The perfect storm – Ireland at the heart of the internet of things revolution

5 Jun 2015

With Intel's latest internet of things lab investment, Ireland is at the heart of the biggest buzz in the tech industry

Whether it’s the 200 internet of things gateways dispersed through Dublin to monitor the environment, traffic and floods, to sensors that help farmers ensure the ideal steak reaches supermarkets, when it comes to the internet of things, Ireland is in the eye of a perfect storm.

This is the internet of things (IoT) storm that will engulf the world and drive floods of data in its wake as the world moves from 15bn to 50bn connected machines, or things.

Ireland is probably one of the best placed in the world to capture this momentum and this was proven this week with the news that Ireland has been selected as the latest location for Intel’s internet of things Innovation & Development Ignition Lab.

The aim of the lab is to collaborate with local companies to develop technologies for the internet of things (IoT) and collaborations are already underway that will see Dublin become the world’s first truly internet of things city. The lab is already collaborating with established Irish brands like Kingspan, Keenans and Glen Dimplex, to name but a few.

‘Ireland has a strong and vibrant ecosystem for the internet of things and that’s why we continue to invest’ — Louise Summerton, EMEA ecosystem sales director for IoT, Intel


Louise Summerton, EMEA ecosystem sales director for internet of things at Intel

Louise Summerton, EMEA ecosystem sales director for internet of things at Intel, said the lab is the sixth such lab Intel has established, with other labs located in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Turkey and Israel.

“There are so many unconnected devices in the world today and we want to provide the ability for companies of all kinds to work together and take new products and services to market. It is about building a community.

“Ireland has a strong and vibrant ecosystem for the internet of things and that’s why we continue to invest.”

The scale of the internet of things opportunity

The potential scale of the internet of things was revealed by Vijay Ratnaparkhe from Bosch, who pointed out that in the average high-end car today there are at least 150 computers that are all highly connected to one another. “The complexity is not in the hardware but in the software, and automotives are definitely moving in the direction of the internet of things.”

If you consider that by 2020 there will be 50bn connected devices in the world, Bosch will be one of the major contributors – it produces some 5m sensors a day, including the sensor in smartphones that turns photos from portrait to landscape when you tilt the device.

“In Bangalore, where we have R&D labs, 80 cameras were deployed to watch driver behaviour for the cops. The mayor told us that the investment paid off within two weeks in terms of fines.”

The vice president and general manager of the internet of things division at Intel, Frank Jones, described the internet of things as “the new buzz in the tech industry.”

However, he warned that no company by itself – even Intel – can manage the complexity of the internet of things. “Partnering with companies like Bosch, that’s where the connectivity part will happen.”

‘Where the IoT hype becomes truth is turning all that data into new capabilities and new business models’ — Frank Jones, VP and general manager, Intel’s IoT division


Frank Jones, VP and general manager, Intel’s internet of things division

He said the world is only in the early stages of the internet of things revolution but Intel – which has made it possible through the miniturisation of technology by keeping to Moore’s Law – is so convinced by the opportunity that it has built an entirely new division dedicated to IoT.

He said the real battleground will be in creating the gateways with the right filters to gather the data to make the internet of things viable.

“It is devices that connect to the internet that collect the massive amounts of data, which feeds through a gateway and connects to a public or private cloud to move smart information. The real power is in the solution at the end that allows you to create analytical capabilities to make better decisions.

“Where the IoT hype becomes truth is turning all that data into new capabilities and new business models.”

Jones said that Intel is hard at work making the IoT happen, firstly through chips like the Quark processor and the Galileo dev board, but also through gateways that are plug-and-play and easy to use.

“This is the perfect storm. The key to the internet of things is creating end-to-end solutions that solve problems at the end of the day. However, right now 85pc of deployed systems are disconnected from the internet. The internet of things gateway is the first step to connect sensors with the internet and cloud. We will have to create horizontal standards-based solutions for the industry. That is going to take all of us working together to achieve this reality.”

Data deluge

Charlie Sheridan, director of the IoT research lab at Intel, said that as well as security and connectivity issues, the reality of 50bn devices in five years will also result in a data deluge.

“These 50bn devices will unleash at least 44 zetabytes of data.”

Sheridan said that the challenge of managing that data deluge will require clever software that can filter out what’s necessary and what’s not required to make crystal clear decisions.

“We are working on creating an end-to-end platform for the internet of things. Most people think of Intel as a machines company, but we do a lot of software, especially on embedded devices.”

Power will also be an issue for when the reality of the internet of things dawns. “Devices will have to be sub-1GHz and we will need to create new hybrid computing models.”

‘These 50bn devices will unleash at least 44 zetabytes of data’ — Charlie Sheridan, IoT research lab director, Intel

In Dublin alone, Intel in partnership with Dublin City Council, has deployed 200 different gateways for different reasons. One use case is an extreme weather flood management system that takes data from sensors, sends it to the cloud and filters data back through analytics software.

“The value of the internet of things to businesses can be summed up in three words: acquisition, analytics and action.”

Sheridan said that the winners will be businesses that will use IoT gateways to develop knock-on new business innovation models.

IoT business models are already emerging

John Shaw, CIO of Kingspan, the Kingscourt-based company that makes insulation and energy products for export worldwide, said that IoT sensors will play a key role in the next generation of the company’s solar photovoltaic products.

“Our transition will depend on the internet of things and growth will be fuelled by the Intel Quark chip.”

Pointing to Jermey Rifkin’s The Third Industrial Revolution, Shaw said that the forecast future of smart cities, smart factories and electric vehicles won’t happen without breakthroughs like Intel’s Quark chip.

“The IoT will enable huge economic change and represents an enormous opportunity for Kingspan. We are getting heavily involved, particularly around solar. We see our transition being enabled by IoT, and Quark will be key to that.”

Glen Dimplex, which is headquartered in Ireland, is the world’s largest electrical heating business, with a turnover of US$2bn and more than 10,000 employees.

The company is currently working on a smart electrical thermal storage system that will integrate with renewable enegy from renewable sources and which will result in a 25pc reduction in energy bills for consumers.

Muiris Flynn, director of manufacturing at Glen Dimplex, said he believes IoT can also be harnessed to provide energy providers with faster and more efficient demand information that will provide greater certainty for energy providers.

“Ultimately, for the IoT platform to work, power and latency issues will be critical.”

Another great example of an Irish company harnessing the internet of things to transform its business model is Keenan Systems, an Irish company with more than 30,000 customers that makes feeder machines and other devices for the agricultural sector.

‘We are bringing internet of things to the field in the literal sense’ — John McCurdy, director of innovation, Keenan Systems


John McCurdy, director of innovation, Keenan Systems

“We are bringing internet of things to the field in the literal sense,” said John McCurdy, director of innovation at Keenan Systems.

“We are looking at creating sensors that will help farmers ration feed in order to provide the best kind of beef or milk they want to produce.”

He said Keenan will use big data to mine data to provide better decision-making results. “We want to create technologies for the ordinary farmer and that is what the internet of things is about for us. Unless a farmer can act instantly on information then they are losing value. We see data sharing as a huge opportunity in the industry. Equipped with the right nutritional information a farmer can ensure that the quality of steak that makes it to the supermarket is as good today as it was yesterday.

“We are working with Intel on APIs and the new lab creates a safe place for companies to collaborate together. On the farm there are already a huge amount of devices and we want to create a farm sensor network. If we can find a way to connect devices, it means not only are we selling equipment, but we are creating an avenue for recurring revenue and the ability to deal with a lot more people for longer.

“With internet of things we are scratching the surface right now, but there’s a lot more to be done.”

Storm image via Shutterstock

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