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OutSystems Enables Hackney Council to Enhance Its Digital Services

Hackney Council can now build mobile applications 50 percent faster using the OutSystems platform

OutSystems, provider of the number one platform for low-code development, today announced that Hackney London Borough Council is using the OutSystems platform to enhance its digital services. Hackney Council is the local government authority for the London Borough of Hackney and one of the largest London borough councils with more than 3,500 staff. With OutSystems, the Council is building and delivering a number of important applications that will support tenants and leaseholders in its housing estate which comprises 28,000 homes and 32,000 tenancy leaseholders.

Hackney Council selected OutSystems over other vendors because it demonstrated a number of strengths. Matthew Cain, Head of Digital and Data, comments, “One of my early tasks when I joined Hackney Council in 2017 was to understand the digital architecture of the council, and while it was quite robust and sophisticated, it was also out of date in certain areas. Having had previous experience of low-code platforms, I was keen to understand the potential scope of low-code and rapid application development in supporting Hackney’s ambition to deliver better services.”

The new initiative with OutSystems will enable the delivery of digital capabilities to its housing estate and is a part of Hackney Council’s ambition to move online to improve customer services and reduce costs. The first product, “Manage My Rent Account” is a mobile application that has been designed for more than 8,500 tenants of Hackney properties. Hackney Council is also in the final stages of private beta for another application called “Manage My Tenancy,” which has been specifically designed for officers who look after Hackney’s housing estate.  Both applications will enable tenants and housing officers to manage their rent accounts and estates remotely.

“We invited OutSystems along with a couple of other vendors to demo their platforms. We were immediately struck with the flexibility of OutSystems UX,” said Cain. It is really important that we continuously improve the experiences that our users have in order for them to succeed unaided. We were also impressed by the openness of the product and its ability to access data via the rest API points.”

OutSystems was awarded the contract and worked in partnership with Hackney Council to refine its requirements. Hackney was impressed with the OutSystems approach and viewed the project as a true co-design effort.   The platform has enabled developers to speed up their pace of work and have a deeper understanding of user needs. Matthew adds, “OutSystems is a valuable enabler allowing our developers to produce high quality solutions quickly. We have a number of graduate and apprentice developers and the speed that they are now able to work and the quality and consistency of their output is amazing.”

Matthew explains, “We expect to develop one new app per quarter over the next 12 months. Previously, we were lucky if we could develop two apps in a year, so we have doubled our capability to deliver apps faster to the business.”

Hackney Council is also evaluating the role that OutSystems can play in supporting its internal systems, such as systems to manage joiners, movers, and leavers. Matthew concludes: “How digital we are right now is not an easy question to answer. We have a lot of web forms and IT-enabled processes, but there is still an extensive program of work to ensure our services meet our users’ needs.  Our goal is to deliver high-quality end-to-end digital services for our residents and staff, and OutSystems will certainly help us meet this ambition.” 

About OutSystems

Thousands of customers worldwide trust OutSystems, the number one low-code platform for rapid application development. Engineers with an obsessive attention to detail crafted every aspect of the OutSystems platform to help organizations build enterprise-grade apps and transform their business faster. OutSystems is the only solution that combines the power of low-code development with advanced mobile capabilities, enabling visual development of entire application portfolios that easily integrate with existing systems. Visit  www.outsystems.com, or follow us on Twitter @OutSystems or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/outsystems

Greater Manchester health and social care moves ahead with Shaping Cloud engagement

Stephen Dobson, interim chief digital officer for Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership

Health and social care partnership set to make rapid procurement efficiencies whilst mapping out workforce and citizen benefits of moving to the cloud 

Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSC Partnership) aims to deliver rapid savings and identify how the cloud can support the region’s devolved vision for integrated health and care services through work with public sector IT specialists Shaping Cloud.

The company, which has already supported the cloud ambitions of global digital exemplar trusts Salford Royal and their fast follower Pennine Acute, is undertaking an ‘asset review’ that will baseline current infrastructure used across 20 NHS and local government organisations involved in the GMHSC Partnership.

This will identify what software applications are in use across the region and highlight opportunities for more cost-effective procurement practices to reduce duplication and leverage economies of scale for this landmark initiative.

The GMHSC Partnership is made up of NHS organisations and councils in the region, and is tasked with overseeing devolution and taking charge of the £6bn health and social care budget as well as a £450m transformation fund.

“Seeing what technology is in use across the public sector should mean the review will pay for itself in procurement efficiencies”, according to GMHSC Partnership interim chief digital officer Stephen Dobson. “However, it is the wider benefits of cloud adoption that are more attractive,” he says.

“Cloud is coming whether we like it or not. What I want to do is to accelerate the move to the cloud across Greater Manchester,” said Dobson. “I’m trying to get to the future faster.”

To help set out this future state, Shaping Cloud is conducting an enterprise architecture mapping exercise to identify current regional infrastructure. It will then develop a costed plan on what applications and storage can move to the cloud, indicating further potential financial savings and productivity benefits.

The asset review, scheduled for completion in the spring 2019, will also identify and address the need for organisations to have an information governance compliant asset register, as well as support workforce training and development needs that come with wider use of the cloud.

“The cloud will improve our ability to access what we need from wherever we are,” said Dobson. “For example, if an NHS consultant is required in a different hospital, he or she can access the information and applications they require without the need for getting a new piece of kit, or another laptop belonging to that trust. That’s a huge benefit both for staff and for the patient.”

For Dobson, the cloud should mean greater opportunities for flexible working and collaboration between the multidisciplinary teams that are increasingly required to deliver the region’s integrated, person-centred care model. Overstretched IT teams will also benefit, spending less time managing multiple applications and infrastructure.

Once the infrastructure is in place, Dobson says the region will have a platform: “Where it will be easier to collaborate and improve the delivery of health and social care services.

“It’s vital that we change how we use technology across our services. We must deliver on this, for the benefit of patients and our health and care workforce.

