Big Data is bigger than you think

Birmingham Sensor Network
Birmingham Sensor Network

Big data is bigger than you think, and it gets bigger every second, and so far shows no sign of slowing down. in in 2010 Google chief executive Eric Schmidt noted that the amount of data collected since the dawn of humanity until 2003 was the equivalent to the volume we now produce every two days.  the last date I can find, for data volume created in 2011 ,we created 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion GBs) of information, which is enough data to fill 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads, enough iPads to build a Great iPad Wall of China twice as tall as the original. I put the last comparison in, simply because I have no idea of numbers this big and the storage required to hold it.

According to IBM, every single day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. IBM argues that the exponential growth of data means that 90 percent of the data that exists in the world today has been created in the last two years. “This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, e-commerce transaction records, and cell phone GPS coordinates, to name a few.”

Birmingham, a city I grew up in and have lived for a good proportion of my life, is on the leading edge of the Big City Data, in a project called HiTemp, a team from Birmingham University have place  280 wifi enabled sensors  across the city, which are sub divided into three main groups :

  • Network 1 (coarse array): 30 AWS will be sited in primary electricity sub-stations (average spacing of 3km)
  • Network 2 (wide array): 150 air temperature sensors located on schools (one in every medium super output area (MSOA), or areas containing a population of 7,200)
  • Network 3 (fine array): 100 air temperature sensors located on lampposts in the CBD (50/km2)

A map of all the above can be seen on a live map showing the location of each sensor,  see todays photo, clicking on each sensor, takes you to the sensor page, which has a link to the data feed, and here we get all the info we need, live, from air pressure to solar radiation, to wind direction and speed, and more, each of these can be drilled to show the last three months of data.

The point of all this research is that we are now in a position to design houses, offices and almost any building, that can use this data to manage its own energy or more, say the sensors in Birminghan showed cloud cover increasing to the west, a building watching this could prepare, making sure its own solar array was getting the best energy, it could also team up with other buildings in a local a network to pool resources till the cloud cover opens up, and by looking at the sensors in the west, it will know when this might or will happen.

Each building will also need its own sensor array, passing info into the cloud to allow other buildings the same information. We can see this is not difficult and certainly not expensive.

To put the data explosion in context, consider this. Every minute of every day we create

  • More than 204 million email messages
  • Over 2 million Google search queries
  • 48 hours of new YouTube videos
  • 684,000 bits of content shared on Facebook
  • More than 100,000 tweets
  • $272,000 spent on e-commerce
  • 3,600 new photos shared on Instagram
  • Nearly 350 new WordPress blog posts

You might say this is meaningless, but if I can watch the tweets and use an algorithm to detect weather chat, I can integrate that into the sensor data to get a better picture, add face book, and google search, I am getting a dam good picture of weather.

Change the algorithm, and I suddenly get traffic and bus info, and a google message telling me to get to the bus stop, its a little scary, but for me I welcome this its not big brother, its good use of sensor data

Think Tank

stair protectionIn my time as a technical person within a manufacturer, i invented and developed many new products, some from my own ideas, some from other people, and just a few from Think Tanks, or brain storming sessions.

The article below is the beginnings of a lecture I am putting together for manufacturers, to consider hiring the expertise of a consultant like me, who are experienced in new product development,  to lead them down an alternative R&d path trying to look at the internal ways they have relied on for product generation, or not, to consider their own market and those around them, to take a deep look at their own Think Tank.

All construction component manufacturers should at least once a year preferably a lot more frequently, sit together and freely discus the existing product range and possible development to this range together with what products might be added or replace the range.

Making that decision is the first step, but, and its that word again, but, here starts the problems :

  1. The Staffs inability to freely discus the range,
  2. This might be related to the knowledge base he or she has,
  3. Fear, of being shown up, to not not wanting to criticise existing products,
  4. Fear of their boss.
  5. limited market knowledge
  6. The managements inability to let go
  7. To ridged an atmosphere
  8. The list can go on and on………………

The list can go on, simply making the decision to discus the range is good, but the ongoing ability to do this suddenly wains and so often the idea falls apart, or worse is added to the end of a sales meeting.

