Seven Irish leaders in AI revealed at major awards ceremony

20 Nov 2019

Image: © tomertu/

Researchers, start-ups and multinationals have been named among the winners of this year’s AI Awards.

Now in its second year, the AI Awards are run by AI Ireland, a non-profit business with backing from Microsoft Ireland and Alldus International. The organisation runs a number of community websites and monthly meetups supporting the area of data science, machine learning and AI in Ireland.

Seven awards were handed out as part of the event today (20 November), with those shortlisted coming from academia, start-ups, SMEs and multinationals. The first of these awards was for the use of AI in a sector, with the winner named as speech recognition start-up SoapBox Labs.

Future Human

The start-up has grown substantially since its appearance at Inspirefest 2017, including receiving funding of €2.1m in 2018 and, more recently, partnering with a reading research centre in the US to create and deliver next-generation language and literacy assessments for young children.

The award for best application of AI in a large enterprise went to Mastercard Labs for its Duka Connect product, a mobile point-of-sale solution for small merchants in emerging markets.

It works by allowing a shopkeeper to pass the customer’s products in front of a handset’s camera, which are then scanned by the computer vision model. It then classifies the images to identify the product and adds them to the customer’s basket.

German software giant SAP was named winner of the award for best use of AI in a consumer or customer service application. Its business operations and ‘self-healing’ AI platform for helpdesk staff uses sentiment analysis, natural language processing, search algorithms and robotic process automation (RPA).

Having a global impact

The Irish Centre for Foetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) – based at University College Cork (UCC) – was named winner of the award for best application of AI in academia. Earlier this year, it identified blood biomarkers that may act as an early-warning system for potential brain injury in newborns.

Telenostic won the award for best application of AI in a start-up for its work on deep learning or convolution neural networks to accurately model and predict parasitic infections within animals.

On an individual level, the University of Limerick’s Ciarán O’Mara won the award for the best application of AI in a student project for his work on an AI traffic management tool.

Finally, ESB was named winner of the award for best use of RPA and cognitive technology for using AI to optimise its roll-out of smart meter technology.

“This year’s winners demonstrate the positive impact that AI can bring to society and to industries like finance, healthcare and education,” said Microsoft Ireland’s general manager, Cathriona Hallahan. “Through our support of this year’s AI Awards, we can celebrate organisations in Ireland who are developing exciting innovations that have global impact.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic