The Six Questions I’ve Been Most Frequently Asked About ecars and the BMW i3

faq-ecar-article

In my last post, I gave a little bit of context to my Great Electric Drive by talking about the history of electric cars and where things are going in the future (with an Internet of Electric Vehicles). I’ve been driving the BMW i3 for about a month now, so I thought it was about time that I gathered together a set of the questions that I am asked most frequently – there are six! Some of my answers relate to the i3 but also to ecars in general…

How far does the ecar go?

how-far-can-you-go

For the BMW i3 I am driving, the ‘pure electric’ range is about 130 km, but that may be increased by 20 km or so if you enable either ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode (which limits speed and optimises ‘coasting’), or may be decreased through more aggressive driving (like any car). I say ‘pure electric’ because the model I have also includes what BMW calls a range extender, which is a small 650cc motorcycle engine whose sole function is to charge the battery when it is nearly depleted. This can add an additional 100 km to the range (giving a total of 230 km or more). Also, advances in battery technology mean that this range will increase as future ecar development continues.

Is it fast?

how-fast-does-it-go

For some reason, I’ve noted that there is a general perception that electric cars are slow, and that they must take a while to get going. In fact, the opposite is true – I’ve never driven a car that is so responsive, and when you go back to an ICE (internal combustion engine) car, it can feel very sluggish in comparison. The BMW i3 delivers 250 Nm of torque, which powers it to go from 0 to 100 km/h in about 7 or 8 seconds. The top speed is about 150 km/h (on a German autobahn!). It’s fast.

How much does it cost to buy?

car-price

On the road, after availing of a €5000 SEAI grant and another €5000 in VRT relief, the BMW i3 (without a range extender) costs about €34000. Being a premium marque, the BMW i3 costs more than its compatriots, but considering the next-generation lightweight carbon fibre materials used and the amount of electrical and electronic technology that they’ve packed into it, it compares well. It also has an eight-year battery warranty. (The Nissan Leaf is about €10000 less.)

How long does it take to charge?

how-long-to-charge

I now have a charge point installed at home, and I usually plug in the ecar every one or two days depending on how low the battery is. It normally takes between three and five hours to bring the battery back up to full, but if it is fully depleted it could take a bit longer (an overnight job). My home charge point is an AC charger, the same as the majority of the public charge points around the country, but public charge points have a much higher power output – 22 kW as opposed to the 3.6 kW I have at home – and can therefore charge faster (as low as one or two hours in some cases). Also, the ESB have rolled out 67 DC fast chargers around the country, which can charge up compatible ecars in just 30 minutes. There are two types here: CHAdeMO and CCS, but they are now also installing dual-type DC fast chargers. If you’re really stuck, there is a backup option of a cable with a three-pin plug, but these are not really recommended and can take about 33% longer to charge.

How much does it cost to charge it?

cost-to-charge

At present, charging at public charge points is free, so you simply swipe a card provided by ESB ecars to charge up. The BMW i3’s battery capacity is roughly 20 kilowatt-hours, which means that at a cost of just under 20 cents per kilowatt-hour it costs less than €4 to charge on a home charger. Estimates are that it costs about €3.25 to drive 100 kilometres, and this compares to about €9 for an ICE (€1.50 per litre, at six litres per 100 km). Bear in mind that if you have night-rate electricity installed at home, this would be even cheaper.

Can you drive cross country in it?

city-to-city

The ecar I have has done trips from Dublin to Galway, Galway to Limerick, and Limerick to Dublin on a single electric charge with the range extender kicking in to complete the journey (its nine-litre tank takes about €13.50 to fill). But if you’re going any further than that, you’ll need to charge up. I live in Connemara, so on my Dublin to home trip, I charged up in Enfield for an hour to make sure I’d have enough to get me home. Some of the i3 ecars have a fast charge option, which means you can charge to at least 80% in around 20 to 30 minutes (using a CCS-type DC fast charger). This will be great for me when I go to Dublin next because there are CCS-type DC fast chargers in Ballinasloe and Kilbeggan (here’s a handy map from the ESB of all the CCS-type chargers in Ireland).

