For someone with a wealth of brain power such as Nottingham Trent University’s Prof. Eiman Kanjo, linking pervasive societal problems with targeted, cutting-edge technology to devise solutions is more than just a passion; it’s a vocation. Hence why she has worked consistently for the past two years as an integral partner in Nottinghamshire County Council’s 5G Connected Forest project.
“I'm a professor of Pervasive Computing and Mobile Sensing at NTU, where I lead the Smart Sensing Lab and the basic computing group within the university’s computer sales department,” says Prof. Kanjo. “We build sensing systems where we collect and label data, and then analyse it, with the data coming from devices like wearables or edge devices or IoT devices. Then we try to come up with insights or interventions to support people to change their behaviour or to support a particular community or other sorts of applications.”
Whether mental wellbeing or crime prevention, the idea is that the data collected can be manipulated to form discrete interventional solutions to address commonalities. Prof. Kanjo’s years of experience working at prestigious universities on mobile and smartphone technology ‒ as well as other technological and digital foci ‒ makes her an ideal partner for NCC in developing forward-thinking tech with alternative aims and outcomes. As such, she had a crucial role to play in developing the 5G-enabled IoT and AI platform called TagWithMe (www.Tagwithme.com). Central to this is an app developed for Rufford Country Park called ‘Tag in The Park’. But what is this app and how does it work?
“Visitors will be presented with 16 different points of interest across the location, in the form of small images. When they get close to one of these points of interest, the related devices embedded around the park can detect their presence and it triggers one of three types of challenges. These are AI challenges, where visitors have to point their phone ‒ with the camera on ‒ towards part of the feature, which could be a sculpture for example,” Prof. Kanjo explains. “Then the phone, using AI technology, will recognise that sculpture and give them some information about it. One of the other IoT challenges is to find and tap a nearby tag. The third challenge is a quiz where users are presented with a question they have to answer, and they are shown three different options to choose from.
She continues: “When they complete that particular challenge, they get a point. The idea is that, when they reach a specific score, they will be rewarded with a coffee or a sweet treat and so on, which can be decided by the venue managers. These points can be carried out for other visits, for example, if this is built into a subscription based kind of system.”
Following the restrictions of the pandemic, which called for isolation, social distancing and multiple lockdowns, the app is a welcome reprieve for those who have missed in-person connections, fresh air, and beautiful scenery. Now, it is being considered for other applications in the locality, including mental health, physical activities and crime prevention use cases.
“We are looking at ways where we can put a system or test bid for different regions or councils, helping people to be aware of the issues or problems in their local areas, or be offered some kind of information as to who to reach and increasing social prescribing. So, in a way, it could be location proximity-based.
“We also work with end-user organisations who are helping us in terms of how we can customise this for crime prevention. We work with a number of police forces in Nottingham and London to see how this tech could be used to improve crime prevention in those areas.
“I could also imagine it in a school, where the whole lesson is given in an open space in the courtyard, or in the playground, where they have different areas around the playground and the children have to visit each one to learn about specific parts of a topic.
“Right now, though, we are preparing for a test bid with a mental health hospital in Nottingham, because it's very relevant to what they want to achieve in terms of engaging their patients, staff and medical students in the natural environment around them. In the little garden they have near the hospital, we are embedding our devices to see if we can help in terms of storytelling and motivational messages.”
So, what exactly does Prof. Kanjo envision the future of this technology being?
“We are currently looking at improving the processing power and ability of these devices, and moving towards edge computing, which will enable us to connect these devices collaboratively. So, in a way, they can share intelligence to serve the communities and bridge the gap between the physical and remote.”
We can’t wait to see such a future take shape.
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