It’s been emotional

CareerReady 2019 – in the words of the interns

Here’s the story of 5 Career Ready interns and their 4 week internship in the Sopra Steria Edinburgh DigiLab…..

Jack

Hello my name is Jack. I’m 17 years old and my 4-week internship with Sopra Steria is coming to an end. To be completely honest I was originally was just doing this for the money. I mean what 17 year old wouldn’t like £1000? But my mentor Craig took me to the office for a visit before I started, and it seemed like it was going to be a very nice place to work. He explained how useful the internship would be and it made me excited to get started. I really wanted to learn new things and have something extra I can put on my CV. Also, the money is still a pretty big motivator, but don’t tell Stephen that.  

Jackson

Bonjour mon copains, Jackson aged 16 speaking. On the lead up to the internship I’m not going to lie I began to regret making the decision to use up 3 weeks of my Summer working. However, I kept telling myself it would be worth it as I would gain experience of working in an office environment and develop skills such as problem solving, confidence and teamwork as well as independence and self-management. I really wanted the experience to put on my CV as it was looking a bit empty as it was. I’d never heard of Sopra Steria before which at first made me nervous, though as it got closer to the starting date, I visited my mentor at the office and met a few of her colleagues which reassured me that everyone was kind. Also, once Nikki told me what kind of tasks, I would be given I knew that there was a possibility I might have a good time.  

Daniel

Hi anyone who may be reading this, I am aged 17 and have spent 4 weeks doing an internship at Sopra Steria with Career Ready. My predictions were nothing near the reality. I thought it was going to be working at a desk all day following around our mentors and doing everything for them E.g Making him cups of coffee and running to the printer. Not long after I thought that my mentor told me I was going to be more involved with everyone which made me think I’d enjoy it a lot more than I thought I was going to when I first heard about my placement. If I was to be truly honest, I was only in it for the money and the fact of getting a good piece of work experience at the end of it for future jobs. 

Elise

Hi all I’m Elise, I’m 16 and spent my four-week internship in Sopra Steria. Before I started this internship, I thought it was going to be some boring office job you hear about like accounting or writing emails, I didn’t know what we were going to do and that fear of not knowing what it would be like made me really nervous before starting. I was nervous about who I would be working with as although I knew a couple of the interns, I didn’t know everyone, and I didn’t want things to be weird in the team. I will always remember getting on the bus in the morning at rush hour for the first time, I was so nervous about what I was doing and what it would be like, I didn’t want to mess up but I told myself it would be good. Once I started working and got to know who I was working with these nerves and worries all faded away. 

Kaia

Hi there my name is Kaia and I am 17 years old , before starting this internship I was very nervous about what to expect and was really out of my comfort zone I was also anxious to meet everyone including the other interns and people who actually worked in the office and was hoping they would be welcoming and just all round nice people which luckily for me they were. I didn’t fully know what to expect and that can be scary going into a new place and doing something you haven’t experienced before. The first day was a bit awkward with all the interns but that was expected and I think once we all felt a bit more comfortable with being in this new work space with people we didn’t know and realised we were all in the same boat we opened up a lot more. 

Project #1: #DigitalTherapy

This was our first task given to us by Stephen. We were challenged with finding a way to provide further knowledge about office365 and especially teams to people working within Sopra Steria. We created a planner as a team to make sure we were staying on task, always had something to do and were staying organized. As part of #DigitalTherapy we used different research techniques for example we carried out interviews, created personas, created and carried out surveys and researched teams itself. Another way Stephen wanted to get office365 used more in the office was through classes that taught people about a specific topic each time. Therefor we planned classes for different groups of people based on their knowledge of office365 but in the sort time we were there we combined the different strengths for one lesson which Stephen lead the next week. We held a marketing brainstorm which lead to many branding ideas like the advert video which we planned and filmed. 

