Wind energy and next-gen sat nav compete for Engineers Ireland technology award

5 Nov 2013

RTÉ's Mary Kennedy; Michael Phillips, former president of Engineers Ireland; Paul Dunne and Kevin Harnett, OpenHydro; Finn Lyden, chief executive SIAC (sponsors of the award); and Tadhg Landers and Danny Johnston, OpenHydro

As the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards ceremony fast approaches, we take a look at the groundbreaking projects from Airsynergy and Vicinity Systems that have been shortlisted for the Technology of the Year award.

The Engineers Ireland Technology of the Year Award was first introduced last year to highlight innovative technological concepts created in Ireland or by Irish engineers and recognise projects that demonstrate real societal and economic impact.

OpenHydro took home the inaugural award for its open centre tidal turbine, a highly specialised bi-directional marine turbine designed to harvest energy from flooding and ebbing tides. Paul Dunne, chief engineer on the project, says winning this award was a great boost to the team.

Airsynergy’s enhanced wind turbine

The 2013 Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards take place on Friday, 8 November, in the Four Seasons Hotel Dublin. Submissions for the technology award were welcomed up to September this year and just two projects made the shortlist.

Airsynergy’s enhanced wind turbine – a patented design that can produce twice as much energy as a conventional turbine – is one of them. “[Our turbine] makes wind energy much more cost-effective and will start to make wind energy cheaper than fossil fuels,” said chief operations officer Colin Morgan.

Airsynergy enhanced wind turbine

Airsynergy’s enhanced wind turbine

Another advantage of the enhanced wind turbine is that it increases the number of potential sites for wind farms as it is capable of better performance at lower wind speeds. “We see the technology as being pretty transformational for wind energy and we’re extremely excited about it. We’ve engaged a number of partners to date who are working with us to bring this technology and these products to market over the next couple of years,” Morgan added.

Exciting and humbling

Morgan says the Longford-based team is very excited to be one of only two in contention for the award, and a group of about 10 will make the trip to Dublin for the event on Friday.

“The engineers on the team were absolutely delighted to be nominated for the award, to be recognised by their peers,” he said. “When you look at some of the past winners of the award, we’re certainly delighted and humbled to be considered, potentially, like them.”

Next-generation sat nav technology by Vicinity Systems

Also in the running for the Technology of the Year award is Vicinity Systems, which has been selected for its new breed of sat-nav technology. The system is still under development but, when complete it will be able to provide additional information on the journey ahead, such as weather, landscape, traffic, crime, points of interest, recommended restaurants, or even friends on the route.

“It’s kind of delivering the smartphone experience within the car,” said Con Costello, a geomatic engineer with 20 years of experience who founded the company early this year. “We’re kind of leveraging benefit from the fact that all cars will be internet-connected and then, increasingly, car manufacturers are starting to put nice big displays into their vehicles,” Costello said, referencing Elon Musk’s Tesla S and its 17-inch tablet dashboard.

Vicinity Systems sat nav

A preview of Vicinity Systems’ next-generation sat nav

Electric benefits

Vicinity Systems’ technology will be particularly valuable for drivers of this or any other electric vehicle. “Because we’re able to look at the geography ahead, we’re able to describe where the hills are; we’re able to look at the weather and work out where you will be using your air conditioner or your heater, where you’ll have headwind, where you’ll encounter traffic – so we can also help the drivers who are in electric cars to find the more efficient route and, therefore, they can save a bit of battery and they can drive a little bit further,” he explained.

“Our plan now is to try and finish our prototype application by the end of the year and then, early in the new year, we will be seeking equity from private investors and venture capitalists with the objective of delivering the technology late next year to an auto manufacturer,” he added.

Have your say

Whichever of these two companies is selected for the Technology of the Year award will be revealed on Friday. The public are also invited to have their say at the awards by voting for the Engineering Project of the Year award. Shortlisted projects can be viewed here and votes will be accepted up to midnight on Thursday, 7 November.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.