Saturday, 10 February 2018

Railway Big Data done small

Workshop now contains our rail simulator!

Why bother building our own you ask?

Well we have had a few negative encounters around :-
  • Difficulties getting funding
  • Difficulties getting access to data
  • Difficulties not giving away IPR 
The solution is, therefore, build our own railway - a miniaturized version  of course! This does have some issues with scalability however its great for proof of concept stuff and is getting us into real data analysis of multi data streams.

4 Arduinos being installed and coded up ready for all sorts of good stuff!

Onward and upward.....

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

2017 - where did it go?

Long time no blog - life took over!

Things have moved on in business and on the home front.Home front we have moved house finally after 12 months of renovation of the new property 'The Villa' we are now in and up and running. I have my Ohana (office) and Advisory workshop (garage) initiatives in progress.

Work front has been full on. Majority of the year was spent working on a project for Thales, which I think is now under control and can be moved on to the next phase in the New Year. This has been great for consolidating the business and given a bit of 'thinking' time to what needs to be focused on and where funding is going to come from. And its not the following, one thing 2017 has shown us is that.....start of RANT.....

getting funding for innovation projects in the UK is a complete nightmare - so much so that we have given up trying on our own as a small business. Catapult, runs is own consulting arm - why - I have no idea - seems a little conflicted to me - so now we won't bid because we've had ideas 're-cycled'. Also why on earth would you go to one of their events to brainstorm ideas for innovation. Well we went to one but that was it. Then there are other Innovate UK initiatives i.e. KTP - where's your business case and partners - and by the way can you fund 50% of the work. Its not as bad as that, I'm sure if we put enough bids in we would get something in the spray of money coming out. The issue here is the amount of time it takes to put a submission together - i.e. to fill out all the forms (while working full time on projects and making sure your business is still functioning). I'm sure its just a means of keeping box ticking checkers employed. May as well just fund 100% of the research yourself as you could have the work done in the time it takes to do all this - and keep the IPR.

.....end of RANT.

We did waste a lot of time and energy on these things. Suppose its fine if you are a large outfit with spare capacity to service the submissions but we don't have that luxury. better to just get on with development. So that's what we did.

We have been building upon out review of big data and its application in the railway sector in particular. These have included;

  • building a strategic relationship with AIT the Austrian Institute of Technology to resell their product range.
  • building partnerships on projects with Universities such as Lancaster and Manchester - both working out brilliantly for us.
  • setting up an office in Atlanta to build links with Georgia State University and to kickstart our US business.
  • developing an NLP tool for analysing risk logs - see a previous blog on this one - I got so excited I blogged - conference coming up in 2018 to present the results.
  • keynote speaking at events such as the IMechE annual conference - scary.

So, in all, 2017 has been a year of consolidation and positioning, we now need to push through on some of  the product development ideas.....onwards and upwards in 2018.


Friday, 20 October 2017

Working it out in Logs

Long time no blog - but have been busy on top secret stuff. Here is a glimpse into some of the things I've been up to.

Railway safety management is a complex subject that involves a significant amount of manual intervention in the assessment, analysis and control of risk. Supporting documentation is, usually, worked on by multiple parties, with differences in system viewpoints and writing styles. Maintaining quality safety documentation is therefore an interesting challenge for the industry.
Hazard logs, for example, play a central role in both system engineering and risk assessment activity. The role of the log is to contain a representation of the risks related to the system under consideration. The content of the hazard log relies upon input from a variety of sources and collaborative activities involving teams with varying expertise and knowledge. From past experience we have found that the quality of this information can vary greatly both within and between projects. This is particularly so for larger projects where problems can arise when the amount of textual data that has to be processed increases. The volume and variety of the data and the need for collaboration creates the significant challenge of managing the content, keeping up the textual readability, format and consistency.
What we are currently working on is a tool that automatically assesses the ‘quality’ of a risk log. The intention is that the tool can be used to monitor the quality of a hazard log in ‘real’ time or at least at regular intervals during a project or for checking the output from critical risk workshop sessions. The tool uses Natural Language Processing and machine learning to assess the quality of a hazard log, based solely on the textual content in the log. The method includes text classification and term frequency-inversion to identify important keywords on different textual elements to represent quality indicators.
The intention is not to replace a human expert, but rather to support assessments by providing an early indication of the textual data in the log. This involves checking for signs of imprecise and unclear writing and identifying issues that may make it hard for readers to fully interpret accident sequences.  The tool has been built around the CENELEC standards to aid compliance with both the standards and risk management best practice in general.
A preliminary study in collaboration with Lancaster University has been undertaken to prove the method. Results from this study have demonstrated the power of using textural analysis in this arena.  We have identified a number of hazard log quality indicators and developed demonstrator software which performed well against a manual evaluation of a sample data set. In general, the tool can help the users by saving time and effort by helping in the review of entries in the log. It can also help clarify thinking around accident sequences by highlighting ambiguous or multi-content entries.
The results of this study will be presented at the Transport Research Arena conference in April 2018 in Vienna.
(post reproduced from

Thursday, 24 March 2016

ELBowTie - use of big data in safety analysis

The first of 3 papers has hit the streets!

Definition of big data for use in safety assessments utilising - ELBowTie for managing real time safety analysis.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Minecraft training

Today's the day for attending a Minecraft training day at the University of Manchester!

Fact finding session thoughts begin.

Before going in my thoughts are:

1 I've seen my lads playing this game and it looks pretty simple. It seems to be a bit like Lego on steroids.

2 So you can construct great structures. I can see how this could be used to aid some sort of design process. Something akin to VR but  using blocks?

3 What I want to find out is can it be used for non construction training. Say for example safety engineering training, risk assessments and the like?

Okay here we go:

What a brilliant day! Got much more out of it than anticipated. Especially when the Internet connection dropped out giving more time to bombard the organisers with questions.

In answer to Q3  above the answer is yes. We had ideas of building for example a level crossing and injecting in guidance on design standards to aid knowledge based learning. Another idea was to inject failure rates into parts of the design to aid appreciation on safety and reliability effects.

The big idea was however to look to get youngsters involved in the railway arena through the design of their local station. Then to look for improvements and risks associated with the design. Needs a bit of through on exactly how to make this entertaining but we all though that it would be doable through the primary school tech programmes.

All in all - very impressed - off to learn how to programme in Python!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

2015 start of a new era

Well 2015 all in all was a bit of a blast. Not only did it herald in the start of my new business NTTX Advisory and winning a couple of sizeable contract it also saw me getting back to a bit of research.

The business is now up and running with things moving a lot faster that I originally intended. Which hasn't done much for my early semi-retirement plan but has been great fun and given me a reboot on a number of fronts.

The research and development has resulted in 2 papers both to be presented this year. One in Sardinia and the other in Brussels. Both on the use of 'big data' in risk assessment. On the back of this work we are developing a software product called ELBowTie which will implement the approach by integrating enterprise data into a living risk management tool. All very exciting! Well done to the Dev team of Alex, Richardsthe and Ray in getting this off the ground while not being paid for any of it! It is a bootstrap startup after all!

A lot of code designing went on last year - which is a step in the right direction with respect to the revival plan.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Hackathons - the rise!

Corporate led hackathons are what I'm mulling over.

Hackathon or Exploitathon - that's all I have to say.