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New research claims mobile banking saves billions in charges

New research claims mobile banking saves billions in charges

New research by money transfer service Azimo claims that mobile banking and new digital-only banks are saving consumers billions in various charges. According to a survey of more than 4,000 people in the UK, people in Britain who have turned to technology to help them with banking have saved up to £7 billion every year.

The research suggests that the increased ability banking apps and online services give customers has enabled many to take more control of their accounts and how they spend and save money. The three biggest reasons for savings were identified as the ability to move money instantly between accounts in order to avoid overdrafts and charges, the instant visibility of what you’re spending and being able to budget more accurately as a result, and the ability to better manage direct debits and standing orders more easily.

A range of mobile only banks, including Atom, Monzo and Starling have all recently launched in the UK and offer customers more detailed insights into their spending habits, as well as notifications when they carry out payments and live budgets from within smartphone apps.

Azimo chief executive Michael Kent said: “Thanks to technology, overcharging consumers when it comes to financial management is now a thing of the past. We’re focused on helping consumers better manage their money both domestically and internationally by making the online transfer experience as frictionless as possible. This new data is proof that technology is continuing to change the world of finance for the better, and although there’s still a way to go to fully digitise the industry it’s great to see the positive impact for consumers.”

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KTI Annual Impact Award finalists include ground-breaking new technologies

KTI Annual Impact Award finalists include ground-breaking new technologies

Recognising and celebrating excellence in knowledge transfer in Irish Higher Education Institutes and publicly funded research organisations, the annual KTI Impact Awards will be held in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Thursday 30th March.

KTI (Knowledge Transfer Ireland) is the national office that helps business benefit from access to Irish expertise and technology by making it simple to connect and engage with the research base in Ireland. The KTI Impact Awards recognise excellence in industry engagement and commercialisation of research and they pay tribute to the businesses and research performing organisations involved in knowledge transfer.

Entrants included seven universities, four Institutes of Technology and a number of other research performing organisations from around the country. Finalists included a wide variety of projects with economic and societal benefits. For example, Teagasc’s new technology licensed to Ornua will transform cheese-making manufacturing, opening up significant export markets in the Middle East. DCU collaborated with Intel and Croke Park on an Internet of Things “Smart Stadium” initiative which has been expanded to include Microsoft and over 30 SME’s. One of the University of Limerick shortlisted entries was the license of technology to UK based Crescent Ops Ltd that has led to the development of a new low cost fingernail test for bone fragility which enables the more effective diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Speaking about the shortlist of finalists, Director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland Dr Alison Campbell said: “The Impact Awards are about acknowledging and celebrating Ireland’s knowledge transfer and research commercialisation successes and the people who make them happen – the on-the-ground staff in technology transfer offices and industry liaison offices around the country. This year we received a record number of entries across seven categories from Universities, Institutes of Technology and similar research organisations. The calibre of submissions reflects the long term investment to support knowledge transfer and to strengthen the technology transfer profession. Ireland is now home to the highest number of RTTP (Registered Technology Transfer Professionals) per capita in the world”.


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R&D company Cisco celebrates 10 years in Galway

R&D company Cisco celebrates 10 years in Galway

A worldwide technology leader, Cisco is celebrating 10 years in Co. Galway. The establishment of the Oranmore site in 2006 was the brainchild of former Senior Vice President Barry O’Sullivan, star of Dragon’s Den. Galway was recognised as posing a “big opportunity” for Cisco due to the fantastic skillset of workers in the region and the support of the IDA, according to R&D Site Leader Pat Hession.

Beginning with just four employees, Cisco employs just under 200 people. Now a major innovation hub and R&D site for Cisco’s Global Collaboration business, the site is home to leading innovations that remove barriers to accessing and using technology for work-based activities.

“We’re doing very high-end research and development here which is a very positive thing for the region. It says a lot for the skillset and the people we have,” says Mr Hession.

The US global leading technical company recently won ‘Best Workplace’ in Ireland for medium sized businesses at a ceremony in Dublin. Commenting on the company’s 10 year anniversary, IDA Chief Executive Martin Shanahan said, “Over the past 10 years Cisco has thrived in Galway and the company brand has since become synonymous with innovation. Cisco has contributed significantly to the local economy and enhanced the reputation of the county as a prominent tech hub.”

In the last three years, the company has placed a major focus on cloud computing including voice and video communications, new technology areas which are strategically important for the future of the business and which are now centrally developed in the Galway site under the brand name of Cisco Spark.