Learning: Personas with Fionn

We talked to Fionn who works in service design. We started off with an ice breaker as it was our first day, and Fionn talked about what he did. We did an activity where Fionn had lots of photos of someone’s day, and we had to arrange them in order from the start of their day to the end. We then created a persona for who we thought this person was and designed a prototype for an app which would help them change a career. Stephen tested this app as we observed him and got feedback. 

Leaning: Customer Research with Anna

We talked to Anna from user research. She told her about her job and explained how when creating a product, you must think about the user and not yourself. She taught us different techniques how to gather information on how a user uses your product. She set us an activity to observe people who worked in the building using the card operated gates at reception.  

Learning: Agile Methodology with Valerie

We talked to Valerie who is an agile methodology coach. She taught us what agile methodology is and helped us implement that into our own work planner which was overflowing with big tasks. 

Learning: User Experience (UX) with James

We talked to James who is from User Experience. He told us what user experience means and does. He taught us about low and high-fidelity prototypes and iterative processes and helped us in an activity to build a website for #DigitalTherapy. 

Learning: Website Prototypes with Bryce

We attended the design teams ‘feedback Friday’ where Bryce presented the site, he had coded which allows you to create high-fidelity prototypes of websites. 

Learning: LinkedIN with Lauren

We met Lauren who talked us through creating a LinkedIN account and the importance of the network. She gave us advice on preparing for interviews and getting a job. So look us up!

Project #2: DigiHacks

Stephen with help from Brian Wall had set us the task to create DigiHacks. Short videos to teach people shortcuts on their laptops to make their work lives more efficient, for example Windows L locks your screen. To start we planned what a hack was and how to make the videos short and catchy but informative. The next step was to split into two teams, one focused on branding and the other on beginning to film the hacks. We then had a meeting with Brian Wall where he clarified what he wanted, and he approved the filmed hacks. From there we designed a DigiHack intro to put at the beginning at each hack. We had finished the rest of the hacks in our back-log and added the intro to them. 

Project #3: Office Re-design

As our third task we were presented with the challenge by Nikki to create a presentation with ideas on how the Sopra Steria office could be improved to meet the needs of the staff. To gather feedback on what the staff thought was lacking in the office we created a survey on forms to e-mail around the office. Feedback gathered from said survey was added to our power point presentation. Also, on the power point we added laws about office layouts in order to stay within the boundaries of the law when re-designing the office. Using both the feedback and the laws we began to re-design the office, picking out new furniture to go with the design. With all this information in our power point, we were able to come together to present our ideas as a team to a small group of people. 

Project #4: Mortgages

After we finished these projects, we were all split up and given different projects. The issue for the project was mortgages and was done by Elise, it was about how the mortgage companies where taking advantage of customers making them unhappy, how customers where jumping from mortgage company to mortgage company to get the best rate and large percentages of people who couldn’t get mortgages due to their lifestyle. So, I was tasked in finding emotional case studies about people who were dealing or dealt with these issues, what banks in the UK are trying to solve these issues and if they haven’t why can’t they solve them. Then I started researching and what I found shocked me. I found issues on 3 of the six issues and the information found on three of the issues was very little with only a couple of case studies for one issue. So, I sent off the research and talked about how the lack of information shows how much an issue these issues are. 

Project #5: Smart office

The project Daniel did was working with OpenHAB. Daniel had to burn Linux Ubuntu 19.04 (a new operating system) onto a DVD, then had to wipe the computer to install the disk. Daniel then had to dive into the computers terminal and use commands to be able to install OpenHAB. Once installed you need to go to paperUI through OpenHAB and find the bindings to install the Phillips hue binding to then create a bridge between all the lights and connect the motions sensors to the lights so then Daniel got HABpannel to create an interface with Light switches, colour picker, showing the date and time etc. 

Project #6: Funded Innovation

Jack and Jackson worked on the Funded Innovation project which is the idea of companies and organisations providing funding to solve problems/issues innovatively and competatively.

