OPIM Innovate

Blockchain in Business Workshop

Following his workshop last week on An Introduction to Blockchain, Christopher Day, a representative from RapidQube, held a workshop on Blockchain in Business. Although blockchain was created in 2008, it has recently gained popularity because it is the framework behind Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin, there have been many strides made in an attempt to apply blockchain to different aspects of business. “This week was about teaching students how to apply blockchain based on how the technology is already being used in different disciplines,” said Day following the workshop.

The workshop began with a brief overview from last week, and then Day focused on the benefits the business world could gain by applying blockchain technology. Blockchain could be implemented in shipping, the food industry, insurance, and supply chain, and companies such as Visa, UPS, JP Morgan, Chase, and IBM are all different companies that are already implementing it.  Blockchain can store both structured and unstructured data, such as documents or pictures, by simply scanning it and uploading it. When the information is needed there is easy access and every user in the chain will know who uploaded the information. IBM is using it for their global finance settlement work, so they are able to take dispute resolution out of the process because everyone has access to see transactions on the blocks. Shipping companies are using it as a fault-free way to track their products. Insurance companies have begun to use blockchain for car accidents, so you would take a photo after getting into an accident, upload it, and an AI would automatically filter through what is wrong with the car.  According to Day, “any place where you have people exchanging information and rules have to be applied you can apply blockchain.”

Charles Haylock, a senior studying History and German, went to both the Introduction to Blockchain and Blockchain in Business workshops. “Blockchain is really important and I am thankful and grateful to be a part of a university that recognizes that. From what I’ve heard and what I’ve read there is a heavy demand in the business world telling universities that they need students to know this.” Because of the increasing importance and high demand for knowledge on blockchain, there will be a third workshop on Blockchain Applications in Insurance held on Friday, March 30th in the BUSN Board room, 321. This workshop is a partnership between OPIM Innovate and the newly formed Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Register ahead of time to secure a seat.






An Introduction to Blockchain Workshop

On Friday February 9th, the Operations and Information Management (OPIM) Department held a workshop on an Introduction to Blockchain. This workshop taught by Christopher Day, a business advisor from RapidQube, is the first in a series of three Blockchain workshops discussing how this new technology is disrupting and revolutionizing the business world.

“Blockchain is a big secure database that’s in the cloud. The database consists of shared ledger that are the same across four nodes that communicate with one another to say if the data is good or bad,” said Day. Each group of transactions gets added to the ledger as a different block, and it becomes a chain because each block builds upon the data from the first block. Although the concept of Blockchain is relatively new, it is not a new technology. Instead, it is a system that uses existing technologies, that wouldn’t normally be combined, in new ways.

“Blockchain is changing the way that technology is moving and evolutionizing in the workplace. Every single workplace should know how this works,” said Radhika Kanaskar, a junior studying Management Information Systems (MIS). Blockchain can be used for a variety of different things such as to track produce, ensure flawless audit trails, assist lawyers with contracts, and utilize cryptocurrency. This is because Blockchain provides a seamless trail from the first stage of production until its final destination. The blocks in a block chain are interconnected and because the chain of transaction trails is open to the public, the tracking of produce will forever lead in the right direction, and the same goes for audit trails. This is especially helpful for people who want to know their sources, people who wan to track transactions, and people who want to resolve or eliminate mistrust. It is one of the only modern technologies that provides visibility to all of the people in the transaction. “Blockchain technology has exploded within the past four or five months because of bitcoin. Some people are putting millions of dollars into this and so many people don’t know how it works. It’s important to attend workshops like this to know how it came to be,” said Alex Martinez, a senior studying MIS.

“I liked the workshop a lot and thought it was very  informative. Having a third party vendor come in from a company to teach us the workshop was really interesting because he had a lot of deep knowledge on it,” said Martinez. Luckily, Day will be returning this Friday, February 16th, at 1PM in the OPIM Gladstein Lab on the third floor of the School of Business to conduct a follow up workshop on Blockchain in Business.