There is a better way, and that is to hire an external consultant to take a look at the company product range, internal training, if any, literature and marketing and evaluate it, not just the present range, but new  products, current and alternative markets

One route the consultant might take is to form an initial small limited group outside the confines of the office or factory, to tease and coax ideas and concepts out of the team, the idea here is to see what level of expertise the team has, its not about ideas that might change the world, but a fact finding mission to see what makes the leaders tick, you might just get some good leads, but thats not the goal here. I have done this so many times,  and is the real reason for independent consultant, to take time to evaluate the leaders. It might be the company has a Leonardo within it’s ranks and not know it. this first meeting is the time to look for the real people who can add products, and if its there, the blocks.

Next it’s time for the consultant to take this meetings notes and look at ways of developing and leading the team to  new highs, offering ways of looking at their products and showing them alternative concepts and methods.

So often manufacturers are limited in the construction knowledge, they consider them selfs to be experts in their field, and some are, but most are not, they disregard so many peripheral products as meaningless, not part of their profit margin, they loose sight of the real world. Their literature shows this. Perhaps the worst culprits are manufacturers trying to break in to new markets, limiting expenditure, not wanting to commit.

A good technical consultancy, and here I add the word technical for the first time, should start to widen this knowledge base, looking at their market, their research and note keeping methods, and above all, the ways of storing new concepts and ideas, its not alway the case and existing product line can travel well.

Next comes the pitch, the way new ideas are formulated, costed and evaluated. and by who, all the above work, might come to an abrupt end if it goes to a committee where any block might reside, this might be the “not invented here” block, or simply how can outsiders possibly understand a market we have been part of for so long. or my budget……….

So this stage needs to be confined to a single leader, the MD or equivalent, who should sign off on a range of ideas, and allow then to at least get to the next stage of evaluation, that of trials and lab testing.

The article now can be expanded, and the Think tank idea expanded, I will add sections at later dates that will form a complete presentation.

Todays photo is of out stair covering, its been down a week, and taken some heavy traffic, yet still remains in place protecting, I looked up the product at several distributors and a roll is less than £15,  lasting quite a time, and well worth even the smallest contractor considering.

Leon Musk takes solar to a new level

Carpet protectionIn the video below, Leon Musk takes solar to a new level, and gives a presentation that surely must have the major electricity companies shanking in their boots. It’s not the greatest presentation ever, but the content was very strong, and a massive boost to solar power..

The Tesla Powerwall  is a super efficient way to store solar energy on the individual property, in a single easy to buy unit, no more small battery unit links just a single unit capable of storing enough energy to keep a normal house alive.

Ok there has to be some changes in lifestyle, and we need to transition from AC to DC, which I might add is not the hard as a lot of units are ready there, plus we need a change in a lot of planning law to facilitate roofs to be correctly orientated, plus solar tracking, which already exists, but needs to come down to the domestic level.

Will we see the vast m2 areas of industrial units getting power soar cells, if I was a unit owner, I would investigate this. oh and the work for us detailing it, is an obvious market.

I like this presentation is shows the way, for us technologists, we have some work to do, better roof design, more solar orientation, and better city wide data to help home computers handle and plan the power we collect. Better specification of solar panels, and better internal designs to hide away the battery store, easier electric car charging  and storage. Perhaps even the ultimate goal of small networked groups of houses.

I also like Elon for his open patent comment, and his promotion of competition.

Todays photo is of the stair protection film put down by our plumber, who is just finishing of a bathroom remodel, neat, tidy and alway very clean.


New Moleskin

BeanoWell the title is wrong for a start, I have filled up my last moleskin, and was about to order another, when I saw that I have a note book empty on the shelf, I think a christmas gift, so not to waste a perfectly good note book, I have pressed it into service.

The paper is well cheap and does not have the feel or quality of a moleskin, but I can manage. Plus there is no elastic binder to keep it closed.

The Students have all managed to upload, on time !, there detailing module, its not often I get them all loading up on time, so who am I to complain, but the last minute workers, and some have been burning the all night oil, wanted advice, so the “Beano” moleskin got an airing this morning.


