Designing with data

Wallscope lead research seminar at University of Edinburgh

As part of an ongoing relationship with the University of Edinburgh’s Design Informatics department, Wallscope led a research seminar on their dynamic data discovery platform – the Verinote API. Directors David Eccles and Ian Allaway demonstrated the technology to a packed audience of postgraduate students, researchers and academics. 

The API uses semantic web techniques and linked data principles to improve the search and discovery of information. Improved access to data means larger volumes of information, which in turn creates design challenges and opportunities. This interface between design and technology is at the heart of Design Informatics – harnessing analytic power to design products and services that transform the way we live and work.

After explaining the underlying semantic and linked data technology, Ian and David used real-time examples to illustrate how the API works in practice. Firstly they showed how NHS information relating to areas where drugs are prescribed or where particular infections are prevalent can be linked, using geodata. This can be presented through graphics such as heatmaps to make the information more engaging and accessible for the end user. Wallscope are currently developing this with the NHS as part of the Scottish Government’s CivTech pilot project.

They also demonstrated a tool developed with Design Informatics students and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. This draws together information about particular artists and concepts using open source data from the Fruitmarket, the Tate and MoMA, and presents it using a mindmap design. The quick and intelligent data search and discovery, combined with an accessible design and user interface, creates a valuable educational resource.

Strategy and Product Director David Eccles said: ‘We spent some time discussing how the volume, velocity and variety of data can impact on the choice of tools and services. The spread of so-called ‘dark’ data was also highlighted, and we demonstrated how previously inaccessible information can be turned into an asset.’

Technology Director Ian Allaway added: ‘Our seminar explained how information can be used to deliver meaningful services to ordinary humans in practical ways. We covered Artificial Intelligence, semantic technologies and linked data. Terms that seem mysterious to some – so an exercise in debunking the myths surrounding these technologies proved to be engaging, especially for the students present.’

Students were encouraged to think creatively about how they could harness this technology and were given access to the API for use in their work. Wallscope already employs two student interns and are keen to share ideas and potential applications of the technology with the student and research communities as the work progresses.