capturing 3D and 2D facial images of the breeding sow population under various, typical commercial situations that are likely to result in different emotional states. For example, sows can experience lameness and could show different facial expressions relating to pain before and after being given pain relief. Detecting positive emotional state is more novel but sows are highly food motivated and appear calm and content when satiated. They hope this mood could be reflected in sows facial expressions.

Images are then processed at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, where various state-of-the-art machine learning techniques are being developed to automatically identify different emotions conveyed by particular facial expressions. After validating these techniques, the team will develop the technology for on-farm use with commercial partners where individual sows in large herds will be monitored continuously.

Professor Melvyn Smith from UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “Machine vision technology offers the potential to realise a low-cost, non-intrusive and practical means to biometrically identify individual animals on the farm. Our work has already demonstrated a 97% accuracy at facial recognition in pigs. Our next step will be, for the first time, to explore the potential for using machine vision to automatically recognise facial expressions that are linked with core emotion states, such as happiness or distress, in the identified pigs.”

Dr Emma Baxter from SRUC said: “Early identification of pig health issues gives farmers the potential to improve animal wellbeing by tackling any problems quickly and implementing tailored treatment for individuals. This will reduce production costs by preventing impact of health issues on performance.

“By focussing on the pig’s face, we hope to deliver a truly animal-centric welfare assessment technique, where the animal can “tell” us how it feels about its own individual experiences and environment. This allows insight into both short-term emotional reactions and long-term individual ‘moods’ of animals under our care.”

The study, which is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is also being supported by industry stakeholders JSR Genetics Ltd and Garth Pig Practice as well as precision livestock specialists Agsenze.

Featured researcher: Professor Melvyn Smith

Melvyn L. Smith is Professor of Machine Vision and Director of the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) at UWE Bristol. He is also a Chartered Engineer and an active member of the IET.  

Email: Melvyn.Smith@uwe.ac.uk Phone: +4411732 86358

Notes and links for editors:
https://bbsrc.ukri.org/research/

Relevant papers:

Hansen, M.F., Smith, M.L., Smith, L.N., Salter, M.G., Baxter, E.M., Farish, M. and Grieve, B., 2018. Towards on-farm pig face recognition using convolutional neural networks. Computers in Industry, 98, pp.145-152.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166361517304992

Camerlink, I., Coulange, E., Farish, M., Baxter, E.M. and Turner, S.P., 2018. Facial expression as a potential measure of both intent and emotion. Scientific reports, 8(1), p.17602.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35905-3

Knowledge Transfer Partnership with ExtraCare Charitable Trust introduces smart technologies to retirement villages

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In April 2018, UWE Bristol announced a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with ExtraCare Charitable Trust to help incorporate innovative technologies into its properties for the benefit of residents.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s recently opened ‘Stoke Gifford Village’ in Frenchay is home to an innovation apartment which showcases the use of devices such as smart kettles, a body dryer, remote-controlled blinds, video doorbells, integrated with intelligent sensing, to develop and demonstrate practical smart solutions to support active ageing.

The innovation apartment, next to UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus, allows ExtraCare Charitable Trust and the KTP team to trial the technology and gather data on how users interact with the systems.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s Executive Director of Marketing and Innovation Henriette Lyttle, said, “Our vision is to enable better lives for older people and to create sustainable communities that provide homes older people want and lifestyles they can enjoy. This KTP is an opportunity to pioneer the integration of technologies into our retirement villages in order to increase quality of life and prolong independent living.”

Prof Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor of Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, part of UWE Bristol, who is the academic supervisor leading the KTP commented:

“We are privileged to be working with ExtraCare Charitable Trust and to have the opportunity of testing, trialling and co-designing with residents and carers. This project will enable us to make a positive impact on supporting people as they age.”

ExtraCare Charitable Trust is the UK’s leading not-for-profit developer of housing for over 55s. Since 1988, they’ve operated retirement villages and smaller housing developments.

Find out more about KTPs here.

This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme (KTP).  KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.  This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

£6.5m project aims to drive digital innovation in the South West

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A project worth £6.5million is being launched across the South West to expand the use of digital technologies throughout the region’s creative, health and manufacturing sectors.

The new Creative Technology Network will bring together universities and industrial partners, pooling their research and innovation expertise to develop cutting-edge practices, techniques and products in creative digital technologies.

Supported by a grant from RESEARCH ENGLAND, and led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), the three-year project is a partnership with Watershed in Bristol, Kaleider in Exeter, Bath Spa University, the University of Plymouth and Falmouth University.

UWE Bristol Professor Jon Dovey is leading the project for the DCRC

As new technology, including automation and big data, raises new challenges and opportunities for businesses, this partnership is designed to respond to industry needs across the health and manufacturing sectors and the creative industries, driving productivity and resilience.

The grant is part of RESEARCH ENGLAND’s Connecting Capabilities Fund, which supports university collaboration and encourages commercialisation of products made through partnerships with industry. The funding will kick-start the project, which begins in April.

Professor Martin Boddy, who is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement at UWE Bristol, said, “We are immensely proud to be taking the lead on this exciting project which builds on UWE Bristol’s vision to work with partners to enhance innovation across the region and nationally. This new network will stimulate the regional economy and will undoubtedly lead to new products and new ways of working, all thanks to shared research experience and technical expertise.”

Professor Jon Dovey, who is Professor of Screen Media at the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries, and Education at UWE Bristol and leading the project for the Digital Cultures Research Centre (DCRC) said, “This project will bring together the best and the brightest researchers in creative arts, technology and design to work with companies old and new to show what new kinds of value can be unlocked by the application of creative technologies.

“We are going to be working with immersive media, processes of automation and the new availability of big data to support business to find new ways of working with their customers and our citizens. Watch this space for the amazing new products and services we invent in the next three years.”