Monday, 19 October 2015

What does the Digital Future mean for Ireland?

We had five hugely inspiring speakers at our 2015 Autumn Panel Discussion on 'What will the Digital Future mean for Ireland?'. During and immediately after the event, social media activity across the key accounts continued through the night and into early morning. This was clearly in fitting tribute to our five very learned speakers drawn from innovative and diverse sectors and all fascinating to hear.
L to R: PJ Rudden UCD EGA President, Prof. David Fitzpatrick Dean of Engineering, Anne O'Leary CEO Vodafone Ireland,
Ronan Harris, Vice President Google EMEA, Dr. Helen McBreen, Investment Director Atlantic Bridge,
 Prof. Orla Feely UCD Vice President & Dr. Brian Motherway, CEO SEAI
Truly we did have a star line-up with SEAI CEO Dr Brian Motorway as Keynote Speaker, Vodafone CEO Anne O'Leary, Google Vice President Europe Middle East Asia Ronan Harris, IBM Research Director Dr Eleni Pratsini and Investment Director Atlantic Bridge Capital Dr Helen McBreen.

PJ Rudden, Anne O'Leary & Ronan Harris
We were also very grateful to be joined by UCD Vice President of Research Innovation and Impact Prof Orla Feely and UCD Principal of the College of  Engineering and Architecture and Dean of Engineering Prof David FitzPatrick.

L to R: Brian Motherway, Prof. Orla Feely, Ronan Harris,
Dr. Eleni Pratsini, Dr. Helen McBreen, Prof. David Fitzpatrick, Anne O'Leary & PJ Rudden

Brian Motherway opened with the sustainability of the Digital Future and questioned are our social models ready for this rapid change that it will bring? Huge change is coming. He mentioned the new digital tools which will match supply to demand as is currently increasingly happening in the taxi world with the likes of Uber! Different cultures will react in their own way to this increased connectivity he said.
Dr. Brian Motherway
'There will be 80 billion devices in the world by 2020 in our homes, pockets, businesses - not only iPhones but iKettles and iToothbrushes. We will move from the 'power of capital' to the 'power of knowledge' with all the intellectual property implications that will bring'.

'On sustainability, we import €6.7 billion each year on the import of fossil fuels which is some 89% of our energy costs. What is the biggest environmental challenge on the planet - climate change - is going to become the biggest social challenge we have ever faced. Ireland has one of the largest carbon emissions of greenhouse gases per capita in the world.

Anne O'Leary & Dr. Brian Motherway
Digital technologies can create greatly increased efficiency as in smart energy grids. Consumer choice is increasing in the new digital economy. Fridges in homes can switch on or off to cut costs while maintaining required temperature control. There is a switch to LED street lighting connected to the Internet of Things which can also monitor and control street car parking.

We are therefore in the shift from the 'Age of Carbon' to the 'Age of Silicon'. Goggle Nest technology can control the temperature in your home while monitoring your comings and goings. There therefore needs to be regulation in this area to protect privacy.

On policy the Irish Government has a National Digital Strategy which focuses on the need for further infrastructure throughout the country.

'What does the Digital Future mean for Ireland? Well that's up to all of us!'

Anne O'Leary said firstly that Ireland's digital future presents both challenges and opportunities. Secondly it will create a more inclusive Ireland irrespective of age, background and location. We therefore need to invest in high speed broadband for each household. Our challenges and opportunities are best exhibited through Work, Learning and Health.

Anne O'Leary, Ronan Harris & Prof. Orla Feely
On work, these are Irish companies investing in automation of work and to have a flexible education and to be competitive in the global marketplace. 'We in Vodafone have reduced our cost base by increased home working. Advances in technology mean that the pace of change is unlike anything we have seen before. We find that home working is cheaper than traditional outsourcing and our home workers are 25% more productive than work from the office as long as they have a 5Mbyte connection. We promote this flexibility. As long as the work is done I don't mind if the work is done from the office, the car, the home or the local coffee shop'.

