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Data Capital

Data Capital

By The Scotsman
Edinburgh is becoming a hub for data, and has the ambition to become the Data Capital of Europe. Our podcast series - called Data Capital - will look at a range of projects that aim to make that dream reality. Data Capital delves into how data and Artificial Intelligence are all around us, every day. Do you worry that every part of our lives is being transformed by data and AI? Perhaps it excites you?

Data Capital is a podcast by The Scotsman, in partnership with the Data Driven Innovation programme at the University of Edinburgh.
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Can data help families escape poverty and social isolation?

Data Capital

A Healthy Relationship with Data?
Health data has been the foundation for decision-making during the Covid-19 pandemic - but there is room for improvement on how that data is combined and used in future, according to Scotland's National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch. In The Scotsman's latest Data Capital podcast, A Healthy Relationship with Data?, Prof Leitch discusses public attitudes to using their personal health data for the wider good. He says: "I think that if you stop 100 people in the street and tell them that when they go into hospital, or care home, you would like to send the care home the fact that they are diabetic, or tell the hospital to know that they can't see out of their left eye, most would say ‘Don’t you do that already? Of course you should tell them that! "What they might not want [sharing] is their sexually transmitted disease history, or their private mental health data. There's a balance in there about who should get what, but in the round, people expect healthcare data to be shared appropriately, confidentially, with other healthcare teams, and we're quite good at that." He continues: "Data has been crucial to the pandemic response. It's kind of invisible, but it's the foundation for a lot of decision-making. "At one level, data helps us make individual clinical decisions for Frank and Mary who are ill, or who need to be tested or vaccinated. "At the other end is data for decisions. So, what does vaccination do for 5 million people? When should you start to do testing with lateral flow devices for 5 million people - or for the return of students?  You're giving population level advice, allowing elected officials to make the decisions, and you need data at every level to be able to do that.". He adds: "Sometimes we forget data is in service. It is not the end in itself, it is in service of patients. I think we have got better at it, but it could be smoother as [healthcare] systems sometimes don't communicate like they should, principally because the systems have developed separately. So we've had parallel tracks of our  hospital level data or GP data or dentist data, or optician data, and care home data." Joanna Boag-Thomson, a Partner in legal firm Shepherd and Wedderburn and another guest on the podcast, says there are definitely lessons to learn about how Scotland has combined health and social care data during the pandemic. But she stresses that there have been major benefits from the fact that individuals in Scotland have a community health index (CHI) number which stays with them throughout their healthcare journey. "Access to GP records and hospital records was really important in the initial stages and combining a shielding list of patients to protect the most vulnerable people in society," Boag-Thomson says. . "And then, in rolling out the vaccines, lists of where to find people and information about their health, has been very important. Although I think that shows one area where there's room for improvement. There did appear to be some issues in actually rolling out the vaccine among sections of the population who don't tend to visit their GP very often." She believes communication and consultation are crucial to getting data handling right; "They are absolutely key, so that whoever is running a project can understand what the concerns are, think about them, take time to address them and make people feel much more comfortable about understanding what's being done with their personal data."
September 28, 2021
Can One Health unlock the secrets of future pandemics?
Looking at human and animal health in a joined-up way is vital to help predict, and address, future outbreaks of Coronavirus and flu, an expert believes. Professor Bruce Whitelaw says OneHealth - studying human health, animal health and our environment in a coordinated way - had huge potential. Prof Whitelaw, a geneticist and senior academic at the University of Edinburgh, discusses OneHealth in detail in the latest Data Capital podcast by The Scotsman and the Data Driven Innovation initiative. In the podcast, he says: “I’d like to see us being able to predict what the next specific virus, what the next likely outbreak, will be. Not only would we be able to predict it, but put in place a whole variety of aspects to mitigate it: drug development, better surveillance to see which animals are better able to resist the virus, and therefore, less likely to transmit it - and policies and strategies to help society adapt.” Prof Whitelaw says there are different ideas of what OneHealth is, but he feels it is “the interconnection of the health of us humans, and the health of other animals on our planet and that entire ecosystem that we find ourselves in”.
August 9, 2021
Can robots help us to live longer in our own homes?
