Latest guest post by Liam Delaney who attended the recent Galway IoT Summit. Sponsored by New Frontiers, KPMG, AIB, Clear Bookings, GMIT, and Innovation Hubs, with Irish Tech News as it’s media partner.

Last week I mentioned to some people that I would be attending a summit about the IoT (Internet of Things) and some asked me IoT was about. Being someone from a “teckie” background, they expected me to be knowledgeable about such thinks. But, in truth, I had to admit that my knowledge and understanding of the topic was somewhat limited, so I was approaching the summit with a high degree of excitement and anticipation.

The IoT is about using the Internet to connect people to things and things to things, and to transfer relevant and useful information. For example, when new washing machines are connected to the IoT, your washing machine can send you a message that your wash finished hours ago and you haven’t removed it from the machine yet – so go to it !!!!)

The Summit was full of examples, from all the speakers, of uses for this technology. Dr. Fergal Barry, President of GMIT, started this discussion by addressing how it was going to be used in managing cities, so called “Smart Cities”, about Health Care and also about how it will be used in automotive. Now one could be forgiven for saying this is all very nice, but how useful is it really going to be? Dr. Barry struck a note with me here when he said that it is estimated that there will be a 40% reduction in traffic accidents when IoT is implemented extensively in the cars of the future, now that a very big positive.

So who is working to implement this technology? The answer is that almost everybody in the technology arena, and indeed many outside, are getting in on the act. Ronan Furlong is the managing director of DCU Alpha, (Technology Hub in DCU) and he told us about some of the companies located in their facility who are working on IoT solutions and they are many and varied. One that caught my attention was a company called UBI and their product is a “Smart Bin” – in simple terms, a bin that tells the controllers when it is full and needs to be emptied, and other information about it’s frequency of use etc. It is claimed that when implemented in Amsterdam that efficiencies introduced were such that they were able to reduce the number of collection trucks from 20 to 5.

One question that has been niggling on my mind has been “why is it taking so long for this technology to take off?, after all, the internet has been with us for over 20 years. Kevin Maher, Director at Sigfox, went some way to explaining this for us. He identified two key reasons, communication technology has been expensive, particularly mobile and satellite communications, and the other is “battery life”, if devices are like smart phones and need to recharged every day or two, this is problematic. He gave a perfect example – Turbines used on off-shore wind farms are ideal candidates for IoT, but because they are up to 10 miles off shore, no mobile network will cover them and it would not be feasible to replace or recharge batteries frequently. Their company Sigfox have developed a network that has coverage up to 100 Km off shore and incredibly a battery that will work for up to 10 years.

Mark Bannon for VT Networks explained how they represent Sigfox in Ireland and discussed some of the products they are involved in. As an example of how disruptive this technology can be, he described a new House Security product, developed using Sigfox technology, that will work straight out of the box (no complicated setup etc.,) and will retail for less than €100 – watch out Phonewatch !!

The next two speakers, John Savage of Action Point Technology and Fintan McGovern of Firmware Ltd, spoke about the technical details of making IoT work. I won’t go into too much detail here, but, incredible as it may sound, a 4 mm square circuit board, containing an IC chip, a transmitter and a receiver on board has been developed and is commercially available to designers and developers.

There are just so many possible business opportunities with this technology, and John Savage, while talking about the breath of opportunities for business development, made a very powerful observation; “IoT is a great solution, looking for a problem” (Quote of the day in my opinion.)

Most tech. multinationals are involved in some way with this technology. Analog Devices and Texas Instruments and involved with IC development, IBM, Intel and Microsoft and among those developing customized solutions and we were informed that Dell in Limerick is home to one of only three specialized IoT labs around the world. Stephen Lernihan of Dell, informed us about this lab and explained that it was available for organisations to use to develop and test Proof of Concepts, an amazing facility to have on our doorstep. For those involved in IoT projects, Stephen also informed us about a global competition Dell are running with $600,000 available in total prizes. For more details: www.dellconnectwhatmatters.com

The summit was well organized and executed. It was brilliantly hosted by Conall O’Morain, who presents the The Sunday Business Show on Today FM. Conall commented about the high quality of the presentations and I must say, I agree with him, very informative and presented.

I think it is fair to say that almost all the presenters commented on the potential scale of the IoT and the depth and breath of its impact, it will touch on Countries, on Businesses, on every sector and on individuals. It will have an impact on us, on how we live and work, so we should educate ourselves and be ready.


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