‘On Learning, the classroom will be transformed by Internet enabled devices replacing textbooks but they can't replace teachers as the primary source of learning. Learning analytics will allow teachers to monitor teacher outcomes. Access to numerous resources on the Internet for teachers will allow teachers the opportunity to increase their skills.

Anne O'Leary
We must not however allow the digital classroom to become impersonal. Education is as much about social and cultural interaction is as important as it is about course content. We also should not seek to suppress body language and peer to peer learning which remain integral to the educational process. It must not demote the role of the teacher in the classroom. As Bill Gates said, technology is just a tool but in terms of getting the kids to work together and motivating them the teacher is the most important.'

'On Healthcare, the digital economy will bring remote treatment to patients at home and thus avoid overcrowding in hospitals. We have a lot of problems in the Irish health system while the Digital Future will help us navigate this perfect storm. It will bring world class healthcare to peripheral areas through ehealth systems. Connectivity will allow for remote monitoring and diagnosis so that hospitals become a last resort rather than the first port of call'.

Anne O'Leary
Like the role of the teacher in the classroom we also need to provide basic medical care where technology cannot provide so we need an integrated healthcare approach combining the best medical and technology skills.'

A major challenge to Ireland's Digital Future is inclusivity. 'In my view it must be a shared future as innovation can often widen the gap between urban and rural rather than narrow it. There is the potential to have a two speed Ireland across urban and rural which we must avoid. Rapid innovation has the potential to leave people behind. In my mind Ireland cannot afford to have a digital divide to further increase the divisions already created by the economic turmoil of the past number of years'.

'There is one Ireland which is the poster boy of economic rebound and another Ireland which still bears the scars of economic crisis and poor access to credit. There is therefore the danger of two Irelands unless there is access to universal high speed broadband to all homes and businesses. Connectivity is the key to consistent economic recovery across Ireland. Vodafone and ESB are partnering to provide 'fibre to the home' which is 4 times faster than what is currently available.'

Ronan Harris who now runs the Irish Google operation talked of the primitive digital world when he was a UCD student in the early 90s. 'Convergence only happened in the UCD bar and search engines only had two feet venturing into the UCD library' he said.

Ronan Harris
Now Google technology particles can be injected into your blood cells which can monitor your health and wellbeing transmitted to a 'wearable' and then transmitted to the cloud.

‘In UCD I learned Moore's Law and other laws that define the digital transformation. We are only at the dawn of this transformation and innovation, only starting to get a glimpse of what the day ahead looks like and the next 20 years will bring huge changes. These changes will be driven by computer technology, connectivity and storage'.

We are looking at technologies that would not have been possible 5 years ago. Google can use large 'Lunar  Balloons' 19km into stratosphere to provide access to Internet at low cost in remote rural areas not previously capable of being served e.g. Africa, Asia and South America.

There is 100% penetration of mobile phones in Ghana as a result thus creating new industries and a new generation of competitive entrepreneurs.

Ronan Harris
What is the opportunity for us? Innovation and Digital Transformation will drive our future through Big Data. Innovation in the world of data happens very rapidly. We need to learn to fail as well as succeed. Companies with digital technology will compete better in the future.

What can Ireland do? We have to build the digital ecosystem to consolidate our European beachhead in Ireland. We also need to have world leading research in our third level colleges and a strong workforce with start-up interface.

We need to learn how to use data to give better insight into business. The businesses that will succeed are the ones who will interrogate data better than anybody else.

Dr Eleni Pratsini leads the IBM Research Lab in Dublin working on Smart Cities. One third of food is wasted across the world while others starve. Europe wastes 20% of energy due to inefficiencies. The US wastes 58% of their energy produced. Water wastage varies from 5% in Northern Europe to over 30% in Ireland and 60% in some US States. The number of cars will double from 2010 to 2020.

Prof. David Fitzpatrick, Dr Eleni Pratsini Director IBM Research Ireland, PJ Rudden & Prof. Orla Feely
70% of people will live in cities by 2020. By 2020 an extra billion citizens will be middle class. By 2025 the top 600 cities will account for 25% of global population and 60% of global GDP.

