Technology Voice: An Introduction

Hi all,

As many of you may have noticed, we have been going through a process of rebranding over the last week – transforming our identity from to Technology Voice.

There were numerous reasons for doing this, and here are just a couple:

  • Timing: Our readership has been growing steadily, and it was felt that if it was left any longer that it might be too disruptive for too many people.
  • The name: Social media is still one of our major focuses, and there is still much to learn from the activity in that space. However, we were becoming increasingly aware that more and more of our articles – while still focusing on new and emergent technologies – did not always include as much of a social media aspect or angle that one would expect from a publication with a title like Technology Voice.

So, instead of trying to force our stories to contain a social media aspect (which it may well contain, but not be totally germane to the narrative), we decided to find a name that reflects the sort of material that a reader would expect to find our pages.

Hence, Technology Voice. We post stories about new technologies that are coming over the horizon and that may not be necessarily with us yet, but that we think people should be aware of and know about.

We have broken up this remit into five separate classifications: Business, Mobile, Technology, Video, and, of course, Social Media. You can still read all of our stories in the main newsfeed, but you can also check out the channels that are closest to your own interests as well. Hopefully, in the spirit of curiosity, you will check out adjacent channels as well.

We realise change can be disruptive and it can take a little while to familiarise yourself with the unfamiliar, but we hope you like what we have done, and ultimately it will make having Technology Voice as part of your information intake more enjoyable.


MUZU.TV: Official Video Music from the Original Artists

Launched in July 2008, MUZU.TV has one of the largest music video hosting sites on the web. It allows users access to videos, interviews, exclusive footage, music news and more. All the videos on the site are the legal and officially approved versions as MUZU.TV works directly with record companies and artist’s representatives to ensure the authenticity of the material made available. With the strength of YouTube and the proliferation of other music websites, what makes Irish-based MUZU.TV different?

 Ciaran Bollard, CEO and co-founder of MUZU.TV believes, “There are lots of music sites out there and a lot of them are focused on audio. Then there is YouTube which would be our biggest competitor. YouTube has a mixture of user content and content from the music labels. Our service is dedicated to music fans so all the features and functions of the site are tailored to music fans so it offers a very different and unique experience.”

“Just by looking at the service you can see that immediately. It’s only focused on music content. It hasn’t got user-generated content. Clearly fans like that because we’re growing by 20% month on month.”

The MUZU team works with individual record labels and artists to promote the site. Ciaran explains, “you’ll see on most of the major artists’ pages, like Cheryl Cole who has millions of fans, you’ll see posts about MUZU on her page. All the major artists’ pages will post about MUZU because we have this initiative called the ‘Video Fight Club’ where we put an artist up against another artist and they have this competition over who has the best video.”

The site also maintains its competitive edge by launching new initiatives like the ‘Video Fight Club’ on a regular basis. The most recent is ‘MUZU Live and Loud’.

Ciaran explains, as in the first week for instance, “There’s going to be two major artists Jessie J and Ellie Goulding. We’ve two exclusive live sessions and these will be up against each other and Jessie J and Ellie Goulding’s fans will vote as to who’s the best.”

Other recent initiatives include:

  • A ‘best of live’ catalogue.
  • ‘Gig In Your Gaff’ competition where an artist will play live in your living room. It recently featured The Wanted.
  • Live streaming in-studio, recently featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela.

According to Ciaran, the MUZU catalogue currently has approximately 80,000 music related videos. It streams 10 million videos a month, mostly from UK and Ireland viewers. MUZU’ers have the ability to post comments below artists’ videos. With so much content, MUZU.TV is conscious of filtering.

Ciaran says, “We’re filtering comments as much as we can. It’s very difficult to react very quickly to all the comments that happen but the main thing is that the content on the site is not inappropriate content. The actual video content is all appropriate and we also use age filters as well.

“On our site we only focus on professional music-based content. Users cannot upload to the site, apart from uploading to, let’s say The Scripts’ channel. They can upload to the fan TV section and become a fan TV contributor but the band actually approves that content.”

The site generates income from advertising served in and around the music videos. In addition, MUZU.TV has created a partnership with Group M, a leading vendor of online advertising worldwide.

Ciaran explains that, “We’re very careful that we only serve a pre-roll ad (an advert that runs before an online video) for every one-in-three videos. There’s a balance. You’ve got to be able to support the business from a revenue perspective but, at the same time, the user experience is crucial.

“It’s all about offering the best consumer experience that we possibly can. We try to make the advertising very targeted to the age and genre that somebody is watching so it’s relevant advertising.”

