Tag Archives: Sensors

Living With A Digital Twin: CASA Research into IoT technologies at Here East on the Olympic Park

Last week as part of the final project for my PhD I completed the installation of a network of eighteen environment sensing devices at UCL’s Here East campus on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The custom built devices have been donated to this project by the Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI). For the next four months each device will be measuring temperature, humidity, air pressure and ambient light levels at different throughout the Here East Campus on a minute-by-minute basis.

Each of the sensor devices is connected to the internet and participates in the Internet of Things (IoT) by transmitting the data they collect to a cloud-based platform that aggregates it for further analysis. That data will simultaneously be visualised in real-time in a dynamic 3D model or ‘Digital Twin’ of the Here East campus. In this way changes in the state of the building’s internal environment will be mirrored, in the instant they occur, by corresponding changes in the site’s 3D digital twin.

The technology has direct application for building and facility managers who want the ability to monitor the environmental conditions of the sites they operate in real-time. In this project we attempt to take the technology further and make it more participatory by opening up the digital twin system to other building occupants.

To this end the digital twin at Here East is being augmented with openly available data relating to the site’s wider physical and social context. In addition live data feeds from the internal sensors, the digital twin will also incorporate information on external environmental conditions and interactions via social media. As the study proceeds further feeds of information can be added as required.

In the coming weeks the digital twin will be made available online. Visitors to the site will also be able to interact with the sensors more directly using their mobile phones with the aid of beacon technology installed in each of the sensor devices. Efforts are also being made to open the data to interested researchers.

The objectives of the project are:

  • To operationalise the use of IoT and Digital Twin technologies in the built environment
  • To understand how building occupants and visitors interact and engage with IoT
  • To explore and asses methods for visualising and interacting with sensor data and IoT systems in real-time

If you wish to read more about the project a paper I presented at the GISRUK 2018 conference is available for download here.

Authors: Oliver Dawkins, Adam Dennett, Andy Hudson-Smith, all authors from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis University College London WC1E 6BT.

Note: This blog post has been cross posted on the CASA website news pages here.

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Nature Smart Cities: Visualising IoT bat monitor data with ViLo

In the past weeks I’ve been collaborating with researchers at the Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI) for Urban IoT to integrate data from bat monitors on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park into CASA’s digital visualisation platform, ViLo. At present we are visualising the geographic location of each bat monitor with a pin that includes an image showing the locational context of each sensor and a flag indicating the total number of bat calls recorded by that sensor on the previous evening. A summary box in the user interface indicates the total number of bat monitors in the vicinity and the total number of bat calls recorded the previous evening. Animated bats are also displayed above pins to help users quickly identify which bat monitors have results from the previous evening to look at.

The data being visualised here comes from custom made ‘Echo Box’ bat monitors that have been specifically designed by ICRI researchers to detect bat calls from ambient sound. They have been created as part of a project called Nature Smart Cities which intends to develop the worlds first open source system for monitoring bats using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. IoT refers to the idea that all sorts of objects can made to communicate and share useful information via the internet. Typically IoT devices incorporate some sort of sensor that can process and transmit information about the environment and/or actuators that respond to data by effecting changes within the environment. Examples of IoT devices in a domestic setting would be Philips Hue Lighting which can be controlled remotely using a smartphone app, or Amazon’s Echo which can respond to voice commands in order to do things like cue up music from Spotify, control your Hue lighting or other IoT devices, and of course order items from Amazon. Billed as a ‘”shazam” for bats’ the ICRI are hoping to use IoT technology to show the value of similar technologies for sensing and conserving urban wildlife populations, in this case bats.

Each Echo Box sensor uses an ultrasonic microphone to record a 3 second sample of audio every 6 seconds. The audio is then processed and transformed into an image called a spectrogram. This is a bit like a fingerprint for sound, which shows the amplitude of sounds across different frequencies. Bat calls can be clearly identified due to their high frequencies. Computer algorithms then analyse the spectrogram to compare it to those of known bat calls in order to identify which type of bat was most likely to have made the call.

The really clever part from a technical perspective is that all of this processing can be done on the device using one of Intel’s Edison chips. Rather than having large amounts of audio transmitted back to a centralised system for storage and analysis, Intel are employing ‘edge processing’, processing on the device at the edge of the network, to massively reduce the amount of data that needs to be sent over the network back to their central data repository. Once the spectrogram has been produced the original sound files are immediately deleted as no longer required. Combined with the fact that sounds within the range of human speech and below 20kHz are ignored by the algorithms that process the data, this ensures that the privacy of passersby is protected.

This is a fascinating project and it has been great having access to such an unusual data set. Further work here can focus on visualising previous evenings data in time-series to better understand patterns of bat activity over the course of the study. We also hope to investigate the use of sonification by incorporating recordings of typical bat calls for each species in order to create a soundscape that complements the visualisation and engages with the core sonic aspect of study.

Kind thanks to Sarah Gallacher and the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for providing access to the data. Thanks also to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for enabling this research. For more information about bats on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park check out the project website: Nature Smart Cities.