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Irish-designed sensor tells farmers when cows are ready to calve

Irish-designed sensor tells farmers when cows are ready to calve

A wireless calving alert device which sends the farmer an SMS text alert when a cow goes into labour was unveiled today at the National Ploughing Championships.

In what its creators Moocall Sensors claim to be a world first, the device warns the farmer when the cow is one hour from birthing to ensure cow and calf are cared for in the event of a difficult birth.

Farmers will no longer need to monitor CCTV or visit calving sheds.

The device, which has so far accurately detected 200 births on Irish and UK farms during the summer, is attached to cows’ tails and uses 3D motion sensors, complex algorithms and embedded machine to machine (M2M) mobile technology.

“We have stress-tested the technology extensively and it has proved faultless,” Moocall’s chief investor and chairman Michael Stanley explained.

“The sensor is fitted to the cow’s tail and activated in a matter of seconds and the robust ratchet strap system means they fit all sizes comfortably. The device is so simple to use and is built to last, they are also fitted with a 30 day rechargeable battery. Users have access to a telephone helpdesk and also an online dashboard to manage multiple devices,” Stanley added.

Moocall has been three years under R&D led by farmer Niall Austin from Offaly who lost heifers and calves on his own farm when he was unable to make it to the birth in time.

“Losing a cow and calf during birthing process is heart-breaking and very often completely preventable,” Austin explained.

“Like humans, labour can be sudden, quick, late or unexpected at times making it difficult for the farmer to predict. Pedigree calves in particular are often big and require Caesarean sections meaning both vet and farmer need to be on hand to make sure nothing goes wrong.

“I believe Moocall Sensors will be invaluable to farmers, giving them certainty and peace of mind as their cows near the end of their gestational period. The sensors are easy to use, inexpensive and can be easily transferred between cows – one device is more than adequate to service a small herd of 40 – 50 cattle.”

The Moocall Sensor is priced at €299 and the first 1000 units sold come with free 12 month text and service bundle worth €160.

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Tyndall and TSSG plan €82m fund for 10 internet start-ups

Tyndall and TSSG plan €82m fund for 10 internet start-ups

Waterford Institute of Technology’s TSSG and University College Cork’s Tyndall Institute have signed a memorandum of understanding to target €82m in EU funding to support 10 internet of things start-ups.

The research bodies aim to draw down the €82m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

“Our combined staff of 580 hardware and 120 software engineers, support staff and scientists, together with Tyndall and TSSG’s world-class infrastructure make this partnership uniquely qualified to deliver,” said Dr Kieran Drain, CEO of the Tyndall National Institute.

“At Tyndall we passionately believe that Irish technology companies have the potential to lead on the internet of things (IoT) and that it is our role to facilitate and accelerate their growth from product conception through to commercial reality. This MoU will accelerate the development of new technologies, generating new growth opportunities for indigenous industry, while also encouraging further foreign direct investment.”

The rapidly expanding internet of things market – where physical objects interact with the internet – was valued at US$613m (€473m) last year alone and will be worth an estimated US$7.1trn (€5.5trn) between now and 2020.

Tyndall National Institute CEO Dr Kieran Drain, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD and the director of Waterford IT’s TSSG, Willie Donnelly

Prof Willie Donnelly, founder, director and chair, TSSG, said a key focus of the joint plan is to create technologies that will extend beyond the internet of things and into an everyday future for the citizens of tomorrow’s societies.

“The partnership will place Ireland at the centre of the IoT conversation, positioning Ireland as a location of preference for the IOT industry. TSSG are delighted to be partnering with Tyndall and we look forward to what will be a very exciting future with them.”

Tyndall and TSSG are currently collaborating on several projects across the energy, agriculture, environment and health sectors to deliver a tangible connection for people between two worlds, the physical and connected.

The advent of wearable technologies, smart appliances and services, along with dynamic sensors, all indicate the need for Ireland to capitalise on its reputation as a digital hub and lead on IoT technologies.

This MoU encapsulates that goal, said Damien English, TD, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation.

“This strategic partnership adds great strength to the position of Tyndall and TSSG as leaders in the development of new technologies and companies in the ICT sector,” English said.

“It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that Irish innovation continues to be at the forefront of technological development and that through the facilitation of such projects and collaborations, commercialisation opportunities are maximised and job creation is accelerated.”

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Irish company Skytek to host major space meeting in Dublin

Irish company Skytek to host major space meeting in Dublin

Astronauts and other space experts are gathering in Dublin this week for a major think tank about the International Space Station (ISS), and Irish company Skytek is hosting the event.