MUZU is currently based in Dublin, Waterford and London. It had its beginnings in the DIT Hothouse, an innovation and technology centre located at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Ciaran remains a huge supporter of the programme. He feels it “is a fantastic way of supporting somebody who is in a current corporate job and wants to get out of that but still has a mortgage to pay and bills to pay.”

He says that, “What’s good about Hothouse is:”

  • You can network with other entrepreneurs in the same position.
  • You can get a grant which helps support your income for the first year of starting up your business.
  • It gives mentoring around your business plan.

With MUZU.TV recently expanding into France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Benelux this specialist music website conceived by Irish entrepreneurship and built with Irish technology has carved a niche that seems to be ever-expanding.

Tethras: Making It Easier to Connect App Developers With Translators

Tethras derives its name from an ancient Irish sea Goddess who was Chief of the semi-divine Fomorians. That it sounds a little like Tetris is a happy coincidence for the Dublin based company which was founded in 2010 by Brian Farrell and Brendan Clavin. Tethras provides software for developers to help them provide localization services for their apps.

If the content of your app is in English and you want a Frech, German or some other language version then localization services have been the traditional places to go to to have translations done of your text, audio and so on. Brian explains why their service is unique and different, “We are offering a software service that is resident in the cloud. Our customers and suppliers can log on and either provide us with goods and services or purchase goods and services from us.

“A normal localization company would normally appoint an account manager to you as a client. Then there is the finance aspect of the billing and you will have a project manager who may work with an engineer to extract content from your software. You will also have someone else who will either inhouse or outsource the translators.”

As a consequence, inside a standard bricks and mortar localisation you are looking at a number of different people fulfiling a number of different functions which all have to be paid for.

As Barry explains further, “Our offering removes those layers from the process. It allows the developer to do the same functions of all those people. We have effectively automated all those jobs.”

There is significant potential in this market. In the last quarter Apple up until January 2011 Apple’s total revenue was $26.741bn out of which the Greater China market accounted for some $2.6bn or 9.7% of all sales. According to Gartner in 2010 Western Europe and North America accounted for 52.3% of all smartphone sales. It is fairly easy to surmise that there is a growing opportunity to provide apps for people in their native language.

According to Brian, “By publishing only in English developers are ignoring up to half their potential market.”

Tethras only works with the Apple ios at the moment which runs on the iPhone, iPad and iTouch. However, they will be able to work Android apps soon.

One question that many startups get asked about their business is, ‘How do you compete with Google.’ Or in this case, Google Translate.

Brian responds, “Google Translate is a machine translation service and you couldn’t really ship a quality product with machine translation in it. It is quite obvious to the end user that it is not a human translation. To be fair, just like Ryan Air, it does exactly what says it will on the tin. It’s a very useful tool to view foreign language web sites and actually make sense of them. It does a very good job at that.

“If you are selling something in foreign language your customer would expect to be able to read that with out a problem. We have 400 translators at the moment. They are freelance and work assignment to assignment. Our business is limited in its ability to scale by the need to find more translators. We have inhouse multi-linguists who work to keep the quality high through checking as opposed to doing translation themselves.

“For instance, 3D Heartpro is a medical app. You don’t mess around in terms of translating medical content. It’s the sort of thing that can get you in front of a judge fairly sharpish. For that job we used the highest quality medical translators many of whom were actually doctors.”

“We not only do translation and localization of your words we will do translation and localization of your images. Some of our customers have audio in their games. We would strip the audio out and use and we would have a proper foreign language actor come into our studio, speak the words and then put them back in the game where they should be.

“We offer the same service that a full-size localization company would offer but we do it in such a way the developer doesn’t have to deal with all the different layers and the cost point is reduced as we have eliminated a great number of the intermediate processes.”

Data Mining: Using Predictive Analysis and Social Network Analysis

Data mining is the extraction of information from raw data. It describes the attempt to find hidden patterns within the data and determine what they might mean. Eric Robson leads the Data Mining and Social Networks Analysis Group at the TSSG which is based at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland. It is a small group mainly concentrated on the commercialization of research.

They look at data in two main ways; predictive analysis and social network analysis. The general approach in predictive analysis is in the classification and grouping of users, customers or subscribers.

These tools are tend to be used by large organizations such as supermarket chains and telecoms operators. They are expensive in terms of software and hardware and expensive in terms of the people who need to operate these systems.

Eric explains further, “For instance, a large supermarket has many thousands of customers and many thousands of products to sell. Usually each customer is tracked via their charge card or their club card and we are able to see return visits.

“On day one, a customer might buy bread and some butter. On day three, they buy some more bread but it might not be until day fourteen that they need to buy some more butter. From this simple example we can see how a trend or a purchasing pattern can be determined.”