Older people are being helped to stay in their homes for longer by robotic technology which can perform simple tasks and identify changing patterns in behaviour that signal a decline in physical or mental health. Experts at Heriot-Watt University say the 'Living Lab' approach - which replicates real-life homes - has huge potential to support older people to 'age in place'. The research will take on a higher profile when The National Robotarium opens on the Heriot-Watt campus in Edinburgh in spring 2022, with a range of real-life situations to test out robotics. Professor Lynne Baillie, an expert in human-robot interaction, tells the latest Data Capital podcast from The Scotsman and the Data-Driven Innovation initiative that simple robots can do basic tasks like vacuuming and mowing the lawn - with great potential to do much more. "A Roomba robot can go around and Hoover your floors, rather than you having to do it….that's a basic level task, and then you can get the more complicated ones where the robot can bring you various things like something you need from the fridge, or answer the door to get a package from Amazon,” she says. "We're also testing things like a robot reminding people the different steps of how to make a cup of tea or a coffee. We don't want to do it for them, but to remind them of steps that enable them to do it for themselves, to slow cognitive decline." Robots, working with sensors, can also detect if someone is behaving in an unusual way - such as getting up at different times, or not heating up food  when they normally do. Prof Baillie explains how scenarios like the delivery of a package can be tested in  a realistic way in the Assisted Living Lab of the new National Robotarium. "The Assisted Living Lab is actually open. You can enter it from the main entrance but there's also a door which goes directly to the outside so it’s a self contained apartment, and it has built disabled access and a path straight to the road. So we can enact these things and test them out, in a very safe and secure environment, where we have real deliveries to that apartment. We will test it out with all sorts of different users to see what actually happens in real life." This is what is called a kerb-to-kitchen approach, where a robot collects the parcel from the delivery person and puts it onto a person’s kitchen table. Prof Baillie says the university is working on the practical issues with older people, health professionals and charities like Alzheimer's Scotland - and stresses that privacy is paramount. "We're interested in privacy issues because cameras are very invasive, for example. They should only be used, if you actually need to use them. It shouldn't be something that is always on, filming someone in their own home - by putting in robots and sensing devices, we can actually stop that level of invasion of privacy." Prof Baillie's colleague, Dr Mauro Dragone, explains that reflecting reality is extremely important in the Assisted Living Lab: "The environment needs to be as realistic as possible because we want people to experience what life will be like with this technology. We need to do that in a realistic environment. We don't want users to step into a laboratory, we want to give them an impression that they are actually stepping into their home, or what their home will look like in the future."
July 19, 2021
How Edinburgh's supercomputing power is solving some of the world's biggest problems
Edinburgh is one of the most advanced supercomputing centres in the world - and is harnessing that expertise to support its efforts to become the data capital of Europe. The supercomputers housed at Bush, in Midlothian, can do an unbelievable 25 million billion calculations every second. And Professor Mark Parsons, Executive Director at EPCC (previously Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre) says the supercomputers being used now are 25 million times faster than those when he came to Edinburgh 30 years ago. These huge computers - which have around 750,000 cores, as opposed to  four in your typical laptop - have traditionally been used for a range of complex simulation and modelling exercises. This has included everything from modelling aero engines to hosting the National Data Safe Haven for Public Health Scotland - which has been vital in bringing together many different data sets to help in the fight against Covid-19 Now, as the worlds of supercomputing and data converge, EPCC and Hewlett Packard Enterprises are working on a £100 million, decade-long project - the Edinburgh International Data Facility (EIDF), part of the Data Driven Innovation programme element of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal. Prof Parsons says the EIDF is a huge IT infrastructure - designed to store the massive amounts of data cretaed by the DDI programmed and allow it to be analysed for the benefit of the region and its people. “One of the key objectives is to train 100,000 people in data technologies, and ultimately at the end of this, create 50,000 jobs that will benefit the region," says Lee Rand of Hewlett Packard Enterprises. "It's massively exciting to be part of that."
June 16, 2021
Enough about data - let's talk about people
In the sixth and final episode of The Scotsman's Data Capital series, we discuss why data is only as important as the people behind it. During the series, we have talked about how data - and artificial intelligence - is being used to help shape the future of tourism, to transform the oil and gas industry, to train robots to help humans with challenging tasks in difficult environments, and much more. Now we're examining why none of this is possible without human beings to make sense of that data and AI - collecting it, understanding it, analysing it and deriving insights from it. Firas Khnaisser, who chairs the Data Marketing Association (DMA) in Scotland, is joined by Olivia Gambelin, Founder and CEO of Ethical Intelligence, for a lively exchange of views on why people matter so much in the world of data and AI. As Olivia says: "Our technology and our data are a reflection of our society. So when we  see something in our systems, that we don't like, that's not the system - that's actually society, that's our human nature." Firas highlights why public trust in the use of data is so vitally important: "There are companies that have taken our data for a number of years and done all kinds of funky stuff with it, and made billions, but they have never actually told us they would be using our data to do stuff like that."
February 11, 2021
