When I used to think of Manufacturing, I would think of the smell of cutting fluid and the roar of the machine tool, but Manufacturing has come a long way since those earlier days. A very long way indeed. All the way to Liverpool in fact – Smart Factory Expo 2019!

What struck me immediately was just how high-tech Manufacturing has become.  Gone were the overflowing buckets of swarf and scrap. Instead, everything was much more precise, smaller and cleaner.  Zero waste and zero emissions are now the order of the day. In fact, I realised that manufacturing facilities today are as clean, if not cleaner, than places you would expect to be clean!

HSO were, again, proud to be exhibiting at Smart Factory Expo. Looking at the stand, it may have looked low-key. There were no Robotic Arms, Headsets and Augmented Reality. No 3-D printers producing magical, fantastical objects before our eyes or IoT producing oodles of data. No, we had some soft chairs, handy for those longer conversations; a couple bar stools for a quick perch and a screen which displayed a simple count and a couple of logos.

This year, HSO wanted to show something that would not only reflect who HSO is but also differentiate us from the other exhibitors.  Something that would engage rather than encourage a reason to leave. It had to be fool-proof.

PowerApp on our phones, using Azure Cognitive Services which was trained to recognise a particular shape, updating a count which was displayed as a PowerBI report on a large electronic display board. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and the badges. Did I mention the badges? We had badges. So many badges….

The idea was quite simple. We would take a picture (via a PowerApp) of the expo visitors wearing an HSO badge. Azure Cognitive Services would scan the picture, looking for any heart shapes from the extensive selection of images we had loaded previously. If detected, the PowerApp would display it had found a heart.

Who Love Hso Badge Scanner

It would then update the PowerBI report with the total. Every successful scan resulted in a £2 donation to HSO’s chosen charities, KidsOut and Barnabus.

I Love Hso Charity Totals

The program worked on so many levels and much better than we could have possibly imagined. Firstly, handing over the badge and just explaining the back story was such a good ice breaker. Secondly the charity angle was much more engaging – you could see and feel the change from a visitor’s slightly defensive “show-face” to a more relaxed, receptive and open posture.

Everyone who stopped had their picture taken. We took 150 pictures and therefore rasied a further £300 for our chosen charities.

The other obvious benefit was that we were able to chat to each individual about why they were at the show, and give them the story behind the app. In fact, many Office365 users were not aware they probably already had the tools to do something similar back at the office.

The thing which really stood out was the way we were able to demonstrate the people side of HSO, and by doing so we not only created a positive differentiator, when visitors left the stand, it wasn’t the usual relief to get away, but the feeling that their time had been spent positively.


Mark Sweeney
Cloud Engagement Director at HSO