We used Excell to bring all of the previous competitions and prizes together in a report which we presented to Dan Broomham who is Director of Digital.

Overall opinions – questions and answers 

Opinions: Elise

How did you find the different projects/tasks you were given? 

I found these tasks challenging, at the start they really felt like rather big tasks that would be hard to achieve but once we started getting into the swing of the work and started getting things completed, I started feeling like the projects were achievable. You can only do the best you can, and we definitely done the best we could do in these projects. There were tasks within the projects that I had difficulties with but overcame and overcoming them is such a great feeling, a lot of these difficult tasks I overcame with my teammates.  

What did you take away from your internship? 

I think I’ve took away a lot from my internship, I have really learnt a lot being here every task we done and members of the workforce who came to talk to us. I’ve gained so much more confidence from this experience but also learnt when to step back and let others contribute their thoughts and ideas. I’ve learned what it is like to be in and work in a very diverse work space that is very open and collaborative, I definitely wasn’t expecting the internship to be so collaborative. I’ve also learned to cope with long work hours for a period of time which took a bit to get used too. I feel more self-confident than I was before I started and know its ok to ask for help when its needed. 

Has it changed what you want to do in the future? 

Hmm, I can’t say it’s changed what I want to do but it’s given me more ideas of what I can do in the future and paths I can take, it’s definitely taking me think more about where I want to go career wise. 

Were there any challenges?  

Yes, there were many challenges, within the work there was challenges that we all overcame as we worked through our projects. I think it also challenged us to go out our comfort zones quite a few times. 

How did you find the people you worked with? 

I was lucky in that I knew a couple of the interns before we went in but meeting the other interns, I didn’t know was lovely. As we all got to know each other we started to really enjoy one another’s company, have a good laugh and work very well together as a team. As well as the interns we met many members of the work force and they were all really lovely people to talk to and are always happy to help you out. 

Was it worth it? 

Yes, it was absolutely worth it, I spent four weeks having a laugh with a lovely group of people, learning and improving many skills, and getting paid for it. 

Opinion: Jackson 

How did you find the different projects/tasks you were given? 

Overall the tasks we were given were engaging and interesting. Although, from time to time there was little to do and the tasks became a bit repetitive, there was never a dull moment working in a team and free to use the DigiLab benefits. 

What did you take away from your internship? 

I really feel that I have honestly taken a lot from my internship. Whether its experience to put on my CV or the overall feeling of gaining a lot of independence and responsibility. Also the money isn’t too bad 😉  

Has it changed what you want to do in the future? 

One of my key reasons for being a part of career ready and taking on this internship was to try and clarify what it was I felt like doing in the future. This experience has defiantly shown me that I enjoy the office environment and I would defiantly be open to working in a similar environment in the future. 

Were there any challenges?  

I feel like one of the biggest challenges of the internship was just starting and not knowing what to expect and the fear of not fitting in with the other inters. A part from that, the only other big challenge was speaking in presentations and going around the office talking to different Sopra Steria employees. However, it is good to be pushed out of your comfort zone and I feel that this experience has really improved my confidence. 

How did you find the people you worked with? 

I have genuinely had a great time and have felt that the other interns have been well matched by the Career Ready team and they have all been so easy to get on with. The Sopra Steria employees have been so welcoming and have made me feel so comfortable.  

Was it worth it? 

Definitely. I had nothing to lose, without the internship I would probably be getting up at 12 and spent my holiday inside. As well as getting paid, working at Sopra Steria has improve my work experience dramatically. 

Opinion: Jack 

How did you find the different projects/tasks you were given? 

I really enjoyed all the tasks I was given. They kept me engaged and I was never bored. I was surprised at how practical all the tasks were as I was expecting to just be sat at a desk all day. I think working in the DigiLab really helped with this.  

What did you take away from your internship? 