How the Internet Works Workshop

The internet: an everyday tool that has somehow become obscure and mysterious in both its definition and the way it works. On Friday, February 9, Adjunct Professor Stephen Fitzgerald tackled the daunting task of explaining how the internet works in the latest OPIM Innovate workshop. The workshop covered how we connect to the internet, how we send messages through the internet, the divisions of the internet (such as the surface web, deep web, and dark web), and websites.

The internet began as a Department of Defense project, with the hopes of being able to create a communication network that could survive nuclear attack. In order to do this, the creators of the internet decided to send information in packets, dividing one message into smaller parts, sending those parts on different routes, and reuniting them later on at their appropriate destinations. Each destination that a message will encounter along its travel is referred to as an IP address. IP addresses are a series of unique numbers that distinguish computers depending on the network they are connected to. “IP addresses are like home addresses; so what we want to do is get information from one destination to another. With an IP address, we can track the steps it takes to get from my home router to google,” Fitzgerald said. Although each IP address is different, the amount of addresses is not unlimited because they are coded in binary. This means that at institutions such as UConn, users are able to login to the internet with a specific IP address, but once you log out the information will be recycled for the next user. “There are a few buildings where the huge internets of the world connect to each other. These would be places that connect the millions of IP addresses together like Time Warner, Comcast, etc. and they are filled with routers,” Fitzgerald said as he began to paint a physical picture of how the internet is connected.

“This was a good first workshop to go to because it gave information on how the internet works while reflecting real world issues like net neutrality. I think sometimes if you live on campus at a college you can shut out the outside world, so workshops are a good way to understand the real world applications of things we learn about in school,” said Brittany Reynolds a Management Informations Systems (MIS) and Psychology major (’19). Being able to use the internet is an essential skill for students in their academics and the workplace, but knowing how the internet works is an extremely useful tool for students looking to make an impact in the field of technology. “Knowing about the internet is important. With the amount of information being shared across the internet, it is important to know where that information is going, who has access and who doesn’t, and to be able to control where your information is going,” said Anthony Modolese, a senior finance major in attendance. Modolese and his friend Matthew Kopec have been taking a private independent study on the business of blockchain and are currently learning about the history of the internet. This interest in blockchain has brought them to multiple workshops and they are both interested in attending more in the future.


Microcontrollers Workshop

On Friday, December 1, the Operations and Information Management (OPIM) Department held it’s last workshop of the semester on Microcontroller Applications. Microcontrollers are small circuit boards that have the computer power to perform different tasks. There are three common brands of microcontrollers, including Raspberry Pi, Arduinos, and Intel Edisons. Although the OPIM Department has all three types, this workshop used Raspberry Pis to enhance the hands on experience of the activities. So far there have a number of versions of Raspberry Pis manufactured and each version has gotten better over time adding additional hardware and features including wireless and Bluetooth technology. Microcontrollers are so open ended, anyone can benefit from their use.

“Raspberry Pi is a system that that has unlimited possibilities,” said Dongyeop Han, a junior Management Information Systems (MIS) major. Coding on a Raspberry Pi can be used for a variety of different things. Some common uses are smart displays, home security, computer security, computer vision, robotics, Internet of Things and facial recognition. In the workshop, adjunct professor Ryan O’Connor used the Raspberry Pis to control smart light bulbs by turning them on and off, and changing their color. O’Connor also used the raspberry pis to monitor and gather data on the air quality in the Gladstein Lab through the Awair Smart Monitor. O’Connor stated that people who like to innovate and tinker with things benefit the most from microcontrollers. “It is also a low cost alternative to a computer, so if you’re not doing something super complex you can just have a raspberry pie to browse the web, said Nathan Hom, a junior Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) major. The workshop allowed each participant to get hands on experience with a Raspberry Pi and play around with the different features available.

