etherLive Final - In the CommunitySince our move to Royal Wootton Bassett in 2015 we thought we should look for some ways to help the local community. Etherlive has always had an active community programme and much of this has been in education including working with organisations such as Young Enterprise, Bath University, Bristol University, Bucks New University and several Wiltshire schools & colleges.

Whilst continuing to support a range of activities we thought a locally focussed IT Drop-In Centre could be of benefit to those living in the area. This free service is open to all members of the local community and will offer advice and support on personal IT issues. This can range from assistance in removing malware and viruses from a laptop to advice on social media privacy and online safety. You can get to learn the key points on how to safely use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn; or perhaps it is applications like BBC iPlayer and All 4 that you would like help with. Got some questions about your home Wi-Fi or broadband? We are experts in this area! We’ll cater for complete new starters and the more experienced.

No pre-booking is required just drop in any time from 5pm until 8pm during one of the monthly sessions and chat to our friendly engineers who deal with troubleshooting problems everyday. Bring along your laptop or tablet and we will do what we can to help whilst you enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and discuss the ups and downs of the modern world of technology with our friendly and helpful staff.

The first of these monthly sessions will be held in our offices in Royal Wootton Bassett on Thursday March 17th from 5pm onwards. More details can be found on our community page.

 

 

Next week is Global Entrepreneurship Week an activity which has grown enormously over the last few years. In 2011 there will be some 40,000 events in 104 countries engaging somewhere in the region of 10 million people. Certainly ‘entrepreneurs’ are being highly popularised at present with programmes like The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den and The Secret Millionaire all playing a part. This is all great and there are some very inspirational people doing great things but I do get concerned that the image of entrepreneurs  like Jimmy John Shark is all about creating huge multi-million pound businesses from scratch which, although a valid angle, is not the only route.

What I mean by this is that the common behaviours typically used to define entrepreneurs are just as important whether you set-up your own business, run someone else’s business or work pretty much anywhere within an organisation. To me it’s about vision, drive, passion, approach and execution; from identifying opportunities to creating value – all of which apply across the organisation, at all levels. One of our core values is innovation, working with our customers to drive continuous improvement, delivering new solutions and improving existing ones. Within that framework every employee is empowered to look for, and drive, ways to deliver more value for the customer and the company – this ranges from basic cost reduction to coming forward with ideas for entirely new services, products and markets.

Sparking the passion to do something great, different or better is part of what Global Entrepreneur Week is about so we have for many years done what we can to support activities around education and enterprise. This year we will again be running our hands-on Global Business Simulation for 120 pupils at a local school, an activity which aims to give a small insight into business for 13-14 year olds in an engaging and challenging way.

Alongside this we have been working with Bath University to support their Student Enterprise Shop Competition where groups of students get to create and sell a product of their choice for one day in the centre of Bath over a period of two weeks. This then feeds into a larger competition to develop the winning business further with mentoring from experienced business people which we will also be involved with.

Last week I also gave a talk at Bristol University to a group of students and budding entrepreneurs about our journey in creating a business – not the glitz of the television entrepreneurs but the real challenges for small businesses, the ups and downs and some honesty about what we did right and, more importantly, what we did wrong.

Although having a week focused on entrepreneurship is great it really only scratches the surface. We have been building on our existing activities to try and deliver some year round approaches. For example we have a very active summer placement and intern programme which we have now extended into working with Bristol University on a final year project, a project which encompasses both innovation and business aspects. The last piece is a relationship we have developed with the Bristol University Research & Enterprise Development Department to jointly develop a business idea with their Entrepreneur in Residence.

I guess the key point of what I’m saying is that we can all do our small bit to create the passion and inspiration for our future entrepreneurs, it’s not just for the people on the television programmes.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet the Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team thanks to Mark Green (no relation!) of Intel, one of their main sponsors. The event was held to officially launch their campaign for the 2011 World Solar Challenge. I found the team an uplifting example of what can be achieved with true enthusiasm and dedication for what they are attempting to do.

For those who have not come across the World Solar Challenge before, it is a race from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia, a distance of 3,000km across the outback, held every two years, where the vehicle has to be powered entirely by solar energy. If that wasn’t hard enough the race has to be completed in less than 50 hours! A battery is allowed but it is only allowed to store up to 5kW hours of energy, less than 10% of the theoretical energy requirement for the trip. There are also limits on the amount of solar cells which can be used.

CUER first competed in the 2009 event, managing 14th place out of 26 entries – an excellent first attempt, especially when you consider the team is made up of undergraduates and doesn’t have multi-million pound funding like many of these challenges and world record attempts you see in the press. For 2011 they have set their sight on a much higher position and to achieve this they have to overcome a number of hurdles. Firstly, as is typical with student activities, nearly all of the original 2009 team have graduated and moved on, so in many ways they are having to start afresh. Funding is also a big challenge, to the extent that they cannot afford to replace their 2009 entry “Endeavour” so instead they are having to modify it based on information from 2009 and subsequent testing and computer modelling (for which Intel provides a high power cluster environment).

“Endeavour MKII” however is an ingenious piece of work, with many tweaks and changes including significantly reducing the drag factor, changing the battery technology (which caused major problems in 2009), implementing a new car management information and control system, as well as improving overall safety and stability (a key point when you are in a small, light vehicle being passed by an Australian outback road-train!). With all of these changes they are confident the vehicle is up to challenging the more established teams and bringing in a much higher placing.