Aye, Robot: How data and AI are powering a robotics revolution
In the fifth episode of The Scotsman's Data Capital series, we discuss how data and artificial intelligence are powering a new generation of robots - which could revolutionise many aspects of our modern lives. We hear from Professors Helen Hastie and Yvan Petillot, who are leading the project to create a National Robotarium at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh in early 2022. They talk about recreating real situations in 'living labs' at the Robotarium, to build on existing work on how robotics can improve our lives. Professor Hastie, an expert in human-robot interaction, discusses how robots can support our physical and mental health by identifying changes in behaviour, sending alerts after falls, reducing loneliness and much more. Professor Petillot talks about his work in sending robots into harsh environments where humans cannot go - such as checking on pipelines on the ocean floor. The Professors go on to discuss a fascinating range of issues - including 'How human do we want our robots to look?' and the potential for the Robotarum to be a world-leading facility to develop the brightest young robotics talent.
February 4, 2021
Drilling down with data: Can data and AI transform the oil and gas industry?
In the fourth episode of The Scotsman's Data Capital series, we discuss how data and artificial intelligence can re-shape traditional energy businesses for the future - at a time when they are under intense pressure. Drilling down into the detail are Barry Walker and Sam Netherwood of Accenture Applied Intelligence, who examine how data and AI are helping oil and gas companies make much smarter decisions about their businesses. Barry Walker sets the scene by highlighting fundamental changes in the business world: "When we think about the challenges energy and resources companies face, let's first think about their position in the top ten global companies back in 2009 - there were 4 energy companies. Move forward 10 years and 8 of the top 10 are data-led businesses - and resources companies have dropped out of the list." He also explains about the smart use of data: "How can you marry this proliferation of more data and more information, all of which we cannot possibly read or understand, into small nuggets of information that can really change the way you think about something?" Sam Netherwood  talks about the cultural change needed to embed smart data use in traditional businesses. He says: "Very few technologies and algorithms on their own can deliver the scale of change needed. We need the right data foundations and capabilities, the right behaviours and a data culture to really unlock the potential we have." And he urges businesses to make change real - not just scratch the surface: "Changing behaviour is about creating conditions in which people can be incentivised to act with data differently - it's not just about training programmes and branded mouse-mats.
January 28, 2021
Data and Artificial Intelligence: The Only Way is Ethics
In the third episode of Data Capital, we examine the thorny issue of how to ensure we use data and artificial intelligence effectively - but do not abuse them. Professor Shannon Vallor, an expert in the challenging relationship between ethics and technology, reminds us that artificial intelligence is "human all the way down" - and insists self-aware machines are NOT about to take over the world. She says: “There is nothing mysterious or magical about AI - it’s something that is transforming our world but completely reflective of our own human strengths and weaknesses.” Professor Vallor, the Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, is joined by Nick Thomas and Kyle McEnery of Baillie Gifford - and Kyle discusses how data and AI can help people invest their money both wisely, and ethically.
January 14, 2021
Can data help families escape poverty and social isolation?
In the second episode of the series, we examine how data can support families in the Edinburgh city region suffering from poverty and social isolation. A new project, the Intensive Family Support Service, is harnessing data to ensure the benefits of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal - especially new job opportunities  - are fairly spread throughout society. Sarah Galey-Horn of the University of Edinburgh discusses how the new project is seeking to find great examples of family support, and to share that brilliant work across the region.  She is joined by Kate Kelman of the Capital City Partnership and Laura Millar from Fife Gingerbread to explain how data is used and how expertise is pooled to make the lives of families across the city region better. The panel also explore how the pandemic has changed their approach to tackling this issue. From Fife Gingerbread organising evenings for lone parents on zoom to parents building support networks online.
January 7, 2021
Can data help bring tourists back to Edinburgh?
In the first episode, we explore how data is invaluable to the tourism industry. In 2020,  Edinburgh’s world renowned Fringe festival was cancelled, leaving the city eerily quiet in what normally is a peak time for tourism. Josh Ryan-Saha, an expert in data and tourism with the Data Driven Innovation programme talks about the catastrophic drop in visitors to Edinburgh caused by the pandemic - and how data might help bring the tourists back and help the city’s hospitality businesses recover. He is also joined by Galina Andreeva and Ewelina Lacka of the University of Edinburgh, who are involved in innovative data research projects to address these fundamental issues to the Edinburgh city region economy. The panel discuss how their findings can be part of the solution to help the city recover - and why they will never complain about too many tourists in Scotland’s capital again.
December 17, 2020
Data Capital Trailer
This is what you can expect from Data Capital, a new podcast from The Scotsman, hosted by writer and event host David Lee.
December 15, 2020