In Ireland we occasionally get an astronaut or two passing through, but this week several will assemble in Dublin as part of a working group to discuss future technical requirements for the ISS.

Officially called the Operations Data File (ODF) and International Procedure Viewer (iPV) Working Group, the gathering will include not just astronauts but also space managers and scientists to talk about work programmes and plans for the ISS, which orbits Earth and supports crews who live aboard and carry out scientific experiments.

“It is the first time the meeting is taking place outside of one of the space agencies’ own facilities,” says Dr Sarah Bourke, CEO of Irish software development company Skytek, which is hosting this week’s events.

Skytek’s CTO Paul Kiernan explains that the meeting “helps defines the future direction that technology to support astronauts on board will take over the next few years, especially of interest now with the emergence of new wearable devices and mobile platforms.”

And although the focus of the meeting will be on ISS requirements and will not be open to the public, Skytek is also organising a public lecture by astronaut Leopold Eyharts tomorrow evening in Dublin’s Science Gallery.

Skytek, which is based in Dublin, developed technology called the International Procedural Viewer, or iPV, that has been aboard the ISS since 2005. The software runs on laptops deployed throughout the ISS, and it allows the astronauts to view procedural information about tasks and experiments, explains Bourke.

“It has all the information they need,” she says. “Our system assists them as they do their work on board – if they have a scientific experiment the system walks them through the process, or if they need to do a spacewalk it tells them the procedures that should be followed.”

The company is now working to deliver the system through other platforms on the ISS, such as tablets and wearables, and on expanding the voice-commanding capabilities.

As well as ensuring that astronauts can access the information they need, Skytek has also been working with clients who are a little closer to sea level.

“We have been adapting our technology for use in other industries,” says Bourke. “We developed a satellite-enabled communication system with Dublin Fire Brigade, we have just completed a system with the Irish Navy and the technology is now being adapted for aircraft maintenance.”

This week is a busy one for Skytek, as it also sees the launch of its new ‘space weather’ division, which will work with astrophysicists at Trinity College Dublin to gather and analyse data about solar flares and other events at the sun’s surface that could potentially disrupt satellites and power grids on Earth.

Skytek’s space weather division is being set up to react to the growing threat of solar storms and other space weather phenomena, according to the company, which will provide both consultancy and research in the area.

And in a case of particularly good timing, the news comes hot on the heels of a large burst of solar activity just last week.

The hosting of this week’s meeting in Dublin reflects the long-standing engagement by Skytek with theEuropean Space Agency in developing software solutions for use by the crew of the ISS, according to Tony McDonald, space programme manager in Enterprise Ireland and a member of the Irish delegation to the European Space Agency (ESA).

“It also reflects on the quality and performance of Irish technology in supporting mission-critical activities for ESA and (US space agency) NASA,” he says. “This technology also has multiple applications in non-space markets, such as aerospace and emergency response (and) Skytek is an excellent example of a growing number of Irish technology companies developing highly innovative technologies for the space market, in line with the national strategy for Ireland’s membership of ESA.”

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Irish Government invest €5m in new pharma manufacturing tech centre

Irish Government invest €5m in new pharma manufacturing tech centre

Ireland’s Government is to invest €5m over the next five years in a new Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology Centre (PMTC) that will be headquartered at the University of Limerick.

Damien English, TD, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, launched the centre today.

PMTC is the latest of 15 state-supported technology centresestablished jointly by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. The centre brings together 24 industry partners and nine Higher Education Institutes that will deliver the research.

PMTC will deliver advanced technology solutions to contemporary manufacturing issues challenging the Irish pharmaceutical sector.

The aim of PMTC is to make Ireland the global hub of pharmaceutical process innovation and manufacturing and ultimately support an industry that directly employs more than 25,000 people.

Manufacturing cost competitiveness and patent expiry are among the two most critical issues threatening the future of this industry, which contributes more than €40bn in Irish exports per annum.

“The pharmaceutical industry is a very important provider of employment and growth in Ireland’s economy,” English said.

“This joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to make the pharma industry more competitive and efficient is most welcome. The fact that the research agenda is defined and informed by the companies involving both Irish SMEs and multinationals gives strength to the industry’s effort to tackle challenges such as the patents cliff and manufacturing competitiveness.”

The industry consortium comprises a mix of indigenous multinational pharmaceutical companies and SMEs, including Alkermes, Allergan Pharmaceutical, Applied Process Consulting, Astellas, Bristol-Myers Squibb Swords, Crest Solutions, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Helsinn Birex, Innopharma Labs, Janssen, Label Art, Leo Pharma, Merck Sharp Dohme, Pfizer, Process Analytics, Roche, Servier, Sigmoid Pharma, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Techno-Path, Teva Pharmaceuticals and TopChem Pharma.

