SmartOx Challenge – Cognicity on Steroids!

By: Chris Cooper, KnowNow Information

participants at Smart Oxford challenge event

KnowNow was at the SmartOx Challenge (one of 13 companies out of 43 that applied to be there), held at the very lovely Jam Factory in the centre of Oxford on 18th September.   The day was sponsored by Nominet R&D, with the support of experts covering everything from product design, marketing, technology through to finance.  With mentors advising closely, bringing their own experience to bear.  A brilliant day and big thank you to Alexandra for a well run event.  

From a KnowNow perspective Mark Braggins (bearded open data guru in the pic above) and I were presenting our award winning Flood Event Model.   Although slightly bias, I think we also had the best mentor too in Ben Ward founder of the Oxford Flood Network (see the banner next to ours in the picture above).  Who definitely won the sweepstake for most name drops during the day. Thank you Sir! 

What is Smart about Oxford?

Lots.  Oxford has plenty of problems, typical of every urban conurbation, but in some respects due to the cities history, geography and demographic these problems are exacerbated.  However, the city leaders have seen the innovation opportunity and actively supported the Smart Oxford Challenge.   Which is a very smart thing to do indeed!

Why is KnowNow on the challenge?

Firstly, the big draw for KnowNow was the data.   The Flood Event Model eats information, the more we get the more accurate the prediction.   With access to the Oxford Flood Network data the Flood Event Model can turn an ongoing data stream into a set of really useful outcomes.   The graphic below is an example of the Flood Event Model output.   The darker the shading indicates increased flood risk, with green markers identifying incidents & events due to flooding.

Oxfordshire map

Secondly, the other draw was seeing how this days start up innovation accelerator compared to the Cognicity Challenge, which KnowNow was on at the start of the year.   As the headline suggests.. it was  “Cognicity on Steroids”.  More intense as 12 weeks seemed to be compressed into 10 hours!  However if it had not been for the Cognicity experience I do not think we would have done the day justice.   

The Point of the exercise is…

The end game of the day, after taking onboard the experts advice, with some nudging from Ben (especially on using the Kawasaki pitching framework) and then comments after the practice session, was to pitch Flood Event Model to the VIP’s.  In three minutes, with no slides.

Our Pitch

After introducing myself, I firstly outlined the challenge from an Oxford perspective.  I was able to use a quote from Bob Price the leader of the council to position how Flood Event Model could help Oxford.   Oxford suffered over £50m worth of negative business impact as a result of flooding.   Flood Event Model would help mitigate that impact if it was deployed.  Additionally, the model could aid the business case for the proposed new Western River Relief (see pic below – courtesy of Oxfordshire County Council).  

Oxfordshire countryside

The Flood Event Model has fantastic pedigree.   Although a concept from KnowNow, the model was delivered with the assistance of the STFC Hartree Centre.  The model is proven to be 85% accurate at predicting where a flood event will occur.  Which gives emergency and flood responders an opportunity to be pro-active in their response to a pending flood. 

Business Value

The value of being pro-active is really the point of having the Flood Event Model.  Simply knowing that something will happen in a particular place is pointless and not very sustainable unless an alternative, pro-active and less costly action is undertaken.  

These actions could involve just in time evacuation, precise deployment of flood defence or even timely warning to local residents.   Moreover, due to the models use of Open Data and its dependency on historical data to generate a prediction, the Flood Event Model is also a time machine.  

Next Steps

KnowNow hopes as well to build on our exposure to the Oxford Flood Network.  A potential collaboration in using their realtime data to add to the models data analytics capability is a natural next step.  Watch this space! 

KnowNow  is looking for other places in the UK and beyond to grow the models coverage.  If you would like to know more, then please do get in touch –

Thanks for reading, Chris

This article was first published in LinkedIn in September 2015.