Steven Kear Spotlight

We announced the IoT Boost LPWAN competition on 13th December 2016 (read press release here) which is funded by Government, through IoTUK and the Digital Catapult, underlining the importance of IoT for the UK’s digital economy.

The programme attracted a high calibre of applicants as well as mentors. Hear from Steven Kear, Consultant for AND Technology Research on why he’s getting involved with this years programme.

Steven Kear - ANDTr Consultant

How does this project fit with your industry?

Perfectly. At present, in the technology sector, not a day goes by when there’s not another announcement about a new Internet of Things (IoT) service, platform, or kit – which is great as there has never been a wider selection of accessible, capable tools and technology. But from my viewpoint this is only part of the IoT story; what is needed is fresh thinking on how this technology can empower us all.

OK, so IoT can already enable a fridge to tell me when I’m out of milk, reorder it and even get it delivered at a time when it knows I’ll be in…fine…but what if those same sensors, IoT platform and a cognitive computing system were applied differently, elsewhere in a home? It could have the potential to allow an elderly relatively to live independently for longer, all for the same cost as a pint of milk per month – that for me, is where things get interesting!

What excited you about this programme?

It’s multifaceted approach. Real-life challenges in Air Quality, Transport and Healthcare have been presented by the people who are dealing with these issues on a daily basis; an IoT network (LoRaWAN) has been setup to cover the geographical challenge area; electronic kits are available to finalists to be able to send/receive data over the network; there are a set of finalists who have some really novel solutions and then finally there are a diverse range of knowledgeable mentors on-hand for the finalists to work alongside.

Too often with these types of programme, one or two of these aspects are missing (e.g. access to knowledge or real-world opportunity) which sadly leads to failure. The difference with this programme is that all the key ingredients are in place.

What was your advice to the shortlisted SMEs taking part ?

I’m going to borrow two pieces of advice from the current Chief Executive of ‘X’ (who incidentally was born in Cambridge):

1) “Fall in love with the problem not the technology”: As touched upon earlier, unless you’ve got something really ‘out there’, chances are the technology is available to power your idea. It’s easy to get swept away with technology, but what we’re looking for is the ‘fresh’ thinking to address the challenge areas and make a difference.

2)“Be as humble as you are audacious”: Use the mentors, all of us have made those mistakes, been down those blind alleys – take from our experiences and where we challenge you, know this is where we’re trying to foster your great idea.

What do you think this project will mean to Cambridge?

The challenges set address real-life issues that face the Cambridge community. This programme has all the foundations in place to not only deliver meaningful IoT-based solutions to address these, but actually make a difference to people of the city…and of course there’s the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’; traditionally innovative seeds that germinate in and around the city, have a habit of flourishing around the world.

What do you hope to achieve through mentoring?

I’m keen to provide guidance to finalists that are looking to take their ideas on from the concept stage, using the knowledge and experience I’ve built up in the innovation consultancy and electronic product development fields over the past 15+ years. But equally I’m here to learn too. I love innovation and technology and I can’t wait to hear more from the finalists about their novel solutions and how they are planning to implement them. I’m also excited to be working alongside a great mentoring team and I’m in no doubt they’ll each broaden my knowledge.

Kear Technology Solutions logo


IoTUK have announced the national finalists – read more here

Read our press release here

View all mentors

Follow us on Twitter for updates on the #IoTUKBoost competition-  @CambWireless