Sopra Steria gets involved in National Get Online Week

Sopra Steria employee volunteers have been at libraries in the London Borough of Harrow this week to help library users learn how to use the internet and technology in their everyday lives, all in support of National Get Online Week, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of and take practical action on digital exclusion.

These gadget surgeries run by Sopra Steria volunteers will help users learn new tricks and get the most from their laptops, mobiles phones or tablets. Get help with internet searches, social media, apps, email, organising photos, online shopping, video calling, booking GP appointments and applying for jobs.

Today 4.3 million Britons still do not have basic digital skills, and 11.3 million only have basic abilities, according to the Good Things Foundation, the organisation behind Get Online Week.

Sopra Steria is committed to digital inclusion so that people of all backgrounds, no matter where they are in the UK, regardless of socio-economic status or age, have the skills, confidence and access to technology they need to make the most of all the digital world has to offer.

Scotsoft 2018. Smart people, community and trees

Last week I was proud to continue the tradition of Sopra Steria’s support of the Young Software Engineer of the year award, since its inception 20 years ago.  Once again the entrants were outstanding (though I confess the technicalities of some project went right over my head!).   Can Gafuroglu’s winning  project was entitled  ‘Joint prediction and Classification of Brain Image Evolution Trajectories from Baseline with Application to Early Dementia Diagnosis’.  Our industry is about solving problems and this project underlines the significance of what can be achieved by the smart use of technology by #smartpeople.

 

The buzz at the dinner was incredible and underlined the spirit of ScotlandIS – that of #community.   Our Sopra Steria table was no exception, with a mix of SMEs, customers and advisors. Plus Alison McLaughlin – now on secondment to Scottish Government Digital as part of the Digital Fellowship Programme.

And, #trees.  Lizzy Yarnold was an inspirational speaker on the evening and reminded us all of the importance of belief, ambition and team work.  She spoke about a book “The Inner Life of Trees”: What they feel, how they communicate.  A brilliant parallel to business life – the need for constant communication, mutual support and networking.

Well done to ScotlandIS.  The Scotsoft conference has once again reinforced our Smart Young People, Our Community and that we are a well-connected forest.


by Mags Moore, Head of Government for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Harrow’s Heroes – A look into a brilliant evening

A splendid evening with around 250 people in attendance enjoyed a night of celebration of the volunteering community in the borough of Harrow.  Ray Baker and myself were fortunate enough to share a table with the Leader of the council, Cllr Graham Henson and his wife, and fellow councillor Maxine Henson, amongst others.   Canapés and bubbly were shared beforehand with a  photo booth and a rousing introduction from the exuberant, The Worshipful The Mayor, Councillor Kareema Marikar.

Dinner was delicious range of Indian food and the compere moved things along briskly as the awards started being presented.  Each group of nominees were called forward and the winner was invited onto the stage to receive their award from the guest presenter for the category.  Runners up received a certificate extolling the virtues and winners a rather lovely glass trophy.

The Sopra Steria sponsored award was presented to the overall winners of all of the categories, i.e. the Volunteers of the Year.  I was honoured to be invited on to stage to present this to the Infant Feeding Volunteers Peer Supporters.

Overall it was a fantastic evening that really celebrated the true nature of volunteerism and I’m proud that Sopra Steria can support this great work being done and I look forward to our continued involvement going forward.

By Lee Westwood

Journey of BB8 (Part 1)

We all have dreamt of flying, fighting with a lightsabre, and controlling objects with our mind. I was lucky enough to make one of my dreams come true when DigiLab UK went on an exploration journey of brain-computer interfaces. I recruited one fellow dreamer, a UX designer, along with me, the software engineer. We started to look at different aspects of BCI.  The initial task chosen was to control an object with our mind, and in the journey, learn more about the technology. I was staring at my desk thinking about which object to control. Then there was my answer staring back at me, BB8 on my desk.   Whether by fate or the force, we knew what we had to do. We would control BB8 using a BCI device, the Emotiv EPOC+, which was also available and previously used for hackathon project in Norway. I will take you through my journey of making this prototype with the help of a two-part series blog in the hopes of helping others who are starting to explore BCI technology.

