Core Collaboration: A Digital Success Story

Photon Fire and Cloud Data Service are two SME tech businesses from opposite ends of the digital spectrum that have come together to jointly develop a product for the internet-of-things. Starting-up their companies at The Core on Newcastle Science Central was the key reason they came together to collaborate.

We’ve caught up with Bill Shepherd, Managing Director of Photon Fire Ltd and Thomas Lloyd, Director of Cloud Data Service Ltd to find out all about the launch of the new project, their collaboration at The Core and what it’s like being based at Newcastle Science Central:

What was so great about being based at The Core for your collaboration on your recent project? How did the collaboration come about?

BS: Co-location makes joint working so-much easier, folks from different disciplines clustering like this creates a whole range of different opportunities.

TL: After feedback received from occupants, The Core ran a ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ style event to showcase what was going on in the building. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own little silo of work, but hearing about what others in the building were working on, including hearing what Bill and Photon where working on highlighted some of the common problems that we should be coming together to solve collaboratively.

It’s a great front being based at a building like The Core and being able to meet clients here and use the brilliant facilities and meeting rooms. The team here are really supportive and have a can-do attitude. Being based at the heart of the Newcastle digital cluster really helps to interconnect what we’re trying to achieve as a business and provides the opportunity to network and build business within a short location radius.

BS:Yes, The Core have regular networking events designed to help occupiers mingle. This is one of the best things about being in The Core. Lots of open and like-minded business looking to drive new technologies. The team at The Core have done a really good job of maintaining their focus and drive in creating a unique business environment and we hope it should continue.

What was the project and the brief? Why did you decide to work together?

BS: Photon Fire were already working with SMH Products, one of the world’s leading companies specialising in decontamination solutions to produce environmental monitoring equipment, also based in the North East of England.

SMH wanted an automatic air sampling system that provided immediate feedback to the workers and management that harmful dust is present, providing faster warnings and safer working environment. Working together, Cloud and Photon produced a system allowing management and regulators to monitor the air quality of multiple sites in a simple, easy to use, dashboard format accessed using a standard web browser

In Layman's terms, what is the instrument that you decided to develop together?

BS: Working with Cloud Data Service, these units are connected together in a Bluetooth network. These devices all pass data to a small computer that connects to the internet using the mobile phone network. Cloud Data Service wrote a script to sort all the data received into a database and pass it to the web. They then created a user friendly dashboard for monitoring the status of all the devices. The system is called IRIS after the Greek goddess!

Why is there a need for it?

BS: In the construction sector, such as those where asbestos is being removed, the environment requires careful monitoring. When contractors employ people to manage jobs such as these, it’s vital that care is taken to avoid contamination. Likewise, the Health & Safety Executive have stringent controls to ensure standards are met. Currently the test is made only on an infrequent basis by sampling air through a filter and inspecting the particles under a microscope, an expensive and only occasional process. The statutory ‘traditional’ method will still be used but this system provides immediate results and we hope will in-time replace the traditional test. Our system makes this monitoring incredibly simple, saving an enormous amount of time and cost, improving safety for those involved.

What success did the product have?

BS: SMH won THE Asbestos Innovation Award at the Contamination Expo 2016 with the product and system we created for them.

How does it work and what difference will it make?

BS: It works by creating an ad-hoc Bluetooth network of all the devices involved in asbestos removal. So this means, air pressure monitors, temperature and importantly, fibre monitors which check for asbestos particulates in the air.

What were the benefits of collaborating on this project?

BS It is important to recognise what we are really good at and play to our strengths

TL: Working together, we have been able to offer a complete solution to the customer

Do you both have any other collaborative plans in the pipeline? Please explain what they

are if any or outline if you're keen to work together again in the future.

BS: Aside from sketches on a notepad, there aren’t any plans currently. We’re both definitely keen to work together again though based on the success of IRIS for other applications.

What do you think of the growing digital cluster in Newcastle?

TL: We’ve witnessed first-hand the significant growth in the digital/tech sector and our company benefits from being part of a smart city where we can really lead the rest of the UK on things like big data.

BS: If Newcastle Science Central delivers on what it is trying to achieve, I think we could see the engineers of the future come out of Newcastle Science Central.

Photon Fire and Cloud Data Service have developed this system for a private client but the

businesses are keen to develop environmental and process monitoring systems for different


Contact details for Photon Fire Ltd, SMH and Cloud Data Service can be found via the weblinks below:

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