IAP Autumn Conference Notes

We are just back from a great conference hosted by the Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP), which was held in the headquarters of The Magic Circle in London, near Euston Station. The theme was The Intelligent Environment, and covered aspects of the design of robots and software avatars, medical data capture, ethics in computing, and challenges in our power distribution system.

The event was kicked of in the sumptuous theater which has been the stage for performances by numerous great magicians in the past. Following the open remarks from retiring Director General Mike Ryan, we were treated to an interesting series of discussions by the guest presenters.

The first speaker was Professor Peter McOwan, whose talk Living with Robots, explored the blurring boundaries between cognitive science and biologically inspired hardware and software, and how much had been learned from studying human interaction with pets. The scope included robots, games playing machines, robot companions and software avatars. Peter gave an insight into the EU funded Living with Robots and Interactive Companions (LIREC) project, and provided plenty of scope for further study of the subject.

Keith Errey then gave his views about the current state of medical data capture in his talk Connected Freedom – Delivering the Promise of Wireless Digital Healthcare. In a though provoking session he identified how most of our medical data is derived from very sick or even terminal patients, and that we generally have little information about the data stream which could stem from a healthy person. He scotched a few common held medical myths, and showed how earlier diagnosis of problems would lead to better outcomes for patients.

After the break, Blay Whitby gave another thought provoking presentation on The Ethical Implications of Smart Homes and ‘Caring Technologies’ with a subtitle of Would you choose to be cared for by a robot? This covered the social impact of new and emerging technologies, and he was animated in widening public engagement in science through debate.

The final part of the official programme was a tandem presentation Rachel Cary senior policy adviser at the Green Alliance and Jon Bird, entitled Smart Grids: More than a Network Issue. Between them they explored the concept that our power distribution system needs to change substantially to cope with the implementation of green technology. Paradoxically, as people switch to electric cars to save fossil fuels, the capacity of the grid may need to increase.

After a tour of the Magic Museum in the basement, lunch was served and debate was lively. The lively debate was interspersed with amazing displays of prestidigitation by our host from The Magic Circle, who baffled and intrigued each of the tables with a personal display. Sometimes the truth can be right under your nose, but you will not be able to see it. We particularly liked the watch trick which resulting in a a quick trip back through time for a watch belonging to Mike Manisty from Gartner. This would be really useful for project management!

We look forward to the IAP Conference next year!

Friday, September 17th, 2010 General