Although this workshop highlights the many applications for Raspberry Pi microcontrollers we are seeing a big increase in their use across businesses. Tasks like measuring amounts of gas in fuel tanks or controlling large number of smart devices have become popular as use cases in industry.


Blockchain Workshop

On Friday November 10, the Operations and Information Management (OPIM) department held a workshop on Blockchain. In his third workshop of the semester, adjunct professor Stephen Fitzgerald, a UConn alumnus and Management Information Systems (MIS) graduate, was faced with the difficult task of explaining the intricacies of Blockchain in a ninety minute time frame.

Blockchain is a peer to peer distributed database that records transactions. “Everyone can have a copy of the ledger, the list of all records, and see every transaction. Because everyone has this ability, everyone can check and make sure that the lists are correct,” said Fitzgerald. Each group of transactions gets added to the ledger as a different block, and it becomes a chain because each block builds upon the data from the first block. Although the concept of Blockchain is relatively new, it is not a new technology. Instead, it is a system that uses existing technologies, that wouldn’t normally be combined, in new ways. “It’s sort of a greater than the sum of its parts product” using elements of cryptography, accounting, and math to create the database.

Blockchain can be used for a variety of different things such as to track produce, ensure flawless audit trails, assist lawyers with contracts, and utilize cryptocurrency. In an example given by Professor Fitzgerald, Blockchain can track produce, diamonds, and other goods back to their source. This is because Blockchain provides a seamless trail from the first stage of production until its final destination. The blocks in a block chain are interconnected and because the chain of transaction trails is open to the public, the tracking of produce will forever lead in the right direction, and the same goes for audit trails.

Perhaps one of the most common users of Blockchain is a cryptocurrency called Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can eliminate the necessity of a bank. Turner Carnes, an MIS student who attended the workshop emphasized the importance of blockchain in Bitcoin saying, “it has the potential to grow and be used in a lot of big businesses for more security with transactions.” Because all of the transactions will be made public and everything is built upon the previous transaction, there is a permanent trail for big business to track their money. Although this is a great idea, Bitcoin was running into issues because of the anonymity in the app. Because no names or identification were used, it was difficult for users to establish trust in the people they were sending their Bitcoins to. This is when Ethereum developed smart contracts. Smart contracts are contracts developed by users in order to legally bind people to their word. Once this contract is created, it is coded into the Blockchain and becomes a permanent part of the block. In the future, these contracts can be applied to real estate and law.

Although this was a denser topic than some of the previous workshops, Professor Fitzgerald did a great job translating the complicated Blockchain system into terms that the audience could understand. Michael Greco a freshman MIS major said, “it wasn’t like a class. The instructor was very engaging so it was really fun. I’d love to go to more workshops in the future.” The OPIM Innovate workshops are a great way to expose students to advanced technology and give them the opportunity to learn in a fun, interactive environment.

The next workshop on Microcontroller Applications will be held Friday, December 1st at 1PM in the OPIM Gladstein Lab on the third floor of the School of Business.



Project Greenlight

On Friday November 10th, LIFX, a company that creates smart lightbulbs, decided to participate in a movement that began in 2013, Greenlight A Vet. The company states that changing your lights to green is an easy way to establish visual support for America’s veterans by changing lights to green. The color green represents hope and positive well-being and green light is to show forward movement or advancement towards the cause. Once a participant change their lights to a particular color green they will appear on the LIFX greenlight map. The green light map shows where people in the United States have been using the app to change their lights to green. To raise awareness of the campaign, participants are encouraged to share their green light on the map and post on social media. A a user is encouraged to share a photo of the green light using the hashtag #greenlightavet.  If not interested in sharing a photo, an alternative way to raise awareness is by applying the Greenlight A Vet filter onto a profile picture on Facebook.