“Our partnership with Shaping Cloud will support us in achieving this and improve how we share data between organisations and access information. They really understand the challenges of delivering at scale and they have a genuine passion for service delivery.”

Chosen for its experience in public sector IT, hybrid cloud and digital transformation, Manchester-based Shaping Cloud has already worked with some of the region’s health and local authorities. It is now set to support Mayor Andy Burnham’s vision of Manchester as the UK’s leading digital city and deliver ‘the greatest and fastest possible improvement to the health and wellbeing for the 2.8m people of Greater Manchester’.

Shaping Cloud will set the building blocks for appropriate and phased use of the cloud, which will then be taken forward across the region with the support of the region’s digital board, which comprises senior leaders from Greater Manchester including GMHSC Partnership chief officer Jon Rouse, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust CEO Sir David Dalton, and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust CEO Sir Michael Deegan.

Shaping Cloud Founder and CEO, Carlos Oliveira, said: “Being selected as the preferred supplier to GMHSC Partnership is testimony to what we can and shall deliver. We are privileged to work in an industry where our products and services have the power to improve people’s lives.

“Our work with the partnership will create a blueprint for a modern IT infrastructure at an organisational, local and regional level. Leveraging the latest technologies, it will allow organisations to collaborate more effectively and be an enabler for the delivery of better services to the people of Greater Manchester.

“We’re fully behind Greater Manchester’s mission to improve the health and wellbeing of every citizen in the region. It’s about people achieving their potential and amplifying Manchester’s position as a world-class city. It’s a big responsibility and one we’re happy to help with.”

The work sits alongside activity that sees Manchester improving network connectivity through early adoption of N3-successor the HSCN, investment in full fibre networks, and greater information sharing via its successful Local Health and Care Record Exemplar bid, which itself may benefit from using the cloud.

For further information visit: shapingcloud.com

The Internet is still OK… sometimes

Justin Day, 6point6

The Government Digital Service gave its blessing to using the Internet instead of the Public Services Network in January 2017. But there’s danger in letting the solution define the requirements, says Justin Day of 6point6 Cloud Gateway.

In early 2017, the Government Digital Service (GDS) published a blog called “The Internet is ok”. It outlined the public sector digital and technology leaders’ position on the Public Services Network and concluded that it was clear that everyone agreed we could just use the Internet.

This was a big moment. Up to this point, some decision makers were wary of the Internet. The blog was an important advisory piece which highlighted that if you follow the guidelines, everything will be OK.

The very next thing that the author did was to clarify that the Internet is ok for the vast majority of the work that the public sector does, but not all. “But from today,” it said, “new services should be made available on the Internet and secured appropriately using the best available standards-based approaches. When we’re updating or changing services, we should take the opportunity to move them to the Internet.” Internet by default.

Eighteen months on, where are we? Is the Internet still ok and was it ever ok?

A long time ago, I was given some advice that we don’t sell technology; we sell a service level agreement. In the context of what Government departments provide to the general public – access to services – this advice holds true. What the public wants is access to services. When looking at solution options, procurers must ask themselves what service level guarantees are on offer.

The first issue with the Internet is that its service levels cannot be guaranteed: if a service relies on the Internet, then it is difficult to say who one can call when network performance inexplicably degrades, or connectivity is lost altogether. This by itself may make the Internet an inadequate choice of solution for some critical services, and that’s without going into a discussion about which services, then, should be considered critical.  This factor is not yet given sufficient weight by decision makers.

This brings us to a second issue: why are the limitations of the Internet given insufficient weight, despite the caveat of the original post? To understand why, we need to understand the decision makers who, broadly speaking, fall into one of two camps: digital enthusiast or digital moderate.

Broadly speaking, enthusiasts believe that everything should be in the cloud and that the Internet is the route to delivering it. The moderates still believe in each case on its merits. So, why are the enthusiasts winning?

The first reason is the advice itself: it’s easier to win an argument when the official advice supports your position. The digital resistance is often on a hiding to nothing.

Secondly, the sheer numbers of digital enthusiasts; they are now the norm. Perhaps it’s because the current generation has effectively grown up with accessible IT: they expect services and apps to exist powered by the Internet, using a device we all carry, our mobile phone. Therefore, the Internet is the right way to go.

Finally, even if all other factors were deadlocked, enthusiasts usually get the green light simply because few decision-makers want to be labelled a hindrance to progress.

My instinct honed from time spent around several Government departments is that the Internet is ok, but that it is not the answer to everything. People need to be more thorough, and to revert to the discipline of examining properly, whether cloud services and the Internet is the right thing for what they’re doing.  At a technical level, you can certainly look at things like latency, or quality of service. But they are the easy ones to look at. From the client perspective: are they getting the SLA that meets their needs? Do I want to have that extra layer of security encryption or otherwise?

Holistically, it’s about recognising that there is a multitude of options, not just one. This leads me to my overarching point: about the hybrid network, the hybrid cloud, which I think will win out within the next two years.

There will be a layer of early adopters which have been burned. Those following behind will have done more research and will know that the right thing to do is work on a case by case basis. Being flexible, digital and agile means applying the right technologies from the huge range available that works best for the end consumer, the business and everyone in the chain. It doesn’t matter what that is.

That, to me, is digital and that, to me, is what being agile means.

Since 2017, 6point6 Cloud Gateway has offered a portfolio of solutions that turn into reality the much talked about but rarely delivered agile network. It provides a secure gateway that is entirely vendor- and technology-neutral, connecting organisations to any cloud service provider or legacy infrastructure using any carrier medium, enabling transformation at the pace of change that suits the customer. Already prized by two major public sector entities, its solutions put organisations back in control of their IT, their data assets and their business, enabling agile transformation without contractual lock-in.

Electric vehicle transition offers golden opportunity for Local Authorities to improve air quality

By Matthew Boulton, COO of Pivot Power

The public sector is grappling with the emerging public health crisis that is being caused by poor air quality in cities, resulting in an estimated 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. The electrification of transport is a powerful lever for reducing local pollution levels, whilst also contributing to our national climate change targets, and offers opportunities for Local Authority investment in infrastructure assets which can provide healthy and growing long-term revenues.

But vehicle electrification is not easy.

Price and range of available models have been key barriers, but the landscape is changing fast. All the main manufacturers have announced new electric models in their line-ups, and the rapid cost decline of underlying battery technology means that analysts such as Bloomberg predict EVs will be getting close to cost parity with fossil-fuel cars by 2022.

The number one barrier to new car buyers switching to EVs is range anxiety – the fear of running out of charge at the wrong time. To decarbonise our transport system, people need to feel confident that there are public rapid-charging options available when it isn’t convenient or possible to rely on a slow overnight charge at home. And rapid charging of cars is a power problem. The newest rapid chargers can take 350 kW of power – as much power as an entire supermarket, just for one car. And it’s no good turning up at a rapid charger and finding yourself in a queue. To guarantee availability in a world full of EVs, you need to have clusters of rapid chargers, and that requires an enormous amount of power.

Pivot Power has been established to decarbonise both our energy and our transport systems. We will be connecting huge lithium-ion batteries directly to National Grid substations in 45 locations across England and Wales. These batteries will enable the grid to accommodate increasing amounts of wind and solar, helping to smooth out fluctuations in their supply, so that the grid can be kept in balance on a second-by-second basis as we continue to reduce the carbon emissions related to electricity generation.

We have selected substations which are also close to key national roads and on the edges of big towns. In each location we will have access to 60 megawatts of power – the equivalent of supply to 30,000 homes. As well as using these connections for the batteries, Pivot Power will be taking power from each site to create intense clusters of EV charging capacity.

At the centre of each of these clusters will be a ‘superhub’ – a 100-bay (or more) centre for rapid recharging. At the superhub, passing drivers will be able to pause for a rest, maybe a bite to eat, maybe a quick catch up on phone calls and emails. They will have a range of rapid chargers at their disposal, able to top the car back up in anything from 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the traveller’s requirements and vehicle’s capabilities.

But there are opportunities to do more with that power. We can take it to nearby locations where there is potential for installing additional mass charging capability: bus depots, Park & Rides, retail car parks, corporate HQs and logistics fleet hubs. By creating a pocket of intense EV capacity in one area, we want to act as a catalyst for EV uptake right across the town – making residents feel confident that there is a range of convenient and available public charging options available.

How can a local authority play a part in this revolution?

As a planning authority – Whether it is for the initial ‘battery on the substation’ application, or for the superhub at the motorway junction and the cable connecting the two, the Local Authority will always have a key role to play in the statutory processes assessing those applications. We will be studying local development plans and engaging proactively with you to try and make sure these developments fit into your local strategy and objectives.

As a land owner – We will be looking for land to locate the new superhubs. If the Local Authority has suitable land for this purpose, or for the creation of new fleet-charging locations (bus depots, Park & Rides), these could become valuable sources of revenue.

As a public service provider – A Local Authority may wish to lead the local push to transport electrification, converting its own vehicle fleets (cars, vans, refuse trucks) and creating the charging infrastructure it requires.

As a policy maker – Once it has established a strong network of local EV charging, the Local Authority can push harder on zero emission zones for the city centres, and mandate a quicker transition to electric buses and taxis.

As an investor – Pivot Power will be building core, strategic assets for the country’s future. Whether or not these are located on Local Authority land, there will be opportunities for co-investment in both the batteries and the EV chargers as a means of securing long-term revenues into the public purse.

Pivot Power is trying to accelerate the EV revolution, and is looking to collaborate with Local Authorities who want to grab the opportunity to shape the impact that revolution has locally, designing and installing appropriate infrastructure which catalyses local EV uptake, improves local air quality targets and establishes reliable future revenue streams, setting an example for other towns to follow.

How to make the most of the apprenticeship levy

How to make the most of the apprenticeship levy

In April 2017, legislation that presented a complete overhaul of how apprenticeship training in the UK is structured and delivered came into effect. The intention of the apprenticeship levy is to increase funding and boost the volume of apprenticeships available within the UK, both in public and private sectors. But with apprenticeship numbers reportedly falling across the UK, the levy has become a hot topic with many different moving parts. Lizzy Grayson, Category Manager for Corporate Services at YPO, offers her insights into the workings of the apprenticeship levy for public sector organisations and how to make the most of the new procurement process.

How does the levy work?

The levy works by applying an annual 0.5% charge on an employer’s total payroll which is automatically deducted via PAYE. The funds raised are isolated to the individual organisation’s levy pot, with this sum then being allocated to procuring apprenticeship schemes. This only occurs once the payroll of the employer is in excess of £3million, placing many public sector organisations within the bracket. In addition, each employer that is paying into the levy will each receive a flat annual allowance of £15,000 to counterbalance their levy payment. If necessary, employers will also have the ability to access further subsidised funding for apprenticeships.

Procurement processes with many moving parts can be difficult to negotiate when procuring apprenticeship standards. What seems like a simple process can take organisations several months, incurring administration costs and taking valuable capacity time.  This factor, combined with the nature of the apprenticeship levy process being new to all parties, can be seen as one of the many reasons that the uptake number of apprenticeships has decreased since last year. 

How are new standards created?

As the Education and Skills funding agency changes apprentice framework systems into standards, trailblazer groups are created across all sectors to develop apprenticeship standards. Trailblazer groups are created by the ESFA and have representation from different areas of the sector. 

What does it mean for public sector organisations?

Public sector organisations have previously had a requirement for apprentice’s to support their business needs, it helps develop individuals in a unique way, giving them the skills and experience of delivering in the workplace. Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, this is increased and many organisations want to utilise their levy to the maximum and deliver more apprenticeship programmes in a variety of areas. The funds and management of apprenticeships will inevitably increase across all public sector organisations, many of which have recruited dedicated apprenticeship managers to develop specific programmes within their organisations. This has become especially prevalent with the department of education recently setting the target of 2.3 per cent of public sector workforces to be made up of apprenticeship roles by 2020.

Due to the increase in spend across each public sector organisation, they will need to procure apprenticeships in line with the EU Public contracts regulations

As of today there are 305 different standards across routes such as the emergency services and social care. However, this number is rapidly increasing to include more apprenticeship roles as trailblazing bodies approve new sector standards. With over 2,600 providers approved on the Education and Skills Funding Agency register of approved apprenticeship providers listing, public sector organisations may understandably not be fully aware of every apprenticeship scheme available for procurement.

It is more important than ever for public sector organisations to find the appropriate apprenticeship provider. The market is rapidly growing so access to national and regional providers will be key to delivering a successful apprenticeship programme. The challenge will be to ensure that value for money is achieved, due to the changes to levy bandings many providers are delivering close to the banding rates. We recognise that our role in this is to help public sector organisations understand the added financial and quality value that they can achieve.

YPO recognises that it can quickly become confusing for public sector organisations as they attempt to choose the best procurement framework for their organisation. Subsequently, we are launching the first national Apprenticeship Framework that covers all standards in August 2018, collating compliant routes to apprenticeship providers across the UK. Apprenticeship providers will also be able to bid on a quarterly basis for all current and new standards thanks to the structure of the Apprenticeship procurement framework. The framework will support apprenticeship providers and give them one procurement process that will allow public sector organisations to procure their apprenticeship standards directly.

The framework aims to make spending Apprenticeship Levy funds simpler for public sector organisations by finding each compliant route to market for the procurement of apprenticeships. It is the first and only national framework of its kind and will aim to cover all growing future trailblazing standards. YPO’s framework is aiming to enable apprenticeship levy funds to be spent more effectively and create savings in administration costs for local authorities. Apprenticeship providers across the UK are invited to help bridge the current gap between provider and purchaser by being part of the Apprenticeship Framework. YPO is heavily focused on customer service as a procurement organisation and is committed to helping the public sector engage with the Apprenticeship levy in a positive way.

With many years’ of experience, YPO is one of the leading UK public sector procurement organisations. The organisation is public owned which means profits are returned to public sector customers, which helps gives assurance that maximum savings can be made.

Retirement complex warms to super-safe Barlo LST radiators

Schaffer House, Maidenbower

Reporter: Stacy Clarke

A residential retirement development in West Sussex has replaced its outdated, inefficient radiators with highly efficient, ultra-modern low surface temperature (LST) models from Barlo Radiators – keeping vulnerable residents safe, warm and comfortable, while making substantial cost and carbon savings.

Schaffer House in Maidenbower is a sheltered housing complex for the over-65s, which comprises 46 flats and a number of communal facilities for residents – including a lounge, laundry room, hairdressing salon, guest accommodation and gardens. The heating system serving the communal lounge and hallways had previously been made up of an old-fashioned, non-condensing boiler and antiquated LST radiators, which were beginning to leak and had no temperature controls. This setup not only made it difficult to maintain a comfortable environment for residents, but was also resulting in significant heat wastage and higher-than-average bills.

In a bid to enhance residents’ safety and comfort, Crawley Borough Council (which manages Schaffer House) decided to overhaul the entire heating system as part of wider improvement works. In the communal areas, this involved replacing the boiler with a new water source heat pump, and the existing emitters with 61 super-efficient LST radiator packages from leading British manufacturer Barlo Radiators.  As a result, the council will see a combined annual Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) income and ongoing savings of up to £12,700, as well a 49 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. 

Carl Himsworth, Gas Manager at Crawley Borough Council, told GPSJ: “When it came to upgrading Schaffer House’s heating system, improving efficiency was crucial. We initially considered replacing the old boiler with a ground source heat pump, but the property didn’t have enough land to allow for the necessary groundworks, so we opted for a water source heat pump instead. This works by drawing renewable heat from a nearby stream, provided temperatures are above freezing – with the back-up of a gas boiler that only kicks in if the heat demand is particularly high.”

The Barlo LSTs installed at Schaffer House feature advanced radiator technology that delivers optimal efficiency and heat transfer, even at Delta Ts as low as 30°C – making them the perfect match for low water temperature renewables like heat pumps. Horsham-based Baystar Energy was contracted to carry out all heating installation works at Schaffer House, including the water source heat pump and the LSTs.

Carl continues: “As a water source heat pump is a renewable technology, pairing it with the right heat emitters was vital to ensure maximum performance – and the Barlo LSTs do just that, providing excellent heat output at lower water temperatures. Maximising safety was a further consideration during this project, so the fact that the LSTs are fully compliant with all the necessary health and safety regulations was another plus. This includes NHS Safe Surface Temperature guidelines, which help protect Schaffer House’s more vulnerable residents from injury if their skin accidentally comes into contact with the LST casing. Thanks to the excellent team at Baystar, all the installation works went smoothly from start to finish – and the impressive financial and environmental savings that the building is now generating speak for themselves.”

Schaffer House, Maidenbower

Independently tested in an EN442-accredited laboratory, the Barlo LSTs installed at Schaffer House are certified to meet BS EN442 standards. They comply with NHS Safe Surface Temperature guidelines (max. 43˚C) when operating at a maximum flow temperature of 80˚C and a return of 60˚C, or a maximum flow temperature of 75˚C and a return of 65˚C. The emitters included in the package are Hi-Lo Compact panel radiators, which feature third-generation technology that is unique to Barlo. This means they offer better heat transfer, lower water content, and the best heat outputs available – maximising energy savings and minimising running costs across the whole system.