Ehh… besides the £1000? All joking aside I have learned so much about what its like to work in the world. Its taught me how different the hours are and how it’s a lot less stressful than school (most of the time) 

Has it changed what you want to do in the future? 

It hasn’t changed what I want to do but it has made me realise what I need to do in order to get there. After being taught about linked in and how to right a cv it’s made me realise that it’s not that hard to start working. 

Were there any challenges?  

I think the main challenge was keeping my brain switched on. In school I’m used to getting a five minute break between periods and then finishing at 3, but working here was much harder as there was never a moment with nothing to do. I had to stay focused and get the tasks done. 

How did you find the people you worked with? 

Everyone in the office was very friendly and welcoming and I felt like part of the office from the first day. My fellow career ready interns were all so easy to work with and have a laugh with. I have made new friends and hope to make more people like the career ready crew in the future.  

Was it worth it? 

100%. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Sopra Steria office, and it will forever be a memory I hold. Its taught me so much and is given me a big boost into the working world. On top of all of that it has taken a lot of worries out of my mind. I would do the whole thing again if I could.  

Opinion: Daniel

How did you find the different projects/tasks you were given? 

The different projects were great I really enjoyed them all. We were always so practical doing everything, never ran out of work to be doing. There was a lot of challenging parts but also some easy that I could cope with well.  

What did you take away from your internship? 

I’m taking away with me all the knowledge I had learned throughout the 4 weeks. I will continue to be more confident in things as I have always been one to be shy all the time. I will take away knowing what it’s like in the world of work a real job in the office. 

Has it changed what you want to do in the future? 

It hasn’t changed my views on the future I still want to continue with IT as I already did before. But It has changed my views on how I’ll be writing my CV’s in the future and it has made me want to start using linkedin for looking at job adverts 

Were there any challenges?  

There were lots of challenges to begin with as I had always felt so anxious but I do feel like my confidence level has risen and hopefully I can keep it that way. There were a few other little challenges here and there but were easily over come. 

How did you find the people you worked with? 

The people I have been working with are all such lovely people such as the other career ready interns and all the staff are so friendly always smiling and saying hello as you walk by them. Stephen really showed to care about us individually always making sure we’re all ok. 

Was it worth it? 

Yes it was worth it. I now know what it is like working in the real world and getting to meet so many nice people. Apart from getting the money at the end it was also worth learning new skills and knowing what to put on CV’s and most importantly it gives us further work experience for our futures’ 

From all the career ready 2019 team, Thanks for reading! 

Keeping clients one step ahead – the DigiLab story (Part #3)

Connecting dots. Jumping curves.

So how do we connect up all these rich pools of learning? DigiLabs is the Sopra Steria hothouse for innovation, uniquely straddling our global spheres of expertise. The way we’re structured helps us bring together insight from across our eco-system to answer the critical challenges faced by our customers, with unrivalled vision and leadership.

Sopra Steria has 11 businesses lines, spanning Aerospace, Automotive, Insurance, Banking, Defense, Security, Government, Energy, Transport, Telecoms and Media. Each has an elected Digital Champion – as do each of our 5 technology streams which focus on Digital Interaction, IoT, Smart Machines, Data Science and Blockchain. These Digital Champions work as a single network, highly connected and charged with constantly sifting for innovation nuggets in their sector, helping us ‘jump the curve’ by anticipating the next big thing that will help turbo-boost digital transformation. Some Sopra Steria business lines have also created their own ‘Vertical Labs’ as a way to conduct sector-specific solution experiments, train experts, identify talents and share achievements both internally and externally.

Alongside regularly engaging with these Digital Champions, we:

  • Proactively reach out to start-up incubators to identify new technology partnerships
  • Stay closely connected to research centres, universities engineering schools
  • Enjoy close ties with high calibre strategic partners from Apple, Amazon, Google and HP to, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and Samsung — keeping us in the heart-beat of global innovation
  • Harvest insight and learning from different countries

Keeping clients one step ahead – the DigiLab story (Part #2)

Immersion. Inspiration. Ideation. Implementation.