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World’s first brain to brain message sent

World’s first brain to brain message sent

Scientists have been able to send a simple mental message from one person to another without any contact between the two, thousands of miles apart in India and France.

Research led by experts at Harvard University shows technology can be used to transmit information from one person’s brain to another’s even, as in this case, if they are thousands of miles away.

“It is kind of technological realization of the dream of telepathy, but it is definitely not magical,” Giulio Ruffini, a theoretical physicist and co-author of the research, told AFP by phone from Barcelona.

“We are using technology to interact electromagnetically with the brain.”

For the experiment, one person wearing a wireless, Internet-linked electroencephalogram or EEG would think a simple greeting, like “hola,” or “ciao.”

A computer translated the words into digital binary code, presented by a series of 1s or 0s.

Then, this message was emailed from India to France, and delivered via robot to the receiver, who through non-invasive brain stimulation could see flashes of light in their peripheral vision.

The subjects receiving the message did not hear or see the words themselves, but were correctly able to report the flashes of light that corresponded to the message.

“We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways,” said co-author Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

“One such pathway is, of course, the Internet, so our question became, ‘Could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of Internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?’”

Ruffini added that extra care was taken to make sure no sensory information got in the way that could have influenced the interpretation of the message.

Researchers have been attempting to send a message from person to person this way for about a decade, and the proof of principle that was reported in the journal PLOS ONE is still rudimentary, he told AFP.

“We hope that in the longer term this could radically change the way we communicate with each other,” said Ruffini.

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Athlone IT sets out goal to become a technological university

Athlone IT sets out goal to become a technological university

Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) will become a technological university, according to a new strategic plan published today.

According to the new vision statement for the institute, AIT “will be a technological university distinguished by outstanding learner experience, international focus, distinctive regional contribution and high quality impact of its staff, teaching, applied research and innovation.”

Entitled Global Focus – Regional Impact, the plan sets out a series of seven pillars for the future growth and development of the institute through 2018.

International expert on higher education, Prof Simon Marginson of the Institute of Education in London, launched the plan.

Amongst the key strategic goals outlined in the plan are for AIT to grow its student population by 15pc to 6,000. That learner cohort is going to be more diverse, comprised of more post-grads and more lifelong learners. The plan points to reform of curricula and increased retention rates of 78pc.

An ambitious goal

A target of €6m per annum from non-exchequer sources is identified. Amongst the mechanisms for generating this will be the provision of international campus management services and the development of a high-performance sport centre of excellence.

“Becoming a technological university will enable us to better serve the needs of our students by providing them with an applied and internationally focused education,” AIT president Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin said.

“It will enable us to better meet the needs of employers for highly qualified and work-ready graduates.

“It will enable us to better meet the needs of entrepreneurs and industry for a research and innovation partner. And, it will enable us to better serve the many and various community groups that are the backbone of this midlands region.

“Becoming a technological university will amplify the best aspects of what we do; it will enhance our reputation, and provide a platform for future growth,” Ó Catháin added.

Acknowledging that achieving technological university status is “an ambitious goal,” Ó Catháin said, “When you examine the criteria for TU status published by the government, it quickly becomes apparent that AIT is one of the leaders in terms of reaching those metrics.

“We are to the forefront in terms of the percentage of staff with PhDs, research activity, the diverse nature of our student population, and so on. That excellence in performance spurs us on to even greater goals.”

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UCD ranked 5th university in Europe for VC-backed entrepreneurs

UCD ranked 5th university in Europe for VC-backed entrepreneurs

Dublin’s University College Dublin (UCD) has been ranked fifth in a list of European universities that have produced venture capital (VC)-backed graduates.

Private equity research firm PitchBook in its report Top Universities for VC-backed Entrepreneurs, which covers January 2009 to August 2014, noted that 31 UCD graduate entrepreneurs established 26 companies that raised US$112m in funding.

UCD is the only Irish university in the top 10 list of European universities.

The University of London ranked the best overall university in Europe with 71 graduate entrepreneurs establishing 67 companies that raised just over US$1bn in funding.

Stanford ranked No 1 globally according to this report, with 378 entrepreneurs establishing 309 companies raising just over US$3.5bn.

The PitchBook VC database includes the educational backgrounds of more than 13,000 founders worldwide.

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Galway based firm to develop “Life saving” drones

Galway based firm to develop “Life saving” drones

A Galway couple’s start-up has developed technology that will transform aerial drones from weapons of war into life-saving devices that can pinpoint victims by identifying their mobile signals in disaster areas.