Dave Thornback, Sales Director – Trade at Barlo Radiators, concludes: “Barlo has a longstanding working relationship with Crawley Borough Council, so we were delighted to be asked to work with them once again on this project. Our LSTs are specifically designed for use in applications catering for vulnerable people (such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, social housing and other public buildings) – making them absolutely ideal for Schaffer House.

“As well as ticking all the council’s boxes in terms of delivering improved efficiency and safety, our solution also resolved another issue at hand: lack of controllability. Barlo LSTs feature safe, simple and intuitive temperature controls, so gone are the days when the communal areas were either too hot or too cold! They are also quick and easy to keep clean thanks to their unique forward-opening hinge. This is a key consideration for a project like this, where hygiene is a particular priority.”

Barlo LSTs come with all the components needed for hassle-free fitting and ongoing operation, and boast an anti-microbial, MRSA-resistant coating for optimum cleanliness. They also feature heavy-duty pencil-proof grilles that allow air to circulate effectively, while simultaneously preventing foreign objects from accessing the emitter underneath.

For more information about the Barlo LST range, or any of the products in the company’s market-leading Barlo Panel or Barlo Design radiator ranges, please visit www.barlo.co.uk or call 01633 657 000.

Government leads the way in boosting AI innovation and research in the UK

Rahul Powar, CEO, Red Sift

By Rahul Powar, CEO, Red Sift

It hasn’t come as any great surprise that The Economist declared 2018 as the landmark year for Artificial Intelligence (AI). In 2017, the UK government made investment promises of over £100 million to the further development of artificial intelligence research and associated technologies. To view the surge of AI as anything other than a generation-defining event would be a mistake.

As our daily lives have become more digitised we’re producing more data than ever before. Furthermore, the reality facing a world filled with internet-connected devices is that there is an equal if not higher risk of related cybersecurity attacks. As the threat intensifies, organisations and individuals need to ensure appropriate defences are in place to protect all of this precious data. However, today, skilled professionals defending against these types of attacks can no longer keep up with the pace of these threats, hence the need for automated solutions. AI, in its many guises, including Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), is the only solution geared up to handle this vast volume of data.

The Government announced its AI Sector Deal in April of this year, a move that underlined the UK’s drive to lead the revolution in AI technology by investing in research, people, places and infrastructure. In the launch statement, Matt Hancock, the then secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said the Government wanted to see the UK at the forefront of innovation and emerging technologies, and as the co-founder of a cybersecurity startup in the UK, I share this vision.

AI has the power to transform the processing speeds of otherwise arduous or near impossible tasks for individuals to manage alone, and it is by pushing these technological boundaries that we can make the greatest positive impact on society. Utilising AI for cybersecurity defences enables us to change the economics of the current state of play – we can get ahead of cybercriminals looking to use AI for their own nefarious purposes and combat the threat with superior AI knowledge. AI has the power to make us safer online.

With the dawn of these new technological possibilities comes years of research and testing, but the Government’s sector deal will help to reduce the time required to move from R&D to commercial solutions by accelerating projects with human and financial investment. We work in an industry where we all need to research, develop and test and for that reason, we feel it’s our responsibility to assist AI projects in these early phases.

Two years ago we began funding a PhD research project that looks to tackle the challenges faced within the analysis of digital communication data, in particular the challenges due to the sheer amount of information and the unstructured, ‘noisy’ nature of this data.

This project will develop a framework where the cognitive and creative capabilities of human experts can complement the computational power of advanced algorithms to empower those people working with such data. This will help us to develop our email security solutions by making sense of large collections of emails in more informed and efficient ways, and in identifying key information more effectively in order to gain much deeper insight into the ‘stories’ told by the data.

We’re are also working on a second project to better understand how analysts can use AI to perform visualisation-empowered data analysis. Our plan is to develop techniques to make multifaceted data sets more accessible via chatbots that can harness the more expressive nature of the human language.

Industry-backed research is essential to fuel this drive for the UK to lead the way in AI technology innovation. We acknowledge that the innovation of today is built on the foundation of yesterday’s research, and the UK has a strong legacy of turning academic vision into commercial reality, the challenge is how quickly we can do that – this is why it’s important for the whole industry to play a role in funding and supporting research. We’re all too aware that AI can’t just be developed in a lab. To harness the technology’s benefits requires industry players and government agencies to work together on real-world test cases to ensure that we’re getting AI right as well as using it to maximum advantage.

Today, some of the hottest startups are benefitting from the commoditisation of the technological advances, only made possible through this cutting-edge research. As an organisation that shares the government’s appetite to drive AI innovation, we applaud this sector deal and look forward to helping create the technologies of tomorrow.

Red Sift is a data-driven cybersecurity platform that is using ML to develop security solutions that use behavioural analysis to help users detect email-based threats.

Contact: info@redsift.com | @redsift | www.redsift.com

Arch Apprentices successfully obtains place on YPO’s Apprenticeship Framework

Reporter: Stacy Clarke

A contract has been awarded to leading provider Arch Apprentices from YPO, the leading public sector procurement organisation, which will afford NHS, police, schools, local authorities much greater access to acquiring much-needed apprentices.

The contract will cover public sector organisations in South East, London, North West, West and East Midlands and South West of England Two-year agreement (from 1 August 2018) also grants access to any UK public sector organisation not already involved.

The Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO), one of the UK’s leading public sector providers, has provided much greater access to much-needed apprentices for organisations such as the NHS, local government, schools and the Police, through a Framework Agreement.

The two-year contract with Arch Apprentices, will see public sector organisations already within the YPO’s jurisdiction granted much easier access to acquiring new apprentice roles, but also, thanks to the EU’s ‘combined Procurement Direction’, any public sector organisation in the UK.

Fire and Rescue services, registered charities, as well as wider UK and central government organisations will be afforded the ability to train apprentices in standards as diverse as data analysis, accountancy, digital content production, software development, networking and management amongst others.