Digital transformation projects are often mission-critical, and therefore usually urgent. There’s a need to quickly unearth and interrogate challenges, sift the solution options and get things into test and development. To get this process powerfully kick-started, we start by immersing our customers in a rich universe of use cases, latest technologies and sector insight helping them bounce off best-practice learning and quickly leap-frog ahead.

Why cross-fertilize between sectors?

When the genetic material of two parents is recombined in nature, it delivers a greater variability on which natural selection can act. This increases a species’ ability to adapt to its changing environment and boosts its chances of survival. The same is true with transformation projects: the greater the importing, mixing and cross-fertilization of ideas from other sectors, processes and initiatives, the stronger and more adaptable products and services become.

Goodbye tail-chasing and closed loops

Silicon Valley is a great example of how cross-fertilization leads to innovation. As one of the most innovative ecosystems in the world, it nurtures a culture that is open to new people and thinking, promoting the healthy circulation of fresh ideas and profitable exploration of approaches outside their own industries and business practices. Similarly, using cross-fertilization lets us proactively free ourselves from cognitive immobility so we stop going around in circles, locked in our own stale and habitual thinking.

By transposing proven use cases and adapting systems already developed by another industry, we can:

  • Invent a platform for true market disruption breaking away from locked in patterns
  • Implement faster because preparatory work is already in place
  • Greatly reduce time to market and increase the possibility of competitive advantage
  • Co-create innovation with other client organizations to reduce costs
  • Connect with like-minded leaders around results and user experience to aid buy-in

Keeping clients one step ahead – the DigiLab story (Part #1)

Stasis is the enemy of success

Sopra Steria is lucky to work with some the world’s most exciting companies. It’s our job to help them transform digitally, across sectors as diverse as education, hospitality and aerospace. That means our organization is packed with know-how, experience and progressive thinking. Clients trust us to roll out integrated IT platforms and modernize their application stacks, but they are not always aware of how innovative, disruptive and forward-thinking our organization can be. This is why DigiLabs exists

In 2014, Eric Maman — one of our senior innovation consultants — decided to create a dedicated hub ruthlessly focused on innovation: cross-fertilized, federated, multi-disciplinary. A way for clients to immerse themselves in the wealth of Sopra Steria insight across our areas of expertise, sectors and technologies and turbo-charge their own digital transformation projects to rapidly eliminate waste and create new value.

He created the first DigiLabs based at our Paris HQ — today we have 24 innovation hubs around the world working as one seamless network from France, Spain and the UK to Germany, Norway, India and Singapore. This series of blogs tells their story and explains how public and private sector organizations are working with DigiLabs right now to foster creativity, strengthen idea generation and transform perennial operational problems into feasible and profitable new ways of working. Because in today’s fast-moving world, standing still is a dangerous strategy .

Shaping smarter thinking, together

Delivering tech for tech’s sake is not the DigiLab way. Instead we shape innovation around our customers’ most urgent use-cases, asking ourselves: can we harness the best of what’s out there to craft robust new approaches and think in exciting new ways about their challenges, audiences and stakeholders?

Through the DigiLab experience, customers work with our expert teams to:

  • Brainstorm creatively around technology, people and process
  • Identify pains and weakness with field observation and interviews
  • Anticipate new uses of performance-enhancing technologies
  • Create robust use-cases for innovation, supported by best-practice learning
  • Cross-fertilize insight from sectors to adapt and optimize solution design
  • Roll out innovation enterprise-wide and keep it current as the world changes

A sneak peek inside a hothouse sprint week extravaganza

Most public and private sector leaders are acutely aware that they are supposed to be living and breathing digital: working smarter, serving people better, collaborating more intuitively. So why do front line realities so often make achieving a state of digital nirvana feel like just that: an achievable dream? The world is much messier and more complex for most organisations than they dare to admit, even internally. Achieving meaningfully digital transformation, with my staff/ customers/ deadlines/ management structure/ budgets? It’s just not realistic.

