Big Data – The Strata Review from JISC

Big Data is here, and it changes everything. From startups to the Fortune 500, smart companies are betting on data-driven insight. Strata, a conference organised by O’Reilly was based on three full days of hands-on training, information-rich sessions, and a sponsor pavilion filled with the key players and products. Aimed at bringing together the people, tools, and technologies to make data work the good news is that JISC has written comprehensive report for those who missed it.

The impact that freely available information has had on the learning community is truly profound, with tools like Wikipedia attracting huge audiences (over 365 million readers and growing). We can now access more data than ever – but what do we do with it all? If we want to take full advantage of all this information do we really have the tools we need? And how do we develop these tools in the future?

The internet exerts an unprecedented equalizing force in bringing access to information to everyone on the planet. More information is available (and mainly for free) now than ever before, and yet it is becoming clear that access to information is not enough. The infrastructure to store and share data within sectors is a vital part of the ecosystem, and yet it is often treated as an afterthought. We need a radical change in the way we develop infrastructure in the higher education sector, to ensure that services consumed and funded by the public can do their job as efficiently as possible and at the best possible price.
The research agenda of a university department is closely matched to the skills and goals of the professors and lecturers working in that department. The topics researched in the History department will depend on the specific knowledge and expertise of the History professors at that university. If an external company were to offer to plan their research agenda for them, it would be met with obvious cynicism. And yet the critical tools that these departments rely on are often dismissed as a secondary priority – despite the fact that those very tools define the limits of our ability to explore and learn from the data space that is the foundation of all research…..

You can read the full review (its excellent) over at

Broadband Speed Mapped for BBC Look East Research

BBC Look East is calling for people in the East of England to find out their home broadband speed, as part of the TV programme’s week-long special – using our free SurveyMapper tool, at CASA, University College London, to collate and map the results in real time. So far over 6500 responses have been received.
It is estimated only 60% of households in the region have access to high speed broadband.
Look East’s business reporter Richard Bond said that the figure was unlikely to grow much in the next five years.
Home broadband users can take part by plotting their speed onto an interactive map.
The results of the research will then be shown on BBC One during Look East’s broadband week, which runs from 21 to 25 February 2011.
“Fibre optic networks, the key to a fast service, are only available to people in and around the major towns and cities,” said Mr Bond.
“Broadband speeds in rural areas are slow because they depend on copper telephone exchanges.
“Although BT is rolling out its fibre optic network, this is unlikely to make much of a difference to most rural communities over the next five years,” he added.

Speed test

Broadband users can test their upload speed on BBC News’ Technology website.
As broadband speeds on the same connection can fluctuate, it is recommended that people take the test several times and make a note of the highest speed.
Other speed-testing websites could return different results, so it is recommended for this research that third-party sites are avoided.
Once a figure is obtained, people can then plot their results on the BBC Look East map hosted on our SurveyMapper.
It is nice to see maps and indeed crowd sourced surveys used in such a way, SurveyMapper has been developed as part of NeISS (National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation, funded by JISC as part of its Information Environment Programme.
You can set up your own survey or poll on SurveyMapper – If you have used other ‘polling sites’ then you will be up to speed, except we have taken away the restrictions and added real-time mapping into the mix. Simply sign up (its free) and then your be able to create your own survey and embed it into your own site. Currently we have five levels of survey available – Worldwide, based on countries, European Countries US Zip Code, UK Postcode and a Drag and Drop Pin Map.

You can ask anything, survey the nation, the world or just your street with real-time mapping and statistics.

To take part or create your own survey head over to

The Look East survey runs until February 25th with updates each evening on BBC Look East News.

Norway: 4000 Bus Stops that Tweet, Record Stories and Provide the Time of the Next Bus via QRCodes

Today sees the launch of our latest collaboration via the Tales of Things project – this time with a Norwegian transport company, Kolumbus. Tales of Things has been utilising Kolumbus’ already existing QR codes to allow passengers to leave stories for one another. When a passenger visits one of Kolumbus’ more than 4,000 bus stops they will find a QR code which when scanned with the free Tales of Things’ app on with the iPhone or Android it will not only link them to timetable information, but also allow them to leave a message on the bus stop.

Each stop contains a unique code, so the timetable information and tales are site specific. Through tales of things, passengers can leave messages about experiences they have had in the area, anecdotes about places they are going, leave a message for a loved one or maybe leave a treasure trail for your friends. In addition to this, each time a bus stop is scanned, it ‘tweets’ to the world that a new story, message or memory has been left.

In essence we think of this as a mix of Facebook and FourSquare for Bus Stops, where users leave behind stories, messages and memories while at the same time seeing when the next bus is.

The things can be geo-located through an on-line map of the world where participants can track their object even if they have passed it on. The object can also update previous owners on its progress through a live Twitter feed (which is unique to each object entered into the system).

Einar Hougen, project manager in Kolumbus, states: “When we learned about this exciting UK research project, we instantly recognized the parallels to our own QR tagging of bus stops, which we believe is the largest adaptation of QR codes of this kind in Norway to date. Scanning a QR code at a Kolumbus bus stop gives instant access to current departure times, right on your mobile phone.

In Kolumbus, we are happy to support this research project by sharing our QR mechanism and allowing all our bus stops to be accessible in the tales of things world of objects. Via our tech blog, , we know there are many tech savvy users among our travellers. This will give them the opportunity to join this project, -and hopefully have a bit of fun at the same time!”


Kolumbus is the public transport company for Rogaland county, Norway, serving the public with bus and high speed boat routes in the areas of Stavanger, Haugesund, the Fjords, Dalane and Jæren.

For more information on Kolumbus visit and of course you can tag your own objects, places, spaces or bus stops via Tales of Things.