White Book

Cover-WHITE-BOOK-WEBAs always, I have my copy of the White book on my shelf, its the most heavily used piece of trade literature I have on my shelf, and one I make my students get, before they do any detailing, so I an please this morning to get an email telling me that the brand new White book is out and upgraded.

This video below tells all, and this link onto the site allows you to get your own.

One small point, the guy on the right of the web site is a pain, Why !!!!!!!!

Just as an update, I ordered miy copy two days ago, and it arrived this morning.



Using a Note Book

2Q==I have found an excellent book, which I intend to purchase, bySimon Unwin, on Using a Note Book, or moleskin, if the web page is anything to go by, its going to be a joy to read.

The web page has just so much, on the purchase, keeping and use of a Note book.from what to study and how to record it. At £24.00 for a used copy and nearly £30 for a new copy, its not cheap, but again if the web page is anything to go by its a must. I shall see if the library at Birmingham City Uni has a copy first, but I don’t think it will stop me purchasing a copy.

On the Web page are links to a pdf example of some of his work, neat, methodical and a joy to read, and a great example of what should be, although I so often say, its your book, make it yours not some one else’s.

the best example I thought was his Entrances, obviously done on a mole Skin, is a very nice read. You can find them under Resources, its a lecture in its own right, and such a good read.

Other links include Heart & Place, again on Moleskins and both ready good reads. all three I have downloaded into my Kindle to read later, I have a trip in July, and I think they will be a nice read, I plan to visit Quedelon in France, and I can easily see a few hours sketching and writing being the order of the day, Whilst my good lady takes the sun.

You might also want to read the entire web page, its just packed with so interesting information, what, how, why.

My own Moleskin is almost full, and I an going to order another from Amazon, I am just to lazy to plod into the local Art shop. But I can’t now be without it, I know it will improve my sketching, and note taking, but what has happened by keeping a moleskin, is I see more, I stop to look, and feel.

One last point, and its one I have made so many times, is convert the book as Simon has done, into pdf and save it to evernote, it’s then completely available for research, oh write neatly, Evernotes OCR is good, but ……….


Building Geometry

Building GeometryFor so long I have been looking for a copy of W J Stone Building Craft Series “Building Geometry” a classic little book that fits in with the others in the series by W B McKay, I am in favour of teaching my students to draw the old way, with board and pencil. I think it helps them to understand 3D a lot better, training the mind to see the detail as it is.

The book is packed with drawing methods rarely seem outside of engineers drawing books, but dedicated to construction. A worth while by @ £20.

Its all to easy to instruct a computer to add a staircase from floor to floor, and you expect the computer to work out the angle, going and rise, but is this right, for the new student, well the answer is no, we must train students to see and understand, by making them draw the detail, to scale.


CAD BIM, The Manufacturer or Client

Over the last few days, I have been taking an in depth look at BIM, not within the CAD community, who are very singular in their approach, to which CAD package they use, but to the wider understanding. By this I mean the clients who pay for buildings, and commission work, together with a fair number of manufacturers, who together have a very low understanding of CAD, BIM, and the new Architectural design process they are engaging.

Take a look at the CAD users, the Technologists and Architects, who are deeply immersed in the CAD technology, and embrace a lot of the new ideas that the creators of the current CAD programs have to offer. They are very singular in there approach, but they have to be, it’s would be a folly to design in one package and switch to another to detail, I have seen it done, and the confusion and mistakes pile up. Their knowledge of BIM, driven in part by the governments wish to use it on all their projects, and in part by the CAD companies who see it as a way to enhance their programs and sell upgrades, is constantly being upgraded, so often by experiment, but often by the background office teaching that goes on, hey have you seen this, the sneaker approach, they are usually at or just beneath the current end get of CAD, but the singular approach means they only know one side of a vast industry.

Clients on the other hand know so little, they rely on their team to advise and so often they accept what’s offered, after all they just want a building, paying little to the technology that’s going to design and help create it. This is a vast mistake, if a client is going to spend in the order of millions or even billions on a new building, part of his research, apart from the actual design, costing or material look of their build, is the CAD that’s going to create it, the impact of this technology on the running and maintenance of their building for it’s lifespan.

