On Sunday I flew back across from Zurich to Schipol for a small, 2-day conference attended by various stakeholders in the MX3D smartbridge project.
Very confusingly there were two flights leaving for Amsterdam at exactly the same time – 17h35 – so I very nearly ended up at the wrong gate. Luckily I realised in time.
On arriving at Schipol I took the train to Amsterdam Centraal, where I saw an overnight train back to Switzerland was about to leave. (I had tried hard to find a space on this train to come across for the conference, but it seems you need to book more than a few week’s in advance. Next time!)
Amsterdam is as lovely as ever.
While I only got in on Sunday, colleagues had been in town for a bit longer. Here’s a shot of the MX3D bridge taken by Alec Shuldiner on Saturday night, showing that the bridge is very much in use.
After checking into my hotel, I headed to the bridge to meet with some of the other attendees.
We sat in the Cafe De Stoof – at the end of the bridge – so we could monitor moments of heavy traffic for later analysis.
Whenever there was a largish crowd people excitedly got their recording devices out. The idea being that the timestamped photos/videos would help understanding or validation of the sensor data, when looked at together.
On Monday morning we were back at the same location for the conference itself. We even had beer tokens to use during (well, after) the event!
Attendees over the two days were from Imperial College London, Edinburgh University, University of Twente, TU Delft, the municipality of Amsterdam, MX3D and Autodesk.
The first day’s focus was on he more technical and engineering-centric aspects of the project.
The first session of the event was by Kasper Siderius from MX3D, who talked about the history of the bridge and what the company is currently working on.
Next up was Josh Cameron, my team-mate from Autodesk Research, who talked about our involvement in the project and the technology we’ve developed to support it, over the years.
I then presented our work on Project Dasher, how we’ve used it with MX3D and other smartbridge projects.
Zach Wynn from the University of Edinburgh talked about his work to understand the structural responses of the bridge and its various vibration modes.
My colleague Jenmy Zhang talked about the work Autodesk Research is doing around using lightweight simulation models during data analysis.
Theo Glasner from Imperial talked about approaches for mitigating against temperature-based effects on various types of sensor.
Alec Shuldiner gave a great summary to close the first day, emphasising how impressed he was by the innovative research being performed by various project partners despite the lack of the additional data afforded by cameras (that we still hope at some point will be installed to provide anonymised skeletons for people passing across the bridge).
The second day was focused on data ethics and governance. Sage Cammers-Goodwin kicked things off by talking about the work of the BRIDE project and their recent Smart Bridge Datathon.
Next was Kars Alfrink, talking about his work around public contestability of data.
Michael Nagenborg – Sage’s supervisor at the University of Twente – talked about responsible IoT and an upcoming panel session that folks from BRIDE and Alec Shuldiner from Autodesk Research will be participating in.
Douwe Schmidt – my fellow judge from the Bridge Datathon – spoke about the Amsterdam Municipality’s interest in smart cities and data governance.
Mihai Tene talked about his work to install the bridge’s sensors and then approximate strain (for a single person on the bridge) based on the load cell data.
Emma Ghini wrapped up the conference talks by discussing her passion for bridges.
During the breaks we were often on and around the bridge. For instance, Josh and I had to rescue a malfunctioning server from the bridge’s server room.
Josh did his best to resurrect it, when he had some time.
Here are some photos of the attendees. On the first day:
And the second day:
When the bridge was clear – which mostly meant first thing in the morning, the quiet time in the red light district – Craig and Theo spent quite a bit of time performing bridge-walks between various locations, and actions such as heel-drops. During these periods Josh upped the data collection frequency to 200 Hz from the usual 10 Hz.
Theo walked various routes.
Craig Buchanan, Theo’s supervisor at Imperial, took video that could once again be correlated with the sensor data at a later point.
The exact weight of the various people walking the bridge – including backpacks – was recorded to help with the data analysis.
We had a fun moment where five of us huddled together at each of 15 locations on the bridge. It must have been very confusing for anyone watching this pod of people shuffling around an otherwise empty bridge!
Here’s Craig, Theo and Zach poring over from of the footage.
At the end of the first day we also got together to jump on the bridge, to see if we could find its resonant frequency. I’m not sure how successful we were, but it was a lot of fun.
It being Amsterdam we did have some rain come through, but only for a very short period.
A few times during the 2-day event I bumped into Rick J Webb, an American citizen living in Amsterdam who knows Autodesk well from his time in the Bay Area in the 80s. I’d first met Rick when across for the grand opening, last year, and it was fun to reconnect.
Rick spends much of his time documenting life in Amsterdam – including the use of the bridge itself – and he has some fascinating stories to share.
Rick kindly took this photo of me on the bridge.
It wasn’t all hard work – we had a dinner together at the end of the first day the De Struisvogel restaurant in the basement of a canal house. It was really good.
A chance to drink a beer that wasn’t Heineken, too.
A photo of everyone at the dinner.
Many thanks to all the participants – and especially to Sage, who put a huge amount of energy into organising everything – for a fantastic event.