Can the Digital Future help the challenges in these cities? What is a 'smart city'? There is one common denominator across all smart cities and that is that they embrace ICT to enhance its deliverability and sustainability.

Smart cities need to collect data from sensor technology to predictive statistics to prescriptive statistics and then suggest corrective actions to be taken. It is a closed loop controlled by the Internet of Things.

Can you imagine life without a smart phone? We have 35% penetration of mobile devices in Ireland currently expected to increase to 50% by 2020. 90% of data was collected in the past 2 years and some 90% of collected data is never used or analysed!

Dr Eleni Pratsini
'In the past the citizen adapted to the city but in the future the city will adapt to the citizen. Citizens now have a lot of choices. We have to have demand management to satisfy the supply-demand needs. Regulations can play a role in managing expectations of the citizens.

We have examples of close collaboration with cities in the case of the current Dublin City Council - IBM relationship especially in the transport and traffic area.

We have also working with UCD on collaboration consumption or the ‘sharing economy’ on electric cars, parking etc. e.g. GoCar. Cars can be idle 90% of the time so can we not use it more efficiently and more collaboratively?

The Digital Future has both challenges and opportunities. We need to consider privacy law. 'Data is the new Oil' so we need to gain a closer understanding as to how the Digital Future will develop to enable us to exploit it fully.

Dr Helen McBreen of Atlantic Bridge Capital looked at Ireland entrepreneurial spirit. She puts an investors lens on People, Technologies and Markets.

Dr. Helen McBreen
80% of the world's digital investment deals happen in Silicon Valley as the principal world investment hub in California USA. That led to the formation of Atlantic Bridge Capital to 'bridge' Silicon Valley to Europe headquartered in Dublin. 'We have $450 million under management across offices in Dublin, Silicon Valley, London, Beijing and Hong Kong’ she said.

'This business runs 24/7. It has a track record of investing locally but scaling globally from university spin outs to seed rounds to further expansion incl. companies like IONA and Parthus as successful examples.

We grow into markets in US and China and seek to invest in brilliant people in the disruptive technologies that they invent and scale them into global markets.

Entrepreneurs will have a deep curiosity and will search and search to get to the root of the problems. These are particularly in global challenges like Healthcare, Climate Change, Education, Energy and Computing.

We challenge the traditional way of doing business. Yet in this business there are more often failures than there are successes. That's why there is a star quality to the profession of entrepreneurs who eventually succeed.

These people look for sustainable growth. They produce products that people want to purchase over and over again. The dynamics of the venture capital asset class are a little strange. We look for decent valuations, disruptive technologies so we seek entrepreneurs who can build businesses of scale in a short timeframe.

The technologies that we seek are disruptive becoming cheaper and faster e.g. drones and robots.

We have strong innovation hubs in London, Stockholm, Berlin and other European companies. There is also the fantastic performance of the UCD company spin out Logentries sold today!

This is an extraordinary time for early space investment. Ireland is becoming very strong with incubators and accumulators. We need to encourage angel investing and look again at the tax regime though the changes in yesterday's Budget.'

We will share the planet with 9 other billion people in 2050. It will be a planet that will be climate constrained but one where technologies will help to solve problems in Healthcare, Education and Energy.

Dr. Helen McBreen, Dr Eleni Pratsini & Ronan Harris
There followed a Question and Answer session with very interesting questions from Dr Brian Sweeney ex President EGA and Engineers Ireland ex Chairman Siemens,  Dr Liam Connellan UCD Distinguished Graduate and ex President EGA and Engineers Ireland ex Chairman RDS, NRA and Voelia, Vincent O'Doherty UCD Distinguished Graduate and ex Chairman Superquinn, Des Green ex EGA President and ex Chairman Indaver, Mark Grennan CEO BT Networks, Liam Breslin ex Telecom and Tony Alright Consultant.