Setup

The Emotiv EPOC+ headset comes along with 14 electrodes.  Setup of the device is easy but tedious as you are required to soak the electrodes with saline solution each time before screwing them onto the device. This process is needed to get good connectivity between the user’s scalp and electrodes. For people with more hair, it is naturally more difficult to get good connectivity as they must adjust their hair to make sure there is nothing bet­ween the electrodes and scalp. For some connectivity levels were sufficient with dry electrodes but to save time I recommend that always soak the electrodes before using the device as you are more likely to get fast and good connectivity.  There are many videos available online that guide you through the initial setup of the device.

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Electrodes need to be screwed on the device

 

 

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Emotiv EPOC+ with fourteen electrodes and the EEG head device

Training mental commands

I aimed to control BB8 with EPOC+ headset, so I started to investigate the mental commands and its various functionalities. To use the mental commands you first need to train them. The training process enables the EPOC+ to analyze individual brainwaves and develop a personalized signature corresponding to the different mental action.

Emotiv Xavier

Emotiv Xavier control panel is an application that configures and demonstrates the Emotiv detection suites. It provides the user with an interface to train mental commands, view facial expressions, performance metric, raw data, and to upload data to Emotiv account. The user has the option to sign in to their account or use the application as a guest.

The user is required to make a training profile. Users have the option to have multiple training profiles under one Emotiv account. Each user needs their profile as each one of us possesses unique brain waves.

Let’s train the commands

The first mental command or action user must record is their “neutral” state.  The neutral state is like a baseline or passive mental command. While recording this state, it is advisable to remain relaxed like when you are reading or watching TV. If the neutral state has not recorded correctly, the user will not be able to get any other mental commands working properly. For some recording, the neutral state results in better detection of other mental commands.

The “record neutral”button allows the user to record up to 30 seconds of neutral training data.  The recording automatically finishes after 30 seconds, but the user has the option to stop recording any time they feel that enough data has been collected. At least 6 seconds of recorded data is required to update the signature.

After recording the neutral state, the user can start to train any one of the 13 different actions available. For my research, I only focused on two mental actions “push” and “pull.” Emotiv website provides tips and instruction on how to train the mental commands. It suggests remaining consistent in thoughts while training. To perform any mental action, users must replicate their exact thoughts process or mental state that they had during the training process.  For example, if a user wants to train “push” command, it’s up to the user what they want to think or visualized for that action. Some users might imagine a cube going away from them, or some might imagine a cube shrinking, whatever works for them, but they need to remain consistent in their thoughts and mental state. If the user is distracted even for a second, it is advisable to retrain the action. As the user is able to train a distinct and reproducible mental state for each action, the detection of these actions become more precise. Mostly, the users must train an action several times before getting accurate results.

While I was trying to train the “push” action, I placed the BB8 on a white table and imagined it moving away from me. I replicated same thought, imagining BB8 going away from me on the table and was able to perform the mental action. However, when I placed the BB8 on the carpet, I failed. This may have been because the different colour of the carpet distracted me and I was unable to replicate my exact mental state, therefore, failed to perform the mental action. For me, the environment needed to be the same to reproduce my specific mental state. However, this varies from user to user.

Emotiv Xavier gives the option to view an animated 3D cube on the screen while training an action. Some users find it easier to maintain the necessary focus and consistency if the cube is automatically animated to perform the intended action as a visualization aid during the training process. A user can, therefore view themselves performing an action by viewing the cube. The cube remains stationary unless the user is performing one of the mental actions (if already trained) or unless the user selects “Animate model according to training action checkbox for training purposes. It is advisable to train one action fully before moving on to the next one. It gets harder and harder to train as you add more mental actions.

