Patricia Moore on having a bird’s-eye view of part of Ireland’s space sector

26 Jun 2020

Patricia Moore. Image: Mindseed

Patricia Moore, CTO of Dublin-based space-related ICT consultancy company Mindseed, discusses the democratisation of space and opportunities for the future.

Mindseed is a consultancy firm that specialises in space-related technologies, particularly those linking space and ground systems.

Prior to joining as the company’s CTO, Patricia Moore was an assistant professor with the School of Electronic Engineering at Dublin City University and a researcher with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and the Vision Systems Group at the university.

‘I am passionate about developing tech roadmaps that seek to address key societal and environmental challenges’

Describe your role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

My role is to work with client companies to develop viable business and technology roadmaps in order to pursue market opportunities in the ICT sector. With expertise in telecommunications, satellite system integration, space technology, IoT, computer vision, AI, and business digitisation, Mindseed delivers into a very diverse set of technology roadmaps.

Traditionally, the space sector has been associated with significant barriers to entry, but space technology is becoming increasingly democratised. This is creating a wealth of opportunities for individuals and organisations. One of my key roles involves making space-based products and services like satellite navigation, earth observation and satellite communication more accessible to our clients.

My goal is to open doors to opportunities for innovation in ground-segment and downstream services. Once a viable roadmap and commercial opportunity has been established, I work with clients to secure funding, assess potential markets, build prototypical design models, and develop full-scale commercial technology implementations.

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

I am passionate about developing and supporting technology roadmaps that seek to address key societal and environmental challenges. Currently I am working on a number of ambitious projects relating to sustainability, climate change, clean water and sanitation, and disease control.

Perhaps the most topical of these projects is a major Smart Sanitation project with Woodco Renewable Energy, funded by the European Space Agency. As we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic, when it comes to disease, early detection, treatment and community response are all vital to limiting the impact on an individual’s health and preventing outbreaks within a community.

An area that is now increasingly under the spotlight is how digital transformation can support efforts in disease management. Through equipping sanitation systems and environs with smart sensors, we can quickly and autonomously detect disease and monitor environmental and societal transmission factors.

A particularly exciting element of the Smart Sanitation system is our efforts to develop a real-time pathogen detection capability for deployment in wastewater. Wastewater analysis can significantly contribute to our understanding of the incidence and risk of disease in populations, caused by bacteria, viruses and other pathogens related to human sanitation.

By way of example, RNA traces of the coronavirus, from the faeces of infected individuals, were detected in wastewater in the Netherlands even before the first Covid-19 patients appeared. Early detection is particularly important where asymptomatic transmission appears to be so prevalent. Achieving real-time detection is somewhat of a ‘holy grail’ for researchers in this area.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

At Mindseed, we have a small in-house team with complementary skillsets and outsource as necessary. As a consultant, I work in partnership with our client companies and embed with their domain experts, filling their ICT gap as needed.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

Digital transformation is really at the heart of what Mindseed as a company does. Digital transformation is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’ for modern business, and I see a growing recognition of that. At Mindseed, we have a keen appreciation that a digital transformation strategy will look different for every company. It is not something that can be tied down. Rather, it is a continuous business-specific journey that requires agile leadership.

In the current Covid-19 climate, we are mindful of the serious business challenges being experienced by our clients and all businesses. Many companies have already ceased trading and many more that are currently dormant, unfortunately, will not reopen. For those that do reopen, it is my opinion that the post-Covid-19 transition will present major challenges.

Companies may need to develop digital training plans to get the most out of remote working and collaboration tools, and to use them in a secure way. Team reorganisations may be required to enable smaller project groups to work together more effectively using digital technology. Digital sales and marketing strategies will become more important for acquiring new business.

At Mindseed, we have continued our business activities, albeit working from home, and we are actively working on adjusting our own digital transformation roadmap in response to Covid-19. We are continuing to liaise remotely with business colleagues in Ireland and abroad, and we hope to expand our operations through increased online and remote engagement with our growing network of business partners.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

The democratisation of space is coinciding with emerging technologies like AI, IoT, 5G, low-power edge-compute devices, blockchain, cloud computing etc. The convergence of these technologies is enabling the development of applications and services that simply were not possible before.

Each one of these technologies individually has the potential to change the world and, of course, they have already begun to do so, but I believe that it is the combination of these technologies that will truly disrupt markets across all sectors.

It is very difficult for companies, particularly SMEs, to develop low-level expertise in all of these emerging technologies. To really capitalise on the opportunities they present, collaborative development is more important than ever. It is my experience that this is something that Irish companies excel at, and much of the leadership in this area is coming from indigenous Irish companies.

As CTO of a niche consultancy company in a small country, I occupy a very privileged position with a bird’s-eye view over a large part of the space sector in Ireland. A key goal of Mindseed is to put that bird’s-eye view to work for our clients, and support ideation, identify opportunities for collaboration, and facilitate networking where collaborations are sought.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

As data becomes increasingly valuable with more and more powerful, and often frightening, mechanisms of extracting rich and personalised information from it, security has become more important than ever. Much like a digital transformation strategy, security strategies will look different for different companies and must be continuously evolved to deal with emerging threats.

From a technology developer point of view, one way to tackle the data protection issue is to remove the need to store or transmit sensitive data.

Low-cost edge compute devices are now enabling smart sensors to continuously analyse data ‘on the fly’ at source with no long-term data storage or retention. Where sensitive data must be stored or transmitted, it is vital that GDPR guidelines are followed to ensure that rights to privacy are respected and measures taken to protect those rights.

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