 

John_BMWi3 2

Apart from the answers to the questions I’m asked, the physical ecar itself changes perceptions because the BMW i3 looks fantastic. During the past few weeks that I’ve had it, there have been many, many pictures taken of it and with it. The opposing coach doors and lack of central pillars (because of the carbon fibre reinforced body) are very eye catching, and I’ve even seen someone recording a video of the i3 from the car following behind me as I drove home one day (it was the passenger you’ll be glad to hear).

The good news is that you don’t need to follow me around with a camera phone to find out how I am getting on with the ecar. We will be recording a video shortly where I will give you a full tour of the i3, and you can also follow my adventures on Twitter @myelectricdrive.

From the 19th Century Electric Car to an Internet of Electric Vehicles

I am writing this article from Dallas in Texas, a state that I assumed would have the lowest stats with respect to electric vehicle infrastructure and potential demand because of my preconceptions of JR Ewing and crude oil production there. In fact, Texas is the state with the second highest number of public charging points in the US (1600 of them in fact), and the charmingly-named Union of Concerned Scientists recently listed Texas as being one of the top states for electric vehicle efficiency.

You may also be surprised to hear that Ireland now has over 1200 public charge points between Northern Ireland and the Republic, or one for every 5333 people. That’s actually pretty high, because the top state in the US in terms of electric vehicle infrastructure, California, has one charge point for about every 7500 people (Texas has one for every 16500 people).

Electric vehicles themselves – EVs, ecars, call them what you will – have come a long way since their origins in the 19th century.

The first practical electric car (with a rechargeable battery) was built in 1884 by England’s Thomas Parker, although early electric vehicles were made in the 1830s by the American Thomas Davenport and Scotland’s Robert Anderson. Parker’s electric car is shown on the right.

130 years after Parker’s car, I’ve been fortunate enough to become one of the ESB ecar ambassadors for the Great Electric Drive of 2014, and even better, to drive one of the most technologically-advanced electric cars out there, the BMW i3.

It’s so advanced that from here in Texas I can load up a “BMW i Remote” app on my phone to see where it is currently located, check its state of charge, and even remotely turn on the air conditioning when I touch down in Shannon Airport. I can also send it a destination from my laptop, which will instantly appear in the navigation system. It won’t drive me there just yet, but you can use your imagination…

You may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), where everything from your home thermostat to your fridge can potentially be connected to the Internet, allowing you to find out more about what’s going on at home when you’re in work (or vice versa), but also allowing you to control things remotely and in a smart, automated fashion – i.e. sensing plus actuation.

We’re now seeing an Internet of Vehicles (IoV), or even an Internet of Electric Vehicles, where you don’t need to worry about returning to your car prematurely if you’ve plugged it in to charge, because you can now check and see how it’s going from the comfort of your own smartphone. Or if you’re worried that you’ve left the doors open, you can check the locked status and even remotely lock them if they are indeed open.

The i3 basically has a mobile data connection built into the car – making it part of this Internet of Vehicles. That same connection also makes it possible for rescue services to be dispatched to your GPS location if an accident occurs and an airbag deploys, or if you manually pull an SOS switch above the rear-view mirror. Real-time traffic information is displayed via a red/yellow/green (slow-moving/medium/fast) line beside the road on the navigation system, using data obtained from the mobile network, smartphone apps, vehicle fleets and police reports.

Based on the current state of charge, the smartphone app can also show you the range you can drive the ecar in all directions, using its current location and the roads nearby. It is fun showing people how I can monitor (and control) the i3 through the app – even from a different continent – but many of the questions I get asked about ecars are much more practical, and I’ll cover some of these in my next entry.

For now, I’ll just say that it’s fascinating as an electronic engineer to observe such a convergence of technologies in these new ecars: high-voltage batteries, mobile devices, internet connectivity, regenerative braking, remote control apps, multimedia storage, voice recognition, fast charging, touch-sensitive input mechanisms, sensor information systems, and more.

It’s an exciting time to edrive.

 

Follow @myelectricdrive on Twitter.

