Briefing

Written by on 1 July 2014 in Briefing

A round-up of people, deals and events

PEOPLE

■  What’s the link between Katie Cotton, who as Vice-President of worldwide corporate communications at Apple, helped steward the announcement of some of tech’s most transformative products, and legendary record producer Jimmy Iovine, recently hired by the company as part of its acquisition of Beats Audio? Why, Bruce Springsteen of course! As our picture suggests, Cotton, who is retiring from Apple, is a fan of The Boss. Iovine, on the other hand, was the young recording engineer who in 1975 delivered the finished recording of Born to Run to the singer at a hotel where he and his manager Jon Landau were staying. When Springsteen, a notorious perfectionist, finished listening, he got up, took the record and threw it in the swimming pool. Fortunately, Landau eventually persuaded Springsteen not to scrap the album. A tenuous link, we know, but hey, it’s The Boss, Apple and Jimmy Iovine; what’s not to like?

■  Professor Dame Wendy Hall was presented with a special Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. One of the world’s leading computer scientists and one of the most influential women in UK IT – the award recognised Professor Dame Wendy Hall as an “extraordinary role model”.

■  Former UK Government Deputy Chief Information Officer Michael McGrath took over as Ireland’s interim CIO, succeeding Bill McCluggage, who left last February to form his own company.

■  Learning provider Brightwave, which counts Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, City of Edinburgh Council and Clyde Valley Council among its clients, appointed Fiona Nunn as Head of Solutions Operations and Phil Horton as Head of Solutions Sales.
 
■  The UK’s National Crime Agency appointed Jamie Saunders, Director of international cyber policy for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as the director of its National Cyber Crime Unit. Saunders’ career started in 1988 when he joined GCHQ. Since then, he has undertaken a range of policy, operational and technical management roles.

■  Sam Foster, who spent a year with St Andrews University’s IT services team, was named by Microsoft as its 2014 Scottish Modern Apprentice of the Year, beating 450 other nominees.

■  BT appointed former GCHQ and Ministry of Defence programme manager Les Anderson its new Vice-President of Cyber, in the company’s efforts to protect itself and its customers from attack.

■ This summer, six young Scottish entrepreneurs, winners of a wearethefuture.org.uk competition, will visit Silicon Valley to meet representatives from technology companies, including Apple and Hewlett Packard, business accelerators and venture capital funds. They are: Calum Leslie, creator of Wooju, an app that allows you to solve indecisive moments with your friends’ help; Ola Clark, founder of Monomise, a reward-based smoking cessation programme; Ian LeBruce, founder of Cappuccino Ads, a marketing solutions provider; Craig Lynn, managing director of Filament PD, a product development agency for the “new industrial revolution”; Sonny Charles, founder of Spoilty, a customer rewards system aimed at the SME sector; and Ross McNairn founder of Dorsai, a business travel administration tool.

■  Edinburgh-based technology consultancy FarrPoint appointed technology and security specialists David Myatt and Simon Bennett as it looks to expand its business into the north of England. The firm also hired Edinburgh Napier University graduate Agnieszka Stachowiak, an expert in law, ICT and online media, as a consultant.

■  16-year-old Martha Gilmore was among the winners of EdinburghApps’ Road Safety Hackathon, which saw web designers, developers and programmers pitch hi-tech solutions created using data made available by Edinburgh Council and partner organisations. Gilmore’s mobile app rates the safety of crossing places using GPS.

■  Aberdeen-based global enabling software and integrated personnel logistics specialists, Collabro, has appointed Lekshmi Thampi to support worldwide sales and client servicing for its project management tool, Legare.

DEALS

■  Learning provider Brightwave announced the renewal of its contract with Clyde Valley Learning Development Group, a partnership of 21 councils. The four-year contract will build on the success of the programme, the only one of its kind in the UK, allowing councils to collaborate on e-learning projects and quickly develop and roll-out courses. A recent report said the programme had also achieved savings of close to £10m.

■  A pre-tender has been issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the provision of a managed service integration and management (SIAM) service desk providing problem-solving, incident, service request and knowledge management services, valued at between £10m and £20m. The current DWP SIAM contract is due to expire at the end of August.

■  Network Rail has awarded contracts worth £28.8m to Thales UK for the first phase of a new nationwide traffic management system for Britain’s railways. Ultimately, the system will consolidate control from more than 800 signal boxes into 12 state-of-the-art operating centres, cutting costs by £250m, reducing delays and providing more information to staff and passengers.

■  A two-year £6.3m contract with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was announced by Capgemini to support the upgrade of the FCO’s enterprise resource planning  system that manages the finance, procurement, projects, HR and payroll functions.