Cisco is also a major sponsor and presence at the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival and members of Cisco staff were instrumental in the establishment of the Atlantec conference. Cisco also help to support IT skills for all ages, including ‘Age Action’ complimentary computer classes for elderly members of the local community, provided by staff, supporting ‘Girls in Tech’ programmes with local secondary schools and engagement with university students across multiple initiatives. Its recent birthday celebrations also included a ‘Bring Your Kids To Work’ event, attended by nearly 100 children.

The company and Cisco Galway site are “in a great position moving forward”, but Mr Hession stressed that there is a need to prioritise broadband services in rural areas, to enable more people to work from home. “We build technology that allows people to work from anywhere and as part of that, we need to continue to improve our broadband especially in the more rural areas.”

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UCD to Lead €4 million European Research Network Developing Mental Health Services Technologies

UCD to Lead €4 million European Research Network Developing Mental Health Services Technologies

Technology Enabled Mental Health for Young People (TEAM), a new €4 million research and training network focused on developing new technologies to support the provision of mental health services for young people, was announced on Tuesday, November 22, at University College Dublin (UDC).

A UCD Press release said that numerous international studies have concluded that many people experiencing mental health difficulties do not have access to appropriate support. Young people have been identified as being particularly vulnerable and requiring specific attention. Research suggests that 50% of mental disorders emerge by 14 years of age. Untreated difficulties at a young age also triple the likelihood of further difficulties in later life.

TEAM, which brings together a multi-disciplinary network of mental health experts, computer scientists, designers and policy experts from five countries, (Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the UK) will provide a doctoral training and research platform for 15 PhD students.

The overall objective of the TEAM network is to train these researchers to deliver more effective, affordable and accessible mental health services for young people. The network will also focus on the design, development and evaluation of new technology enabled mental health services.

TEAM, led by University College Dublin, involves nine partners; four universities (Technical University of Denmark, Technical University Vienna, University of Glasgow and UCD); two university hospitals (Medical University Vienna, Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen (Region Hovedstaden)), two not-for-profit organisations (The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, ReachOut Ireland Ltd); and one industry research laboratory (Telefonica Alpha).

Dr David Coyle, TEAM project co-ordinator, and a researcher in human computer interaction at UCD’s School of Computer Science said, “We are not going to address all of the challenges in youth mental health in just four years. But we do aim to train a new generation of researchers, with a unique combination of skills, who will be at the forefront of this challenge in the coming decades.”

He added, “Technology can play an important role in improving mental health services, but only if we get the details right. It was critical that TEAM had an appropriate balance of mental health experts, computer scientists and designers. Throughout the project we will work in close partnership with mental health services and with people with experiences of mental health difficulties.”

The TEAM research programme is built around four key themes: assessment, prevention, treatment and policy. It aims to deliver new technologies that can support rapid, early and large-scale assessment, prevention and treatment of mental health difficulties in young people.

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Record Number of Collaborative Agreements Signed Between Industry and Researchers in 2015

Record Number of Collaborative Agreements Signed Between Industry and Researchers in 2015

Research by Knowledge Transfer Ireland found that 748 collaborative new research agreements between research performing organisations and industry were signed in 2015, a record number, according to a November 18 report by Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This was an increase of 16% over 2014.

Results of the Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey, which tracks activity between the commercial sector and Ireland’s research performing organisations, found that in 2015, 65% of collaboration agreements signed by Research Performing Organisations were with Irish companies and that there were 1,235 live collaborative research programmes involving Research Performing Organisations underway at year end.

A panel of experts from a range of companies and from the Irish research base addressed an audience of over 200 industry and technology transfer professionals at the KTI conference on Friday, November 18.
“Knowledge Transfer continues to grow in Ireland. The latest figures around collaborative research – just one aspect of knowledge transfer – are testament to that. We have also seen encouraging growth in the transfer of intellectual property to companies through licensing agreements.” Director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland, Dr Alison Campbell said at the conference, “We now have 34 globally accredited Registered Technology Transfer Professionals (RTTP) in our universities and Institutes of Technology – the highest number of RTTP per capita in the world. Today is about bringing together the knowledge transfer community and industry experts from around the country to highlight the simplest routes to access researcher knowledge and share best practice.”

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Even scientists are now using Pokémon Go for their research

Even scientists are now using Pokémon Go for their research

Since several weeks, exist a brand new topic among the people : Pokémon Go. This new gaming-app, developed by Nintendo, is hyped especially by the young people because it offers the opportunity to catch Pokémon in the surrounding area and to battle with others on certain ‘Pokémonstops’ which are in reality sights or other places.

Pokémon Go is featured with augmented reality or Ar which has gone from something only talked about by select geeky groups, to being discussed whenever Pokémon Go enters the conversation – which, in case you have been living under a rock, has been a lot.

But allowing an image to overlay itself on your surroundings might have much greater implications then just catching Pokémon in your backyard – and contrary to what you might imagine, it might actually make people better drivers.

