By Padraic Geraghty, market advisor in digital technology.

Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are set to benefit companies in both Ireland and the UK in the coming years. This is largely due to the impact of a key cohort of companies with expertise in core telecoms and the information and communication technologies which underpin them.

The relevance and importance of this expertise should not be underestimated. Despite some of the grandiose claims made for it, IoT is a new iteration of traditional telecoms technology and the benefits for both UK and Irish companies could be huge if harnessed correctly. While in the past the technology was used to connect people, it is now increasingly being used to connect things as well.

A new research report by SAS and the Centre for Economics and Business Research states that big data and IoT is set to be worth £322 billion to the UK economy, or 2.7% of GDP, by 2020.

There is also a significant focus on using IoT throughout the UK to change and improve people’s everyday lives. An example of this is Cityverve, a smart city project in Manchester which has a large IoT focus. The aim is to make Manchester smarter, connecting people and things within the city to help drive innovation and commercial opportunity. Then, over time, using the insight generated by IoT devices to deliver a citizen experience that both inspires and empowers them to experience a better quality of life. This aim is achieved by partnerships between Irish and UK companies as they work together to deliver solutions.

The role of IoT in business

The arrival of 4G and 5G communications technologies will enable the connection of vast numbers of devices with built-in sensors to gather data, that was previously difficult and costly to obtain.

One issue to consider is that much of that data will be of little, or no use, to UK companies and organisations collecting it. Just because a technology exists doesn’t mean a company has to use it. There should be a defined role for the application of IoT in a business. In many ways, the decision can be redefined by a rule termed the ‘internet of important things’. If the data being gathered, or connections being made, add value to the business, the technology should be used. Otherwise it should not.

Sectors already employing IoT

World-class Irish companies are developing international reputations, largely focused on the industrial space and as a result UK companies are taking note. These companies are moving in a small and highly specialised niche, providing solutions to a range of sectors, including transport, logistics, manufacturing, engineering, and utilities. Irish IoT companies rarely operate in the relatively low-value consumer space.

The IoT ambition is focused on all aspects of the transportation sector; trains, boats and planes. Developments in IoT are enabling entire trains to be connected, beyond just passenger wifi and movies streamed in displays in seat backs. IoT technology is also being used to connect mechanical aspects of the train, too. Data is collected from the motors, contact with the track, various sensors in the carriages and the locomotive, to help improve safety and efficiency. Wifi is also now available in the sky for aircraft. While aircraft manufacturers have been connecting up avionics for quite a while, wifi services for passengers are new.

Companies to watch in the IoT space

While both delivering impressive innovations and progress within the IoT space, the UK can benefit from the solutions Irish companies are developing in the area.

Dublin-based Magnet Networks has a UK presence and is currently involved in a smart city IoT project in Wembley. It provides all the connectivity to the 85-acre Wembley Park smart city project which aims to reinvent renting and show how technology can infinitely help the way we live and work. Wembley Park, which encircles Wembley Stadium, will feature 5,000 new homes and 1 metre sq ft of commercial space – all connected to Magnet Network’s high-speed 20Gb broadband network controlling a range of IoT devices. It was created in a joint venture with developers Quintain, which has already proved to be a potent lure for potential tenants in what is seen as the exemplar for future smart cities in Europe.

Over-C enables end-to-end visibility to service-centric operations while optimising compliance, reducing risk, and delivering smart paperless reporting. Over-C recently announced a partnership with O2 and ScotRail, Scotland’s national rail service provider. The technology partnership will enable O2 to offer Over-C’s digital transformation solution to new and existing clients in the UK, under the name O2 Smart Compliance.

ScotRail, which manages more than 350 stations across Scotland and employs over 5,000 people, has signed a five-year agreement to use O2 Smart Compliance, as part of their commitment to increase safety and facilitate compliance.

Vinnett Taylor, Head of IoT sales for O2, added: “At O2, we are constantly on the lookout for strategic partners that offer disruptive solutions that allow us to deliver quantifiable transformative impacts for our enterprise customers. Our goal was to offer an Internet of Things solution that combined innovative connected devices with scalable, customisable solutions, bringing together sensor data, cloud storage, machine learning and enhanced connectivity. Over-C’s platform delivers on all counts.”

Over-C, also took part in Irish Advantage’s Scotland Trade Mission.

These companies are supported by an exceptionally strong academic research base in Ireland, as well as world-class research centres.

These research efforts, combined with the existing cohort of established and emerging companies with expertise in the technology, have helped create a vibrant IoT ecosystem here in Ireland – an ecosystem which UK companies should absolutely be benefiting from.

Irish researchers have secured more funding from Horizon 2020, the EU’s programme on research and innovation, which commands a total budget of approximately €75 billion (£66).

Ireland has secured over €513 (£449) million since the programme was launched in 2014. In the most recent batch of announcements, Ireland secured wins under both the academic and industry focuses of the research programme.

Three awards totalling more than €8 (£7) million were made to researchers at Irish universities by the European Research Council earlier this month.

  • Professor Fergal O’Brien at the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) Department of Anatomy and AMBER: The materials science research centre, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, was awarded €3 (£2.6) million for a research project that aims to revolutionise the treatment of damaged articular joints, such as the knee and ankle. This innovative treatment is achieved by combining cutting-edge advances in the area of 3D printing and advanced manufacturing with new insights in stem cell and gene therapy to develop a platform biomaterial technology, or scaffold, capable of repairing bone and cartilage.
  • Professor Rhodri Cusack at Trinity College Dublin (TCD): The professor and his team at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) were awarded €3 (£2.6) million to conduct a research project which will use neuroimaging to measure the hidden changes in mental representations during infancy and compare them to predictions from deep neural networks. The technology has been responsible for recent exciting advances in artificial intelligence.
  • Professor Kenneth Wolfe, of the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Medicine and Conway Institute: Professor Wolfe was awarded €2.37 (£2) million for his project ‘Killer plasmids as drivers of genetic code changes during yeast evolution’, which will examine the evolution of genetic code and the changes it underwent in several species of yeast.

Earlier this month, nine Irish Small and Medium Enterprises were awarded Phase One funding under the SME Instrument, the programme’s industry focus. The award provides a sum of €50,000 (£44,000) to fund a feasibility study and business acceleration services.

Irish biotech company Avectas, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland, was awarded €2.1 million (£1.8) under Phase 2 of the SME Instrument, Avectas is developing a technology allowing for permeable cells to be extracted from a patient, re-engineered to attack cancers, and infused back into the patient.

They join 56 other Irish companies who have been awarded phase one funding since 2014.

Ireland’s Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan T.D. commented, “Irish researchers continue to punch above their weight and their continued ability to win such competitive funding highlights the fact that they are among Europe’s best. Since the programme was launched, 8,600 applicants from Ireland have secured more than half a billion euros in funding for research and innovation projects across a range of sectors and industries.”

Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, the government agency which leads the national support network for Horizon 2020, said, “It’s been a fantastic week for news of Horizon 2020 with Ireland’s researchers and companies very ably competing at the highest levels, demonstrating both Ireland’s research and innovation excellence.”

Ireland’s strong performance reflects its growing international reputation for innovation, a key source of its competitive advantage.

Enterprise Ireland’s 14 Technology Centres, 15 Technology Gateways and 12 Science Foundation Research Centres focus on cutting-edge areas including big data, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, digital content, nanotechnology, sustainable food, smart technologies and marine renewable energy. In each of these centres, scientists and engineers work in partnership across academia and industry to address crucial research questions.

Building on two decades of investment in science and technology, the Irish Government continues to put innovation first with the implementation of its Innovation 2020 strategy.

Ireland is home to some of the most remarkable medtech start-ups in the world. Let’s take a look at a small selection.

