ADI Breaking New Ground with Digital Technology
Chris Holland meets John Eaglesham, boss of Saltaire-based Advanced Digital Innovation, whose research engineers are helping the healthcare sector and industry push new technical boundaries.
IMAGINE being a supermarket boss and having the technology to instantly check the performance of thousands of freezers.
It’s the sort of nuts and bolts area that is the bread and butter for boffins at the Advanced Digital Innvoation who are involved in research and product development work aimed at enabling managers to run their companies more efficiently in an affordable way by applying low power digital technology.
They are involved in ‘the internet of things’ whereby equipment such as refrigerators, boilers, street lights, doors and window latches can be connected to the internet without the need for a broadband hub or expensive technology.
ADI is working with national infrastructure service company Arqiva – which operates masts and infrastructure for mobile phone and broadcast networks, including the Emley Moor transmitter serving this area – to develop the Sigfox cellular connectivity system for a wide range of practical uses.
John Eaglesham, ADI chief executive, is excited about the growth potential of this area of technology for the business.
He said: “The Internet of Things is what becomes possible when fridges, doors, industrial machines, boilers, etc can be independently and cheaply connected to the internet.
“It is affordable technology that can be applied to a wide range of processes. Sigfox enables very simple and low cost connections between things and the internet without the need for Bluetooth or broadband hubs. You can connect a fridge or air conditioning unit or a boiler or window latch or street light.
“For instance, if you are running a supermarket or food distribution business with hundreds of thousands of units to monitor, just being able to get that information everyday about each unit’s performance can really change the way you run the business.
“If you are supplying products you can monitor for faults and carry out preventative maintenance. It’s digital technology with a huge potential for us and for end-users and we’re very excited about its potential.”
Sigfox is also the basis for the new MedsMinder app developed by ADI to help people take their medication regularly and keep their doctors informed. The new system is being piloted in the Bradford area with a national roll-out planned for 2016.
By downloading the MedsMinder App onto their smart phone, patients can record when they take their medicine, or alternatively press a button on a smart device at home to confirm they have taken it.
The app and smart device are connected to the patient’s healthcare provider who can track whether they are taking the medicine. If a dose is missed, the patient automatically gets reminded through the device or a smart phone text message with healthcare professionals also alerted.
Healthcare has been central to ADI throughout its first decade of operation. One of its earliest successes was to support the then start-up Image Analysis.
Originally based in ADI’s incubation unit at Saltaire, Image Analysis is now a London-based multi-national operation.
Founded by Russian-born Dr Olga Kubassova, who studied at Leeds University, the firm was winner for technical innovation in the Telegraph & Argus Bradford Means Business Awards. It began by developing the Dynamika imaging product to help radiologists and clinicians in analysing MRI scans to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other inflammatory diseases.
“Image Analysis is a good example of success in ADI’s original not-for-profit ‘helper’ role and we are delighted at their continued progress and growth,” said John, a former director of engineering at Saltaire-based TV technology company Pace plc.
ADI was initially inspired by local entrepreneur and technology guru Bob Gomersal who was keen to encourage and expand the range of research and development carried out locally.
ADI was launched with the support of the former regional development agency Yorkshire Forward with a £2 million grant over five years. But the plan was always to become a fully commercial operation and with the closure of Yorkshire Forward in 2010, Bob Gomersal, now chairman and majority shareholder, John Eaglesham and other senior managers bought shares in the business.
John said: “The intention was always to move out from the umbrella of Yorkshire Forward to take ADI to the next level as a commercial business building on our achievements in the initial helper role.”
ADI’s business is split 50-50 between developing predicts for commercial clients on a contract basis and developing new technologies and products of its own – such as the MedsMinder app.
Involvement with Image Analysis created a particular interest in how digital technology could boost healthcare. ADI co-ordinated a project with Shipley-based IT firm Red Embedded to develop the use of video conferencing for medical consultations.
The project involved working with Airedale Hospital which now has a round-the-clock fully staffed tele-medicine centre serving care homes across the country and has become a centre of excellence for using video conferencing technology to support patients.
Among the range of products developed for clients is an award-winning monitoring system for neighbouring social housing energy supplier Energyswith2, also based in Saltaire.
An at home display system for the smart metering industry developed for another ADI client has been adopted by one of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers.
ADI engineers have also developed a new anti-fraud gadget to enable retailers and other businesses to detect fake bank notes.
They worked closely with a Cumbrian company to develop a small USB stick-sized hand-held device which can detect suspect and counterfeit currency.
The Verus T H device will come into use from next year when the UK begins a conversion to more durable polymer banknotes.
ADI worked with Innovia Systems, a division of the Innovia Group, a leading global supplier of polymer for bank notes. The company has been awarded the contract to supply GuardianR polymer substrate to produce the new look and feel notes at the Bank of England’s printers.
John said ADI has been particularly successful in winning innovation contracts with the NHS.
PainSense is a set of digital resources to support people suffering from chronic pain, including the psychological impact for long-term patients.
“Working with our partner Inhealthcare we have developed resources for clinical experts and psychologists to assess people, including digital body charts, and a smartphone self assessment tool that helps health professionals understand where people are with their ailments.
“We are delivering tools for self management of chronic pain to try and keep sufferers on an even keel and not try to do too much after they have been incapacitated. PainSense has been deployed across Leeds since April and we’re getting 300 new users a month and interest for across the country.
“Hopefully it is a springboard to enable us to work with other health authorities. Digital technology is a good way of helping people to help themselves as most people with long-term illness are not in a surgery or hospital and their ability to understand what’s best for them on daily basis can make a huge difference to their lives and health.”
John sees healthcare as a huge growth area – pointing out that the NHS is 20 years out of date in the way it interacts with the public.
“While there’s lots of high-tech equipment in hospitals these days, the way the NHS interacts with the public is as if telephony never existed, never mind digital technology. It’s still a very paper-based organisation.
“There’s massive potential for us to develop digital technology and products for the sector for both administrative and clinical uses and that’s an exciting prospect.”
John reckons ADI will increase its £2 million turnover significantly over the five years – and add to its current 25-strong headcount with more high-skilled jobs.
ADI marked its tenth anniversary by launching a bursary for Yorkshire’s outstanding engineering student.
The first bursary have been awarded to 17 year-old Shipley software development student Callum Snowden, who is studying at Leeds City College and working at ADI during holidays. The firm will support him through is degree with a plan to recruit him on completion of his studies.
John said: ” The bursary scheme is a way for us to identify and reward outstanding young talent and to provide them with hands-on experience in a highly dedicated team.”