Public Sector Specialist Corporate Account Manager, Simon Barker comments: “Arch Apprentices continue to be recognised as the stand-out provider to the UK public sector in digital, tech and corporate services apprenticeships. We are delighted that we’ve been approved and added to the YPO Apprenticeship Framework.  As you’d expect, our Grade 1 Ofsted score has helped with our tender submission, but the process required much more than that, including detailing flexibility in delivery model, experience in public sector partnerships, and a thorough social value proposition.

A number of our existing local authority customers plan to use YPO to procure further, and larger apprenticeship cohorts, and so we hope to secure continued partnerships with them and with new public sector clients.”

Lizzy Grayson, Category Manager at YPO told GPSJ: “We recognised that procuring apprenticeships can quickly become confusing for the public sector and we wanted to offer a solution for our customers. We’re thrilled that we have been able to review and accept tender bids from suppliers such as Arch Apprentices whose Ofsted scores and knowledge will reassure our customers and support them with developing their apprenticeship offering.”

GRITIT celebrates national public sector Framework status

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Award winning firm GRITIT has secured a valuable public sector framework award for the provision of Winter Gritting, Snow Clearance and Grounds Maintenance services.

Following a competitive tender process, GRITIT has been awarded a place on the YPO 827 Winter Maintenance Products and Services Framework for Lot 4 – Winter Gritting, Snow Clearance and Grounds Maintenance Services.

YPO is a leading public sector procurement organisation that supplies products and services to a wide range of customers including schools, local authorities, charities, emergency services, public sector and other businesses such as nurseries and care homes.

The Framework enables YPO’s members to run OJEU compliant competitions for some or all of the services; this is the first time YPO has included services as well as products for Winter Maintenance, reflecting increasing demand from members for access to best in class service provision.

Inclusion onto the Framework now formally positions GRITIT as a leading provider of FM services to the public sector and will further widen its net to attracting new business wins. Currently GRITIT counts a number of public sector organisations among its clients, including Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMP), the Fire Service, as well as a number of Housing Associations and hospital and healthcare contracts.

Steve Webb, GRITIT Commercial Director said:  “We are one of only a select few companies in the UK to have successfully gained a place on the YPO Framework and we are pleased to be among some of the industry’s biggest FM providers in doing so.

“This demonstrates the significance of the achievement and is testament to the technical capabilities of our talented team.

“This is an exciting time at GRITIT as we continue to grow and diversify.  Winning a place on the YPO Framework gives us a fantastic opportunity to further grow our public sector portfolio, working in partnership and delivering high-quality value for money services.  We are looking forward to a productive and positive relationship with YPO and their customers.”

GRITIT provides award winning Winter Gritting, Snow Clearance and Grounds Maintenance across the UK, keeping sites operational, safe and in pristine condition throughout the year. For more information on managing your grounds call GRITIT on 0800 0432 911 or visit www.gritit.com.

For further information on the full range of products and services offered by the YPO, please visit www.ypo.co.uk.

CE MARKINGS NO GUARANTEE OF SAFETY

Heavily corroded midsoles, leave them open to risk of penetration

Neil Murray, Head of Public Sector at Arco discusses the unseen risks for your business

Although we enjoy the benefits of working in one of the safest places in the world, with the lowest incident rates of work related deaths in the EU, there’s a gap in the compliance process that is putting UK workers at risk of injury, even though they are using CE-marked PPE they believe will protect them.

As a health and safety manager, you may believe that you and your people are fully protected and compliant when you specify or buy PPE.  The reality is that some CE marked PPE is failing, putting wearers at risk of injury and businesses and individuals at risk of loss of reputation, fines and even possible imprisonment.

The evidence is undeniable, particularly in the area of a number of CE marked safety footwear and gloves that are freely available on the market.  Independent laboratory testing in 2017 showed that around 40% of non-metallic footwear and 30% of rigger gloves failed surveillance testing, despite carrying the CE mark.

Midsoles must resist a force of 1100 Newtons (2)

With around 600,000 workers each year reporting that they have suffered an injury at work, the consequences of failing to apply due diligence to PPE purchasing are huge.  Without a robust process in place, accidents and injuries could be life changing and not just for end users but for the individuals (and the businesses they work for) who are involved in specifying and purchasing the equipment.

If you are concerned about the risks of failing CE marked PPE leaving you and your business exposed, click here to watch a short film about this important issue.  CE markings do not guarantee compliance and as an employer or health and safety manager, you have an obligation to ensure that whatever you buy is compliant.

STATE-OF-THE-ART ASEPTIC MANUFACTURING FACILITY WINS AT THE CONSTRUCTING EXCELLENCE NORTH EAST AWARDS

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

BakerHicks, the multidisciplinary design and engineering company, is celebrating the success of one of its major pharmaceutical projects, the GSK Aseptic Manufacturing Facility, at the 2018 Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) Awards. GSK won the Client of the Year category for the project, which was also a finalist in both the Offsite Project and Safety & Wellbeing categories.

The new-build project at Barnard Castle will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the aseptic filling of vials and syringes, and handling of cold chain products, securing the future of aseptic liquid filling operations at the site. BakerHicks completed the scheme design phase and is the lead designer for the delivery phase, working alongside the GSK Engineering team, SES Engineering Services, Star Refrigeration, Turner & Townsend, Daldrop and McLaughlin & Harvey.

A central element to the success of this large and complex project is GSK’s integrated project delivery (IPD) approach. This has seen a high degree of collaboration between everyone involved in delivering the project, leading to efficiencies and minimising risk. As part of this approach, BakerHicks is continuing to provide support and technical advice throughout construction stage with a dedicated lead designer and Building Information Modelling (BIM) manager based on site. This allows the company to use its experience and knowledge of designing facilities of this type to support and challenge the other IPD partners on the project to achieve the best solution.

BIM is being used to coordinate the project as well as providing digital asset management, supporting GSK’s IPD philosophy. BakerHicks manages one central, fully coordinated model which integrates models from various separate design packages and specialist equipment providers to inform the construction of the facility. This not only ensures the integration of the multi-disciplinary design but also allows the team to quickly and proactively detect and resolve any clashes and respond to any on-site questions on construction and installation.

Tom Dickinson, head of project management at BakerHicks says: “GSK is a highly innovative client who isn’t afraid to push the boundaries to drive better project delivery and this is a fantastic example of what that approach can achieve. For instance, the level of BIM integration on a project of this type is unprecedented. Making full use of this technology in this way allows for the coordination of the team and design across what is a large scale and highly complex project. It’s this industry leading approach to the project which makes GSK thoroughly deserving of the CENE Client of the Year award.”

BakerHicks have provided multi-disciplinary scheme and detailed design and management services for the aseptic manufacturing facility.

Professional planners: planning for the future?

Fisher German partner – Kay Davies

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

To the uninitiated, UK planning policy and its supporting legislation appears to be a bit like criminal law: clear rules that govern what is and is not permissible, effectively written in stone. And, just like criminal law, the reality, as a quick glance at a list of major planning legislation and policy documents released by successive governments over the past decade proves, is anything but.

With significant new planning rules – including legislation, statutory instruments, ministerial statements, case law, policy and national guidance – arriving, on average, around every 18 months, professional planners such as Fisher German partner Kay Davies are being constantly kept on their toes.

Grow with the change

In 2018, the government is making some significant revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – unwieldy document titles and impenetrable acronyms are an occupational hazard for those in the planning profession – This is policy that was itself only introduced in 2012.

“The context we operate within is frequently changing,” admits Kay. “We constantly have to be on the ball. So much of what we do has changed in the past 10 years and continues to do so.”

That can sometimes lead to awkward conversations when a land owner finds that they can’t get planning permission for a development that their neighbour was able to only a short time before.

Clarity is key

Unsurprisingly, communication skills are as important for professional planners as their technical expertise. Kay nods: “When we write a strategy letter whether for a small barn conversion or a large development scheme, we seek to ensure we provide the client with as clear an understanding of the route to achieve consent and to make the process as clear as possible.” If Kay is at all exasperated by the succession of changes affecting her job, she doesn’t show it. Instead, she focuses on the positives that have come from a decade of morphing planning legislation and policy.

“The government is trying to make the planning system, more streamlined, easier for householders, more flexible to businesses and reinforcing its commitment to delivering the right homes in the right places,” she states. “There are clear signs that local authorities are finally engaging in the process that will allow new homes to be delivered more widely.

The increasing recognition that just because you can’t walk to a local shop or a school doesn’t mean that a development is inherently unsustainable is so refreshing, and really helps land owners with small scale developments and conversions. Kay points out that while there was initial uncertainty about how Neighbourhood Planning, introduced by the 2011 Localism Act, would work in practice, Neighbourhood Plans are now taken very seriously and given significant weight. Kay encourages all those she works with to engage with them at an early stage.

Altering attitudes

“The tide is turning,” confirms Kay. “Even the most stubborn local authorities who resisted any kind of development activity are now accepting the shift in planning policy and legislation changes but this has often been driven by planning appeals.” And what of planning between now and 2028 – is Kay expecting the politicians to ease off the throttle? “I hope so!” she says. “However, given the government’s commitment to housing delivery, it is likely that there will be more changes. There will certainly be some case law arising from the revised NPPF when it is published in its final format. The last 10 years have also seen much greater recognition of rural areas and that’s likely to continue.”

How planning has changed in practice – case study

One of the areas where there has been a significant shift in planning rules since 2008 is housing. In the issue of affordable housing in rural areas is now more widely acknowledged, though some local authorities have been quicker to accept the changes in direction than others.

A landmark barn conversion project Fisher German advised on illustrates some of the issues and how these have been resolved over time.

In 2008, detailed planning permission was approved for the conversion of derelict barns near a farm in Derbyshire into three residential units. However, the local authority believed that under the then current planning rules the development would require a payment from the landowner towards providing affordable housing elsewhere in the district. The sum calculated came to nearly £80,000. This threatened the viability of the project, though the project was subsequently put on hold as a result of the global financial downturn. As work had not started three years later, the planning permission lapsed.

When the plans were dusted down again in 2014, newly introduced permitted development rights, which in this case allowed the conversion of agricultural buildings for use as residential dwellings meant that, unlike in 2008, a full-scale planning application was not required.

This meant a considerable cost saving for the landowner. But the local authority refused the plans as the scheme was considered unsustainable.

Yet exactly the same development had previously been granted planning permission. When challenged, the local authority suggested that an affordable housing contribution could allow the conversion to go ahead.

In November 2014, the government issued guidance noting that local authorities were unable to demand such contributions for developments of 10 dwellings or fewer. So, Fisher German appealed the local authority’s refusal, arguing that the proposals were fully compliant with the permitted development rights and that the scheme would not be unsustainable.

A government-appointed planning inspector agreed and allowed the appeal. This set an important precedent for landowners in a similar situation.

The Derbyshire development has now been completed and is fully occupied.

For more information please visit: www.fishergerman.co.uk/

FIRE SAFETY: HIGH ON THE AGENDA FOR HIGH RISE REFURBISHMENTS

Blackwall Reach

SAFETY checks have been carried out on hundreds of high rise buildings* in the last 12 months, with many having to be reclad to meet regulations*.

In June 2017, all local authorities and housing associations were told by the Department for Communities and Local Government to carry out safety checks on external cladding to ensure that any potential fire spread does not pose a risk to the health and safety of tenants*.

When recladding existing developments, it is important for councils to ensure that safety measures are met whilst still creating a modern and attractive building exterior to appeal to future tenants.

When choosing a material to replace existing cladding due to safety concerns EQUITONE is a durable fibre cement facade material. It achieves the perfect balance between aesthetics and safety, meeting the reaction to fire classification A2-s1,d0 whilst offering an extensive palette of subtle and inspiring shades in a variety of textures and finishes. EQUITONE also has a life expectancy of at least 50 years.