Once this campaign reached the OPIM Innovate email inbox we wanted to participate. As part of our Internet of Things (IoT) demo in our innovation space and research lab we have a number of LIFX smart lightbulbs. Tyler Lauretti, (MIS ’18), the OPIM Innovate Lab Manager suggested we set up our display and participate in the movement. Once we had set up all the equipment we were able to see Storrs, CT (06269) highlighted on the green light map. It was a powerful way to use data and technology to support a very important cause and showed the students in the lab the different ways you can become involved.






Unity Virtual Reality Programming Workshop

On Friday November 3, the Operations and Information Management (OPIM) team held one of its most successful workshops to date in the Gladstein Lab on Unity Virtual Reality (VR) Programming. The workshop, led by adjunct professor Stephen Fitzgerald, focused on acquainting people with Unity VR by “showing its historical progression, introducing students to the equipment, and teaching students how to stage a virtual reality space and make a virtual environment.”

Virtual reality can be run through many different platforms but Professor Fitzgerald focused on the Unity software for the workshop.  “The Unity engine is just something that has done all the hard work for you already. So the physics and the calculation of the computer code has all been done for you.” Giving students a background on the Unity engine will help them build confidence to be able to create their own virtual reality experiences.  TJ Hannon, a student lab specialist for OPIM Innovate is in charge of the Virtual Reality technology track and was helping run the workshop. The lab is currently focusing on a virtual reality hardware called HTC Vive, one of the top-tier pieces of equipment that is “a lot more immersive and gives you the potential to do a lot of different things, especially in a professional setting” Hannon stated. OPIM Innovate is also looking to develop a Unity technology track that focuses on developing these type of experiences.

Although virtual reality is relatively new, its real world applications are endless. So far, it has been used to train doctors and surgeons, to treat people with anxiety and fears, to improve athletics, to train military personnel, to assist in construction and home design, and even to help paralyzed people walk again. In one instance during the workshop virtual reality was used along with a brain interface machine to restore people’s ability to walk when they were paralyzed. Because of virtual reality, paraplegics were able to have their bodies recreate cells that wouldn’t have otherwise been created in order to get themselves to walk again.

“The potential is limitless,” said Hannon about the future of virtual reality. Professor Fitzgerald stated “Right now the software is lacking graphically and the hardware can’t keep up with desired output, but if the right software and the right minds get a hold of the technology VR could change the world as we know it.” This workshop focused on giving people more exposure to the field as well as the tools needed to succeed.

The next workshop will be held on Friday, November 10, on an Introduction to Blockchain in the OPIM Gladstein Lab on the third floor of the School of Business.


Predictive Modeling Workshop

On Friday, October 27, the UConn Operations and Information Management (OPIM) Department conducted a workshop on predictive modeling. This workshop is one of the technology workshops that the department is conducting in order to enhance the  OPIM Innovate Initiative.

OPIM adjunct Professor Marshall Doughtery, a Management Information Systems (MIS) graduate, was the facilitator of the workshop and currently teaches courses on data and text mining, and SAS Analytics. In this workshop, Marshall explained predictive modeling and its real world applications. He also introduced the audience to SAS and SAS JMP. SAS is an analytics software and SAS JMP is a product that focuses on building data models and predictive analytics.

“Predictive modeling is a process that uses data and algorithms to predict outcomes,” said Professor Doughtery, and its influence in the field is growing daily. Being able to utilize these predictive modeling skills is important because data science is one of the “fastest growing and important fields in the job market,” Once students have this skill set, they will become one of the most wanted candidates for jobs. Therefore, the more exposure OPIM Innovate and the rest of the department can give its students, the better they will be prepared for the future.

Learning the basics is helpful, but what set apart this workshop was the hands on experience students were able to receive. Gyuho Song, a UConn graduate student studying Material Science Engineering, has been coming to the Innovate workshops since last semester. Although Song is not in the School of Business, he emphasized the importance of predictive modeling and being able to truly understand it before using it. Having an activity during the workshop not only enhances the students’ focus, but it allows students to apply the knowledge they’ve learned. Song said that the interactive aspect of the workshop was his favorite part because he was amazed at how he could learn about predictive modeling and apply his newfound knowledge all within ninety minutes.

