Hardware and software entrepreneurs urged to join forces and get inventing

17 Apr 2014

Pictured: Noel Joyce, SOS Ventures, Robert Bushnell, Enterprise Ireland, and Joe Perrott, PCH International

From Oculus Rift, the virtual reality games helmet firm bought by Facebook for US$2bn, to the Pebble smart watch, the tech hardware business is enjoying something of a renaissance and Irish hardware and software creators are being urged to make sure they aren’t being left behind.

At the Gibson Hotel in Dublin this afternoon tech entrepreneurs, designers and inventors rubbed shoulders with investors and supply chain specialists at an Enterprise Ireland-backed event.

The purpose of the event was to outline the implications and opportunities for small electronics companies and software firms of the major wave of innovation in technology around hardware/software integration and new hardware products changing our world.

Technology such as, chip prices, low cost high-powered sensors and components, open source software, 3D printing, apps, small scale manufacturing, prototyping etc. are driving this wave.

Speakers at the event included Joe Perrott from PCH International, Noel Joyce from SOSventures and Design Hub, Ben Harris from Adaptics and Mark Hanely from Isle Systems.

Adaptic are a team of designers and technologists working to reimagine kitchen devices. Their first product Drop is an iPad kitchen scale that knows when you’ve finished weighing one ingredient and ready tow eight the next – it can instantly adjust quantities for your favourite bakery recipes based on how much flour you have in the bag.

Isle Systems recently developed an “SOS button” security alarm that syncs with Android smartphones via Bluetooth.

Internet of things opportunities

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Robert Bushnell, senior development adviser at Enterprise Ireland, explained that there are obvious trends in terms of “internet of things” technologies like wireless sensors and these trends have implications for electronics companies as well as firms such as sawmills and plastic injection moulders.

“We have the INSIGHT centres around Ireland doing fantastic work on the internet of things and the task now is to get the hardware guys talking to the software guys to come up with ingenious products that could be in global demand.”

Bushnell said he was inspired by the work being done by PCH’s accelerators in the US, as well as SOSventures’ Haxl8r in China and said Europe is in sore need of similar activities.

“The key is to up our game in areas like design,” he said, adding that the strategy of getting hardware and software companies working together has echoes of the linkages of the 1990s that saw indigenous firms band together to supply the PC revolution.

“Only in this case rather than simply supplying multinationals the companies would create their own brands and products that would attract global demand.

“What we’re hoping to do is get a cluster of companies in this area – not only start-ups but existing companies who can make use of their existing knowledge in the area of manufacturing electronics products and combine this expertise with software apps,” Bushnell said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years