In telecoms, another area where there are a great many users and frequent and variable engagement with the services or products provided customers are profiled in terms of their usage.

“Once we have a profile we can see when things go wrong or are not working as they should be. It can help us with fault detection or fraud detection.

“One of the major security risks is SIM-cloning. Where someone can get hold of your SIM card, clone it, and then make calls using your account. Suddenly on your bill you see a whole lot of calls going out to countries you never actually called.”

Knowing what constitutes a normal pattern of behaviour for a given customer allows the system to alert its administrators of unusual or anomalous activity.

In a previous article we gave a brief overview of the social network analysis. We described it as a way of measuring how we are connected. The Data Mining Group at the TSSG have an interest in making this technology more useful to the general business community.

“In social network analytics people are constantly passing messages to each other. From a marketing perspective we can look at who we should be targeting to send our viral message out to for further [propagation.] Who are the biggest distributors of content? It may not necessarily be commercial entities. It could be; bloggers, people with very active Facebook accounts, people with very active Twitter accounts.

“In terms of product, we can start identifying who are the key influencers. Say, I wanted to sell something like running shoes and this guy is a marathon runner and blogs about them. If we know that people listen to him then the running shoe manufacturer can start targeting this guy. ‘Here’s a free pair of running shoes. Tell us what you think of them.’ More importantly, ‘Tell the world what you think of them.’

“If someone is blogging about something we want to understand exactly what they are blogging about and what their opinion was on that subject. Did they like it or not like it? To extent did they like it or not like it?”

These tools end to be used by large organizations such as supermarket chains and telecoms operators. They are expensive in terms of software and hardware and expensive in terms of the people who need to operate these systems.

Eric says, “We decided to see if we could make it applicable to the SME, small and medium sized enterprise, market. We took these techniques and put them into our cloud based system.

“We will host the infrastructure and host the knowledge and techniques that people need and we will put it up as a pay as you go service.”

As yet, this service is not live but the Data Mining and Social Networks Analysis Group are still able to bring their knowledge and expertise to the marketplace. In an arrangement called an Innovation Partnership setup in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland they are working with a Dublin based company called Datafusion International. They write software for law enforcement agencies such as The Gardai – the Irish police service and Homeland Security in the US.

Each of these agencies has a number of data sources. They are able to access data from such things as the land registry to determine the owner of a property or the vehicle registry to determine ownership of a car, van or some other vehicle. Also, they have access to revenue records and court transcripts.

These are all discrete sources of data that the law enforcement agencies but the only problem is that they are all separately housed in their own departments such as the departments of justice, the departments of transport, the ports authorities and so on. However, there is no linkup between them.

Eric explains, “ What they said to us was, ‘We have all this data. We would like to try and link people together. We would like to see a social network map of everybody in the system.

“So, we took all that data and started discerning relationships between them. If two people had the same address we would put a link between them. If they came in on the same flight we would also be able to indicate that there was a link between them

“We are using a product called Gate from the University of Sheffield. It is a term extraction engine. We can look at any kind of news article or any piece of free text and it will parse that text. It will tokenize it and break it up into different parts of speech in terms of what’s a noun and what’s a verb. But more importantly it will identify the names mentioned in the article and who are they mentioned in relation with.”

“We don’t used linked data technology as yet but we do use fuzzy logic. The software is designed to be used by trained individuals within the various law enforcement agencies. Although the program can identify different persons or the same person in different places there will be a human presence involved in the process of checking and verifying identities.”

Robots: Learning to Learn from Their Environments

University College Dublin are to be involved in a European collaborative project which will see the fostering of self-learning robot ecologies. These environments, in which robots will learn from each other and work together to find efficient solutions to various problems, are part of the RUBICON (Robotic UBIquitous COgnitive Network) project.

Mauro Dragone of the CLARITY Centre, a partnership between University College Dublin, Dublin City University and Tyndall National Institute, Cork. is the scientific leader of this project. He explains that, “The concept is that robotic devices are becoming more diffuse in everyone’s home, and we see value in making those appliances, those sensors, actuators, mobile robots work together”.

Mauro emphasises that they have a broad view of the idea of what a robot is, “We include, of course, mobile robots, but also static sensors or actuators, even automated home appliances.

“If these robots work on their own we don’t see much value, but if they work in a co-ordinated fashion they are able to achieve services that are useful in a variety of applications.”

Healthcare is a particular area of emphasis for the project, but Mauro hopes that RUBICON will see even more practical applications in the home.