Constructing beauty

EQUITONE’s versatility allows the architect to put their own creative stamp on the building, making it suitable for both traditional and modern schemes. It can also be cut and fabricated into a wide range of shapes, allowing the architect to use their imagination to create striking patterns in the exterior design whilst being mindful of the surrounding environment and existing buildings.

EQUITONE in practice

EQUITONE has been specified on high rise buildings throughout the UK, with a recent example being Blackwall Reach. Around 6,400m2 of EQUITONE [natura] was specified for the £300m housing development in Poplar, East London.

Almost 1,600 new apartments were created as part of the regeneration project of Blackwall Reach, which replaced the former 1970s Robin Hood Gardens housing estate.

EQUITONE [natura], which offers a tactile, smooth surface that allows the textures of the fibre cement to show through, helped to create a modern and attractive building exterior.

Request your samples here LINK

*Information from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety Programme, which was developed to ensure that residents of high rise buildings are safe now and in the future.

Digital Transformation in Government Must be Holistic and Practical

Paul Parker: SolarWinds Chief Technologist for Public Sector

By Paul Parker, Solarwinds Chief Technologist

Let’s start with the basics: the government does not exist to provide or sell IT services. It’s easy to forget this when we’re talking about public sector digital transformation, especially when current IT strategy focuses on investment in infrastructure, ROI, and innovation. That said, it’s imperative for government leaders and policy makers to keep top of mind the fact that the function of IT services in public sector is to support each organisation in delivering real services to real people, whether that be in the healthcare, protection, or civic services space.

Bearing this in mind, it’s no surprise that confusion surrounds digital transformation in the public sector. Broadly defined as the change associated with the application of digital technology to all aspects of how the organisation functions, certain recent statistics reflect how much more difficult this can be than it sounds.

For example, while the NHS has a Five Year Forward View, and has invested £4 billion in NHS digital transformation, nearly a fifth (17%) of NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have no digital transformation strategy in place. A further 24% have only just begun to develop a strategy. Similarly, the Cloud First policy is low in uptake—less than a third (30%) of NHS trusts surveyed as part of an FOI request and under two-thirds (61%) of central government departments have adopted any level of public cloud in their organisation.

Governance

This highlights one of the big differences between the U.K. and the U.S. that I have experienced: policies with clear enforcement strategies. For example, FedRAMP in the U.S. provides a clear benchmark for U.S. federal organisations—you need to shift from insecure IT to secure, nimble, and quick IT. In addition, it provides a list of accredited vendors and partners that can help organisations achieve this. In the U.K., the Cloud First policy is comparatively vague. While it sets a strong intention that the public sector should favour public cloud ahead of all other IT solutions, there are no clear ‘teeth’ to the directive, and no regimented exceptions system.

At a policy level, clearer processes are required to better define what systems need to be transformed, what should be moved to the cloud, and the rationale behind the change. Simultaneously, there needs to be consequences for trusts that choose not to comply, with the overseeing body taking a “trust but verify” approach to ensure the policy is being implemented. To support this, a clear “exception” process is needed for public sector organisations to clearly demonstrate their reasoning if they chose, for any reason, to opt for a different tactic to the public-cloud-led approach prescribed by the Cloud First policy.

Leadership

Then, at the organisational level, leaders need to think about the rationale behind their digital transformation strategy. IT investment, especially in the government, can’t be about having the shiniest toy. It has to be about serving the organisation’s core function, whether that’s saving lives in the NHS or provisioning welfare benefits for citizens.

From a strategy perspective, leaders should consider what tools and services they need to better support their service function, as opposed to what technology they want to adopt. For example, is this technology or service something that will eventually save on maintenance costs and allow us to improve this offering for our public? If it doesn’t meet these two criteria, it may be worth considering if this really is the strategic priority it first seemed. This is especially important when looking at trends such as Al or blockchain. While these both hold considerable promise for security, efficiency, and ROI, it’s important to implement these for a specific use case and business need, rather than ‘just because’ it’s on trend or another trust is deploying it.

When it comes to implementing that strategy, there is huge benefit for an organisation in leadership going that one step further—asking their team ‘what do you need from me to achieve this objective?’ By opening a dialogue with the IT teams actually executing the plan, leaders can ensure that the approach is feasible, affordable, and in line with organisation objectives.

Implementation

For the IT teams on the ground, it’s important to ensure that the leadership strategy is realised in a scalable, agile, sustainable way. One of the most staggering observations for me is the number of IT professionals working retroactively to keep systems updated. Considering that downtime is impossible with critical services, it’s about embedding redundancy so that IT practitioners have no need to service systems on the go, especially when it’s a reactive response.

Over half (58%) of public sector respondents to the SolarWinds IT Trends 2018 survey say that their IT systems are not performing at optimum levels, while three-quarters (73%) of public sector IT professionals spend more than 25% of their time reactively working to optimise performance. This is crazy—it’s like trying to fix up a car as you drive it down the highway. You can’t effectively fix the bodywork, change the oil, or inspect the brakes while hurtling down the road at 70 mph.

In IT terms, these are tasks like patch management, system updates, updated policies, and security protocols. While they seem mundane and ‘small potatoes’ compared to the excitement around AI, the impact of not properly maintaining them is significant. The WannaCry disaster in 2017 is a case in point. Overlooking basic IT hygiene can have serious implications for patient care, service delivery, and citizen trust in public entities.

Pressure to achieve “digital transformation” with limited budgets, an unclear strategy, and ageing infrastructure is unfortunately paralysing public sector IT teams. As technology offerings mature and develop at a previously unheard of rate, it’s essential that we take a step back at a governance, leadership, and practitioner level to make sure our approach to public sector IT is really grounded in helping us deliver real services to real people.