That’s where the Innovation Practice at Sopra Steria steps in.

I count myself lucky to be one of our global network of DigiLab Managers. My job is not just to help our clients re-imagine the future; anyone can do that. It’s to define and take practical steps to realising that new reality in meaningful ways, through the innovative use of integrated digital technologies, no matter what obstacles seem to bar the path ahead.

This is not innovation for the sake of it. Instead, our obsession is with delivering deep business performance, employee and customer experience transformation that really does make that living and breathing digital difference. Innovation for the sake of transformation taking clients from the land of make-believe to the tried and tested, in the here and now.

The beautiful bit? The only essentials for this process are qualities that we all have to hand: the ability to ask awkward questions, self-scrutinise and allow ourselves to be inquisitive and hopeful, fearlessly asking “What If?”.

Welcome to five days of relentless focus, scrutiny and radical thinking

The practical approach we adopt to achieving all this takes the form of an Innovation Sprint: a Google-inspired methodology which lets us cover serious amounts of ground in a short space of time. The Sopra Steria version of this Sprint is typically conducted over 5 days at one of our network of DigiLabs. These modular and open creative spaces are designed for free thinking, with walls you can write on, furniture on wheels and a rich and shifting roll-call of experts coming together to share their challenges, insights and aspirations. We also try to have a resident artist at hand, because once you can visualise something, solving it becomes that bit easier.

The only rule we allow? That anything legal and ethical is fair game as an idea.

Taking a crowbar and opening the box on aspiration

Innovation Sprints are the best way I know to shake up complex challenges, rid ourselves of preconceptions and reform for success. I want to take you through the structure of one of the recent Sprints we conducted to give you a peak at how they work, using the example of a Central Government client we have been working with. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics we discussed, names and details obviously need to stay anonymous.

In this Sprint we used a bulging kitbag of tools to drive out insight, create deliberate tensions, prioritise actions and, as one contributor neatly put it, ‘push beyond the obvious’. That kitbag included Journey Maps, Personas, Value Maps, Business Model Canvases and non-stop sketching alongside taking stacks of photos and videos of our work to keep us on track and help us capture new thinking.

Before we started, we outlined a framework for the five days in the conjunction with two senior service delivery and digital transformation leads from the Central Government Department in question. This allowed us to distil three broad but well-defined focus areas around their most urgent crunch points and pains. The three we settled on were ‘Channel shifting services’, ‘Tackling digital exclusion’  and ‘Upskilling teams with digital knowhow and tools’.

Monday: Mapping the problem

We kicked off by defining the problems and their context. Using a ‘Lightning Talks’ approach, we let our specialists and stakeholders rapidly download their challenges, getting it all out in the open and calling out any unhelpful defaults or limited thinking. In this particular Sprint, we covered legacy IT issues, employee motivation, citizen needs and vulnerabilities and how to deliver the most compassionate service, alongside PR, brand and press challenges, strategic aims and aspirations and major roadblocks. That was just Day One! By getting the tangle of challenges out there, we were able to start really seeing the size and shape of the problem.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: Diving into the molten core

This is where things always get fluid, heated and transformation. We looked in turn at the  three core topics that we wanted to address, following a set calendar each day. We would ‘decode’ in the morning, looking at challenges in more detail again using ‘Lightning Talks’ from key stakeholders to orientate us. Our experts shared their pains in a frank and open way.  We then drilled each of our key topics, ideating and value mapping, identifying  opportunities to harness innovation and adopt a more user-centric approach to technology.

At the heart of this activity we created key citizen and employee personas using a mixture of data-driven analysis and educated insight. An exercise called “How might we…?” helped us to free-think around scenarios, with key stakeholders deciding what challenges they wanted to prioritise for exploration. We were then directed by these to map key user journeys for our selected personas, quickly identifying roadblocks, testing or own assumptions, refining parameters and sparking ideas for smarter service design.

