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Alasdair Allan (author)

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Alasdair Allan speaking at the Thingmonk conference.
Alasdair Allan speaking at the Thingmonk conference held in Shoreditch, London, in September 2016.

Dr Alasdair Allan (born 1973) is a British scientist, technologist, and author, known for his work around emerging technologies. He has written and experimented extensively in mobile computing..[1] and distributed sensor networks[2].

Allan is the author of seven books, and has authored academic papers[3] on topics from cataclysmic variables stars[4], gamma-ray bursts[5], micro-lensing events[6], through to astronomical data reduction[7][8][9], software architectures[10], messaging protocols[11], software agents[12], and machine learning[13].

Education[edit | edit source]

Allan was awarded an MSci (Hon) in Astronomy from the University of St. Andrews in 1995, and a PhD in Astrophysics from Keele University in 1999 where his thesis[14] topic was Cataclysmic Variable stars and the analysis of optical, infra-red, and X-ray observations of the spin and orbital modulations seen in intermediate polar systems.

Academic Career[edit | edit source]

After completing his PhD Allan worked as part of the Starlink Project until funding was withdrawn by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council in 2005. He was heavily involved with the standardisation work behind the Virtual Observatory as part of the AstroGrid Project working as part of the IVOA, and worked for a year at the University of Edinburgh where he carried out research into the role of agent architectures for data-mining. He was one of the primary authors of the Virtual Observatory's VOEvent[15] standard, and an author of the SAMP[16] standard.

eSTAR Project[edit | edit source]

Allan was the lead architect of the eSTAR Project. This was a distributed peer-to-peer network[17] of robotic telescopes that, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. The project was a joint collaboration between the Astrophysics groups at the University of Exeter and the Astrophysics Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University.

GRB 090423[edit | edit source]

In 2009, Allan was part of the collaboration that performed the first ground based observations of GRB 090423, using the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope operated by Joint Astronomy Centre. At the time the Joint Astronomy Centre was a participant in the eSTAR Project, and observations by the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission automatically triggered follow up observations on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope just a few minutes after the initial observation. The observations autonomously triggered by the eSTAR software formed the core of the paper describing the gamma-ray burst which, at discovery, was then the most distant object in the Universe as reported by Tanvir et al.[18]

Professional Career[edit | edit source]

After leaving academia in 2013 Allan has run a small technology consulting company[19] based in Exeter in the South West of England. The firm provides expertise in electronics, wireless devices, sensor networks, mobile computing, and the Internet of Things.

He has spoken extensively[20] on the topics such as big data, mobile technology, and the internet of things. He advocates for data privacy, and spoke[21][22] at the TEDx Exeter Salon in October 2017 about how the Internet of Things has changed the concept of ownership, exploring issues around privacy and security.

Allan serves as an advisor to Kano Computers, a tech startup building physical computing for education, has mentored for Startupbootcamp IoT in London, and served on the editorial board of the Big Data Journal. He was a contributing editor[23] for Make Magazine from 2013 to 2106, and since leaving the magazine has written extensively for Motherboard[24], Hackaday[25], and Hackster.io[26].

Allan was named a "Top 50 Influencer in the Internet of Things" by Oanalytica in 2014[27] and 2015[28], one of the "top journalists to follow on the Internet of Things" by the Huffington Post in 2016[29], and one of the "Top 30 Internet of Things Influencers" by relayr in 2017[30]

Data Sensing Lab[edit | edit source]

The Data Sensing Lab[31] was an idea that came from a conversation between Allan, Tim O'Reilly, and Edd Dumbill (now Edd Wilder-James) at OSCON in 2011. The stated aim was to bring experience of 'messy' data to data scientists more used to working with cleaned, and processed, data. Along with collaborators[32] Allan deployed small scale sensor networks throughout O'Reilly's Strata conferences in 2012 and 2013. The mesh networked sensor platforms provided real time data[33] on the venue.

