Cloud9, an early-stage big data venture, has won a University College Dublin (UCD) commercialisation award. Cloud9 is developing a new software service to enable organisations to effectively and efficiently desensitise personal data in-house before uploading it securely to the cloud for processing.

The founder of Cloud9 is Vanessa Ayala-Rivera, a PhD student in the Performance Engineering Laboratory at UCD’s School of Computer Science, working under the supervision of Professor Liam Murphy. She is also a UCD member of Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre.

At a time when data is a critical asset for many organisations, and the adoption of data processing services in the cloud has increased, compliance with data privacy and protection legislation have become key concerns.

Companies are therefore wary of losing control over their data by placing it on platforms that they do not manage.

The Cloud9 solution is a high-performance anonymization engine which allows companies and organisations to desensitise personal data in-house, by applying diverse data obfuscation and anonymization techniques, thereby protecting the data, before uploading it to the cloud for processing.

In addition, the Cloud9 solution is aiming to automate the identification of sensitive information, based on self-learning algorithms, that discover new data patterns on-the-fly, to facilitate the automatic configuration of privacy policies.

Cloud9 was the overall winner of the 2017 UCD School of Computer Science Innovation Sprint Programme, a 1-day initiative designed and delivered by UCD’s technology transfer and enterprise development teams at NovaUCD. Each 1-day innovation sprint programme aims to encourage the development of commercial outputs, arising from specific research areas or Schools, by engaging with UCD researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process.

Speaking at NovaUCD, Vanessa Ayala-Rivera, who is originally from Mexico, said, “Data security continues to be one of the primary obstacles that prevents the adoption of cloud services, especially in the case of Software-as-a-Service. Through the outputs of my research at UCD I am developing a tool to enable companies and organisations to implement a software service to protect critical information in-house, in compliance with data protection legislation, before they upload it to the cloud.”

She added, “I am delighted to have won the latest UCD Innovation Sprint programme for my business idea. During the programme I received valuable feedback for my business idea from a perspective beyond an academic viewpoint. I now aim to seek Enterprise Ireland commercialisation funding to help bring this technology to the next stage of development.”

Vanessa Ayala-Rivera’s research at UCD has been supported by Science Foundation Ireland and co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund through the Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme to Lero.

Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “I would like to congratulate Vanessa on winning the 2017 UCD School of Computer Science Innovation Sprint Award. This early-stage business idea to develop a new data obfuscation and anonymisation tool has the potential to make a significant impact in the data security industry in Ireland and internationally.”

He added, “Our objective with the Innovation Sprint Programmes, including our latest Sprint, is to engage with researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process to assist them in understanding and defining more clearly the commercial potential of the outputs emerging from their research activities.”

During the 1-day 2017 UCD School of Computer Science Innovation Sprint Programme a number of internal and external technology and business professionals collaborated with the UCD researchers to explore the commercial potential of transforming their research ideas into early-stage business ideas.

Over 45 researchers with over 35 business ideas have taken part in the nine 1-day Innovation Sprint Programmes delivered to date at UCD. The other programmes have focused on business opportunities arising from research taking place in areas such as: Agri-Food; CleanWeb; Data Science; Engineering; ICT; IoT, Life Science and MedTech.

At the end of the programme Cloud9 was presented with a €500 professional service prize fund to assist with further developing the business idea, as it was judged to have the most commercial potential.

The members of the judging panel were; Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation, Stephen Holleran, co-founder, Brightwind and Ronan McNulty, CTO, VRM Technology.

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