Ireland’s Talented 38 Technology Women 2014

It’s that time of year again where we bring you our third annual list of 38 talented Irish and Ireland-based technology women, all of whom are driving the tech and/or startup scenes in Ireland, the US, and around the world. (See also our lists from 2013 and 2012.) Let’s get started!

Alana James

DoctoralNet

LinkedIn | Twitter @DoctoralNet

E. Alana James is the founder and CEO of DoctoralNet, a multimedia delivery system for PhD students that personalises the learning experience so that they can complete their research and dissertations. She was previously a consulting professor at the Colorado Technical University, and holds a Doctorate in Education (web-based technologies) from the Teachers College of Columbia University. Based in Cork, Alana is also the author of three books from Sage Publishing on action research and successful dissertation writing, and has received five faculty excellence awards from JIU.

Amber Brown

Upfront Analytics

LinkedIn

Amber Brown is the founder and product/strategy lead at Upfront Analytics, a company that delivers timely market intelligence by mining responses from specially designed game play in mobile apps. She has worked as a senior research scientist at Walt Disney, running a large research group for the company that leveraged technology to positively affect consumer behaviour (and the bottom line). Upfront Analytics is based in Dublin, and Amber also holds qualifications in Music and Maths, Organisational Behaviour and Development, City and Regional Planning, and Experimental Psychology.

Andreea Wade

Brandalism

LinkedIn | Twitter @brandalisms

Andreea Wade is the founder of Brandalism, a startup strategy and product development agency, and also the founder of AskATon, a series of female-friendly events focused on entrepreneurship. She lectured on digital product management at Digital Skills Academy, mentored for NDRC, Wayra and New Frontiers, organised major concerts and festivals, and founded a national music magazine. Andreea is an organiser of the Dublin Startup Weekend, co-organiser of the Creative Mornings Dublin breakfast series, and a member of the Women in Technology and Science (WITS) executive team.

Ann O’Dea

Silicon Republic

LinkedIn | Twitter @AnnODeaSR

Ann O’Dea is the CEO, co-founder and editor-at-large of Silicon Republic, Ireland’s top online tech publisher, and creator of their Women Invent campaign that promotes the role of women in STEM. With interests in leadership, management and entrepreneurship, she was co-founder and director of Business and Leadership Ltd. and editor-in-chief of the Irish Director magazine they published. Ann is a member of the Institute of Directors in Ireland as well as a fellow of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, and holds a both a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Arts from University College Dublin.

Anna Scally

KPMG

LinkedIn | Twitter @annascally_kpmg

Anna Scally is a tax partner and head of KPMG’s Technology, Media and Telecoms practice, and she also leads their Centre of Excellence for Emerging Technology Companies and Innovative Startups. She has worked for KPMG since 2000, and has served as a member of the Innovation Taskforce (and its implementation group) and on the board for the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. Anna has spoken and participated at many tech events including F.ounders, the Web Summit and START San Francisco, and has a BComm in Commerce and Accounting from University College Dublin.

Brenda O’Connell

Twitter

LinkedIn | Twitter @BrendaOConnell

Brenda O’Connell is the director and head of business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at microblogging giant Twitter, where she has worked since the beginning of 2014. Previously, she was the director of partnerships and head of business development for Jolicloud, an OS oriented at users of cloud-based services, and was the director of music product dev at Orange. Brenda has also brought the Coder Dojo movement to Paris, as founder of the group there, and has both a Masters and Bachelors in European Studies from the College of Europe and UL respectively.

Carolan Lennon

Eircom

LinkedIn

Carolan Lennon is the managing director of eircom’s wholesale segment, in charge of the division that provides and supports other telecommunications operators with access to the eircom network. She was previously the chief commercial officer for eircom’s consumer and small business segment for nearly three years, and has worked at Vodafone as consumer director and marketing director. Carolan is on the boards of the Irish Management Institute and Idiro Tech, and has an MBA from Trinity College Dublin as well as a degree in Information Technology from University College Dublin.

Caroline Dowling

Flextronics

LinkedIn

Caroline Dowling is the president of integrated network solutions at Flextronics, a large electronics design, fabrication, assembly, and test company with more than 200,000 employees worldwide. She has worked in various president-level roles at Flextronics since 2000, including their NOVO, retail and services divisions, and was previously a vice president at Dii Group (acquired by Flextronics). Based in San Jose and Cork, Caroline is also co-inventor and patent holder for a supply chain management system that aggregates global enterprise data and displays KPIs in a dashboard manager.