Having enjoyed exponential growth from 50 to 350 companies over the past two decades, Ireland has quickly emerged as one of the world’s top five medical technology hubs.

While 13 of the top 15 global medtech companies have bases in Ireland, it is not only big companies who are enjoying success. The country has also spawned an incredible wave of homegrown talent, and now boasts some of the most innovative medtech start-ups in the world.

Coroflo

Coroflo has developed a groundbreaking breastfeeding monitor, the Coro, which can accurately measure exactly how much breast milk a baby is consuming. The Coro is the first breastfeeding monitor in the world that can give mothers accurate, precise, and real-time data about milk supply.

Coroflo has already received Richard Branson’s seal of approval and raised €900,000 in seed funding at a €4m valuation.

“One of the main obstacles to successful breastfeeding is a concern about low supply, with some mothers uncertain about how much milk their baby is getting,” explains CEO, Rosanne Longmore.

“At Coroflo, we’re using patented technology to develop the world’s first accurate breastfeeding monitor to help overcome the problem and ultimately tackle low breastfeeding rates.”

Carefolk

The platform developed by Carefolk is for people who care, quite literally.

Designed for both healthcare professionals and carers, the platform provides access to six products that can be used independently or together on the platform, integrating and talking to one another to create one perfectly formed system.

“We’ve built a multi-tenancy integrated care platform that seamlessly integrates care teams, single care professionals, community and social services, and families,” CEO Owen O’Doherty explains. “The platform also contains ‘Carefolk Community’, which allows caregivers to connect and share.”

A huge undertaking, the project is certainly having an impact. Carefolk won two awards at the 2017 IMSTA Medtech Awards, picking up the Best eHealth/Digital and Best Primary Care/Community awards.

Neurent Medical

While you might not have heard the term rhinitis, if you have not suffered from the condition yourself, you almost certainly know someone who has. The term describes an inflammatory condition on the inside of the nose that results in congestion or rhinorrhoea, and affects roughly one in five people across the world.

Based in Galway, on Ireland’s west coast, Neurent Medical is developing a minimally invasive solution for the condition, which has the potential to revolutionise the way in which patients are treated, offering a better quality of life for millions of people.

“It’s a disruptive device play in a pharma world,” says co-founder and CEO Brian Shields, who established Neurent Medical with David Townley in 2015.

“Rhinitis is largely treated by drugs, from over-the-counter to prescription medication, depending on its severity. We’re developing a single-use device for ENT surgeons to treat both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis, providing a better quality of life for the millions of sufferers worldwide.”

TippyTalk

Founded by Rob Laffan, father of a five-year-old girl with non-verbal autism, TippyTalk helps other non-verbal children to communicate. The technology translates pictures into text messages, which are sent to the phone of a family member or caregiver. The app helps a person who is non-verbal to communicate and express a desire, want, need or feeling.

“We are the next generation of augmented alternative communication (AAC) for people who are nonverbal,” Rob explains. “Once upon a time, the only way to communicate using AAC was face-to-face but our platform allows users to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

The innovation isn’t limited to the home. The company has just launched a version of the product for the educational and professional care markets called TippyTalk EDU, which boasts two-way communication and a hub that provides data-driven insights on students and clients.

Incereb

Incereb is developing a range of paediatric, neonatal and foetal sensors for EEG monitoring that can be applied in minutes, with minimal training.

Previously, attaching EEGs to a baby’s head to determine brain function would take time and training, and would be uncomfortable for the child. Incereb set out to change that.

“Having worked in neurophysiology for almost 20 years, with almost 8 years in paediatrics and neonatal ICU, it was obvious that many NICU devices were simply adult devices scaled down for use on tiny babies,” says founder Jim Roche.

“Incereb is the first EEG device of its type to be designed specifically for use on neonates in the NICU. It’s faster to apply, accurate, kinder to the baby, and makes EEG brain monitoring in the NICU available 24/7/365”

The Incereb design has already celebrated a number of successes in the US and entered the South American market last year.