Galway-based Disaster Tech Lab, headed by Evert and Kate Bopp, has seen the potential for creating an airborne wireless sensor platform.

Disaster Tech Lab has forged a partnership with US company Sentinel Air to create a device that can be mounted on a small plane or drone that could be flown over the disaster zone to detect and geolocate signals emitted by mobile phones such as Wi-Fi or cellular signals.

In this way people trapped in rubble or flooded houses can be pinpointed and the data sent directly to fire brigades and ambulance service, increasing the chances of lives being saved.

Non-profit Disaster Tech Lab was founded in 2012 following the Haiti earthquake. Since then the organisation has worked in the US and the Philippines following natural disasters there. In 2013 its founders received a certificate of recognition issued by FEMEA during a ceremony at the White House.

Disaster Tech Lab and Sentinel Air plan to work together developing and testing airborne wireless sensor platforms that will be tested in disaster-hit areas of the US.

“By teaming with Disaster Tech Lab we can not only offer our HD aerial video and radio relay abilities but now by taking Disaster Tech Labs’ equipment airborne we can increase its range and then distribute that knowledge directly to first responders,” Sentinel Air co-owner Dean Attridge explained.

“The increased situational awareness offered by combination will increase efficiency and safety for first responders and in times of disaster will save lives.”

Life-saving drones

Responding to questions from, Bopp said that while the idea is not entirely new, all previous efforts required terrestrial signals.

None are for airborne platforms. Using an airborne platform allows us to survey a wider area in much shorter time.”

Bopp explained the concept works by taking measurements from different locations (flying in a grid pattern) triangulating the signals and applying a proprietary algorithm to the signal strength which allows them to pinpoint the locations.

UAVs are in the media for a variety of reasons. On the one hand they are controversial weapons of war, on the other in the form of quadcopters they represent a new technology that can be used to entertain, inform and even deliver goods.

This has raised lots of questions about privacy and also safety with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) soon expected to regulate drone technology.

Bopp expects to work within FAA rules and regulations.

“We chose to partner with an established aviation company using standard type UAV’s/drones, similar to civilian versions of the Predator,as well as single seater aircraft as these are all recognized by the FAA and are provided for in regulations.

“The increasingly popular quadcopters are not and the subsequent regulatory issues have resulted in the use of quadcopters being banned more and more in disaster zones.”

While a military version of what Disaster Tech Lab and Sentinel aim to accomplish is already in existence Bopp said that technology is off-limite, prompting the two companies to develop their own technology.

“The military version already exists. However it’s classified & restricted and not available for the use that we intend this for. We’re developing an software OS for this that will run on a number of off-the-shelf type hardware platforms making it widely available.”

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ReelLIFE SCIENCE competition seeks student-made videos

ReelLIFE SCIENCE competition seeks student-made videos

NUI Galway is challenging primary and secondary school students across Ireland to create videos on science topics for the ReelLIFE SCIENCE competition and perhaps win more than €3,000 in prizes.

The makers of the best entertaining and educational short video at primary and secondary school level will each receive €1,000, to be spent on promoting science in the winning school.

Second and third-place entries at each level will receive €300 and €200, respectively.

NUI Galway’s Dr Enda O’Connell came up with ReelLIFE SCIENCE, and she said there is huge enthusiasm among students for using hands-on science to investigate the world around them, whether it’s exploring the plants and animals in their school garden or the food in their lunchboxes.

“A great way of communicating this is by using video cameras, tablets or even smartphones to make a short movie for their friends, parents and teachers to enjoy,” O’Connell said.

The closing date for entries into the ReelLIFE SCIENCE competition is 17 October.

The winning schools will be announced during the week beginning 10 November to coincide with Science Week 2014.

The competition’s judging panel will include Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College London and science writer with The Guardian; Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, lecturer in mathematics at University College Dublin, radio and TV broadcaster, columnist and author; and Paul Clarke, St Paul’s College, Raheny, winner of the SciFest National Final 2013 and Overall Winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2014.

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New IT Sligo science building honours Irish scientist MacMunn

New IT Sligo science building honours Irish scientist MacMunn

IT Sligo’s new €17m science building named after an Irish scientist who conducted research in a hayloft over his stables is to receive its official opening today by Taoiseach Enda Kenny today.

The new building, named the MacMunn Building after Irish scientist Charles Alexander MacMunn, features an 80-station foundation laboratory, seven teaching laboratories, and four research labs,The Irish Times reported.

MacMunn was born in Easky, Co Sligo, in 1852. His discovery of respiratory pigments throughout plant and animal tissues (The Cytochrome System) remains a cornerstone of medical science today, IT Sligo said.

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