Events Programme for 2005-2006

All meetings, unless otherwise stated, are held on Wednesdays at 6:30 pm at: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, 36 York Place, Edinburgh  EH1 3HU. The location is marked on this street map. Please note that, for security reasons, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society keep their main door locked. Please ring the buzzer to gain admittance.

Refreshments are available from 6:10 pm for all the meetings held at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society - that is, excluding the 16th November and 12th April meetings.

Meetings qualify for BCS CPD credit. Non members are welcome to all meetings.

See also: other events in and around Edinburgh that may be of interest to Information Systems Professionals.

A list of BCS Edinburgh Branch events from previous years may be found here.

5th October 2005 - Software Verification: Grand Challenge or Emerging Technology?

Speaker: Andrew Ireland, Heriot-Watt University

The dream of being able to routinely verify programs using formal reasoning has a long history, dating back as far as the 1940's. In my talk I will survey this history, outline where I believe the challenges lie today and highlight areas where the research is making an impact on industry.

About the speaker

Andrew Ireland phot  

Andrew Ireland graduated with a First Class Hons degree in Computing Science from the University of Stirling in 1985. Supported by a Carnegie Scholarship, he continued his studies at Stirling, completing his PhD in 1989.

By then he had moved to the University of Edinburgh, where he took up the post of teaching assistant within the then Department of Artificial Intelligence. He joined the Mathematical Reasoning Group at Edinburgh in 1990 as Research Associate, where he worked on techniques for automating the search for formal proofs. In 1995, he became a lecturer in Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University, and was promoted to senior lecturer in 2005. He is a founder member of the Dependable Systems Group at Heriot-Watt, and has maintained close collaborative links with the Mathematical Reasoning Group.

This is reflected in his research, which focuses upon the role of formal proof within the development of dependable software systems. The applied nature of his research has led him into collaborative research projects with Praxis High Integrity Systems and QinetiQ.

26th October 2005 - The Semantic Web

Speaker: Henry Thompson, Informatics, Edinburgh University

The phrase "breakthrough in enthusiasm" was once used to convey a certain scepticism about the extent to which any real substance could be found to support a much-publicised new technology. In this talk I'll put current enthusiasm for the Semantic Web into some historical perspective, tracking a common thread from the origins of Artificial Intelligence in the 1960s through Expert Systems and Autonomous Agents up to the present. I'll also look at the evolution of the Semantic Web vision from its initial focus on document metadata to its current emphasis on information integration. I'll conclude with some observations about what the prospects are for real value to flow from all this.

About the Speaker

Henry Thompson photo  

Henry S. Thompson divides his time between the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, where he is Reader in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, based in the Language Technology Group of the Human Communication Research Centre, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), where he works in the XML Activity.

He received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1980. His university education was divided between Linguistics and Computer Science, in which he holds an M.Sc. While still at Berkeley he was affiliated with the Natural Language Research Group at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where he participated in the GUS and KRL projects. His research interests have ranged widely, including natural language parsing, speech recognition, machine translation evaluation, modelling human lexical access mechanisms, the fine structure of human-human dialogue, language resource creation and architectures for linguistic annotation. His current research is focussed on articulating and extending the architectures of XML.

He was a member of the SGML Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium which designed XML, is the author of the XED, the first free XML instance editor and co-author of the LT XML toolkit and is currently a member of the XML Core and XML Schema Working Groups of the W3C, and has recently been elected to the W3C TAG (Technical Architecture Group). He is lead editor of the Structures part of the XML Schema W3C Recommendation, for which he co-wrote the first publicly available implementation, XSV. He has presented many papers and tutorials on SGML, DSSSL, XML, XSL and XML Schemas in both industrial and public settings over the last eight years.

16th November 2005 - IT at the Scottish Parliament

This event will be held at the Scottish Parliament and include a tour of the building.

Presentation from this event (pdf)

7th December 2005 - Digital Design Studio

Speaker: Martyn Horner, Glasgow School of Art.

The Digital Design Studio of the Glasgow School of Art combines a lively academic research programme with commercial projects and a well-regarded post-graduate course in computer animation. This talk will explain and explore the life of this digital-age off-shoot of Scotland's most famous art school.

About the Speaker


Martyn Horner has worked in many branches of software engineering over the years. He graduated in the first year of Cambridge's Computer Science course and went on to develop image processing software for his doctorate in the Cavendish Laboratory, ending up with a product that was still being sold to research bodies a quarter of a century later.

He joined a Cambridge start-up that was developing the world's first commercial solid modeller, later to set up independently to produce arguably the first practical modeller on the PC. After a few years in Switzerland in senior management, he returned to programming with a Finnish company developing tools for the Semantic Web. During this time he served on the RDF Core Working Group at the World Wide Web Consortium.

Recently he has returned to academia at the Digital Design Studio where he is working on camera-based and accelerometer-based gesture controls and various schemes to visualize large data structures.