Following an extensive peer review, Incereb’s neon range (neonatal EEG Electrode arrays) received a 2017 Innovative Technology designation from Vizient, the largest member-driven healthcare performance improvement company in the US, which represents approximately $100 billion in annual purchasing volume.

Incereb Irish medtech start-up

HealthBeacon

Managing medication can be tricky, even for those who only need to take one tablet per day. When self-injection and dynamic schedules are involved, managing medication can be a huge barrier to successful treatment.

With a 96% patient acceptance rate, HealthBeacon – described as a ‘sharps bin’ for those who self-inject at home – is the result of some tinkering and a lot of effort, according to founder Jim Joyce.

“After going a few rounds as mad scientists, we found a practical solution that helped patients take their medications on schedule,” he explains.

“We could see the data impact immediately as we increased a patient’s probability that they would remain on treatment and by remaining on treatment we could drive better outcomes. Now that we had an impactful product, it was time to build a company around it.”

Connexicon Medical

Connexicon Medical specialises in the manufacture of tissue adhesives and sealants for topical and internal applications.

Its product, Indermil Flexifuze, is a liquid topical tissue adhesive used to close wounds that can stay in place for five to eight days, acting as a physical barrier to microbial penetration. Part of a fast-moving and competitive market, the company has raised over €1.15m in funding to date.

Vivasure

A more established start-up, having been around for five years, Vivasure makes polymer implants and delivery systems – primarily focused on minimally invasive vessel closure in cardiology, interventional radiology, and vascular surgery.

In 2016, its first European product – a vascular closure device – saw investors back it to the value of over €16 million. The company aims to meet clinical requirements with a particular focus on arterial and venous closure devices, based on its patented PerQseal technology.

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The fallout from the 2008 economic crisis, which saw many people leave the construction industry, left Europe as a whole struggling with skills shortages, according to the Association of European Experts in Building and Construction (AEEBC) – and the recovery felt in recent years has made these effects more sharply felt.

“Now there is a recovery, mainly in Northern Europe, shortages have gotten worse,” says Martin Russell-Croucher, General Manager for AEEBC, and a chartered surveyor and chartered environmentalist. “For some countries, the collapse of the construction industry in countries like Italy and particularly Spain, has freed up professionals to fill some of the spaces in Northern Europe.”

“While trades have moved to ‘hot spots’ such as Germany, there are problems with language and skill levels,” he says. “There are also issues with this movement of tradespeople as they tend to be cheaper to employ than locals and this can undermine the home market if locally trained people can’t get jobs because they are too expensive. This has been happening in Denmark.”

Localised shortages

“There have been skill shortages for some time, certainly two years or more. The shortages tend to be localised, for example, London and the southeast of England where most of the construction has been taking place. The shortages are both trades and professions.”

All European countries have a dearth of labour, partly due to more people retiring than are coming into the industry and also the large numbers that left the following the crisis in 2008, according to Mr Russell-Croucher.

“France seems least affected as it continues to attract people into the sector,” he says but adds that the phenomenon is not limited to France: “Germany is now booming, and sucking in the additional people required from other countries.

Mr Russell-Croucher continues “All European countries are facing problems of upskilling existing people in building information modelling (BIM) to meet future standards.”

Post-Brexit access

The Home Builders Federation in the UK recently carried out research, which illustrated the importance of EU workers in building the country’s homes, with one in five workers hailing from outside of the U.K. Mr. Russell-Croucher says that “Post-Brexit access to skilled labour is essential if the industry is to hit government housing targets.”

However, the general situation is not at crisis level as far as the AEEBC is concerned. “Governments are trying to improve the number of their own citizens coming into the industry but it takes time to train people and construction is not a popular choice of career. Most, like Germany and the UK have relied on migrant workers but this is becoming an issue for the UK because of the current uncertainty,” says Mr Russell-Croucher.