On each day we created Day +1 breakaway groups that were able to remain focused on the ideas generated the day before, ensuring that every topic had a chance to rest and enjoy a renewed focus.

Friday: Solidifying and reshaping for the future

On our final day, we pulled it all together and started to make the ideas real. We invited key stakeholders back into the room and revealed the most powerful insights and synergies that we had unearthed. We also explored how we could use the latest digital thinking to start solving their most pressing challenges now and evolve the service to where it would need to be in 3-5 years’ time. Our expert consultants and leads in automation and AI had already started to design prototypes and we honestly validated their potential as a group. Some ideas flew, new ones were generated, some were revealed to be unworkable and some were banked, to be pursued at a later date. We then discussed as a team how to achieve the transformations needed at scale (the department is predicting a rapid 4-fold growth in service use) while delivering vital quick wins that would make a palpable difference, at speed. This would help us to secure the very senior buy in our clients needed for the deeper digital transformations required.  To wrap up, we explored how we could blueprint the tech needed, work together to build tight business cases, design more fully fledged prototypes, strike up new partnerships and financial models and do it all with incredible agility.

Some photos from the week

Fast forward into the new

My personal motto is: How difficult could that be? When you’re dealing with huge enterprises and Central Government departments devoted to looking after the needs of some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society, the answer is sometimes: Very! But in my experience, there is nothing like this Sprint process for helping organisations of all stripes and sizes to move beyond unhelpful default thinking and get contributions from the people who really know the challenges inside out. With this client, we were able to map their challenges and talk with real insight and empathy about solutions, in ways they had never experienced before. We were also able to think about how we could leverage Sopra Steria’s own knowledge and embedded relationships with other government departments to create valuable strategic synergies and economies of scale.

A Sprint is never just about brainstorming around past challenges. It’s about fast-forwarding into a better, more digital, seamless and achievable future, marrying micro-steps with macro-thinking to get there. It’s an incredibly satisfying experience for all involved and one that delivers deep strategic insight and advantage, at extreme speed. And which organisation doesn’t need that?

Let’s innovate! If you’d like to book your own hothouse sprint week extravaganza or just want to know more about the process, please get in touch

Have you heard the latest buzz from our DigiLab Hackathon winners?

The innovative LiveHive project was crowned winner of the Sopra Steria UK “Hack the Thing” competition which took place last month.

Sopra Steria DigiLab hosts quarterly Hackathons with a specific challenge, the most recent named – Hack the Thing. Whilst the aim of the hack was sensor and IoT focused, the solution had to address a known sustainability issue. The LiveHive team chose to focus their efforts on monitoring and improving honey bee health, husbandry and supporting new beekeepers.

A Sustainable Solution 

Bees play an important role in sustainability within agriculture. Their pollinating services are worth around £600 million a year in the UK in boosting yields and the quality of seeds and fruits[1]. The UK had approximately 100,000 beekeepers in 1943 however this number had dropped to 44,000 by 2010[2]. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in beekeeping which has highlighted a need for a product that allows beekeepers to explore and extend their knowledge and capabilities through the use of modern, accessible technology.

LiveHive allows beekeepers to view important information about the state of their hives and receive alerts all on their smartphone or mobile device. The social and sharing side of the LiveHive is designed to engage and support new beekeepers and give them a platform for more meaningful help from their mentors. The product also allows data to be recorded and analysed aiding national/international research and furthering education on the subject.

The LiveHive Model

The LiveHive Solution integrates three services – hive monitoring, hive inspection and a beekeeping forum offering access to integrated data and enabling the exchange of data.

“As a novice beekeeper I’ve observed firsthand how complicated it is to look after a colony of bees. When asking my mentor questions I find myself having to reiterate the details of the particular hive and history of the colony being discussed. The mentoring would be much more effective and valuable if they had access to the background and context of the hives scenario.”