11th January 2006 - Biometrics and Identity

Speaker: Gavan Duffy, Generics Group Ltd.

Triggered in part by the events of 9/11 and perhaps more profoundly by opportunities arising from advances in information technologies to support applications ranging from market intelligence to counter terrorism, we live in an age in which an ever increasing amount of personal data is collected and retained within digital systems. This is evident not only in data that is collected but also in the shift of computer security away from an application centric approach, to identity management technologies such as biometrics that seek to bridge the gap between digital security and the physical reality of personal presence. Whilst the motivations for the uses of these technologies are largely benign, the porous shield of privacy that pervades society may be under threat by law of unintended consequences.

Much has been said about the tradeoffs between security and privacy and legislation such as the Patriot Act in the US, justify the shift in the relationship between state and citizen in terms of reconciling a tension between the rights of the individual and the greater benefits of the common good.

Innovation has been described as the elimination, rather than the accommodation of compromise. The role of technology does not have to be that of a hapless bystander that is blind to its own consequence. In this talk we provide examples of innovative technologies that address privacy as a first order design objective rather than as a retro-fitted after thought. We show how the kinds of technologies that follow from this approach both address and overcome the conflicts between security and privacy without compromise to either.

About the Speaker


Gavan has been leading a technical research program within the Generics Group that seeks to address the privacy objectives of biometrics and security technologies. He is a physicist by training but has worked in the IT and consultancy industry for 17 years in areas covering expert systems, image processing, high performance computing, trading systems, financial modelling and security systems.

8th February 2006 - Software Patents - where now?

Speakers: John MacKenzie, Pinsent Masons, and John Gray, Fitzpatricks

The software patents issue has taken many twists and turns. A proposed European Directive has come and gone, but the issue remains. In this presentation, John MacKenzie a partner with law firm Pinsent Masons and John Gray of Fitzpatricks will present on this complex subject. John MacKenzie will give an overview of the legal framework in which software patents sit, and explain the various attempts to harmonise the law across Europe. John Gray, a patent attorney specialising in electronic and computer-related inventions as well as a wide range of other technologies, will give his perspective on European patent law and practice in relation to information technology in its many forms. He will challenge what he sees as common misconceptions surrounding the law in this area.

About the Speakers


John MacKenzie

John is a solicitor advocate and deals with a range of commercial litigation matters including intellectual property, IT and property litigation. John has dealt with many major claims before the Court of Session, both at first instance and before the Appeal Court. He continues to appear before the higher courts on a regular basis. John advises clients on a range of types of intellectual property disputes including trade marks, patents and copyright cases.


John J. Gray, BSc (Hons), Grad. Inst. P., CPA, EPA, ETMA

John Gray is a Chartered Patent Attorney and European Patent Attorney who gained eleven years of experience in the patent profession in London, both in industry and private practice, before joining Fitzpatricks in August 1997. He has a First Class Honours degree in Electronics and Physics from the University of Edinburgh.

He has particular experience in the fields of hardware and software for computer graphics; image and audio processing (coding); microprocessor architectures; networks for consumer electronics; optical disc storage systems (CD, DVD etc); telecoms instrumentation; medical electronics; power switching and control; and other specialist electronic circuitry (analogue and digital).

In addition John advises major multi-national companies in the fields of financial services and offshore construction, including platform design and pipe laying technology, and a number of smaller clients in a wide range of technologies. He has supported negotiations of complex IP licensing programmes in consumer electronics and is a member of the Licensing Executives Society.

He has participated in IP portfolio management for both very large and very small client companies, particularly in high-technology areas, and brings the benefit of this experience to Fitzpatricks' clients who do not have their own in-house patent specialists. Since qualifying, John has taken an active role training future patent attorneys both inside and outside his employment.

1st March 2006 - Banking Security

David Sinclair, Royal Bank of Scotland

Banking, and most significantly the highly exposed world of Internet banking, is subject to the conflicting demands of high accessibility, increased usability and strong security.

In the modern world financial transactions rarely involve the exchange of actual currency for goods. The evolution of banking has been one of increasing abstraction, from grain via gold and paper to numbers; with each step the customer becomes further divorced from their own finances. As the intangibility of money increases, the individual's sense of ownership decreases and personal financial security is increasingly entrusted entirely to banking organisations.

In itself this is no bad thing. Banks as a rule expend a great deal of time and effort securing their systems. With recent attacks focusing more on the end user as the weakest link, however, and identity theft a continuous concern, what can be done to protect the customer and where does the onus lie when it comes to securing the small pieces of key data that secure the finances as a whole.

Whilst we all benefit from not having to carry our net worth about our person, offering up those magic numbers on a daily basis can make us somewhat blasé about our finances.

Log in now to your on-line banking system and qualify for a major prizes by clicking here.

