9 pioneers joining the dots of the connected world

19 Dec 2017

Image: Elvira Koneva/Shutterstock

From ICT to IoT, these are the pioneers of the connected world of the 21st century.

Connecting the world and the growing number of smart devices in it is no mean feat, but some key enablers are up to the challenge.

These telecoms leaders, researchers and innovators are taking us to the next generation of communications, connecting people as well as devices on the internet of things (IoT) and bringing more to your mobile phone than ever before.

Prince Anandarajah

Dr Prince Anandarajah. Image: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

A lecturer at the School of Electronic Engineering at Dublin City University (DCU), Dr Prince Anandarajah is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in communications technology. His main research areas include modulation techniques and formats, and radio-over-fibre distribution systems. As well as founding a spin-out company called Pilot Photonics, he has published more than 190 articles in international peer-reviewed journals, and holds four international patents.

His work includes the joint creation by DCU and Tyndall of an ‘optical comb source’, which allows many wavelengths of light over fibre. “This is a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution that is being targeted at the impending traffic bottleneck, thereby transforming data centres,” he told Siliconrepublic.com.

Ayah Bdeir

Ayah Bdeir is one of the leaders in the maker movement and a proponent of the open internet of things. She founded LittleBits in 2011 to “put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone” via a range of open-source modules that enable children and adults to build prototypes using modular electronics that snap together like Lego.

“LittleBits was a tool for prototyping. It was never really meant for kids,” Bdeir explained recently. Thankfully, she’s as open to change as her adaptable electronics, so now the product is pitched as an access point for all to engage with self-made connected devices.

Vittorio Colao

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao. Image: Vodafone

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao. Image: Vodafone

Globally, Vodafone serves more than 470m connections across the world and CEO Vittorio Colao is credited with steering the telecoms giant from 3G into 4G, and now the forthcoming 5G world. Colao is also responsible for directing the mobile phone giant into fixed broadband and TV services. Looking to the future, he is making big bets on IoT by backing the NB-IoT standard.

Throwing down the gauntlet in the UK market last month, he said: “The UK is waking up to a Gigabit Society,” having struck a £500m deal with CityFibre to bring IoT-enabling gigabit broadband to a dozen UK cities.

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

Lisa Seacat DeLuca was recently named the most prolific woman inventor in IBM history. She was one of the youngest people – and the first ever woman – to achieve the 100th Invention Plateau award at the company and, earlier this year, she was rightly inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame.

DeLuca’s inventions have found ways to alert conference callers when a certain topic pops up, light up a wearable (such as a necklace) when a specified Twitter hashtag is used, or guide cell-phone users on routes that will maintain service on the move. When she’s not inventing, DeLuca serves as a distinguished engineer at IBM, running a new team called the App Factory within Watson IoT.

Linda Doyle

Prof Linda Doyle on stage at Inspirefest 2015. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Prof Linda Doyle on stage at Inspirefest 2015. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

One of Ireland’s foremost academics in the area of ICT, Prof Linda Doyle is considered a change-maker of the first order. The newly appointed dean of research at Trinity College Dublin is a passionate advocate for a multidisciplinary approach to technology and engineering, essentially joining arts with STEM.

‘We are in a situation where this mixing of people from different disciplines is not only nice to have, but absolutely essential in the world we are facing into’

As director of Connect, she heads a world-leading research centre for networks and communications technology. With her expertise in wireless communications, cognitive radio, reconfigurable networks, spectrum management and creative arts practices, she was incremental in the establishment of Pervasive Nation, a national-scale IoT research infrastructure.

Michael Joseph

Safaricom founder and former Vodafone managing director of mobile money, Michael Joseph. Image: Mike Ellis Photography/Vodafone Group

Michael Joseph is the founding CEO of Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom and the pioneering visionary behind M-Pesa, one of the most successful mobile money services in the world. Powered by Vodafone, M-Pesa was designed for countries where mobile phones arrived before bank accounts, allowing users to make payments, deposits, withdrawals and transfers using their phone. It has grown from Kenya to become quite popular in Tanzania, Afghanistan, South Africa, India and parts of eastern Europe.

Joseph recently stepped down as MD for mobile money at Vodafone, but a new role as a non-executive director at fintech MFS Africa will see him continue to drive financial inclusion across the continent.

Carl Pei

Born in China and educated in Sweden, Carl Pei dropped out of college to join Nokia and later went to work at electronics firm Oppo where he met Pete Lau, with whom he co-founded phone-maker OnePlus in 2013. Employing viral marketing to good effect, the company’s first smartphone, OnePlus One, was hailed by Time as the “phone of dreams”. Now on its fifth generation, OnePlus is setting the standard for smartphone design.

Explaining his motive to The Wall Street Journal two years ago, Pei said: “One of the reasons why we started this company was, we looked at all the Android phones on the market and there wasn’t one phone that was good enough for us ourselves to use.”

Stéphane Richard

Orange CEO Stéphane Richard at a 2017 shareholders meeting. Image: Orange

Orange CEO Stéphane Richard at a 2017 shareholders meeting. Image: Orange

The CEO of French telecoms giant Orange, Stéphane Richard is pushing the envelope in terms of how telecoms companies are engaging with digital content. This year, his company pledged €100m toward the creation of a new Orange Content division, and his strategy of focusing on networks rather than also bidding for content rights is in contrast to most competitors.

Richard awaits a February vote to secure a third four-year term as CEO. Under his leadership, the company has expanded services in Africa and Spain, and launched an online banking service. Orange Bank beat expectations when it launched in November, with 30,000 accounts opened in the first 10 days.

Marcus Weldon

Marcus Weldon on stage at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Marcus Weldon on stage at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

As 13th president of Bell Labs and corporate CTO of Nokia, Marcus Weldon coordinates the technical strategy across the company and drives technological and architectural innovations into the portfolio. A luminary in the industry, he combines his vision with the power of Bell Labs to create a unique innovation engine, with the overall goal to ‘invent the future’ of the networking and communications industry.

‘In the end, all technology revolutions are underpinned by networks’

“In the end, all technology revolutions are underpinned by networks. The definition of a technology revolution is a new technology that gets networked and then changes society or economies. It is the networked part that is always critical,” he told Siliconrepublic.com earlier this year.


Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Super Early Bird Tickets for Inspirefest 2018 are on sale until 24 December 2017.