While people are scrutinizing the risks of distracted drivers and pedestrians playing Pokémon Go, Ronald Schroeter, a road safety researcher at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, believes that this AR technology could be used to offer safety benefits to drivers.

“For years researchers have been trying to raise the public conscious of augmented reality, the idea that you overlay a digital world on top of a real world,” said Schroeter.

“But within just a few days Pokémon Go has shown the world how augmented reality works, providing us with a better language to explain our research.”

Slow down though, that doesn’t mean you should start driving while trying to catch Pokémon – the phone will still distract you from the road, and an accident is totally not worth any Pokémon (even Mew).

But it does mean that in the future, AR technology might be able to help drivers to drive better on roads, and even help us engage with surroundings.

“Augmented Reality gaming via smartphones is obviously not ideal, especially from a driver behaviour perspective. However, once you use more integrated technologies such as head up or windscreen displays, we think gaming and augmented reality could be used to add elements into the real world that help drivers maintain their concentration.”

With all the discussion of driverless cars recently, the idea of semi-automated vehicles are becoming more and more a reality. Companies like Tesla already have semi-automated features, but these come with their own problems.

“We have recently seen the first deadly crash of a Tesla car, which collided with a truck in autopilot mode, which highlights the difficulty of making the monitoring of a semi-automated system appealing to the driver,” said Schroeter.

“A warning message telling the driver that they must monitor the car at all times at the start of the journey is not really the best solution from a human perspective.”

Instead, the researchers at QUT are looking at ways to keep drivers interested, and one of the best ideas involves AR – which means overlaying important road information on the windscreen or a display in the car, so drivers stay aware of their environment.

“One could hypothesise that the driver of the Tesla in AutoPilot mode might have had a better chance seeing the truck if they had been scanning the environment, for example looking for Pikachu projected into the driving scene or reality through the windscreen display,” said Schroeter.

“This is how our research is leading the way in using gaming techniques and augmented reality to make drivers in the future safer.”

You heard it here first, Pokémon Go could one day help scientists make us all better drivers. What a time to be alive.


Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.


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Biomimicry for airport security

snifferThe face of airport and border security are progressively changing because of new technologies. To contribute to this development, the EU-funded SNIFFER project took a page out of nature’s book, using biomimicry to make detecting and analysing odours of persons, illegal substances and in particular explosives more efficient.

While dogs are undoubtedly the most effective ‘tool’ when it comes to detecting and analysing odours, their training is time-consuming and has to be limited to a small selection of specific odours. In addition, sniffer dogs tire easily.

Their astute noses are often complemented by technical devices such as ion mobility spectrometers (IMS). This instrument, which is used to separate and identify ionised molecules in the air, is very useful for detecting narcotics and explosives. They are very sensitive, even to low concentration levels, but get saturated very quickly when exposed to high concentrations of narcotics or explosives, and then need a long time to return to working order – usually a couple of hours.

Combining nature and technology

The SNIFFER project approached the issue from a different angle, employing state-of-the-art technologies centred on a new generation of olfactory biosensors. The biosensors use proteins normally present in the nasal mucus of mammals, as well as on the antennae of some insects.

“They are odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) which capture odorant molecules and then transport those molecules to the olfactory receptors,” explains Emmanuel Scorsone, who coordinated the project on behalf of the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA). “The olfactory receptors are the initial player in a cascade of transduction events that ultimately bring the olfactory information to the brain.”

OBPs are designed by nature to capture odorants in an open environment and are hence very stable. This stability compared to other proteins makes OBPs uniquely suited for sensors.

The researchers also looked into a second type of protein – the so-called major urinary proteins (MUPs). Also found in many animals, including mice, MUPs contain a great deal of information and play an important role in chemical communication between animals.


Picking out a whiff in a sea of smells

Coupling OBPs and MUPs – which can be genetically tuned to bind different classes of chemical compounds – to diamond sensors, the project produced prototypes of highly effective, flexible, and portable artificial sniffers dedicated to detecting explosives. In these sniffers, highly specialised basic biosensors are arranged into arrays to try to cover a wide spectrum of odours that are analysed using intelligent data processing.

“One of the main challenges was to collect vapour and particle samples from a very complex environment,” says Scorsone. “We are trying to detect them in very small concentrations against a very diverse chemical background in an airport, where we have odours from the duty-free shops, aircraft fuel and so on.”

And let’s not forget that the substances will more often than not be on moving targets, drastically limiting the time to sample. “Related to that is both the selectivity and the sensitivity of the device,” Scorsone adds. “We are doing really well in that respect. The IMS causes high rates of false alarms, and we are trying to improve on that.”