“Think about service robots that help the elderly to live more autonomously in their own home but also robots in industry. For example, imagine the case of an automatic vacuum cleaner that would avoid cleaning when any of the inhabitants are home after receiving information from the home alarm system. If the home alarm system co-operates with the automatic vacuum cleaner they provide a service that is of more value than just an automatic vacuum cleaner and a home alarm system as independent entities.”

With many robotics projects, the expense involved outweighs the practical benefits of the technology. Mauro points out that, “It is the need for human configuration, for human programming that is impacting on the cost of these solutions. But if they can learn automatically, autonomously, they will be much cheaper to deploy in a variety of applications.

“Think about the Rubicon project as being something like the movie Avatar. We’ll achieve something like that for robots. Robots will be able to share their knowledge, not only by exchanging data but also by learning in a distributive fashion. How we achieve this is by creating distributive neural networks.

“A robot will enter this Rubicon, this intelligent robotic ecology, by sharing wireless connections with the other entities in this ecology. Once a device learns something they learn to operate in a co-operative fashion and they support each other’s learning.

“The idea is that we deploy one of these systems in a specific application, and the system will learn to adapt to the environment and to the application, basically learning to operate more efficiently without requiring human supervision, which will be one of the main achievements that we’ll target in this project.”

The idea of robots learning independently has been the subject of science fiction for decades, and the source of much paranoia, typified in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Stepford Wives and The Terminator. The RUBICON projects are not, notes Mauro, that far advanced. They are, he says, ‘goal oriented.’

“Basically these ecologies will have a specific goal, so they are deployed to solve a problem, to help the elderly, to transport medicines from a room to another room in the hospital. Actually, a transporter application is one of the tests where we will evaluate our technology.

“They will learn how to do their job, the job they are programmed for, but they will learn to do it more efficiently, in an independent, autonomous fashion.

“They still achieve the job they were programmed to do, but the fact is, they will do it faster, they will do it better, and they will do it in a co-ordinated fashion without interfering with other human activities.

“They will do what they are told to do, but they will do it better without requiring constant human supervision and programming. That’s the main target of the project. So we don’t see them as taking over any time soon, you know?”

RUBICON is a three-year project, funded by the European Commission, commencing in April 2011.
 Mauro Dragone is a co-principal investigator, project manager and team leader at the CLARITY Centre for SensorWeb Technologies in Ireland and a postdoctoral researcher at UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics.

IMS: How Telecoms is Becoming More Like the Internet

Next Generation Network (NGN) technology is a term that refers to the transition from the traditional technical organisation of telecoms services to one that is based on IP, the Internet Protocol. The TSSG who are based in the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland have been researching and prototyping the technology that is going towards building the telecoms architecture of the immediate future. This new type of telecoms structure is referred to as IMS, the IP Multimedia System.

The older system, Signaling System 7, (SS7) was a well standardized, elaborate, complex set of protocols for building telephony functions such as carrier pre-select services, computer-telephony integration and pre-pay. But the application and service model had some big weaknesses.

As can be seen in the main picture, it was vertically integrated so a developer or innovator was limited to building a specific application on top of a specific subscriber data layer with specific media functions and a specific network interface. As a consequence, there were lots of different protocol variants for each kind of application.

Shane Dempsey is an NGN architect at the TSSG and he explains further, “ It meant that the only people who could run a telecommunication service were network operators working with system integrators.

“It was a massive system integrations exercise because you had to know, for example, lots of different variants for the protocol for a particular equipment vendor for this network operator who has a speciality for this equipment and so on. The question becomes, “How do I make this work?” This led to really expensive development life-cycles.

“IMS is not child’s play but it is a lot less hassle. Because it’s a lot less hassle there are API layers being built on top of it.”

IMS has a horizontal model for its architecture as opposed to a vertical one. This allows for a common database for subscriber data and common media function capabilities. Telecoms architecture starts to look a lot more like internet architecture.

One of the many reasons for shifting to this new telecoms structure was a realization that the success of web based applications, particularly those based on social networks, on the internet implied that there were similar opportunities to be exploited in the area of mobile technology.

Shane points out that, “Previously, telecoms vendors didn’t believe that they needed additional ways of storing information like the contacts that you have, your directory of friends, the presence that you have or your dynamic information like your location. It didn’t really occur to them that you needed that.”

However, creating that functionality in SS7 was difficult because of the inherent complexities. However, the move to IMS is not necessarily straightforward.

When you move to a mobile internet it becomes necessary to move to a packet based network. Once you are doing that you might as well have IP switching in the core.

Shane goes on to say, “IP in the core network isn’t a huge deal because the internet is IP at the core. But pushing IP out out into the network is a big deal because previously it was based on time slot technologies. If you are making calls, voice is time slot orientated. [By means of Time Division Multiplexing — TDM.] So moving to IP is a major effort in terms of standardization.