The core technology can only go so far though; strategy and approach is also key – do you use regenerative breaking which adds weight or work on the principle that you won’t be breaking very often? What do you do when you hit cloud cover – speed through as quickly as possible risking excessive battery drain or hold a steady pace? Even at the end of the racing day (each day must be finished by 5pm) there are precious sun rays that have to be maximised by tilting the car towards the sun.

CUER isn’t just about a race though, they have also created an outreach program for schools with a hands on exercise in building a working model solar racer to help educate pupils about solar energy and environmental travel. It considers the importance of a useful site to educate them about solar energy. The launch event also saw the conclusion of a schools competition run by CUER to design a car of the future, a competition that generated some very thoughtful entries from over 200 entrants. The shortlisted entrants were all invited along to the event to see the car, tour the labs where the team are working on it and take part in a hands-on educational session.

What’s great about CUER is that it fullfils a number of things; it’s a fun and exciting challenge, it helps inspire younger pupils via the outreach programme and it delivers some real advances in terms of technology and design that you can realistically see being used in future vehicle design. Hat’s off to a great team and good luck in October!

You can follow CUER on Twitter and Facebook and look out for the launch of Endeavour MkII around July before it starts its journey to Australia in August.

Endeavour Mk1 soon to receive its makeover to become Endeavour MkII

As part of our continued commitment to supporting young people and education Etherlive recently took part in the St. Joseph’s career’s day sitting on a ‘Question Time’ style panel. Four sessions of 40 students each took place throughout the day asking probing questions of the businesses who spoke candidly about the challenges of young people starting their careers.

Tom McInerney from Etherlive takes questions from students

Questions from the audience focused on a range of topics from the practical, like tips and tricks for interviews, to discussions around what help businesses are receiving from the government to encourage hiring young people. The aim of the day was to give an insight into the way businesses recruit and help students weigh up their future options.

Tom McInerney from Etherlive was among several panellists, many of whom are also part of the Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership, including St. Joseph’s governor Rob Collins a partner with Withy King, and Ramona Derbyshire a partner from Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons.

Last week I attended a Meet the Entrepreneurs Speed Networking Event in Swindon. Several local schools are taking part in the program where students with an interest in business create a company to experience some of the challenges associated with business. Many choose a product which can be sold directly to the school students or teachers. The students (14 – 16 years old) met with companies from Wiltshire including Etherlive to discuss their concept and focus on how to develop the product.

I believe real world experience is a great way of students starting to appreciate some of the skills which are critical to the business world like working as a team and confidence. For the same reasons we also support programs such as Young Enterprise and others. This week as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week we are running a Young Enterprise Global Business Simulation at a local school.

It was great to spend time with the fledgling companies as they explained their products and what the planned to achieve. Some great ideas and really enthusiastic students, certainly several who could be the next Lord Sugar! Many thanks to the entrepreneurs who gave up their valuable time. Also a special ‘thank you’ to Thring, Townsend Lee & Pemberton LLP for providing a location for this event to be run.

Tom McInerney speaks to Dorcan Technology College students

Tom McInerney speaks to Dorcan Technology College students

Etherlive recently completed the latest of its permanent outdoor Wi-Fi internet hotspots for fast, reliable internet access.

Like many open spaces in the UK, Poole Park is constantly looking for new services to offer to its visitors.  Friends of Poole Park, who are a local volunteer organisation working with the council, recently undertook a revamp of the park adding a new water fountain and bird nesting islands, alongside this they contracted Etherlive to install a community Wi-Fi internet hotspot.  Located in the centre of Poole the park offers a picturesque 60 acre lake, restaurants and cafes – all of which are used by the local community including a large percentage of local businesses (more of which the park is trying to attract) and students from Bournemouth University.

The wireless equipment installed at Poole is based on a ruggedized 802.11n meshed infrastructure providing Wi-Fi internet across the whole of the park including several buildings. The main benefit of the mesh is that each wireless unit only requires a power source such as a lamp post; all connectivity across the network is managed from one central location. In addition proxy (caching) and firewall services were installed to improve performance and security. The network will be used in the future to provide webcams and communications infrastructure for the popular Poole Park Fest.

Bob Lister of Friends of Poole Park, speaking to Poole Borough Council said: “We are delighted Wi-Fi is up and running. In addition to providing local people and visitors with new park facilities, we also anticipate event organisers will make good use of the new technology for their activities.”

By offering free community internet access Poole Park becomes a credible location for businesses to meet and students to study encouraging more visitors during the day whilst also fulfilling the recent ‘Digital Britain’ drive by the British Government which sees regular access to internet services as a must have.

Etherlive wi-fi installed at Poole Park

Etherlive Wi-Fi installed at Poole Park

For further information see Borough of Poole News and Bournemouth Echo

The 12 hour Gymathon. Nothing could be simpler – you turn up to the gym for your first class at 7am and finish your last class at 7pm. Enjoy the delights of Salsa, Aerobics, Body Pump, Core Training, Football, Dancing, Basketball and Circuits all in one day. It’s such a simple idea it’s hard to say no, especially when it’s for The Meningitis Trust.

So on unlucky Friday the 13th Tom McInerney along with employees from Intel UK sweated through and raised £1,500. Congratulations to all and if anyone still wants to sponsor the team please use the Just Giving Link here

Etherlives Tom McInerney and the team from Intel

Tom McInerney from Etherlive and the team from Intel UK

Etherlives Tom McInerney Dances for the Gymarathon

Tom Dances for the Gymarathon (30 mins on these machines is serious stuff!)