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.