By SimonCocking. Denis Canty Lead Technologist IoT – Garage • , and Writer – A Tech Heaven • Speaker • STEM Enthusiast

What is your background briefly?

I began in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and graduated with an Electronic Engineering Degree in 2003, before going on to get a Masters in Microelectronic Design from University College Cork (UCC). I then started as a graduate with Alps Electric in the Automotive Electronics sector, working mainly on automotive test and machine vision applications. It was a great foundation as a graduate, as I got a lot of experience in both hardware design and software projects. From there, I joined EMC in 2010 and held two roles there – Senior Test Strategist for their Data Domain storage products and then in 2012 as the Principal Data Architect for their Global External Manufacturing division. I always believed in data driven from my time in Alps, so I used this experience to better manufacturing test decisions in EMC, using data science and machine learning technologies in an area where it would not be normally popular to use them. Whilst in Alps and EMC, I was always involved in R&D portfolio generation in an agile manner, so that diversity again allowed me to attain my position at Tyco.

How did you end up doing what you do now?

The role I have currently is multi-faceted – with any leadership career in IoT, you need a balance between technology and commercialisation, a sound base of both hardware and software principles and innovation experience which is closely aligned to how to turn ideas into commercial offerings. I was fortunate with the leaders I learned from prior to joining Tyco, people like Brenda Cooper, James Sugrue and Bob Savage. This coupled with my own initiative to get outside my comfort zone are the reasons that I got the opportunity to gain a diverse range of skillsets.

1 min pitch for what you do / what’s a typical day like? (How do you integrate all your different interests)

My role is with the Tyco Innovation Garage, which is one portion of our CTO Daryll Fogal’s Research and Innovation landscape. Its foundations are disruptive – being able to handle big to bigger and new to big innovation models within a multinational environment. Our mandate means we need to be a lean start-up within a multinational – a $10 billion start-up per say, which ensures that the product development we are doing is closely aligned to customer development. If it doesn’t have a commercial and technology sponsor in Tyco, along with being closely aligned to customers pains and gains then it’s not worth doing. If we fail, fail fast and learn a lot. So I lead the strategic commercialisation portion of the global projects we do here in the Cork Garage for my manager Mike Cronin, and my background in data science also ensures I lead the data science/architecture portion of these projects in an agile manner. I love to operate with a blank page on a problem, and having that balance of technology and commercialisation also means this is a great role for me. I feel I am always learning, so it’s a role that means I am learning at an accelerated rate on commercialisation strategy, as that side wouldn’t be as strong as my technical background. Naturally with the seniority, we do a lot of partnership/customer engagement meetings, and travel quite a bit across Ireland and abroad.

What trends are you excited / concerned about in relation to the future of the IoT sector in Ireland?

There is an enormous energy right across the country, from the start-up to multinational community, along with research and academic areas to help position Ireland as a leader in this industry in the coming years. Having been part of the Data Analytics buzz of a few years ago, I personally believe we as a country got too caught up in the hype, and largely we haven’t delivered as a country on that one. One portion of the blame on that was around lack of commercialisation, and the market being too secretive to what each company could offer, a lack of partnership. IoT has the potential to be a huge market for Data Analytics solution providers, both in-house and in a As a Service model.

Partnerships will play a huge role. As we have a huge number of global tech giants to lead from the front – companies like Tyco, Dell, Analog Devices and other smaller startups or SME’s that are open to partner across vertical’s to create hybrid markets which is what IoT is about. No one company can own IoT and speed to market is key, and partnership accelerates that. Under that, you have the academic and research leaders delivering top talent for continued IoT growth for Ireland. We also have incredible cyber security companies across Ireland and especially in Cork, with companies like Smarttech ensuring that data security is something that stays at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

One concern I have for Ireland is that we need to do more to “lead Globally, act Locally” in IoT. What I mean by this is its easy for our influence to be diluted worldwide. We as a country has been a follower of parent company leaders, but this is changing recently. Ireland needs to create a consistent global brand around what its strengths are in IoT, and ensure the visibility of our tech footprint is at the front. Niamh Bushnell, Dublin start-up commissioner has a fantastic program to do just this called TechIreland, which will develop a database of all the tech companies in Ireland, and have committed to keep that up to date. Involvement in consortiums like the Industrial Internet Consortium (ICC) can help globally and closer to home I really like the work that the IBEC IoT working group has been doing lately – forming the IoT in Health Forum with the Irish Medical Devices Association. This sort of enablement into specific verticals can really help with bring to market strategies.

We have the components mentioned above, but also all the IoT application verticals are here – smart cities, healthcare, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, energy and agriculture to name a few. Ireland has the enthusiasm to deliver learning’s and new commercial opportunities faster. That’s the beauty about IoT – it is applicable everywhere, so having so many different tech companies and verticals in such a small country is an advantage and allows us to act local together. We need to partner up.

What do you think / hope will become mainstream for the IoT in the next 5 years?

