By Eileesh Buckley, reporting on the recent IoT  event at University of Limerick.

Dr Eoin O’Connell opened the first day of  IoT @ UL by giving the background to the event. He said: “It’s important to understand that Limerick does have a significant presence in the world of IoT. Which is why we organised this event, because we want to establish Limerick as having a footprint on the IoT map.” He then went to a video of Arthur C. Clarke in 1974 predicting what technology would be like in 2001.

While Clarke was pretty accurate in his predictions; Dr O’Connell didn’t quite aim for such a long term target. He said: “What we’re doing today, we’re just trying to predict 5 years down the road.” The video in the opening remarks set the tone for the day as each speaker that followed included video content in an interesting departure from the norm of technology seminars.

There were also some lighter moments throughout the day as comic sketches were used to illustrate use-cases or challenges and there were some references to the slightly unexpected applications of IoT.

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IDA Ireland’s Ken Finnegan mentioned Dell’s bee monitoring project which was explained later by Dell’s own Jeff McCann. McCann said: “We built the internet of bees here last year, it started off as a science project for a couple of guys on my team on a Friday afternoon but ended up with Michael Dell telling Gartner about it a few months later.”

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McCann also asked the question: “Has anyone any idea of how you hook a cow up to the internet?” He said this was an example of the questions being posed to his team by clients. His team and colleagues are aiming a solution termed fog computing for intelligent processing of data at the edge rather than having to wait for responses and actions from the cloud.

Fog Computing is a term that was also raised at the Digital Ocean conference in Galway recently. Finnegan outlined why solutions like Fog computing are needed as the amount of data being produced by connected devices. He said: “ Everyone knows about the concept of Big Data, and there’s a tonne of data out there, but I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet with the ubiquitous connectivity of sensors to everything and anything.

“There’s a tsunami of information headed our way.”

Finnegan also outlined the value proposition of Ireland in the world of Data Analytics, running through the names of technology companies already in the sector with data centres here, or under planning/construction. In addition to the well known technology companies; the newest multinational additions to the technology sector are fashion companies like Ralph Lauren setting up data analytics centres of excellence in Ireland.

Seamus O’Loughlin from ESB Networks shared the challenges that have faced ESB networks in recent years and outlined their route to a paper-free life for their field technicians and engineers. The business case for rolling out iOS devices to the field workforce was based on the bottom line cost of the paper used each year, 12 tonnes of paper. 30kg of paper in each vehicle is being eliminated with the roll-out

When issuing the new tablets to his workforce (average age 57) he knew access to a mobile signal would be difficult. He said “We recognised from the word go that signal was going to be an issue, I told the guys if you’re going out to a remote location stop and grab a cappuccino on the way because If you can get a cappuccino you normally have a fairly good signal.” A signal would allow them to download any documents and references to the device to be accessed offline.

O’Loughlin pushed the policy to allow the staff to take their tablets home with them and use them for personal activity, he encouraged them play with it with their kids. Included in the feedback from the pilot users was: “We should be handing out a 12 year old with every iPad to get the maximum from it.” There were many interesting tidbits shared by the speakers on day one, no doubt day 2 will be just as captivating.


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