By Eileesh Buckley. 2015 smedias nominee for radio & sports photography, Freelance journalist, PMI PMP, photographer, sports fan, gadget geek.

A day-long conference hosted in Galway as part of this year’s Sea Fest focused on technology and the “blue economy”. The conference was organised by the Marine Institute and titled Digital Ocean: A pathway for developing Ireland’s Blue Economy.

“The digital ocean represents Ireland’s opportunity to drive innovation in the collection, communication, management and analysis of data for all purposes. For commercialisation, to promote research, to contribute to economic growth and societal well-being,”

Eoin Sweeney of the Marine Institute in his opening remarks.

The conference featured speakers from a variety of backgrounds and countries, while the focus was on Ireland there were many references to linkages with other countries. While technology can sometimes be seen as developing something new just to be new there was a recurring theme of sustainability as a driving force in the blue economy.

Stuart Dwyer, US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, said: “Sustainable development does not mean sacrificing growth, it is not an either or scenario.We do not have the luxury of giving short-shrift to a resource that provides 50% of the oxygen that we breath, and a resource that 3 billion people depend on for their livelihood.”

Speakers from industry ranged from local start-ups to multinational heavy-hitters, and a fair sprinkling of contributors from academia and other state bodies.

Among the local speakers was Dr Adrian Boyle, CEO of Cathx Ocean, who gave some stark illustrations of where ocean technology was, and the improvements his product line has produced. He focused on the oil and gas industry as an example of how he broke into an established market and caused a drastic improvement along with cost savings in the inspection of under-water pipelines.

The survey vessel model was inefficient and costly , it was slow-moving and data collection was done manually”, said Dr Boyle. Vessels typically operated at 0.5knots because the technology couldn’t capture data at any higher speed.

Dr Boyle approached the company MMT with his camera and laser mapping technology, he described their under-water vehicles as “the formula 1 of UAVs”.
The MMT vessel operates at 8 knots using the CathX devices, the 3d laser records at 30 frames per second.

In responding to a question from the floor Dr Boyle said: “Every underwater system surveying pipelines this year will have our technology.”

Cathx is continuing their innovation efforts to now develop software that will analyse the video and pictures captured automatically. They’re about to put it to the test using the newly launched Smart Bay test site in Galway.

Smart Bay is one of three marine test sites in Ireland, there is a large tank in Cork as part of the Lir facility which is intended to be the first phase of testing for new devices and technology. The products passing testing there would then move to Smart Bay in Galway which is a one quarter scale site for real ocean conditions thanks to the unique characteristics of Galway Bay. The third site currently under development is at Belmullet, and is to be the full-scale ocean test site.

Smart Bay officially went live on Friday afternoon, but attendees at Digital Ocean got a sneak peak of the website showing live data on Thursday. In addition to the test sites there’s ongoing efforts to map as much of our marine environment as possible.

Mick Gillooly, Director of Ocean Science and Information Services as the Marine Institute said: “We have one of the most advanced mapping programmes on the planet, we’ve mapped 95% of our ocean resource, now we’re focusing on the inshore area within the 200mtr boundary, the data volumes generated are quite extraordinary.”

The data captured is being made available to developers and researchers around the world.

Professor Martin Curley, Director of Intel Labs Europe, said: “Mass collaboration will be the dominant paradigm for the next 10-15 years.”

He highlighted wikipedia as a prime example of mass collaboration, and he promoted “Open Innovation” as innovation 2.0.

Prof. Curley did have one concern for Digital Ocean as a movement, a lack of an evangelist with a high profile to push the concept and drive the awareness and opportunities within the sector.

He also said: “Digital ocean isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity.”

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