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ICTF 2015: talking IT with our Oxford colleagues

This year's jointly-organised ICTF Conference at the University of Oxford, was held on 7 July. It brought together IT practitioners from across our two Universities to share insights and experience during one day of varied talks, workshops and social activities.

This year, we had a record turn-out for this annual ICTF (Information & Communication Technology Forum) Conference in Oxford, held 7th July in the airy new Mathematical Institute building. 32 IT practitioners from Cambridge attended, almost half of which were from UIS. The day was well-organised, with a packed programme of plenary sessions, workshops and networking opportunities.

Those attending for the first time agreed with regulars that it was a useful and enjoyable day, noting how it always helps see how others have approached similar challenges to those we face in Cambridge. 

A general impression has been that meeting people doing the same sort of things we are working on here is a great opportunity to share knowledge and build on others' hard-earned experience to improve how Cambridge's IT services are managed and delivered (and similarly, Oxford's!).

 

It was my first time at an ICTF and I enjoyed it – good talks, good speakers, good location (the math building is very nice), good sense of community... and I also had the chance to meet people doing the same things I'm working on in Cambridge.

Abraham Martin, web developer, UIS

 

The event is jointly organised by volunteers from both Universities, and UIS staff featured in the programme. UIS' director, Dr. Martin Bellamy and Professor Ann Trefethen, his counterpart from Oxford, took part in an IT Leaders' Q&A session, while Ronald Haynes (UIS) and Fabio Lahr (Faculty of Human, Social and Political Science) talked about the interest group they are initiating to explore how 3D technologies might be used in the HE sector in future.

The varied workshop programme included 21 sessions, discussing a multitude of hot topics within the industry, like how the Raspberry Pi is making a big impact in radio communications, developments in cloud computing for HE, authentication beyond the web, challenges of computer forensics, and how the Snowdon saga has changed attitudes towards privacy.

Several sessions focused on how specific technologies are being deployed, and on IT projects currently underway at Oxford, including an overview of the work of a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), Oxford's experience of disaster recovery after a fire, and their Integrated Communications Project.

There were three keynote speakers this year: Dr. Timothy Jung (Manchester Metropolitan University), who leads a team who run various mobile and wearable Augmented Reality (AR) projects in museums, art galleries and other visitor attractions, spoke about enhancing visitor experience through multi-technology mixed-reality.

Professor Alison Noble OBE FREng and Technikos Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Oxford University Department of Engineering Science, spoke about her multi-disciplinary research group's work in the area of biomedical imaging and image analysis, an important sub-discipline of modern biomedical engineering.

Richard Noble OBE addressed the challenges of developing high-risk ventures against a background of today's low-risk culture, alluding to his experience with the Thrust2 programme which broke the sound barrier and returned the World Land Speed Record to the UK; the team are now aiming to achieve 1,000mph land speed.

Overall, along with some comments about media and government support (or lack thereof!), there was much said about creativity, the importance of challenges and engaging education, and about finding ways around the risk-averse 'establishment' in aid of innovation and progress.

The day concluded with a boat trip on the Thames, affording an opportunity to relax and network in an informal environment.

We are hoping to follow-up some of the shared ideas from the day with Oxford colleagues, especially as developing more collaboration between us has become part of the purpose of the conference.  There is increasing talk, as well, of planning to host a group of Oxford colleagues here – with one option being to organise this as some part of the expanded IT Exhibition (ITX) which we are planning for 17-19 November 2015.

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