Prof. Orla Feely
UCD Vice President Prof Orla Feely thanked the speakers stating that UCD are mobilising in all of the important areas mentioned like Big Data and Internet of Things and also in Agrifood, Energy and Environment and Health sectors all of whom interact with the ICT team to provide creative solutions to global problems. These in turn interact with UCD's strengths in Humanities and Social Sciences and with our Industrial Partners.

PJ Rudden, Anne O'Leary, Ronan Harris & Prof. Orla Feely
UCD she said was also very proud of NovaUCD spin out company Logentries just sold to a US firm for $68 million by the founders who were UCD electronics graduates. 'NovaUCD' she reminded us 'grew out of the UCD EGA enterprise set up in this building'. She also thanked UCD EGA for organising such a fine panel of speakers on a very relevant topic.

A short wine and food reception followed the event.  Many thanks to Fionnuala McGowan for all of the detailed arrangements for this wonderfully well attended and appreciated event.

L to R: Michael Higgins Secretary Irish Academy of Engineering,
Terry Nolan former Shell CEO, PJ Rudden & Tony Alright, Consultant

UCD Vice President Prof. Orla Feely & UCD Director of Research Triona McCormack

 Fionnuala McGowan UCD and EGA Board, PJ Rudden,
Roisin Bradford Irish Water & Robyn Kelly, Murphy Group & EGA Board


Monday, 12 October 2015

UCD Digital Event previews a Connected New World

A record crowd has registered for the Digital Future event in UCD Clinton Auditorium next Wednesday evening at 6pm. It's little wonder with the theme of Ireland's Digital Future and the top ranking Speakers from SEAI, Vodafone, Google, IBM and Atlantic Bridge. It's therefore promising to be a fascinating evening. Below are some snapshots of what the CEO Speakers will be saying.

Dr Brian Motherway CEO of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will look at how digital innovation can support a transition towards sustainability particularly on the issue of climate change. Brian will also examine the progress of digital technology and policy in Ireland and ask how is this best governed by society to ensure the best outcomes. 'It is therefore essential that national policy and governance models recognise the pace of change and encourage both public and private sectors to make energy and environmental sustainability a reality in our lives' he said.

Anne O'Leary CEO Vodafone Ireland believes that 'we can create the conditions for a sustainable national recovery - leaving no person or region behind - by harnessing the power of connectivity. Just like rural electrification in the 40s in today's digital world, access to universal high speed broadband is the great enabler to help people and communities to achieve their potential. It will unleash new creativity to communicate and socialise, new business models and industries. It will change the way our public services, healthcare and education are provided. It strengthens communities by offering alternatives to young people who otherwise may migrate to cities or immigrate'.

"With the convergence of technology, information and human ingenuity, innovation is happening at a pace today that could not be imagined ten or even five years ago" said Ronan Harris, VP, Google.

"In this age of convergence, digital transformation is no longer an option but an imperative to meet the needs of today's users and consumers. Organisations in Ireland that innovate and transform the way they operate can take advantage of new opportunities not only in this market but internationally also".  

Dr Eleni Pratsini Director of IBM Research will address the Smart Cities challenge. 'It is expected that by 2050, seventy percent of the world population will live in cities. Through cross-disciplinary research and development efforts we can help cities to better understand, interconnect and manage core operational systems in transport, communications, water and energy'. She will define a 'smart city' and the role of digital technology and through the use of examples will discuss how the intersection of mathematics, information technology, economics and engineering is used to address some of the challenges in the area of citizen care and mobility. She will also cover Smart Travel and driverless cars!

Dr Helen McBreen Investment Director of Atlantic Bridge Capital will explore three key factors that underpin Ireland's entrepreneurial future - people, technologies and market conditions. She will bring an investor perspective to the opportunities and challenges faced by today's indigenous technology companies. 'From an investment perspective there are many great Irish entrepreneurs founding companies with superb technologies but an international outcome is needed from the outset' she said 'International companies from Ireland are great success stories so we are well placed to see even more successes emerge' she concluded.

UCD EGA President PJ Rudden stated that 'We must prepare our educational commercial and industrial worlds to use digital technology to create more jobs and assist in making Ireland more competitive and a better place to live work and play'.