Is the training process easy?

There are lots of tips and guidance given on Emotiv website for training mental commands. Users are given an interface to help them train and perform mental actions with the aid of animated 3D or 2D models. However, during my three days of training, I was not able to find an easy and generic way to train the mental commands. People are different. Some are more focused than others. Some like to close their eyes to visualize and perform the command. Some want help with animation. What I observed was that it depends on the person and how focused they are, and how readily they can replicate a state of mind. There is no straightforward equation. You need time and patience. I was only able to achieve 15 % skill rating after training two mental actions. Only one of my colleagues got 70% skill rating which he wasn’t able to reproduce later.

NeuroFeedback

While searching for simpler ways to train mental commands I came across a process known as neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a procedure for observing your brain activity to understand and train your brain. A user observes what their brain is actually doing as compared to what they want it to be doing. The user monitors their brain waves, and if they are nearing the desired mental state, then they are rewarded with a positive response which can be music, video or advancing in a game. Neurofeedback is used to help reduce stress, anxiety, aid in sleeping, and for other forms of therapeutic assistance.

Neurofeedback is a great way to train your brain for mental commands. For example, if someone is trying to do “push” command,” they can observe their brain activities on screen and see if they are consistent. Then they can slowly and steadily train their brain to replicate a specific state. Emotiv provides the “Emotive 3D Brain Activity Map” and “Emotiv Brain Activity Map”, a paid application that can be used to monitor, visualize and adjust brainwaves in real time.  For our research, we didn’t try these applications.  If you try it out, let us know how you got on!

Training is like developing a new skill. Remember how you learned to ride a bike, or how you learned to drive? It took time and practice, and it’s the same for training mental commands. Companies do provide help by giving tips, instruction and software applications to help users train and visualize, but in the end, it’s acquiring a new skill, and users need practice. Some might learn faster than others, but for everyone it takes time.

 

 

Fintech Bites!

On the 19th of September we had our first ‘Fintech Bites’ meetup, hosted at the premises of The IDco, a great new Fintech and Sopra Steria partner that focuses on Open Banking. The main theme was Digital Identities in Financial and Public Sectors. This was a soft launch event, with over 30 Financial Services professionals in attendance, including a number of representatives responsible for Fintech and Innovation from RBS, Lloyds and HSBCFintechThe evening commenced with myself, Sopra Steria Consultant Taz Juozokas, introducing the meetup story and what we have in store for it in future. This was followed by UK Fintech Director Colin Carmichael talking about the Fintech Scotland ecosystem and what the key roles of each of the partners in Scotland are (Sopra Steria was announced as a Fintech Scotland partner in June 2018 with Managing Director of UK Consulting Melba Foggo on the Board of Executives).

The IDco were next to speak, with Digital & Open Banking Expert Andrew Garden and Digital Marketing Specialist Jimmy McLellan providing some great insight into their offerings.

Andrew gave a short overview of the interesting work The IDco has been doing in the digital identity space, as well as their future plans for KYC and AML automation for the Financial Services sector. He also showed us a demo of NoMo – a new digital finance management app. NoMo allows the customer to understand how well they are doing with finances and recommends spending based on this. It also does payment aggregation and alerts with personalised messages. You can test the private, beta version here.

Sopra Steria tech partner Wallet.Services closed the event, with speakers including Chairman Rab Campbell and CEO Stuart Fraser.

Rab covered the concept of blockchain and the work Wallet.Services have been doing with the Sopra Steria public sector. The audience was thrilled to learn about zero knowledge authentication enabled via distributed ledger technology. He also talked about their projects for Oil and Gas companies in Aberdeen, as well as the innovative work they have been doing with Citylets and partners regarding the safe sharing of rental information across the lettings market.

Wallet.Services created a digital identity on blockchain, which allows the registering of housing tenants rent payments in order to build their credit history.

The event has received great feedback from the audience and some interesting discussions were had afterwards. I would like to thank everyone who attended the event and showed an interest. Look out for more to come across the UK!