“Packet switching is a kind of a colloquialism that internet scientists use. The packets aren’t of a fixed size but the data can be divided up into packets and you don’t necessarily get the same throughput at every second. So you can get a voice traffic coming through plus internet traffic where people are sharing all sorts of files, documents, audio, video, etc., which are being sent over the same connection.”

By having foundation layers that are common to all parts of the system a great many applications of which some are in some form of existence today become easier to build and easier to deploy.

For businesses, for example, it will be easier to have:

  • Corporate Directory: You can have your own business contacts on your mobile phone but it is now possible to access your companies own directory if it is active.
  • CRM: Applications will be easier to build. It will be much easier to be able to see who is on or off the grid and where they are.
  • Communication Log: For corporate audit services.

For more general use the Rich Communication Suite offers functions on our mobile handsets that we are familiar with from the internet such as:

  • Calls enriched with multimedia sharing.
  • Video call and conferencing.
  • Hi Definition quality voice calls.
  • Enhanced messaging.
  • Mobile and desktop convergence: All the operators are making web service APIs available for the IMS platforms. This will allow third party developers so build applications that can set up conference calls, pull presence information and pull location information and so on.

As Shane states, “We’ll effectively be using internet communications everywhere.”

Shane has a slideset that you may view for further information.

Zolk C: Using Mobile Pervasive Services to Enhance User Experience

Zolk C is a company that provides interpretative guides by means of handheld devices for exhibitions, museums and tour sites. It can be used wherever there is a need to enhance a visitor’s experience to a given venue. Zolk C was spun out from the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in 2008 and through an ongoing innovation partnership the TSSG is driving the Zolk C technology.

John McGovern is a researcher in the area of mobile pervasive services and is Head of Technical Projects at Zolk C.

Pervasive services allow services to be seamlessly available anywhere at anytime and in any format. Pervasive is defined or utilized under a number of themes:

  • Location
  • Context: Which can be defined in three ways:
    • Where the user is
    • Who the user is with
    • What resources are available to the user
  • Sensors
  • Self-learning: Context definition and context interaction based on the ability to self-learn.

Up until recently if you went to a museum or a tourist site you could be provided with some sort of device that could only give you some audio to help guide you around the location. What a user would expect from an interpretative tour running on a mobile pervasive service would be far richer and far more extensive than just simple audio.

The National Trust for Scotland wanted revamp the visitor experience to one of their major sites of national importance, the place where the Battle of Culloden took place. They wanted to mark out locations on the battlefield that were of special interest. However for reasons of sensitivity and aesthetics they didn’t want to clutter up the site with placards and signs.

Here is a video of the technological solution to this brief that Zolk C were able to provide:

John explains further, “Context is one of the key drivers behind pervasive services. Every action and interaction that the user has on the device and with the device is monitored and logged and is being fed into the engine. So we can use this to profile and model what users are doing and what users aren’t doing.

“In that engine as well we have built a positioning algorithm that allows us to fine grain positioning indoors. We are able to take multiple sensors and augment the location information that we are able to get from that and provide a more accurate pinpoint of where you are.

“What we are then able to do for Zolk C is enable them to layer the content and rich media http://and%20image%20files%20for%20example on top of that positional information. They can then provide a bespoke interface for their client which coupled with our location engine is a really powerful tool.

“From that we can predict things. If a user has gone through a museum and has spent the morning looking at the armoury section and as a consequence missed something else in the exhibit we can raise an alert and say something like, “Did you know there was another armoury section behind door B?” for instance. We are able to tailor the experience to individuals. This is real data in real-time that would be relevant to the tour provider.”

A WiFi framework has been added which gives us the benefit of real-time communications. Previously to upgrade a device it would need to be plugged into a PC and synced. Using WiFi all the devices can be upgraded simultaneously in about twenty minutes if they are all switched on and working.

The ability to communicate leads to the possibility of networks forming and from networks communities can form. John explains, “A big thing that is coming down the road is the ability for tour operators or exhibitors to add communities and by allowing users to think they are part of a community it really increases the traction to the website.

“If you were at Culloden say, and you took pictures of your family you would be able to load them into the Culloden community site and then you can share those pictures with other communities that you may be part of such as friends or co-workers. We have been able to allow them to do that quite easily.

“We can do device to device communications and device to server communications as well. For example, if you were to spot a deer on the lawn on your tour you could broadcast out to other devices, “Come look, there’s a deer on the lawn.”

Mobile pervasive services making use of information derived from context – who the user is, who the user is with and what resources are available to the user – will become a tradable commodity for service providers going forward.