About the Speaker

David began working in banking, with a particular interest in internet security, when the whole world used fat clients. Unfortunately whilst the clients have become ever thinner, the same cannot be said for David himself.

He is not, nor has he ever been, an appointed representative of any financial institution with particular interest in the over-funded accounts of unmarried, childless, deceased oil-engineers.

29th March 2006 - The Game Development Team

Robbie Graham

The art of AAA game development is today a long and risky process involving tens of millions of dollars, years of development time and more than the odd late night. In this presentation, Robbie Graham will explore the main areas of game development and how they have evolved over the last 20 years. Although the hardware has developed massively over 20 years, how have the actual games themselves evolved to keep up? Looking at today’s game development team, Robbie will show how the various team members have evolved to keep pace with ever more powerful game machines.

About the Speaker


Having been involved in video game production since the mid eighties, Robbie Graham has seen the games industry grow from tiny one person ‘teams’ churning out dozens of titles a year to today’s monster teams numbering over one hundred people engaged on a single project for more than two years. Having started in high school as a completely unqualified artist when all games were in 2D and no more than 16 colours, he has since (wisely) moved into the more mysterious world of game design and game production. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1992, Robbie has been working with Scottish developers and has been involved with many titles in that time from children’s titles (“Tom and Jerry”, “Brave”) to ultra violent adult titles (“The Evil Dead” and “State of Emergency”). In the last five years he has specialised in game production, overseeing entire teams in prototyping new game ideas, through to seeing the final product make it through the final testing stage. He is currently also serving as external examiner in the school of Computing and Creative Technologies for the University of Abertay Dundee.

12th April 2006, 6:00 pm - The Private Life of the Brain

The BCS Edinburgh Branch Sidney Michaelson Memorial Lecture

Speaker: Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield CBE

Venue: Lecture Theatre, Royal Museum, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

In association with the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Admission by ticket only. This event is now SOLD OUT.

Consciousness is now attracting the attention of scientists as well as philosophers. Despite the attempts of physicists and mathematicians to model consciousness in artificial systems, there is a need to understand consciousness in a way that caters for the diverse range of chemicals operating in the brain; how else might one explain the various mood modifying and consciousness changing effects of specific drugs?

We also need to account for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, and explain how they could arise from the neurochemical context of the holistic brain.

In this talk we shall develop a way of describing consciousness, that on the one hand caters for different momentary states of the physical brain, whilst at the same time respects the subjective phenomenology that is all too often ignored by scientists.

We shall explore a list of properties that would be required of the physical brain, to cater for the subjectivity of consciousness. It might then be possible to test this 'Rosetta Stone' model, in various scenarios of everyday life, and see how such scenarios might be interpreted in terms of functioning of the physical brain.

About the speaker

Susan Greenfield photo  

Baroness Susan Greenfield is a research scientist, an entrepreneur, a communicator of science and policy adviser. She is both Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University, where she heads a multi-disciplinary research group.

Her scientific career has taken her to top institutions in France and the USA as well as the UK. As an indication of the recognition of her work in the physical basis of the mind, she has been awarded 26 Honorary Degrees from British universities. In 2000 she was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians. She recently led a Government task force, investigating the problem of women in science, and has been a Forum Fellow at the World Economic Conference at Davos for the last 4 years. In the Millennium New Year’s Honours List she was awarded a CBE, and was granted a non-political Life Peerage in 2001. In 2003 she was awarded the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur. Baroness Greenfield was appointed Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in 2005.

About Sidney Michaelson


17th May 2006, 6:15 pm - BCS Edinburgh Branch AGM

17th May 2006, 6:30 pm - Peer to Peer Video Broadcasting via Broadband

Speaker: Adam Twiss, Cachelogic

Peer-to-Peer Video Broadcasting via Broadband P2P filesharing has been viewed by ISPs as a threat to their business economics and regarded as the enemy of the content industry. At the same time, the popularity of P2P has clearly demonstrated consumers’
insatiable demand for digital content.

What has been the impact of P2P on these groups and what does it hold for the future?

About the Speaker

Photo of Adam Twiss
  Adam Twiss - co-founder and CEO.

Adam is an astute businessman and product innovator. Prior to CacheLogic, Adam co-founded and was CEO of Zeus Technology, a Cambridge based Internet software company which started life in a student college room and grew to be a global organisation employing 120 people being cited by Red Herring as one of the top 50 private companies in the world (May 2000).

Adam holds a Masters degree (double first) in Computer Science from Cambridge University. Adam also sits on the board of the Cambridge Network.

About CacheLogic

CacheLogic is a technology company that provides a suite of complementary products that deliver traffic management and network intelligence solutions to the Internet Service Provider and Telecommunications sector.

Today through its proven track record, market-leading P2P management solution and its commitment to research and development, CacheLogic is considered the leading authority in its field. CacheLogic provides regular analysis and expert opinion to leading press and analyst organisations, as well as technical and commercial council for leading content owners and broadcaster.