I expect that the next couple of years will be a learning curve for most IoT practitioners, bundling up the technology into solutions and also sensing the market to understand the challenges. So we need to be patient, and utilise the hype cycle but don’t overcommit. It might sound crazy, but some of the technologies must also catch up – automated data security, data processing at the edge, next generation IoT architecture. Machine learning is an area which will be huge in IoT, as the industry is data processing reliant, and the smarter we can utilise the data the better. But there is work to be done on this area also, as its normally a time intensive process to deliver value from the data by specialist data scientists. That is down to the tools, but also over complication – from what I have seen, the simple classification/regression technologies can deliver “good enough” results faster. Companies have huge resources available, so the machine learning algorithms are being designed based on near infinite compute in cloud – but they don’t deploy easily to resource constrained edge and mote devices. By being a bit cleverer on your up-front data cleanse/selection and ingestion methods, your job on delivering business impact and not insight from the data is a lot easier over time.

I also expect that IoT testbeds will be a huge enabler for partnership creation initially, leading to commercialisation in the coming years. Ireland is doing really well on building a testbed culture for IoT – Croke Park has the smart stadium testbed, EMC and Vodafone have their Infinite IoT Architecture testbed. And now in Tyco, our global HQ here in Cork, 1 Albert Quay is a Smart Building testbed. With the vision of Donal Sullivan our General Manager/ VP, his team members including James Murphy and Paul Harrington, the Smart Building Team led by Martin Fogarty and Eamonn O’Brien, and the Ireland Garage led by Mike Cronin, this is now a reality. Because ~60% of the technology in the building is Tyco, such as building access, fire detection/suppression and surveillance solutions – we have a pretty comprehensive architecture that is available to us to build out use cases and showcase them to customers. We also have access to our portion of the buildings partner technology, such as smart lift integration and cashless building. This allows us to test that type of hybrid technology in a building. As I mentioned earlier, no one company can do it all. But having a testbed ourselves allows us to utilise the install base and technologies we are adding all the time, and this is a big enabler for us. Our sales people and customers appreciate seeing things function in a testbed environment before deploying.

Companies will also spend time in the coming years reviewing their position in relation to IoT. Are the disruptors? Are they enablers? How does their portfolio need to change in order to best capitalise? Look at what Tyco has done in the past year – announcing Tyco On. Tyco On provides software-enabled Internet of Things capabilities that enhance fire safety and security systems, by using open standards to connect a wide range of intelligent devices, systems and services, enabling customers to improve their operations.

Who do you follow for your inspiration and insights?

I use social media a lot, especially twitter for insights. On Data Science – its Kirk Borne. On IoT, there are lots of market trends handles I follow, but on an individual level its Ronald van Loon. I have been blessed to always have fantastic mentors also. I normally have local and international mentors who I continue to learn from – people like Jeff Davis with Jabil out in Silicon Valley and Steve Todd from EMC in Boston. Locally, my family always are a source of inspiration. In the media, David Rowan of Wired and the author Daniel Pink give me a nice balance on evolution of tech trends and new age thinking. I frequently watch Ted Talks, and really enjoy following Clay Christensen on Innovation. Closer to Tyco, our CTO Daryl Fogal is someone I have learned a lot from since I joined Tyco.

I do think we need to balance following others with developing ourselves to be sources of inspiration. That’s why I am so passionate about STEM activities, which Ireland has done a great job on over the past decade, and this is paying off. It gets us out of our comfort zone and anything we can do to help the younger generation is good news for Ireland. I frequently speak on the IoT and Data Science circuits, so that not only challenges me but gives me access to a larger audience, which is a funnel for inspiration and insights.

We can’t be online 24/7, how do you manage your work life balance?

I’m blessed, I love what I do. However, it can make it hard to switch off! I do manage it quiet well, especially lately. I am social by nature, so love to meet up with friends, watch and participate in sport. Healthy body, healthy mind. Life is about colour, we need to get as much variety as is possible – I believe it does give us a better quality of life and make us better professionals and even helps with being creative.

Any advice for someone who wants to change their career path to capitalise on potential of IoT?

The fast pace of technology right now means that if anyone rests on their laurels, it can be easy to be left behind. The key is to understand your career position, and ensure you have the skills that will be required in the future. Always self-assess by comparing the skills you have with what the industry is saying, using job specs, social media and surveys. IoT for the immediate future will require full stack developers, data scientists, user experience (UX) designers along with the commercialisation aspects such as marketing and sales. Classical technology and business positions will continue to get closer, as markets will be more dynamic. Products will have shorter life cycles – so time to market is critical. With the predicted numbers of connected devices coming into our everyday lives, they will need to be designed to seamlessly integrate, so I expect that will create a huge number of positions. The other edge to this is that with so many devices, how will that impact the phycology of people? IoT will create a large number of behavioural and emotional career paths, and having knowledge of underlying technology will be part of these roles. So like the companies or consortiums you will work for, prepare to rebrand at numerous points in your career.

Bio
Denis Canty is the Lead Technologist for Data Science and IoT Strategy with Tyco’s Innovation Garage, focused at market sensing and building analytics applications to solve direct customer challenges. In the past he has worked in computer vision, cloud architecture and machine learning, and has worked in both multinational and start-up environments, including advisory roles in data analytics implementation. He holds a Masters in Computer Science as well as a Masters in Microelectronic Design. You can find Denis on twitter @deniscanty, and read his blog at deniscanty.wordpress.com.


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