As John points out, “To be able to take the relevant data in terms of context, provided targeted advertising based on that content directly to the users will definitely be worth a lot of money.”

TSSG: Building The Future

The Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) was formed in 1996 by Dr. Willie Donnelly and is based on the West Campus of the Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland. It is a public research organisation and the focus of its work is in the area of telecoms and internet technologies. TSSG engages in research and works with industry as well.

A unique aspect of the setup is that the TSSG competes for every cent that it brings in, and its funding is mainly dependent on the winning of tenders that are a part of the European funding framework and collaborating and partnering with other organisations.

Barry Downes, Executive Director – Innovation and Commercialisation, describes TSSG in this way, “We see ourselves very much as a European organisation. We see ourselves competing for collaborative tenders and working with the leading companies across Europe.”

Very often organisations end up collaborating with the very people they were competing against for given projects. But the benefit of being able to switch from competitor to collaborator is that, apart from requiring a flexible attitude and the ability to switch focus with some agility, it creates a sense of connectivity between different organisations and their similar or not-so-similar interests.

Apart from the financial benefits, the opportunity is there to grow an extensive knowledge base across a given number of areas that a lone operator would not be able to accrue very easily, if at all.

“Everybody’s got to compete to win these tenders, but they also have to collaborate with top-class organisations across Europe.” Over the years, the TSSG has worked with every major telecomms company in Europe, every major operator and all the major equipment providers.

But it is not just about Europe: through its commercial arm, 3CS – the Centre for Converged Services, the TSSG also runs programs such as “Innovation Partnerships.” As Barry explains, “It is a program where we will work on direct, collaborative R&D programs with a company where Enterprise Ireland will part fund that work and we will put our staff in at cost.

“What we are doing is leveraging knowledge and technologies that we have to directly work for an Irish company that can improve their product line or enhance their competitiveness in different ways.

“We do research, we do development and then we give the technology to the company. If you are a startup, your preference is going to be assignment obviously. I think this is reflecting the needs of startups. If you’re a company and you engage with us, you want to own the tech at the end. You don’t want to licence it. So we spent quite a bit of time working through our Technology Transfer Office developing standardised agreements so the tech can just be assigned out.

But the specialised knowledge and experience that the TSSG has is not only for established companies. In conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, they participate in the “Innovation Vouchers” scheme aimed at the smaller, newer companies and startups.

“The vouchers program is a way of getting Irish SMEs, small and medium-sized enterprises, to engage with public research organisations.

“If you run a startup, you can go to Enterprise Ireland and get a voucher for €5k or get a matched voucher for €10k and you come to us and say, ‘you’re in my area, I like to give you this voucher, I have a small project that I’d like you to do for me.’

“It’s a great program as it creates the opportunity for a small company to be able to work with a research organisation where we can deliver quickly and where they can see immediate value.

“We try and work like a consulting organisation for Irish industry. We want the companies to get the value of working with us, to leverage our expertise and get the IP at the end of it.

But there are major benefits for the TSSG as well. In the knowledge economy, the acquisition of knowledge is key:

  • Through the vouchers program, TSSG is able to engage and learn what startups and small companies are looking for and need.
  • Through the Investment Partners program, the same learning opportunities are available with the added element of short-to-medium term planning that does not always exist with smaller companies.
  • Through its collaboration with its European partners and their need to supply large scale solutions and innovations, the TSSG can learn as much as anyone what the future really holds.

This ability to directly observe and engage via partnership and collaboraton in a vertical plane from the very small companies to the very large, combined with being able to take a longitudinal look into the future at whatever development timeline that is most useful to the need at hand, allows the TSSG to have a unique and encompassing view of the telecoms and internet industry that very few organistions of any sort have.

“If we want to look at what the future of services is in four or five years time, we need to track a couple of key trends that are happening in the market that are having an influence both on our work and the industry as well:”

  • What’s happening with phones, operating systems, development tools and mobile apps.
  • The move from circuit switch calls to everything being IP.
  • IMS technologies.
  • Pervasive services: services that use location, context or sensors.

NB: We will be covering all these subject areas in greater depth over the next few weeks.

The European programs are the backbone of the TSSG, and along with the pure research funding partners such as Science Foundation Ireland, a central part of the organisation’s heritage forms a significant part of the work taking place there. But there is a strong and clear focus on serving the greater Irish business community as well.

“The goal is to leverage all of the knowledge we have in the TSSG, all the work we do in the TSSG, to work with Irish industry through those programs: vouchers, partners, contract research and consulting services for example. There are all these projects that Irish industry can interact with us on.

“We have a practical group that can engage with industry and solve real problems – implementing those solutions and also pushing the boundaries a bit.

