The first was Arjuna's - Enabling Universal Service Provision using Next Generation Access (NGA) Technologies. Unsurprisingly, the key to customer satisfaction when providing internet access is speed, reliability and cost.
We heard from Cybermoor, an organisation which provides internet access for the 'final third', going the last mile (download slides here). So what next? What follows Cybermoor?... Fibremoor of course!
If you're wanting to check out speeds in your area, have a look at Sam Knows.
Trevor Barker of Avanti delivered the second talk of the session (download slides here). We heard about HYLAS I (a satellite providing coverage for western Europe in 2010) and HYLAS II (Middle East and Africa, 2012). Trevor was understandably a little nervous - his satellite was just days from lift off... or disaster!
Avanti's portfolio includes: the Scottish Government's broadband reach project, getting more than 2000 customers online in the Highland and Islands; the department of Trade, Enterprise and Investment's rural broadband initiative in Northern Island; service provision in city-centre locations such as Birmingham; wind farm data analysis and dam monitoring.
So we know the delivery of broadband in rural areas is driven by population density, but what about the 'final third'? Maybe satellite technology can help...
The Hercules next generation satellite promises ~50 Mbps for ~700,000 customers meanwhile NXY will deliver a pilot service of iPlayer (with support from the BBC). The NXY pilot, to be rolled out to 100 homes in the UK, will be based on caching content on a hard drive, to be accessed (on demand) locally.
Its clear that satellite technology is not competing with the terrestrial, but rather complementing it.
It was interesting to hear from John Seton (BT Research and Development) and their ambitious plans: allocating £2.5 bn to roll out fibre to the first two-thirds of the UK by 2015; and the 'race to infinity' (a demand registration scheme, building a map of demand, with a competitive edge!).
John went on to talk about the BT project with Cornwall Council - NGA for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The plan? For up to 90% of homes and businesses in the area to get fibre access by 2014, building on the previous actnow campaign.
OK, OK, so its technically possible to deliver NGA to everyone, including the final third but what John really wants to know is what's everyone doing with it?! What do you really want to be able to do with high-speed broadband? Answers on a postcard...
John concluded by summarising BT's rural broadband research partnerships, to build a community of people, share information and best practice:
- the Wales research hub/rural observatory (coming soon!)
- Cornwall, Plymouth University and UC Falmouth
- Bute (a different way of serving 'not spots')
- and dot.rural!
Fresh from catching up with the Rural Broadband Conference in Penrith, dot.rural's Gorry Fairhurst led the fourth presentation (download slides here). Click here to watch Gorry's talk.
Jonathon Ishmael from Lancaster University brought the morning session to a close, introducing us to the 'Wray Living Lab' (download slides here).
The Wray broadband project built a live network testbed, leading to research into wireless mesh and social impact. Jonathon talked about the essential information required to maintain the network, user contention and security concerns.
My 'Engaging the Public with the Digital Economy' workshop followed after lunch with a great line up.
I kicked off with the introduction (download slides here) and then Chloe Sheppard discussed funding opportunities and the benefits of public engagement to the research community. If you're a researcher and you don't already know about the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), the Fresh Science initiative, and the RCUK guides and toolkits... you should do!
Paul Rosen (download slides here) and Cathy Brown (download slides here) then delivered talks on the Researchers in Residence and STEM Ambassadors schemes, respectively. Remember, the two schemes are not mutually exclusive!
It was a pity the number of workshop participants was down on the registered figure - probably due to the unfortunate scheduling. Nevertheless, interesting points were raised and engaging discussions had by all.
Does the UK academia place too much emphasis on public engagement in the context of schools? What about other community partnerships?
Mark Dyball from People Science and Policy gave an overview of evaluation, highlighted the distinction between evaluation and monitoring and emphasised the value in planning evaluation as with any other exercise (download slides here).
Geoff Parsons from the British Science Association made it just in time (straight from a schools talk) to talk about 'the three principles' - engagement, translation and credibility.
Another Q&A session followed before I announced - da, da, da! - the 'final challenge'!
The final challenge: To participate (plan/deliver) in a public engagement activity (public, schools, research users etc) before January 2011 and share experiences – good and bad – online via the dot.rural blog. We look forward to reading the entries!
So what's the overall verdict on the conference? Digital Futures provides a great platform for the Digital Economy (DE) Hubs, DE Doctoral Training Centres and industry to get together, network and share knowledge. I think DE students and research staff would benefit from bursaries enabling more to attend.
It seemed dot.rural and the challenges of rural communities was a little under-represented during the three days and, rather disappointingly, the content didn't appear to be balanced across the three subject areas: Computing Science, Communications Engineering and Social Science.
Remember, dot.rural were tweeting throughout - you can follow us and catch-up with all our tweets here.
On the final night, before flying back to Aberdeen, the fire alarm rang out and our hotel was evacuated at 4 am! Dazed and confused we froze outside for an hour until... crew from the three fire engines confirmed there was in fact no fire(!)
Finally, thanks to all those involved in making the workshops a success and thanks to the Horizon organising team!
We look forward to SiDE hosting it next year and hope to hear about more projects with real transformative potential.
See you next year!