Next comes the manufacturers, and my starting point in all of this, they see BIM are the great messiah, the road to increased profits, we are BIM compatible, yet so many when questioned have little or no idea, they do not use CAD, and apart from a small section of the company probably have not even seen a CAD program being used. Yet they are going to increasingly be reliant on it, they thing bold words in an advert campaign will sort it out, and a web site with some downloads will do the trick. There are exceptions to the rule s I found out, but these manufacturers are small in number.

Then there are the marketing companies, the people who create the magic words that go to make the articles we read, that should convince us to use a certain manufacturer over another, I know most if not all the marketing companies I looked at are even farther behind the knowledge curve than the clients they purport to advice, and the companies they want to sell to.

So what’s the answer, my view is simple spend time to research the market, keep abreast of the constant changing CAD areana, and look further than your nose. For each individual sector there are going to be different rules, where do you stop, for a building owner, it’s the point of commission, the point at which he or she, appoints their architect to design a new building, once the line in the sand is drawn, he can’t change. For the manufacturer it’s going to be never ending, and not singular, they have to keep up to date with all different systems, and keep their products live in all of them.

For the Architectural staff, well we have never been far from the front end, but as I said before, we are very singular in our approach, and probably for good reason, we are there to design, detail, and communicate, in what ever CAD package we are asked to use, and may well stick to that package for a few years, only adding upgrade to solve bugs or add simple enhancements. But they also keep an eye on the CAD market, watching, learning, as the need arises, always wanting the next best thing.

For me, I sit back and watch, I have to lecture about, as well as use CAD, and the BIM technology it is encompassing, I need to stay on the cutting edge, so I read and try out all the different packages, watch the training videos. I also have to lecture on materials, their use and performance, and how CAD affects their use.

I post some of my lectures online, but they are so often geared towards students studying Architectural Technology, I have other, more selective lectures pointed at the client, and manufacturer, which I am prepaired to give to selected audiences. The dates, places, and method of these lectures I will post in the coming weeks.

Today’s photo is part of a CDM lecture I give on the need to record safety points on a site drawing.

Change In Layout Theme

DSCN0493With all the new changes going on in WordPress, mostly I suspect due in part to the Google search changes, I have had to change my theme, due to an incompatibility with the new wordpress stopping me adding links embedded into words, and adding photos, in fact most of the word precessing tool bar seemed not to want to work.

So until I find a better theme or they repair my old layout, this will be it for a few weeks or more.

So as William my old lab might say, I’m watching and learning. Todays photo is of William, just before he died, reason I have him here is because I have been saving more and more of my photos to Flickr, I use the Apple Photo as my main capture, but have Google picasa or what ever they call it, and I find Flickr is just the best of all three, the tags work, the editor is great, and I can do most of what I want, both from my mac or ipad or the Uni computer, but for some reason this new theme has placed the Flickr app right at the bottom of the right hand column, I need to fix this.

Masters in BIM

After mulling it over for more than a few weeks, I have decided to study for a masters degree at Birmingham City University. The lead up to this decision was long and hard, should I take on this work at 62, can I actually do it, will I have time, and most of all can I afford to do it, both in the loss of work I will almost have to turn down, and the actual cost of the course.

But, hey it's that word again, I have decided that all the above are outweighed by the satisfaction I will get and the degree I will hopefully obtain wil be the cap to a 40 year long career in Architectfure. It will also be the final turning point in my long career, as I move away from main stream practice and head down the academic route.

BIM, will affect us all, certainly we are seeing it in the production side, CAD is changing almost on a daily basis, and its effects are seem right across the industry, so taking on this monumental study task, is, in my mind done right at the beginning of the change.

So the form is completed, and I just have to check with my two references, and away it goes, and I start to build up my thoughts and reading, you all know I use Evernote to store almost all my research, when I am writing lectures, so it will come as no suprise to here Evernote is going to play a very big, important part of my studies.

Today's photo is a shot I took from a very old book, that I used to show one style of door in a lecture I have just given on doors, one of my students asked how I could talk for over an hour on doors, it's easy, there is so much to look at and learn, from this to the building regs.