With a focus on agri-tech and smart cities, Barry Downes of TSSG tells Killian Woods why his organisation is excited about the new hype around the Internet of Things.
With a focus on scientific research into software and applying such analysis towards innovation and commercialisation of services, Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) is an Irish company at the cutting edge of developing fresh Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and predicting future concerns within the sector.
Through its work with startups and other companies in Ireland problem-solving projects through the Enterprise Ireland Vouchers programme and engaging with IDA clients, TSSG has been able to fine-tune what areas it should be focusing its research on.
Many years ago, Barry Downes, chief executive of TSSG, earmarked the Internet of Things as a significant space to explore. He feels that it, as a sector, is one of the major technology trends that will define future generations.
“There are a couple of major technology trends that are really going to shape the future over the next number of years,” he said. “The Internet of Things is one of those. I also happen to believe virtual reality is as well but, in terms of IoT, we are focused on a number of areas with our partners. One of those areas is consumer IoT, such as smart cities, but for us agriculture is also a sector we would to like to bring more tech innovation into.”
Agriculture was also earmarked as a key sector to address by Professor Willie Donnelly, President of the Waterford Institute of Technology and chairman of TSSG. Through numerous initiatives, TSSG aims to put brand new technology innovations into the hands of farmers, with dairy one area specifically being researched. “We have a number of agriculture projects where we are looking at bringing agri-tech into the dairy space and develop agritech in the IoT space, through sensors on farms to have an impact in terms of efficiency and the utilisation of resources. Also, we want to get data out of the farm for alerts.”
With an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Waterford IT and an MBA from the Smurfit Graduate School of Business at University College Dublin, Downes began his career working in software development in the US. His involvement with TSSG came about due to his involvement in an original spin-out of TSSG called Waterford Technologies, which is still in existence today.
Since taking this position in Waterford at the turn of the millennium, Downes’s principal task has been to lead innovation at TSSG. Focusing on developing the outputs of scientific programmes has led to his passion for applying new Internet of Things technologies to businesses.
“Our core competencies in networks and services really lead us into the IoT space to work with other partners such as Tyndall in the CitySense project, which is something we’ll be really talking about at the upcoming iQuest Conference in June,” he said.
“This was a collaboration between ourselves, Tyndall in Cork, the National College of Art and Design in Dublin [NCAD], Vodafone, and PCH to build an end-to-end demonstrator for how you could actually put a monitor on bikes in Dublin and track a whole series of variables around Dublin.”
Some of those variables tracked as part of the project included carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, smoke particles, temperatures and also things such as altitude and GPS position of the bikes as well. Their aim was to build a picture of different data points around Dublin.
Looking forward to some of the much-ignored security concerns that can arise from data that is collected from IoT consumer devices, Downes speaks of a start-up they are launching to help confront these issues to prevent the misuse of such information.
“One of the things we’ve seen as a problem in this space is the proliferation of consumer devices and the management of the personal data that comes off those devices, and the security of them,” he said. “So we’ve built a platform, which is a cloud based security data privacy platform for consumer IoT that is being launched later on this year.
“We see this as an amazing explosion of devices, but there are challenges around data privacy and security. If you have a personal device on you, monitoring key factors about your health, you want to keep that private. Or if you have a security camera in your home, you don’t want anyone coming in and snooping on that.
“The data platform we are providing will firewall individual data in the cloud. This means everyone would get their own space in the cloud that is firewalled, in addition to all the normal security.” The potential of IoT to improve all aspects of our daily lives is a principal reason organisations such as TSSG are excited about the sector.
However, Downes feels that strengthening ties between research institutes is as promising a prospect. “We see IoT as a great opportunity for Irish research institutes to collaborate. Institutes such as TSSG, Tyndall, and NCAD can all get together and, in turn, come up with new products, concepts, and then bring them through markets with trusted partners like PCH.”
Barry Downes is a speaker at The Internet of Things summit at Carton House in Maynooth, Co Kildare on June 17, organised by iQuest.
The article was published in the Sunday Business Post on Sunday, May 24th. Written by Killan Woods.