A nose for explosives

Testing the prototypes under real-life conditions with real explosives in Athens airport allowed the team to benchmark the SNIFFER system against existing technology. “We presented the test results to a panel of end-users, and they were very pleased to see this level of maturity and the outcome itself,” Scorsone reports. “We are not yet ready for industrial exploitation, but it was good enough to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept.”

The technology is now being studied further in the framework of another Horizon 2020 project dedicated to other border security scenarios, this time focusing on narcotics, explosives and other illegal goods in containers in an attempt to take the SNIFFER project to the next level.

What is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.

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Brand new product: VR headset to buy a house

Brand new product: VR headset to buy a house

Irish house buyers have a new toy to play with as VR headsets enter the field to help inform people who buy off the plans.

It’s a bit strange, placing your faith in a digitally visualised blueprint but, if you’re all set to buy off the plans anyway, any added ‘experience’ is probably of benefit.

Samsung has entered the real estate game, providing Gear VR for house hunters to get a virtual walk through of houses yet to be built.

The project is done through Sherry FitzGerald, Ireland’s largest form of street agency, with plans to have a headset in every store in the country to help sell houses.

Buy a house in Ireland with a headset

The test-bed for the partnership will be an as-yet unbuilt development in Lucan, letting potential purchasers experience a more lifelike view of the properties in the development than could be offered by simple floor plans or small scale models.

According to Sherry FitzGerald – which set up originally, so is no stranger to diving into new waves of technology – its VR platform has been tested on two fully functioning walk-through of new client home schemes, as well as completing extensive user testing and feedback.

This is a rapid change in the industry and VR glasses represent a huge benefit for the company. Working with Samsung is being, for Sherry FitzGerald, brilliant because they can get a competitive advantage to a brand new product able to helping sell more houses of plan.

It’s a weird and quite nascent idea, but if VR capabilities do improve at the rate we all expect them to over the coming years, then this could become a regular feature throughout the sales world.


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Maynooth University to be central hub for 5G and IoT testing

Maynooth University to be central hub for 5G and IoT testing

As part of the CONNECT national research centre for telecommunications, Maynooth University is to be the site of a new national radio test facility with aims of developing devices for 5G connectivity and the internet of things (IoT).

The opening of the Maynooth University centre is included among the 21 research projects funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), with €538,000 being made available to help build the facility.

It is envisioned that the centre – to be called RadioSpace – will cost in the region of €750,000 to construct and, once completed, the facility will provide a large-scale, interference-free facility that will allow scientists and engineers from industry and universities to develop new 5G communications technology.

Vice-president for research at Maynooth University, Prof Bernard Mahon, said of the successful funding:

“This is a real boost for Kildare and the Leinster region. Until now, telecommunications and IoT companies have had to travel to Britain or Europe to use this sort of facility. By building RadioSpace in Maynooth, we will support established and emerging companies to test devices in Ireland.”

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Ministers Bruton and English announce €28 million Science Foundation Ireland investment in research equipment and facilities

Ministers Bruton and English announce €28 million Science Foundation Ireland investment in research equipment and facilities

The Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton, TD together with the Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills, Damien English, TD yesterday announced details of a €28 million investment in research equipment and facilities through Science Foundation Ireland.

A total of 21 exemplary research projects will be supported in sectors including applied geo-sciences, pharmaceutical manufacturing, bio-banking, marine renewable energy, internet of things, astronomy, big data and additive manufacturing using nano-materials.

This infrastructure funding was awarded competitively to research groups who need facilities and equipment to address major research opportunities and challenges.

These including partnerships with industry and /or international funders. This new infrastructure will ensure that Irish researchers continue to be internationally competitive, with access to modern equipment and facilities which will enable them to be successful in securing future funding from leading companies and Europe, including Horizon 2020.

Speaking at the announcement in Birr, Co Offaly, Minister Bruton said:

“(…) We have now put in place individual jobs plans for 7 out of the 8 regions in the country, and what has repeatedly become clear is that research and innovation must be accelerated right across the country if we are to deliver the jobs growth we need. Today’s announcement by Science Foundation Ireland is an important part of this. By investing in world-class R&D infrastructure, both at a regional and national level, this will ensure that we can compete at the highest levels internationally and continue to turn more good ideas into good jobs.”

Commenting on the news as well, Minister English added :

“Today’s investment will advance the implementation of the government’s new science strategy – Innovation 2020. The 21 projects will enable globally compelling research to be undertaken across the country; facilitating greater industry and international collaboration; supporting the training of researchers and demonstrating to an international audience that Ireland on an all island basis, is business friendly and bullish in its pursuit of, and participation in, excellent research.”

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