In 2013 the Data Sensing Lab team, then consisting of Allan, Julie Steele, Kipp Bradford, and Rob Faludi, along with some members of the Google Cloud Platform team deployed[32] a large sensor network throughout Moscone West during Google I/O[34]. The network consisted of 500 individual nodes mesh networked in a Zigbee mesh, they continuously measured temperature, pressure, humidity, light, audio and RF noise, motion, and air quality all through the venue and over the entire event.

iPhone Tracking[edit | edit source]

In 2011, in collaboration with Pete Warden, Allan uncovered[35][36] one of the first major mobile privacy scandals, which was later dubbed "locationgate"[37] by the media. The discovery lead Senator Al Franken to write a letter[38] to Steve Jobs, and subsequent class action law suits[39] and the US Senate hearings[40] around location privacy that pulled in both Apple and Google. The event was notable enough at the time that it was mentioned as a meme on South Park[41]

The Thing System[edit | edit source]

Along with Marshall Rose, Allan was one of the founders of The Thing System[42]. This startup was one of the early experiments around collaboration between theoretically incompatible Internet of Things smart devices in the home. All the software from the company was open source[43] and mostly written in Node.js. The startup was ultimately unsuccessful in raising enough funding, and folded in 2014.

Books[edit | edit source]

Allan has written the following books:

  • Learning iOS Programming[44] (first edition published as Learning iPhone Programming[1] )
  • Basic Sensors in iOS[45]
  • iOS Sensor Apps with Arduino[46]
  • Geolocation in iOS[47]
  • Distributed Network Data[2]
  • Make: Bluetooth[48]
  • Kerbal Space Program[49]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Alasdair., Allan, (2010). Learning iPhone programming (1st ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly. ISBN 978-0596806439. OCLC 460060164. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alasdair., Allan, (2013). Distributed network data. Bradford, Kipp. Beijing: O'Reilly Media. ISBN 978-1449360269. OCLC 834697408. 
  3. "NASA/ADS Search (Beta Interface)". ui.adsabs.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  4. Allan, Alasdair; Hellier, Coel; Beardmore, Andrew (1998-03-21). "ASCA X-ray observations of EX Hya: spain-resolved spectroscopy". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 295 (1): 167–176. Bibcode:1998MNRAS.295..167A. doi:10.1046/j.1365-8711.1998.29511353.x. ISSN 0035-8711. 
  5. Tanvir, N. R.; Fox, D. B.; Levan, A. J.; Berger, E.; Wiersema, K.; Fynbo, J. P. U.; Cucchiara, A.; Krühler, T.; Gehrels, N. (October 2009). "A γ-ray burst at a redshift of z ≈ 8.2". Nature. 461 (7268): 1254–1257. arXiv:0906.1577Freely accessible. Bibcode:2009Natur.461.1254T. doi:10.1038/nature08459. hdl:10261/18184. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 19865165.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  6. Tsapras, Y.; Street, R.; Horne, K.; Snodgrass, C.; Dominik, M.; Allan, A.; Steele, I.; Bramich, D.m.; Saunders, E.s. (2009-01-01). "RoboNet-II: Follow-up observations of microlensing events with a robotic network of telescopes". Astronomische Nachrichten. 330 (1): 4–11. arXiv:0808.0813Freely accessible. Bibcode:2009AN....330....4T. doi:10.1002/asna.200811130. ISSN 1521-3994. 
  7. Allan, Alasdair; Jenness, Tim; Economou, Frossie; Currie, Malcolm J; Bly, Martin J (2002). "Generic Data Pipelining Using ORAC-DR". Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems Xi. 281: 311. Bibcode:2002ASPC..281..311A. 
  8. Allan, Alasdair; Currie, Malcolm J (2014). "FROG: Time-series analysis". Astrophysics Source Code Library: ascl:1405.011. Bibcode:2014ascl.soft05011A. 
  9. Allan, Alasdair; Currie, Malcolm J (2014). "DATACUBE". Astrophysics Source Code Library: ascl:1405.011. Bibcode:2014ascl.soft05011A. 
  10. Allan, A; Naylor, T; Steele, I; Carter, D; Jenness, T; Economou, F; Adamson, A (2004). "eSTAR: Astronomers, Agents and when Robotic Telescopes aren't.". Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems (Adass) Xiii. 314: 597. Bibcode:2004ASPC..314..597A. 
  11. "IVOA Recommendation - Sky Event Reporting Metadata". www.ivoa.net. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  12. Allan, Alasdair; Naylor, Tim; Steele, Iain A.; Jenness, Tim; Cavanagh, Brad; Economou, Frossie; Saunders, Eric; Adamson, Andy; Etherton, Jason (2004-09-15). "Advanced Software, Control, and Communication Systems for Astronomy". Advanced Software. Advanced Software, Control, and Communication Systems for Astronomy. 5496: 313–323. Bibcode:2004SPIE.5496..313A. doi:10.1117/12.550433.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  13. Saunders, E.s.; Naylor, T.; Allan, A. (2008-03-01). "An autonomous adaptive scheduling agent for period searching". Astronomische Nachrichten. 329 (3): 321–325. arXiv:0801.3846Freely accessible. Bibcode:2008AN....329..321S. doi:10.1002/asna.200710947. ISSN 1521-3994. 
  14. Allan, Alasdair (1999). "Multi-Wavelength Observations of Intermediate Polars". Bibcode:1999PhDT.........9A. 
  15. "IVOA Recommendation - Sky Event Reporting Metadata". www.ivoa.net. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  16. "IVOA Recommendation - Simple Application Messaging Protocol". www.ivoa.net. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  17. Allan, Alasdair (2011-03-23), Machine Learning in the Real World: Decision Support, retrieved 2018-01-05 
  18. Tanvir, N. R.; Fox, D. B.; Levan, A. J.; Berger, E.; Wiersema, K.; Fynbo, J. P. U.; Cucchiara, A.; Krühler, T.; Gehrels, N. (October 2009). "A γ-ray burst at a redshift of z ≈ 8.2". Nature. 461 (7268): 1254–1257. arXiv:0906.1577Freely accessible. Bibcode:2009Natur.461.1254T. doi:10.1038/nature08459. hdl:10261/18184. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 19865165.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  19. "Babilim Light Industries". babilim.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  20. "Alasdair Allan's Speaker Profile". lanyrd.com. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  21. TEDx Talks (2017-11-28), The coming privacy crisis on the Internet of Things | Alasdair Allan | TEDxExeterSalon, retrieved 2018-01-05 
  22. Rossiter, Keith (2017-10-09). "Are the machines out to get you?". devonlive. Retrieved 2018-04-16. 
  23. "Alasdair Allan, Author at Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers". Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  24. "Alasdair Allan". Motherboard. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  25. "Alasdair Allan". Hackaday. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  26. "Alasdair Allan – Hackster's Blog". blog.hackster.io. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  27. "The Internet of Things (IoT) - Top 100 Thought Leaders". onalytica. 2014-04-15. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  28. "The Internet of Things: Top 100 Influencers and Brands". onalytica. 2015-04-01. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  29. Thomas, Andrew (2016-09-09). "The Top Journalists and Experts to Follow in the Internet of Things". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  30. Collis, Jason. "Top 30 IoT Influencers of 2017". Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  31. "The Data Sensing Lab". Data Sensing Lab. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 "The Road to the I/O Sensor Network | Make:". Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers. 2013-05-19. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  33. "Data". Data Sensing Lab. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  34. "Google I/O 2013". Data Sensing Lab. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  35. Arthur, Charles (2011-04-20). "iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  36. "How I Discovered the First Big Mobile Privacy Scandal". Motherboard. 2017-07-19. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  37. "LocationGate". Mashable. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  38. Al, Franken (April 20, 2011). "Letter to Steve Jobs" (PDF). 
  39. "Apple Pays Out $946 in 'Locationgate' Settlement". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  40. "Chairman Franken Announces Hearing on Mobile Technology & Privacy; Invitees Include Reps. from Apple, Google | Al Franken | Senator for Minnesota". www.franken.senate.gov. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  41. Wasserman, Todd. "South Park Takes on Apple's LocationGate [VIDEO]". Mashable. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  42. System, The Thing. "ⓣ the thing system - Hello, world!". thethingsystem.com. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  43. "The Thing System, Inc". GitHub. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  44. Alasdair., Allan, (2013). Learning iOS programming (3rd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media. ISBN 978-1449359348. OCLC 840430482. 
  45. Alasdair., Allan, (2011). Basic sensors in iOS (1st ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly. ISBN 978-1449308469. OCLC 754641913. 
  46. Alasdair., Allan, (2011). IOS sensor apps with Arduino. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly. ISBN 978-1449308483. OCLC 761692552. 
  47. Alasdair., Allan, (2012). Geolocation in iOS (1st ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media. ISBN 978-1449308445. OCLC 825821757. 
  48. Alasdair,, Allan, (2015). Make: Bluetooth : bluetooth LE projects for Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and smarthphones. Coleman, Don (Computer software developer),, Mistry, Sandeep, (First ed.). San Francisco, CA. ISBN 978-1457187094. OCLC 934648088. 
  49. Jon,, Manning, (2016). The Kerbal player's guide : the easiest way to launch a space program. Nugent, Tim,, Fenwick, Paul,, Allan, Alasdair,, Buttfield-Addison, Paris, (First ed.). Sebastopol, CA. ISBN 978-1491913055. OCLC 962751146. 

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