LiveHive integrates the following components:

  • Technology Sensors: to monitor conditions such as temperature and humidity in a bee hive, transmitting the data to Azure cloud for reporting.
  • Human Sensors: a Smartphone app that enables the beekeeper to record inspections and receive alerts.
  • Sharing Platform: to allow the novice beekeeper to share information with their mentors and connect to a forum where beekeepers exchange knowledge, ideas and experience. They can also share the specific colony history to help members to understand the context of any question.

How does it actually work?

A Raspberry Pi measures temperature, humidity and light levels in the hive transmits measurements to Microsoft Azure cloud through its IoT Hub.

Sustainable Innovation

On a larger scale, the data behind the hive sensor information and beekeepers inspection records creates a large, unique source of primary beekeeping data. This aids research and education into the effects of beekeeping practice on yields and bee health presenting opportunities to collaborate with research facilities and institutions.

The LiveHive roadmap plans to also put beekeepers in touch with the local community through the website allowing members of the public to report swarms, offer apiary sites and even find out who may be offering local honey!

What’s next? 

The team have already created a buzz with fellow bee projects and beekeepers within Sopra Steria by forming the Sopra Steria International Beekeepers Association which will be the beta test group for LiveHive. Further opportunities will also be explored with the service design principle being applied to other species which could aid in Government inspection. The team are also looking at methods to collaborate with Government directorates in Scotland.

It’s just the start for this lot of busy bees but a great example of some of the innovation created in Sopra Steria’s DigiLab!

[1] Mirror, 2016. Why are bee numbers dropping so dramatically in the UK?  

[2] Sustain, 2010. UK bee keeping in decline

I’m a beekeeper – what’s your super power?

On Friday 23rd of June I used my Sopra Steria Volunteering Day to support the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA) at the Royal Highland Show. The SBA was setup in 1912 as the national beekeeping body in Scotland. Sopra Steria provides me with one day’s paid volunteering, as part of our Community commitments, so with the SBA being a charity I decided to use my volunteering day to help.

Every year the SBA have a massive “Honey Marquee” at the Royal Highland Show which is a 4 day event – it’s Scotland’s biggest agricultural event with over 1,000 trade exhibitors and 6,500 animals. In the Honey Marquee alone, the SBA plan for around 10,000 visitors per day and require teams of stewards to help. So I put my name down for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

SR-Outside-Honey-MarqueeAll of the stewards were avid beekeepers, ranging from people like me, i.e. beginners keeping a couple of hives in the back garden, through to bee farmers with hundreds of hives and decades of experiences.

We rotated our teams around the various sections of the hive covering:

  • Candle making – beeswax of course!
  • Observation hives – we had 3 glass sided hives with bees foraging outside at the show

Education – a “touchy feely” area where people can handle hive parts, honey  comb and a honey extractor.

Here’s a view inside the Honey Marquee:

SBA-Honey-Marquee-2017

How did I get into Beekeeping?

readman-family-beekeepersOne of my good friends from school has kept bees for many years and I’d always had “beekeeping” in my bucket list of things to. So when he said he had a spare colony for me I thought – “how difficult can this be?”. I took my first colony with his telephone support, joined the Edinburgh branch of the SBA and did their beginners evening course. My (then) 8 year old daughter came along to the Saturday practical sessions too, so this has become a bit of a family hobby.

2016 was a bad year weather-wise and we didn’t get any honey, but in May this year we took our first crop of 13 jars:may-honey-crop-wide

Bees and our environment

As you will have heard in the news, bees have had a bit of a bad time with a variety of factors leading to colonies failing, this includes Varroa Mites and Foul Brood. We’re all hoping that the Asian Hornet doesn’t take hold in the UK.

Discover more about Sopra Steria’s sustainability commitment and community activities.

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