■  Google is to buy Skybox Imaging, co-founded by Stanford University graduate Dan Berkenstock, in a deal that could see the launch of its own fleet of satellites to take aerial pictures and provide online access to remote areas of the world. The £298m acquisition of the satellite company will initially enable Google to improve the quality and immediacy of the imagery used in its digital maps. Google plans to use Skybox’s satellite, which is already in orbit, to supplement the material it licenses from more than 1,000 sources, including other satellite companies such as DigitalGlobe and Astrium. Skybox has built 24 of its small, lightweight satellites packed with sensors and camera electronics that take high-resolution images and videos of the earth.

■  Joint winner of the up-to-£325m Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN) contract Capita has agreed to buy its SWAN contract partner Update Infrastructure for £80m. The two companies have had a strategic alliance in Scotland since October 2011, working together on contracts for local authorities in West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Fife and East Lothian.

■  The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a tender for a national security vetting solution, worth between £10m and £20m, which is due to replace the current system and contract which expires in November next year.

■  A Glasgow-based company set up by an ex-IBM employee has bought a New York rival to become the world’s largest low latency cloud provider for algorithmic trading. BeeksFX VPS – which helps both retail and institutional foreign exchange traders run automated trades more quickly – has bought rival company Gallant VPS for an undisclosed seven-figure sum.

■  The Home Office is searching for a new provider of its emergency services communications contract, worth between £555m and £1.2bn. The new national mobile communication service aims to deliver integrated critical voice and broadband data services to all three emergency services as well as other users throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

■  Edinburgh-based Craneware, which makes billing software for the US healthcare sector, won three deals in April worth £6.4m.

■  Technology consultancy FarrPoint joined forces with Edinburgh Napier University in a knowledge transfer partnership which will see them explore new ways of identifying cyber security threats.

■ IT services company Atos announced a contract with the Scottish Government executive agency, Disclosure Scotland. The initial two and a half year ‘Protecting Vulnerable Groups Interim Maintenance Contract’ began at the end of May, with the option of renewal for another two years.

■  Glasgow and Edinburgh-based business intelligence specialist Eyeacademy was approved to provide cloud services under the G-Cloud 5 Framework Initiative. The news followed the announcement by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, that total spend on the G-Cloud framework since its 2012 launch had exceeded £175m.

■  Lochgelly-based wireless networking specialist Rapier Systems, which recently completed the Aviemore-to-Cairngorm Mountain wireless link, has been awarded the Tayside Procurement Consortium contract, worth up to £500,000, a shared procurement service for Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross Councils to support their wireless network.


EVENTS

A programmable world: How the cloud will enable the creation of a ‘planetary computer’

“That’s where we’re headed,” said Larry Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology this month, referring to the film Her.

The protagonist, Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, has software on his smartphone that seems to know all about him. It has read his email, his text messages and the books, magazines and everything else he has read.

It has seen all the films he has seen. It knows his buying habits and preferences. It retrieves information and answers at his whim. It communicates with him by talking, conversationally, in the voice of Scarlett Johansson.

“That kind of hyper-personalised assistance is going to be common in 10 years,” Smarr told The New York Times in June. “It will appear to be on your smartphone or Google Glass, but it will actually be in the cloud.”

In 2011, Smarr wrote an essay for the Times in which he described our “evolution toward a programmable universe” in which the cloud will create a “distributed planetary computer of enormous power”.

Smarr said: “Over the next 10 years, the physical world will become ever more overlaid with devices for sending and receiving information.

“As we look ahead, the fastest supercomputer - the ‘exascale’ machine - will be composed of one billion processors, and the clouds will most likely grow to this scale as well, creating a distributed planetary computer of enormous power.

“Such computational power, co-located with the gigantic storage that holds the data from all the incoming data streams, will enable faster-than-real-time simulations of many aspects of our physical world.

“Computing will have evolved from merely sensing local information to analyzing it to being able to control it. In this evolution, the world gradually becomes programmable.”

Sensors and analysis of data stored in the cloud will be used to control our environment and monitor our health, said Smarr. So-called human sensors – generating signals via social media – will make the early detection, even prediction, of events commonplace.

“Conceivably, the coupling of the sensor and human streams with planetary computing power will make it possible to create ‘social forecasts.’

“For good or evil, it seems inevitable that individuals, corporations, political leaders and intelligence agencies will come to use planetary computer models of social behavior to inject content into the global attention stream at just the right moment, hoping to steer the social dynamics to a desired outcome.

“With the continuing exponential increase in the power of the planetary computer, one has to wonder whether we stand at the beginning of what Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, more than 60 years ago, called ‘psychohistory.’

“His visionary genius Hari Seldon believed that statistical forecasting of human society’s actions would be possible with data from enough people throughout the galaxy. In the next several decades, we will have a glimpse of whether something similar can emerge on planet Earth.”

Holyrood magazine’s 5th annual Cloud Computing in the Public Sector Conference will be in Edinburgh on 23 September. More detail at 
cloud.holyrood.com

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