It’s an exciting time in Dublin as the successful formula for the Internet of Things comes together at the right moment.
At its most basic, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a simple idea: all the machines in the world speak (M2M) to each other via the internet. Clever. Everybody gets it.
From mobile phones to Fitbits and the Apple Watch, IoT is becoming more mainstream every day. Estimates suggest the number of machines connected to the internet will increase by 10-fold as soon as 2020. There will be an explosion of IoT devices, applications and data.
“Everybody is talking about it,” says Ken Finnegan. “Every company I meet has some kind of IoT commercial strategy in place.” As senior technology adviser to Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the IoT boom is not news to Finnegan. “It’s been happening for a long time here,” he says.
Dublin Gets Smart
He describes the basic premise of IoT as “ubiquitous connectivity”. It’s the process of turning real world activity into an actionable data points automatically. The flow is summarised up as “Collect, Connect, Transform”. Collect data through semiconductors, transport the data through networks and transform it into actionable intelligence through analysis.
Pulling together all the connections, networks, and data analysis though, is not a simple task. For that you need to be smart. Dublin gets it. Dublin gets smart.
In fact, in late 2014, National Geographic tipped Dublin to leapfrog the competition in the race to develop a smart city. With Intel’s Irish-designed IoT platform, Intel Quark, connected in a city-wide array of sensors, Dublin has become a leading test bed of IoT technology, even installing IoT technologies in the city’s largest sports stadium to test and develop numerous scenarios.
It’s all part of a new way of doing business that is taking shape. Business models are changing rapidly, across all industries. The traditional “one and done” company model is dying out, where you create your product, sell it and forget it. There’s a new business model in town. “To remain competitive means you need connectivity to your devices, to understand the context and realise the value in an industry, for example health, agriculture, services, transport.” says Ken Finnegan.
Collaborative IoT Ecosystem
There is a strong collaboration between the blossoming IoT industry, government and academic research in Dublin. Uniquely, the scientific research model is integrated across Ireland so that the best-of-the-best work on their specific research vertical, whether it’s hardware or big data, and don’t need to compete for resources.
The Irish government is committed to enabling a doubling of technical graduates in the next five years and supports innovation through Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Science Foundation Ireland and other initiatives. The emerging IoT ecosystem in Ireland is massively co-operative.
Collaboration is key. “That’s the secret sauce,” says Finnegan. “We are a small country. It means you are more agile and more connected. You’re no more than a 2.5 hour drive from any of the biggest tech companies in the world, and you probably know someone who can get you an introduction.”
Connectivity is a unique (analogue) attribute of the Irish business culture, one that seems particularly well suited to its digital counterpart in IoT. In attending an open day for Europe-wide start-ups recently, hosted at Google’s European HQ in Dublin, some attendees commented that their companies got more connections in Dublin in 1 day than they would in a week anywhere else in the world. “You’re no more than a phone call away from whoever you need to speak to,” says Ken. “You tend to know someone in that scene. That’s what makes it special in Ireland.”7
DAQRI Co-Founder and Managing Director Gaia Dempsey would tend to agree. The US-based VR/AR company have chosen to locate their European headquarters and its software and hardware development center in Dublin. “We are thrilled with the quality of technical expertise we have found here.” she states, “and have been working closely with the academic community, researchers and research centres to define innovative R&D programmes.”
DAQRI have organised hackathons in Dublin City University, which has created a dedicated space for just that purpose, the DCU Innovation Campus. Fully subscribed with over 100 attendees, hackathons are a good way to excite developers. Adds co-founder and DAQRI CEO Brian Mullins, “We have been blown away with the calibre and deep technical talent by those who have registered, with some travelling from Scotland, Spain and Italy to participate”. Their Smart Helmet is attracting strong interest from industrial sectors like aerospace, manufacturing, energy and construction.
The Only Limit is the Imagination
With the business-friendly environment, the world class talent pool and the technical infrastructure in place, the only limit on the development of IoT is the imagination: in the land of saints and scholars, that is not in short supply, either. A number of interesting indigenous companies already provide everything from end-end IoT platforms to creative augmented reality applications to the global market:
The prize-winning IoT platform developed by Davra Networks has applications in everything from wearables to airports. With a vast array of applications from monitoring sports teams to bus scheduling, the Davra platform enables customers who wish to integrate their products with IoT applications. With offices in Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Docks in Dublin, Davra offers businesses a tailored IoT solution that provides easy access to their own data.
Semiconductor firm Movidius develops cutting-edge microchips for use in computer vision applications. Computer vision seeks to replicate the abilities of the human eye to process and understand a scene. Their Myriad 2 platform has applications in augmented reality, drones and mobile devices and could be used for search, games, security and everything under the sun. Their chipset is smaller, much more powerful and uses much less power than any competing system in the world today, making it ideal for mobile devices. With offices in California and China, this Dublin startup has already attracted major funding from all over the globe as manufacturers gear up for a new era in computer vision.
Rubbing shoulders with some of the best-known brands in the world, it’s been quite a year for Cubic Telecom, whose approach to IoT is to integrate M2M with the cellular network. Their smart SIM card integrates across different types of cellular and wireless networks, supplied by different providers in different countries. This makes it ideal for, say, installing in connected cars, which is why Audi announced a partnership deal with them at the Beijing Motor Show in 2015. The Chinese are renowned for adapting quickly to innovation, so global giants brands such as Google, Huawai and Baidu are also on board to develop what is essentially a high-powered M2M mobile roaming system in partnership with Cubic Telecom.
In a world of mixed reality, DAQRI are the real deal. The Dublin-based augmented reality developer have an IoT system that literally and virtually can change the world. DAQRI 4D systems are targeted for use in everything from oil rigs to coloring books and all that lies in between. On the industrial level, DAQRI have created a smart helmet that layers augmented reality over the real world; workers can inspect the plant, inventory and sites they are responsible for in an enhanced way, logging and learning as they go. Their prize-winning DAQRI 4D software is used in coloring books and education applications to bring children’s drawings and learning to life.