Michael Gillooly is the Director of Ocean Science and Information Services in the Marine Institute. Gillooly has overall responsibility for the service area in the Marine Institute that is leading the development of the Digital Ocean initiative to deliver marine digital services in support of national economic, research and public policy objectives. His team are also responsible for a suite of national marine research infrastructure including: the Galway Bay marine technology and ocean energy test site at SmartBay;

What are the key talking points at the Digital Ocean Conference?

The Digital Ocean is really all about smart use of technology to inform ourselves about the ocean and about developing new technologies, which will in turn develop industry and the economy.

How does the Marine Institute employ technology in its operations?

In our day to day work and in our marine monitoring and research there are a lot of sensors and other technologies out there in different locations on ships etc. acquiring data. And it’s really to try and optimise the interconnectedness of those devices and to make the data more accessible to more users. Very often a data acquisition campaign, be it for monitoring the environment or whatever, has a single objective: acquire once, use once. The idea we have and the concept behind the Digital Ocean is acquire once and use often. So you’re applying technologies and acquiring data, and then the data is transformed into many products and services including, one would hope, applications and industry-related products.

Has the Marine Institute played an important role in developing the SmartBay Subsea Observatory?
Yes, SmartBay is a program of activity which the Marine Institute is involved with.
Essentially, as part of the research and monitoring requirements in Galway Bay, there was quite a lot of equipment scattered around the Bay monitoring the environment, involving research programs with the colleges here in Galway, other universities and other research groups.
The concept began to evolve then, some 10 years ago, of building on this already existing infrastructure and developing a focus for technology test and demonstration; new, innovative, data generation technologies focussed around the Galway area. Not necessarily just by Galway companies, or neighbouring institutions, but as a national facility.
So, over the last 10 years, we’ve developed a test site. Tomorrow the Minister for Marine, Michael Creed, will formally launch the SmartBay cable at this test site. This cable is effectively a Broadband and low-power cable which goes out to a site located a mile and a half off Spiddal. It provides, with a lot of other sensors that are located at the site, a fairly unique, global facility for monitoring and testing new technologies and new innovations.

What do you foresee as the long term benefits of the Observatory?

Well, for example, this morning, in the very first session of this conference here, a number of companies – and these are very big businesses such as IBM and SAP and more medium sized companies such as Cathx – have been emphasizing that they see significant business opportunities through the Internet of Things connecting devices using small technology developments and small software and data analytics developments. The Subsea observatory sits entirely within the concept of ‘acquire once and use often’. Be clever about using technology so that it’s not just for one application. We think the test site in Galway Bay could be a significant component in the applied research needed in that space.

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