Sopra Steria sponsors Harrow’s Heroes, celebrating the fantastic work of community volunteers

“Harrow’s Heroes” celebrates the hard work, dedication and commitment of local volunteers who make Harrow a special place to live and work. We are delighted to be involved in recognising the hundreds of unsung heroes that are doing so much in their communities and are looking forward to presenting the ‘Volunteer of the year award’ at tonight’s event and we want to wish the best of luck to everyone shortlisted.

As a company we’re committed to a spirit of volunteerism, Sopra Steria is honoured to again be part of the celebration which recognises the many hours volunteers dedicate to helping others and their incredible contributions to local causes. The commitment and achievements of those shortlisted in the awards is truly inspiring.

More information about Harrow’s Heroes is available online.

Sopra Steria was selected by Harrow Council to deliver IT services, including upgrading the IT systems across the council to ensure staff and residents can take advantage of new technology and can access more digital, on-line services.

Find out more about Sopra Steria’s work in Local Government.

The UK Consulting team attend Sopra Steria Consulting University 2018

Last week’s annual Consulting University in Paris was a huge success, with over 1500 Consultants from across Europe in attendance to hear from Executives about our vision for the future. Amongst the UK Consulting community were 20 Junior Consultants from our Graduate Programme. We recognise that our graduates are vital to the future success and the culture of Sopra Steria and we invest in providing them with experiences and networking opportunities that contribute to professional development.

Views from our graduates

Megan Archer
Junior Consultant

“It was really exciting to attend the Sopra Steria Group Consulting University in Paris and to share that experience with over 1500 Sopra Steria consultants from across Europe. In the opening speech, Jean-Claude Lamoureux, the Group Consulting Director said that “in Europe, consulting is on NOW”. He’s absolutely right. In the UK we have already recognised this and are accelerating our big leap forwards into the world of consulting.

Since my fellow graduates and I joined the company as part of the new Junior Consulting

programme, we have been asked to bring our energy, youth and fresh ideas to the table to make a real difference to the consulting culture in the UK. Seeing all of the French consultants, hearing their success stories and witnessing examples of their innovations has given us all the confidence to push this to new levels.

Merci beaucoup Paris, for a fabulous time and for making me super excited about the future of Sopra Steria Consulting!

Our Graduate Programme

Are you a graduate with a passion and a desire for early responsibility? a curiosity for how technology can transform how our clients do business? a flair for analytical thinking, problem solving and first-class communication skills?

Read more about our graduate programme

Demi QUINN
Junior Consultant

“I can’t imagine there are many graduates who can say that they were invited to Paris in the first five months of starting their first job…. but I was! It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend the 2018 Consulting University and to meet so many new faces who were so genuinely excited about the future of Consulting at Sopra Steria.

   

Most of the UK consultants commented on how much they enjoyed the opportunity to network in Paris, not only with our European colleagues, but also with the wider Sopra Steria UK Consulting community.  It felt great to be part of such an exciting and diverse UK team – and we will definitely be getting a date in the diary to get together again in the UK!

One of the biggest highlights for me was one of the shorter sessions that we attended. This was a mixture of motivated speakers across the company discussing some innovative projects and exciting capabilities that we are already working on.  I hadn’t realised just how pioneering a company Sopra Steria really is.

I also have to mention the Digital Escape Challenge that we completed, which wasn’t what I expected at all. Teaming AR and an ipad, with the classic scavenger hunt and end-of-world scenario was an awesome way to get 1500 consultants excited before dinner (even if my team lost!!).

   

We had an unforgettable experience that has us ready and eager to smash the end of 2018!

Thank you for having us Paris #UC2018!

Our Graduate Programme

Are you a graduate with a passion and a desire for early responsibility? a curiosity for how technology can transform how our clients do business? a flair for analytical thinking, problem solving and first-class communication skills?

Read more about our graduate programme