Although it is challenging to include all the important topics in a ninety minute workshop, Professor Doughtery felt pleased with the outcome, as most students were engaged and invested.

The next workshop will be held on Friday, November 3, on Unity Virtual Reality Programming in the OPIM Gladstein Lab on the third floor of the School of Business.

Installing IoT through Splunk

The final technology workshop of the Spring 2017 semester held by the Operations and Information Management (OPIM) Department explored Internet of Things (IoT) through Splunk. It was the last in a series of technology workshops part of the OPIM Innovate Initiative. The workshop took place in the Gladstein Lab on Friday, April 21st.

Professor Ryan O’Connor instructed the workshop, preparing students to use the technology. O’Connor said the wanted to make the workshop practical for the students in attendance. The goal was to get students to install the application to ultimately be able to utilize it beyond just the workshop. He said the workshop went very well and commented on the great turn out of attentive students in attendance, especially for the end of the semester.

O’Connor said that understanding IoT through Splunk because it is a very important emerging field.

“Big data is becoming increasingly important, if not already important, and students looking to enter the information technology field should have a familiarity with it,” O’Connor said.

It is very attractive to companies when students can say that they have worked with IoT through Splunk and have actually installed it, O’Connor said. This fact is what made this workshop and topic so important for students, he said.

Tyler Lauretti, President of the Information Management Association (IMA), gave very positive feedback after the workshop. Lauretti said he was excited to dive in to using IoT through Splunk and learn more about data analytics and the uses for big data platforms, which is a big interface that many companies are using. He said he got a lot of useful information out of the workshop like he was hoping to.

Gamification Workshop

The UConn Operations and Information Management (OPIM) Department conducted a Gamification workshop on Friday, April 14. This comes as a part of a series of technology workshops being held by the department throughout the semester as a part of the OPIM Innovate Initiative.

OPIM Professor Jon Moore, one of the coordinators of OPIM Innovate, taught the workshop. Moore, also, currently teaches a course on Gamification here at UConn. The workshop gave students some background on the process of Gamification and an activity on the topic.

Gamification is the study of creating experiences that increase engagement and learning in variety of different environments – such as, marketing, customer engagement, training and efficiency enhancement, Moore said. The importance of Gamification has grown because of the increase in customer data and, in turn, the acquisition of more accurate analytics data that can predict and display exactly what clients want, he said.

“I believe that Gamification is a new topic and pretty exciting to study,” Moore said.

Many students that have taken his class are Management Information Systems (MIS) majors, but Moore said what is interesting about Gamification is that it attracts a diverse audience, because it is applicable for many different majors.

Moore’s goal for the workshop was to spark students’ interest in Gamification and to introduce the topic to those who did not know about it beforehand. He said he hoped to gain the interest of potential students and to lead them into taking his Gamification class in the Fall.

One of the students in attendance, Shanzay Iqbal said she thought the workshop and the topic was very interesting. Iqbal has attended most of the OPIM Department’s workshops throughout this year.

“I really enjoyed the activity because it engaged students. Some of the other workshops are more of a lecture format and aren’t as interesting. I’m a hands on person so I liked that,” Iqbal said.

Moore said he included an activity to keep his audience engaged throughout the workshop. He said because Gamification software is less hands-on, he decided to add a group activity halfway through the workshop.

Moore was pleased with the outcome of the workshop with positive responses overall from the students in attendance. He said that many students approached him following the workshop, showing interest and seeking more information on the topic.

Additionally, Moore said he is looking for students who are interested in helping with Gamification consulting in the future, because many companies and outside organizations have shown interest in partnering in the space.

The last workshop of the semester, Exploring IoT through SPLUNK Analytics, will be taking place on Friday, April 21st in the Gladstein Lab. Please register here to reserve your spot in the workshop, as space is limited.