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10 Big Innovations That Have Come Out of the Leeds City Region

· Ali Turner · Discussion

This is proof that the Leeds City Region is at the forefront of innovation in the UK.

Cocoon

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Medical robots, AI-powered alarm systems and an app that will give patients access to their medical records – these are the innovations coming out of the Leeds City Region.

From the early days of the internet to the latest innovations that are changing the way we live and work, the Leeds City Region has been at the heart of the digital revolution for decades. But what have we achieved and what’s going on behind closed doors? We dug into the region’s past and present to find the biggest developments and innovations, so you can see that we really are at the forefront of the technology industry.

The company that made the internet accessible to everyone

Leeds-List Office

If you were around for the early days of the internet, you probably remember Freeserve, but what you might not realise is that this game-changing tech company was based in Leeds.

Founded by Rob Wilmot and Ajaz Ahmed, it was the first ISP to offer free internet access. Instead of demanding a monthly subscription, they collected a portion of the customer’s standard telephone charges, making the internet accessible to everyone – all you needed to get online was a CD and they were given away free with all home computers in Dixons. At their height, Freeserve was a FTSE 100 company, and though you don’t hear the name much anymore, it didn’t just disappear – they merged with the Wanadoo group in 2000, the company we now know as EE.

The UK’s first internet exchange outside of London

AQL Leeds

Back in 2008, all the UK’s data centres were in London and every network in the country interconnected through the two UK internet exchanges based there. It took an ambitious entrepreneur here in Leeds to challenge the status quo – Adam Beaumont wanted to make AQL independent of the capital and so he set out on a mission to create the UK’s first internet exchange outside of London.

He found an old chapel that sat on the convergence of the UK’s main internet arteries. It was the perfect place for networks to connect to Leeds and the wider region, so once the infrastructure was in place, it was widely adopted, creating a competitive marketplace for bandwidth and allowing traffic to stay on higher bandwidth local circuits.

The system that connects doctors, healthcare workers and patients all over the UK

NHS Digital

You probably know that NHS Digital is based in Leeds, but what you might not realise is that they were the driving force behind Spine, the central database for all patient records. It connects 23,000 healthcare IT systems in 20,500 organisations and it’s transformed the way healthcare professionals access patient information.

When Spine went live in 2014, they transferred 40 terabytes of data from the previous system to the replacement service in just 5 minutes. That’s an incredible feat and one that was vitally important, because as we all know, the NHS is a 24/7 service and they need continuous, uninterrupted access to patient files.

The AI-powered alarm system that’s taking the world by storm

Cocoon

Coccoon, innovative start up in Leeds

In 2014, Cocoon changed the way we protect our homes with an innovative new alarm system. This isn’t your usual motion detector – it uses Subsound® technology to identify unusual movement in your home. Every time you move through a room, you create vibrations in the air – Cocoon detects these movements and learns your habits, so it can tell you when something’s wrong.

The system is small and portable, so you can put it anywhere in your home, and no matter which room you choose, it will protect your whole house. There’s no need for wires or hefty alarm units, and you can check in from anywhere by connecting securely to the built-in camera.

The world’s first instant cash out service

Sky Betting & Gaming

Credit: David Lindsay

Originally founded in Harrogate, Sky Bet has now made itself at home in Leeds, helping to cement our position as an online gaming powerhouse. Since separating from Sky in 2015, they’ve quadrupled their technology spend and launched a string of world-first innovations, including RequestABet™ and Group Bet.

But the real game-changer was Fast Withdrawals. Despite being able to bet in real time, customers had to wait 2-5 days to get their winnings, so Sky Betting & Gaming developed the world’s first instant cash out service. Now you can get your winnings in a matter of seconds.

The next generation of internet connectivity

Ever heard of Darklight™? It’s the next generation of internet connectivity and it comes from a business in Bradford. Exa Networks has developed a disruptive technology that’s 450 times faster than the average UK internet connection. In fact, they can deliver speeds of up to 100,000 megabytes – and in the future, they’ll be able to take that up to 1 terabyte.

They launched in Bradford in early 2016 and followed with Leeds a few days later. They’ve now laid over 400 kilometres of dark fibre ducts, covering every street and alley of Leeds city centre and stretching out into the suburbs as far as Wetherby. But it’s not just here. Darklight™ is now available all over the UK.

The AI technology that will help reduce traffic on our roads

Traffic

Let’s start with some facts. According to the European Environment Agency, cars account for around 25 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, but while the vehicles themselves are becoming more efficient, the traffic on our roads is ever-increasing. As a result, our carbon emissions aren’t dropping as quickly as we need them to.

And that is the inspiration behind SimplifAI. Created in collaboration with the University of Huddersfield, it’s a connected transportation management system that uses AI to reduce congestion and pollution. In just a few seconds, it can analyse hundreds of different timings at traffic signals, which can improve everyday congestion and respond to unexpected incidents, like crashes and lane closures. The technology has already been put into action in Manchester and it’s now being marketed globally as a smart city solution for improving the reliability of transport networks.

The app that will give patients instant access to their medical records

How can we ease pressure on the NHS and make sure everyone gets the care they need? The answer is simple – by allowing patients to manage their own conditions. But they can only do that if they can access their patient files, so that’s what mHabitat has been working on.

They’ve developed a new NHS app that’s being rolled out across the UK – not only will it allow you to securely view your medical record, but it will also enable you to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions at the touch of a button.

The capsule that could one day replace a colonoscopy

Robotics at Leeds

Credit: University of Leeds

You’d be amazed at the groundbreaking research taking place at the University of Leeds, especially in their Robotics department. From self-repairing cities to artificial intelligence, they’re building the future, circuit by circuit.

Right now, they’re working in collaboration with The University of Glasgow, University of Dundee and Heriot-Watt University to develop a capsule robot that could replace a colonoscopy. There’s no need for the usual tube, instead, this tiny capsule is inserted into the gastrointestinal tract and positioned using magnetic coupling. Not only does it have an onboard camera, but it can also be used to produce the movements necessary for ultrasound imaging.

The new device that’s going to revolutionise the energy sector

With the ice glaciers melting and temperatures rising, global warming is becoming ever-more alarming, so you might be surprised to hear that a local company in Elland, just south of Halifax, has developed a game-changing device that could cut global carbon emissions.

FeTu is the brainchild of engineer Jonathan Fenton. He’s designed a four-chamber heat engine with just two moving parts – and it’s the most efficient thermodynamic powertrain ever created. In fact, it could double the efficiency of today’s engines. FeTu is a hybrid between a turbine and piston engine, giving them the best of both worlds in a scalable device that offers industry-leading low-loss energy conversion.