“One of the key things we are focused on is trying to support and help Irish industry. We try and help them leverage knowledge that we have brought in from Europe or through international experts from SFI and do practical work for them.”

We would like to thank the TSSG for hosting our stay in Waterford and allowing our correspondent to have such comprehensive access to the people and projects that were made available to him.

Crowdfunding: Creative Financing through Social Media

Crowdfunding is a means of raising money for projects through social media. Using crowdfunding, a large number of people can individually contribute small amounts of money to finance a project.

Generally, a project creator identifies an amount of funding needed for a specified project and individuals pledge varying sums of money to generate the amount required. It is particularly useful for projects that may not qualify for traditional methods of funding.

Kickstarter is based in New York and was founded in April 2009 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler. It specialises in providing a platform to generate funding for projects falling into one of its 15 creative categories. In order to launch a project on the website, a number of guidelines must be met. Some of which are:

  • The project must be finite and not be simply for an ongoing enterprise i.e. it must be to create a new album rather than a record label.
  • The project creator must set a funding limit and a time limit (between 1 and 90 days) to reach this financial goal.
  • The project must have reached its monetary target within the time specified or the money pledged by individuals reverts back to that individual.

When a donation is made to a project, it is held in an escrow account until the project time expires. At this point the money is either returned to the donor (if the funding goal is not reached) or transferred to the project creator (if successful). If the funding goal is exceeded before the deadline, the project can continue to accumulate funding up until the time limit expires.

The project creator must also set awards to incentivize individuals to donate. In 2009 Emily Richmond wanted to raise funds to sail around the world. To tempt individuals to pledge money, she offered the gift of an origami sailboat for a $5 pledge or a coconut for $125.

Kickstarter charge a fee of 5% on funds raised for successful projects but nothing is charged if a funding goal is not reached. Payments on the Kickstarter site are handled by Amazon Payments and they also charge a fee of between 3% and 5% on the amount pledged to successfully funded projects.

Currently, Kickstarter is only available to project creators based in the US. Because payments are handled by Amazon it can only release payments to creators with a US bank account, address and state-issued ID/drivers licence.

MART is a non-profit visual arts organisation that was established in Galway in 2007 to showcase emerging artists. It has a US base and is currently seeking crowdfunding for a planned US exhibition on Irish immigration called ‘Invite or Reject.’

Matthew Nevin Artistic Director of MART, is using Kickstarter to raise $5,000 for this exhibition because, “…as a website it’s amazing. They’re really nice people. They don’t accept anyone that’s the thing. There’s a procedure to submit your project in. They scrutinise it a good bit and ask you to tweak things. It goes to their members to decide if it’s going to go up or not because they don’t want a load of projects to go up that are not getting funded.”

On launching MART’s project on Kickstarter, Matthew says, “It was really hard. It was probably about 2 weeks of constant work. They want the text right, they pretty much make you do a video. You don’t have to do a video but it’s frowned upon if you don’t. They want you be unique.”

According to Matthew, “As a website Kickstarter is probably the best crowdfunding website you could use because it’s so clean and it is really straightforward and they answer all the questions.”

For emerging talent wishing to take advantage of crowdfunding in Ireland, a new enterprise called Fund it is due to launch at the end of February. Fund it is the creation of Business to Arts, an organisation that brokers relationships between business and the arts.

Fund it is designed to crowdfund a wide range of creative projects. It will accept projects from the entire island of Ireland. Pledges can be made globally in both sterling and euro.

Business to Arts CEO, Stuart McLaughlin, says “it’s an all-or-nothing approach. You have to reach the total. Looking internationally at various models, not just Kickstarter, we found that the all-or-nothing approach is a motivation for the project creators and is also critical in terms of projects being made.”

Fund it believes that social media networks are key to the success of crowdfunding projects. Stuart says “we had been sitting down with various organisations that had been strong in terms of developing their social media network and saying to them – there must be something in this – you’ve got 5,000 friends on Facebook but what does this mean? At the very best it means that you’ve got a very significant portion of people that have bought into you and what you’re doing. At worst, it means nothing actually. Fundamentally though, we believe that kind of network means something.”

Stuart advises potential project creators that “it’s largely social media driven and people need to put a substantial amount of time and energy in making sure that they develop a following amongst twitter and that they have a good basis of Facebook supporters. That’s the primary way of getting the word out on it.”

Marketing your project outside of the crowdfunding sites is a critical part of the process as Stuart explains, “over and above that, what you would say to project creators is that, if for example, somebody is making an album, they need to be working to get onto the pages of Hotpress to be talking about the fact that they are trying to fund this album. When you look internationally, and at other artists that have used other crowdfunding platforms elsewhere, those sorts of things become very significant in terms of attracting people who are outside your network currently.”

