Despite the freezing cold weather our teams still joined us early on Saturday the 17th March outside Reading station for our Reading Smart City Challenge Weekend.
So it started on a bus! Yes, a bus! The wonderful John Bickerton of Reading Buses kindly agreed to lend us the University Claret Spritzer bus complete with juke box, chill out zone and games table. Why the bus? We wanted to get the teams focused on the challenges – making Reading a healthier and safer smart city. By driving around Reading the teams could be immersed in the town and think about it’s needs.
Our aim for the event was to accelerate SME development of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions based on the real-world challenges affecting smart city environments. The event was part of IoTUK Boost, the innovation support programme.
After a trip around the town we were delivered back to our event location, kindly hosted by Austin Fraser at their Thames Tower offices.
An important part of the weekend was to build commercially viable solutions and we were delighted that Adrian Braine from SETsquared could join us. Adrian is based at their Basingstoke site where a 5G Test bed has been installed and runs the SETsquared entrepreneur programme. He took the teams through his business models training and tasked them all with producing a customer canvas by the end of the day.
Our next guest presenter was Charles Paumelle, co-founder of Microshare. Charles is an evangelist for the Internet of Things and was chosen as the Co-chair Marketing for the LoRa Alliance, the fastest-growing Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) organisation. Charles shared with our teams his experience of building commercially viable businesses including routes to market. An interesting debate occurred around agritech but you’ll have to ask the teams about that one!
After a much needed lunch break all the teams found a home for themselves at one of the amazing break out spaces that Austin Fraser have. This gave our technology mentors Steve Samuels from Think Engineer, an IoT prototyping house, and Alex Gibson from Edumaker, a 3D printing and maker consultancy, plenty of time to work one-to-one with the teams to explore the technical feasibility of their solutions. By the end of the day one everyone was well on their way to completing a customer canvas, with one of the teams sharing “this is how all start-up events should be run, we are actually building a business not just a solution”.
We were hugely disappointed not to return for day two but the weather had other ideas, the snow unfortunately halted plans. We are however pleased that all of our teams are working on their ideas over the next month and will be back at Thames Tower on the 26th April for the big pitch. Adrian, Charles and Steve will be back again but this time on the judging panel. They will also be joined by Vinnett Taylor – Telefonica, Mark Thomas – Austin Fraser and John Morton – representing Thames Valley Berkshire LEP.