By @SimonCocking

Interview with Richard Linger, @NimbusCentre ‘Networked embedded electronic systems’ industry-driven research centre. Prototype your ideas here.

Nimbus logo high res

How old is Nimbus Centre? Has its mission statement evolved over time? What was the inspiration behind it?

The Nimbus Centre was founded in 2006 by Dr Dirk Pesch and Dr John Barrett, and is a research centre dedicated to smart technologies and embedded systems, particularly relating to the ‘Internet of Things’ space. We have received cumulative funding of over €34M since 2006, with over 240 projects completed.

Our mission statement centres on our main divisions; Research, Academia and Industry. We engage in top class Research with multinational industry, SME’s and academic institutions. Under our Academic division Nimbus hosts top class Masters and PhD research opportunities, and we also facilitate summer intern placements for undergrads. Finally, our Industry division (known as the TEC Gateway) provides facilities and innovation services to enable companies and entrepreneurs to bring new innovative products/services to international markets.

Being a smart research centre, we are constantly evolving with technological advances. We have recently launched a Trialling Facilities division to the centre called Litmus. Connected technology needs to be tested in a real-life, controlled environment with appropriate infrastructure in place to prove validity and usability.

There is a lack of facilities in Ireland in this regard – Nimbus provides a solution with Litmus, a test-bed suite comprising of an energy, water and community test-bed, where all matter of industry and academic projects can be trialled. Litmus is open to the public to develop, test, trial and demonstrate applications, products and services.

How do you fit into the wider CIT ecosystem?

Nimbus is one of several research centres in CIT, e.g. Cappa, Halpin, Medic. We also have the Rubicon, our start-up incubation centre, with whom we work very closely.

Nimbus Centre photo

IoT – tell us why it’s an exciting time, and what you are hoping to achieve in 2015 and beyond?

The IoT is really opening up an exciting world for start-ups, and Nimbus will continue to work with innovative SMEs to develop these ideas and bring them to life.

So far 2015 has seen us secure some cutting-edge international research projects, and we will continue the drive to win Ireland’s share of the €82Billion in EU Horizon 2020 funding. If all this goes to plan it’s likely we will be expanding our team throughout 2015.

IoT offers an attractive solution to social and urban issues for policy makers and governments. Large-scale IoT deployments can be seen in Smart City initiatives, where technology is used to address challenges such as crime, traffic management and energy efficiency. Nimbus has engaged in a wealth of Smart City programmes, strengthening Ireland’s expertise in this domain and positioning Ireland as an example of best-practice to other countries.

How was 2014? What worked well, anything you would do differently?

2014 was a great year for Nimbus.

We were awarded funding in excess of €4.3M for a wide variety of exciting hi-tech research projects which will positively impact society. These projects included developing a heart-powered pacemaker, using technology to make sailing in the Arctic safer, and a suite of energy-saving projects for big business and home owners.

We currently have over 60 projects underway.

Many of our Industry clients went on to build successful, award winning businesses; take IDme for example, who received numerous accolades in 2014. We are currently working with the CEO Dee O’ Leary on developing smart wristbands.

What are some of the most successful ideas to have been developed out of Nimbus initiatives?

Three companies instantly spring to mind.

In Hand Guides are a Cork based company. Trevor Winckworth, the Company Founder, contacted the TEC Gateway for advice on the development of an audio guide targeted to the tourist/lifestyle sector. What resulted was a low cost, smart audio device used as an auditory guide at popular tourist attractions including the Hill of Tara, the London Eye and the Sydney Tower Australia. In Hand Guides now employ seven staff and are one of our strongest success stories.

Showguider is an Indoor Navigation system that runs on your mobile device. Showguider Ltd integrates navigation, 3D modelling and cloud computation. Their commercial focus is on large-scale exhibition and event centres. The Showguider app can even provide navigation functions without the need for an internet connection. Showguider was recently selected to provide their services to the world’s premier cycling festival, the Sea Otter Classic. Up to 65,000 visitors, 10,000 athletes, 6,500 campers and 450 exhibitors attend the event annually.

TIP tap tap is an affordable interactive school desk combined with a suite of software learning applications which enhances traditional teaching and encourages collaboration within the classroom. The interactive table is a regular school table embedded with a layer of touch sensing technology. Considering the hugely positive reaction from the EdTech sector TTT is one of Nimbus’ greatest successes to date.

How does the TEC gateway work? What happens if many companies want the same tech innovation?

The TEC Gateway works extensively with companies who have requirements for ICT innovation, particularly in embedded systems. We make it possible for companies to take a product/service concept and get to prototyping stage using our multi-disciplinary engineering team.

We offer a wide range of services from Funding Application Support and Requirement Analysis, to Prototype Development and Technical Support during commercialisation.

If companies are looking for the same technical solution (which rarely occurs) we will allocate different researchers and engineers to work on the technology development carefully maintaining Chinese walls and keeping the IP ‘clean’.

The skynet / Ray Kurzweil question … will we reach the Singularity? And if so will it be curtains for humans – if not, what is your optimistic vision of an IoT future?

There are a number of concerns surrounding the Internet of Things, mainly privacy issues, but I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

The IoT is certainly the next technological boom, and this is why we are working with so many high potential start-ups and SME’s looking to develop products in the IoT space.

We hear talk about how the Internet of Things will create cleaner, efficient Smart Cities through Energy, Water, Transport and Security applications, and this is my vision of the IoT future. At Nimbus we are doing extensive work in the Smart Cities space to help bring Cork to the forefront. For instance we are involved in the Cork Smart Gateway, which will use Smart technology to drive economic growth and improve public services. The Nimbus Centre also played a key role in securing Cork’s inclusion in GrowSmarter, which is a consortium project involving Cork City Council that recently won a place in the €92M EU Smart City Funding Call.

Nimbus delivers a practical approach to IoT, with a strong focus on human interaction with technology and user experience. We work closely with Applied Psychologists and with more traditional companies who see the advent of the IoT coming of age as a means to augment their business service offerings. The convergence of IoT and the day-to-day of life is inevitable. What issues this brings to bear for society and beyond is still unclear. In Nimbus we will watch and develop these new technologies with care.

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