Worky: Career Development Through Social Networking

Worky is the latest project from Ray Nolan, one of Ireland’s most successful Internet entrepreneurs. He set up in 1999 with three other investors. The company was sold ten years later for a multi-million dollar return on the initial $150,000 investment.

Ray then set about establishing Worky, which is a social network for employers and employees. Users input their details and skills into their Worky profile, and the site then recommends jobs which are applicable to that user’s skillset. As Ray says, “The reality is you’re not getting found with a paper CV in your back pocket. With something like a Worky profile you can. It’s an industry that needs to change.”

So what makes Worky different from traditional job sites?

“Take Monster which is a pure job site. The problem with job sites is that they’re fairly pointless. They are, I would argue, not necessarily good for the individual searching for a job, nor for the publisher of jobs. Because if you’re a small or medium enterprise and you’re publishing a job ad, you might find yourself on page three of the search results. No-one’s ever going to see it.”

How does Worky compare to Linkedin?

“Linkedin is much more our territory, it’s a social network for business. It’s very lofty in terms of its positioning so it’s very much for senior management or business development people, people who have to market themselves or their companies a lot. It’s very much about the network.

“In other words, I go into work, I work in a team of three people doing whatever I do and I go home. My work network is the people I meet every day, I don’t have to be on any website to see them, and I get my instructions from my boss, and I do my job.

“Our view was that there has to be somewhere in the middle, somewhere between Facebook and Linkedin that is inclusive rather than exclusive.

“Linkedin’s very exclusive — you have to be in that tier one demographic. Also the site is a closed network so you don’t get found on Google or any other search engine, so it’s a closed environment.

“If you Google my name and you find a reference to me on Linkedin, their optimisation within Google would be very poor because they only care about getting you to use their network. If you’re not in a network onn Linkedin then you have no real point to be there.”

So how is Worky different?

“Worky is a business network; much of the functionality is the same as Linkedin. We would argue that it’s positioning is not as lofty so it applies to people from entry level, first job, or even graduates, right up to CEO’s so it’s much more inclusive in terms of the range of people that have relevance within Worky.

“It is also an open network so you do get found on Google or Linkedin, and it’s your profile that gets found, it’s not a link to get in to Linkedin or another site, it’s all about you, so you’re or whatever, and that is your profile, it’s not some convoluted URL.

“It’s nice and clean, you can tell people where you can be found, so it’s not exclusive either.

“Also the job element is much more built into Worky. While there is a network, it’s not mandatory to partake in it. You might just say, look I work in a team of three people, I don’t need to connect or link in to anybody, but I do deserve a place to showcase my skills, to showcase my talents, to put my CV online so that I might get a better job.”

Accessibility seems to be a big part, in that you can go in, not be part of a big network, and still find opportunities?

‘Yes, the point is that employment is built in to Worky right from day one, so if you build your skills or build a profile on Worky, you can press one button and send a PDF of your CV effectively to anybody.

“It’s the kind of place where I can showcase my talents, where we’ve automatically matched jobs against you so, we’ve got about 2.5 million jobs on the site. If you put in your skills on your profile you won’t go searching for jobs like you would on a jobs site, you get automatically presented with jobs that match your skillset.”

What technology do you use in matching user’s skillsets to jobs?

“The reality is we use word sequences and word pairs that are appropriate. If you’re a software developer we’ll also match you to jobs like programmer and so on and so forth. So it’s pretty straightforward stuff; we can only match you with the data that we get from the people that have the jobs to give. Typically the matching is very good.”

Worky has members in 150 countries, but acknowledges that the company has not yet made a big push outside Ireland, citing profile membership at, “sub-100,000 for sure, but ask me in six months!” Citing his success with HostelWorld, Ray sees no reason why such success can’t be repeated, “That’s the scale of our ambition.”

“People typically in Linkedin world are collecting connections as if they’re meaningful, but they’re not, they’re less and less meaningful as you get outside what is a typical business network. While I might have met 5,000 people during my business career of 20 years, how many of those am I going to call? Not that many is the short answer. So we feel that with Worky we’ve got a Facebook kind of feel to it.

“We absolutely believe in the separation of your Facebook life and your Worky life. Because if you don’t then you run the risk that someone finds something on your Facebook profile, where they’ll see that, “gosh, he also likes to dance naked on bars at parties.” So the separation between your work life and social life has to be there.

“There’s no reason why you can’t build a career network or a career place to extol your virtues and your talents. You have a right to do that, everybody has.”