Thursday, 29 September 2016

The EA weeks

For the past fortnight, we have been doing the module that the other spent two days completing - the dreaded Enterprise Architecture. I've learned a lot, mainly that I shouldn't smile, nod or make any eye contact with people while interviewing as it is very distracting, according to one of the trainers. It's interesting advice.

Last week we were moved to the Lowry, which was great for lunch since we were two minutes away from the Outlet food court. There was also a lady who came round twice a day with coffee and lots of fancy varieties of tea, and a selection of posh biscuits, which caused quite a few biscuit fights as everyone tried to get the chocolate ones. On the Monday we were introduced to our client, NBGardens, a very real and serious gnome based company in need of some consulting. Between us, Kimberley and I picked a top notch team to join us in this challenge, and PEA Consulting was born. Because Kim really really loves peas, you see. Then, we promptly farmed off actually being in charge to George, making him our project manager. And that is what we have been doing for two weeks. 

Friday saw the bittersweet moment that I finally vacated my beloved hotel room to move into an apartment down in MediaCity. In the three weeks that I called it home I made many hotel friends, and tried every meal on the menu for dinner. I found out that I would be alone in the flat for a week before my flatmate moves in, but any worry about being lonely was quickly resolved as George immediately decided that he would stay with me in the meantime instead of in his flat out in Salford. It has been lovely having him, making a mess everywhere and demanding I make him coffees. He also leaves the seat up.

Tonight is supposed to be welcome drinks down in the Dockyard, the bar on the ground floor of the building I now live in, but we also have an exam and presentations tomorrow so I'm not sure we'll be able to enjoy it much with that hanging over our heads. Bad timing. Last Monday a group of us (the 'PEA Squad' as some call us) went to a bingo rave. It was great. Julian won £100, but we missed out on the big jackpot of £600. Next time though.

I also got an update on that job that I was supposed to start on Monday in the Home Office in London. On Friday, I asked Gareth 'Is that still happening?' and he said 'Yes'. So there you go. 

Until next time, all zero of my followers.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Fitness Trackers - How they work.

In recent years, the popularity of fitness trackers has increased exponentially. These pieces of wearable technology claim to be able to monitor a persons activity levels throughout the day, by identifying exactly what it is the wearer is doing at all times, whether it be sleeping, walking or exercising. But how so these trackers receive this data, and how do they interpret these findings accurately?
In order to fully understand how these trackers work, we must first understand the technology behind them. Fitness trackers contain an accelerometer, an electromechanical device used to track both static and dynamic acceleration forces (the intensity and direction of movement). It looks like a simple circuit, however it consists of many different components, including the piezoelectric effect and the capacitance sensor. 

The piezoelectric effect is the most common form of accelerometer and uses microscopic crystal structures that become stressed due to accelerative forces. These crystals create a voltage from the stress, and the accelerometer interprets the voltage to determine velocity and orientation.
The capacitance accelerometer senses changes in capacitance (ability to store an electric charge) between microstructures located next to the device. If an accelerative force moves one of these structures, the capacitance will change and the accelerometer will translate that capacitance to voltage for interpretation.
Typical accelerometers are made up of multiple axes, two to determine most two-dimensional movement with the option of a third for 3D positioning. The sensitivity of these devices is quite high as they’re intended to measure even very minute shifts in acceleration. The more sensitive the accelerometer, the more easily it can measure acceleration.
A regular accelerometer within the fitness tracker consists of two electrically charged plates, with a small counter balance in between. Whenever the wearer, and therefore the tracker, is still the counterbalance remains steady in the middle. However, once the wearer begins to move the counterbalance moves between the two plates and the sensors begin to register movement.

Once the tracker receives data about the wearers movements across the 3D axes, it then needs to interpret this to establish what particular activity these movements represent. One axis represents the body moving up and down (z axis), one left and right (y axis) and the third forwards and backwards (x axis). By combining this information the tracker is able to detect patterns of movement, and establish which activity the wearer is currently engaged in.

For example, if the wearer is cycling then the reading on the x axis would be high as the wearer leans forward, but the z axis would be relatively continuous. However if the wearer were to be running, the high reading on the x axis would be accompanied by a rapidly changing reading on the z axis as the runner moves onwards. Software also interprets the frequency of these movements, in order to distinguish between similar activities such as walking and running.

One of the greatest advantages of this technology is that they do not rely on the wearers location, so the technology records data exactly the same whether the wearer is running along the street or on a treadmill. 


(1) Ravi N, Dandekar N, Mysore P, Littman ML. Activity recognition from accelerometer data. AAAI. 2005 Jul 9;5:1541-1546.

(2) Troiano RP, Berrigan D, Dodd KW, Masse LC, Tilert T, McDowell M. Physical activity in the United States measured by accelerometer. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2008 Jan 1;40(1):181-188. Available from: doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31815a5lb3


Friday, 16 September 2016

The First Fortnight

So today is the last day of my second week at QA Academy and a lot has happened. I was originally expecting to move into the Heart Apartments in Media City on my first day, before our 1pm start, but a few days before the move I was told that my apartment would not be ready in time, and I would need to spend the first few weeks of training living in the local Travelodge. Although I originally thought it would be terrible, I quickly came around to the idea once I realised I would be getting a free breakfast, and a £21 per day meal allowance to spend on dinner. Even though not having a fridge or a way to do laundry is a little annoying, I’m really enjoying my hotel life now and am in no rush for my apartment to be done.

The social aspect of the job is amazing; there hasn’t been an evening yet where there hasn’t been a group of people heading to the Dockyard for a cheeky after work pint. I experienced my first ‘Friday social time’ last week which was mad, but this week it isn’t on because the rest of the staff are all off to Barcelona for the weekend. But that does mean we get to finish at 1pm today so happy days. I’m driving down to Cambridge today to visit a friend from uni so being able to get away a few hours earlier than usual is perfect!

After the people who had experience in web development were moved upstairs to start training for a placement, George the new guy was moved to sit next to me. One morning he managed to fall off his bike (it is unclear whether he was moving or stationary at the time) which he made far more drama out of than was necessary, as you will see if you read his blog too. It did give me a chance to dust off my very advanced first aid skills, although it turns out putting a plaster on an elbow is not the easiest of tasks, and my efforts were ridiculed rather than appreciated unfortunately. It did however put my blister issues into perspective.

My training group are (probably) moving out to the Lowry next week since the offices will be full but I (probably) won’t be going with them. I’m not too sure but I think, after a five minute talk with Gareth, that I’m going to be joining the team heading to the Home Office in London in two weeks’ time, and until then I’ll be getting specialised training upstairs. However, like most things here, it wasn’t very clear exactly what will happen so I’m just staying here and seeing how it all turns out. It’ll be sad if I do leave them, however annoying they can be!