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May Overview – Helen Baker

There are so many topical issues for the Construction sector at the moment, it is difficult to decide how to introduce this month’s newsletter, however after attending some of the virtual sessions at last month’s Association of University Estates Directors (AUDE) conference my theme is that of technology. I was struck by just how much we are beginning to rely on the Internet of things ( IOT) and the potential that seeming small technology devices have to improve efficiency of our daily lives, truly smart buildings are a revolution waiting to happen and given the recent Government announcement on carbon reduction targets to cut emissions by 78% by 2035– now must happen.

To meet our Net Zero target, we will all have to make sacrifices and I think there is a great deal to be achieved in regards to energy consumption in our buildings and implementing sensors connected the IOT to help us regulate heating in our buildings. Gone are the days when we should need to have as many routine visits to the plant room to check boiler efficiency or realise it been a frosty morning so the heating needs to go on.

Leading on from this Professor Alan Winfield, from the University of the West of England, is researching self -replicating robots, he has been working with software and robotic systems since the early 1980s, is a professor of Cognitive Robotics in the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of the West of England (UWE). He’s also one of the brains behind the Autonomous Robot Evolution (ARE) project, a multiyear effort carried out by UWE, the University of York, Edinburgh Napier University, and University of Amsterdam. It will, its creators hope, change the way that robots are designed and built. And it’s all thanks to borrowing a page from evolutionary biology.

The concept behind ARE is, at least hypothetically, simple. How many science fiction movies can you think of where a group of intrepid explorer’s land on a planet and, despite their best attempts at planning, find themselves entirely unprepared for whatever they encounter? This is the reality for any of the inhospitable scenarios in which we might want to send robots, especially when those places could be tens of millions of miles away, as is the case for the exploration and possible habitation of other planets. Currently, robots like the Mars rovers are built on Earth, according to our expectations of what they will find when they arrive. This is the approach roboticists take because, well, there’s no other option available.

The ARE team is excited about the fact that the robots that can be created using this evolutionary process could turn out to be optimized in a way no human creator could ever dream of. “Even when we know the environment perfectly well, artificial evolution can come up with solutions that are so novel that no human would have thought of them” said Professor Winfield. (To read more on this Evolving, Self-Replicating Robots Ready To Colonize Space | Digital Trends)

So I leave you with the scary thought that robots could indeed take over the world…. and on a present day note I hope that the “green shoots “ of recovery are happening both in your business and in your gardens.

Happy Springtime!

Helen Baker

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