18 Jan 2017

Hacking Happiness

Yesterday I took part in a hack-a-thon hosted by the Digital Catapult and the Royal Society. It was based on using data analysis and technology to try and measure and improve happiness. It was a great event, with lots of teams from all different disciplines and backgrounds. I was part of a team from Newcastle University, as well as members from Brighton and Central St. Martins.

Our idea was to create an app that could find the happiest route between two points, avoiding high pollution areas and preferring green spaces. We built a (rather simple) model using crime statistics and air quality data and an app to push route information to a back end service containing the model which would rate several routes on their “happiness” levels.

Another member of our team created a prototype “Happiness Band” to use measures of heart rate and galvanic skin response to gauge a persons happiness as they travelled around the city. We intended to use this data to provide objective measures of stress along the routes we suggested, as well as provide heat maps of stressful areas to augment our happiness model.

The team members from Brighton and Central St. Martins created UI mock-ups and user stories to show how the final app would look and feel.

After several intense hours work:

We had our prototype and gave our presentation to the judges:

There were many innovative and much more functional applications than ours. But in the end the judges liked our combination of machine learning, smart devices and UI he most and declared us the winners!

It was a great experience and I look forward to more hack-a-thons in the future!

20 Jun 2016

Back from DEBS 2016

I had an amazing time at DEBS 2016! It was great to meet other researchers in my field, discuss my ideas (and have them dissected) and make some new friends.

I was extremely excited to meet Karthik Ramasamy who is the head of real time analytics at Twitter. He gave a very interesting talk about the evolution of Twitter’s new distributed stream processing engine (Heron) and how they use it in production. This included the issues they were having with sizing the resource requirements of their streaming topologies and setting the parallelism of their topology components. This process currently has to be done manually and can take up to a week to complete. As Heron is an evolution of the Apache Storm system I use in my research, I hope that my research could be applied to solving this issue with Heron.

The doctoral symposium paper that was accepted for DEBS 2016 has now been published as part of the proceedings so I am now a published researcher!

05 May 2016

DEBS 2016 - Doctoral Symposium

I am going to my first academic conference! Distributed Event Based Systems (DEBS) in Irvine, California which takes place at the end of June this year. I will be presenting as part of their Doctoral Symposium, where I will explain the basis, current progress and future plan for my PhD research and get feedback from experts in the field!

DEBS is one of the main sources of literature for my PhD research and I am incredibly excited to be able to attend. As part of the Doctoral Symposium I submitted a 4 page report that will be published (in summerised form) in the DEBS proceedings. I hope to be able to publish a copy of the report here soon once I have got my head around the copyright issues.