Skip to main content

Island Incubator: Ireland and the Cognitive Internet of Things

By June 2, 2015Article

This island country — no bigger than the state of Indiana — is playing an outsized role in advancing IoT applications. Partnerships with tech leaders like IBM, Intel and a multitude of promising startups have led to countless innovations, particularly in applications that use public data for innovation. 

In Dublin, for example, IBM’s Smarter Cities technology initiative is creating analytics, optimization and systems to solve complex problems like transportation and urban water — working in partnership with the Dublin City Council.  

This spring I witnessed Intel’s brand of genius up close, in the form of a “smart dress” worn by a model at Dublin’s Science Gallery. Created by an experimental designer who explores new frontiers in wearable technology, the dress demonstrated in a fanciful way how personal data might be applied to our clothing. 

The exhibit’s Spider Smart Dress incorporates Intel’s Edison chip and sensors to reflect the wearer’s emotions. For example, when people approached the wearer too closely, the dress discouraged the advance by extending a scary set of spider legs. 

It’s an imaginative example of how modern chips — in a cognitive application — are actively sensing the environment around them and making a decision based on the data gathered. This is an exciting shift from data collection to actuation, and an essential characteristic of smart technology. 

Beyond its Quark system on a chip, Intel technology developed and incubated in Ireland has powered other important advances including the Galileo Maker Board. Sold globally, the Galileo board bears the mark of its motherland: “Designed in Ireland” is imprinted on its circuit board. These are just a few of the innovative technologies that are leading Intel’s charge on the Internet of Things. 

This Irish IT convergence isn’t a new phenomenon. Over the past few decades, Intel, along with IBM, Microsoft, Google and a goggle of other technology innovators converged operations on the island.

One of my favorite Irish startups is DecaWave, a company with a single chip UWB transceiver that allows users to not only communicate with and receive data from a tagged item but also to determine the position of the item to within 10 centimeters — even indoors. 

Another innovator to watch is a company called Movidius, which recently secured $40 million in funding to expand its range of visual sensing microprocessors. Its sensors, which “see” the environment, can be used in smartphones, electronic eyewear, home automation, robotics and more. 

Every new application must have the ability to add deep sensing capability to ordinary things, to transport data to the right location to allow decision making, and to collect and analyze data to enable insightful decisions. By those measures, the IoT is already “cognitive” to a large degree. 

Whether its systems are driving autonomous cars in San Francisco or masterminding a higher quality of life in Dublin, the cognitive Internet of Things is evolving to reflect and facilitate our abilities to observe, evaluate and decide. A colleague of mine summarized the three component strands of the IoT this way: collect, connect and transform — a neat way of remembering the value chain. 

But Ireland doesn’t need to be reminded of technology’s economic value. The country’s tech-friendly culture is an incubator for the next phase of the digital revolution— a mindset that is reinforced by the Open Data Strategy for Europe. 

The strategy, which mandates that innovators be given access to public data sets, has added to Ireland’s tech leadership and galvanized its support for tech entrepreneurs, from information support and networking to grants and world-class research centers. 

Global innovation surveys consistently rank Ireland among the best places in the world to do business. It’s just as committed to being a global leader in IoT. 

If smart technology improves our quality of life through better insights, stronger connections or greater efficiency and engagement — we’re for it. And we are actively working to make it happen.  

Leo Clancy is head of technology, consumer and business services at IDA Ireland, the Irish Government agency responsible for bringing investment into Ireland. The agency works with over 1,000 companies from across the globe, which employ over 166,000 people. These companies export over €120bn of goods and services annually from Ireland.Working with sister agencies, the wider government system and other stakeholders, IDA Ireland assists companies with a range of support allowing them to serve global markets.