In the UK, the government has been supporting apprenticeships but changes to the funding methodology are causing problems. All countries are promoting the construction sector jobs but of course this is not a quick fix as it takes a couple of years to train somebody to a minimum level in most trades.”

As recruiters pitch for the same small pool of people, attracting skilled candidates has become highly competitive and aggressive.

“Apprenticeships are fine up to a point but for tradespeople, it means using trained people for training and that means they are less efficient and lose money, so they are reluctant to take on that role if they are self-employed,” says Mr Russell-Croucher.

“I’m afraid the old system of firms directly employing their own trades who trained up their replacements has vanished, not to return because it was no longer competitive.”

Tough working environment

Making the industry more enticing for women has also been mooted as a potential method of attracting candidates.

“Getting more women into the industry would be great but construction is not always an attractive career. Booms and busts and a tough working environment with little job security makes it a hard sell to anybody,” Mr Russell-Croucher says.

Making digital tools part of the construction process could lead to a more transparent and accountable construction sector with better allocation of human resources and increased productivity, according to Anastasios Koutsogiannis of GenieBelt, a real-time project management software and mobile app that provides instant communication from site to office.

Money speaks all languages

“The best recruiter is money,” states Mr Russell-Croucher. “If a job pays well, people will put up with the problems. A few years ago it was announced that electricians were being paid very well – I think it was £60,000 or £70,000 a year – on Heathrow airport Terminal 5. Suddenly there was a surge in people applying to be electricians.”

Contact John Hunt to discuss how Enterprise Ireland can help you source strong Construction partners.

The new Future Data Centre white paper analyses the major technological and infrastructural changes that will impact design and construction trends over the next five years.

Download the white paper to get:

  • A snapshot of the current data centre construction landscape
  • Major changes impacting the design and build process
  • Regulatory and technological drivers of change
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The white paper was commissioned by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government agency, and written by Nick Parfitt, Senior Global Research Analyst of the Data Centre Dynamics Group.

The white paper explores important questions facing the data centre market both globally and in the UK:
1. For enterprise companies juggling a complex set of outsourcing options, what can be expected from cloud, colocation and managed service providers in terms of facilities that are future-proofed on behalf of clients?
2. There is considerable difference of opinion about what the future holds among companies that invest in the construction of data centres to meet IT requirements or to offer IT, cloud or data centre services commercially. How can a response to disruptions in the marketplace be planned for?
3. Are the issues that the hyperscale facilities of major cloud providers face completely separate from those experienced in the construction smaller data centres? Or are there learnings that can be shared across projects?
4. What will the next 5 years bring, in terms of technological and infrastructural change? How will such changes impact on the design and construction of data centres? Is the data centre construction sector equipped to respond to rising demand for digitsation?

Download the white paper now.

The advantages Ireland offers as a location has led to the development of a world-class cluster of companies with an unparalleled competency in data centre design, build and fit-out.

John Hunt, Senior Market Adviser for the Construction Sector at Enterprise Ireland says,

Ireland has become one of the principal data centre hubs for many of the world’s technology giants, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Dell EMC, Yahoo, IBM, HP, Facebook, Equinix, InterXion and Digital Realty. Leveraging this domestic capability, the world’s largest data centre operators have gone on to partner with Irish construction and engineering companies to design and build the most sophisticated and largest ‘hyperscale’ data centres across the UK and the globe. It’s Irish companies’ large and directly employed workforces, expertise, adaptability and efficient delivery on complex high-tech projects that has set them apart. We are confident collaboration between the UK and Ireland will continue across a wide range of sectors, enabling Irish companies to provide a vital skills injection to the UK economy.

Nick Parfitt, Senior Global Research Analyst, Data Centre Dynamics Group and the author of the white paper, say.

Data centres represent the foundation of the digitalised world. The processes of initial design and construction are key to maximising the opportunities and minimising the risks associated with data centre investment, as well as building in the technologies that will deliver on key requirements such as resilience, efficiency, scalability, flexibility and security. The quality of what is designed and built today will impact the future scope of the digitalised era.