Catherine Egan

FanFootage

LinkedIn | Twitter @teabags18

Catherine Egan is head of operations at FanFootage, a crowdsourced concert footage system that replaces fan-recorded audio with high-quality audio to create better fan videos of live music concerts. She was previously PR and social media manager for entertainment.ie, and has worked at Magnum Events, Daft, the St. Patrick’s Festival, the Theatre Forum, and the National Campaign for the Arts. Catherine holds both a Masters in Public Relations from the Dublin Institute of Technology and a BA in English, Political Science and Sociology from the National University of Ireland Galway.

Deirdre O’Leary

IDME

LinkedIn | Twitter @IDMEwristbands

Deirdre O’Leary is founder of IDME, an ID wristband for kids who are separated from their parents/guardians, which recently won a Nimbus Centre prize to connect IDME with the Internet of Things. She has received a US business development award from the Cork Foundation and a bursary from the Cork Chamber of Commerce for IDME, and also appeared as a contestant on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den. Based at Cork Institute of Technology’s Rubicon Centre, Deirdre has over 20 years’ experience working in the sales and recruitment industry, and studied Mathematics and Computer Science at CIT.

Elaine Coughlan

Atlantic Bridge Capital

LinkedIn | Twitter @coughlanelaine

Elaine Coughlan is co-founder and general partner at Atlantic Bridge Capital, a $450M growth equity fund focused on technology investments with offices in Dublin, London, Silicon Valley and China. She was previously co-founder of GloNav, sold to NXP for $110 million, CFO for Parthus, VP of finance and group controller for Iona Technologies, and a senior audit manager for Ernst and Young. Elaine is on the board of Enterprise Ireland, is a director of and investor in FieldAware, Swrve and Sophia, and has qualifications in Corporate Governance, Company Direction, and Accountancy.

Elaine Reynolds

Simteractive

LinkedIn | Twitter @Elaine_Reynolds

Elaine Reynolds is CEO and founder of Simteractive, a developer of casual, free-to-play games for tablets and smartphones that allow players to design, create and manage their own simulated worlds. She was previously a game designer at Lionhead Studios, working on titles such as Fable: The Journey, Fable 3, Milo and Kate, and also developed games for Traveller’s Tales and Star Cave Studios. A past participant on Enterprise Ireland’s iGAP programme, Elaine has an MSc in Computer Games Tech from Abertay Dundee, a HDip in Computer Science from UCD, and a BA in Psychology from TCD.

Fidelma Healy

Gilt

LinkedIn

Fidelma Healy is the COO at the international headquarters of Gilt Groupe in Dublin, one of the leading online fashion and travel retailers in the US which was established just seven years ago. She has worked for a variety of financial, software and ICT firms in director roles, including Postbank Ireland, Standard Life, Cognotec, Novell Ireland Software, Friends First, and System Dynamics. Fidelma also holds both a HDip in Education and a BA in Psychology and Irish from University College Dublin, but retrained in computing and HR after discovering a scarcity in teaching positions.

Fidelma Russo

EMC

LinkedIn | Twitter @FidelmaRusso

Fidelma Russo is a senior vice president in the Enterprise Storage Division at EMC, enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service through the cloud. She has held a series of senior leadership roles, including COO of Sepaton, SVP and general manager for network storage and software at Sun Microsystems, and before that again she was a VP at EMC. A board member of the US National Center for Women and Information Technology, Fidelma holds a Masters in Computer Science from Boston University and a BE in Electrical Engineering from UCC.

Fionnuala Healy

Gotcha Ninjas

LinkedIn | Twitter @fionnualahealy

Fionnuala Healy is the co-founder and CTO of Gotcha Ninjas, a cloud-based social learning rewards platform that encourages positive behaviour, motivates students, and engages parents. She is also the managing director of Garavogue Consulting, a boutique IT and telecoms consultancy, and has worked in technical roles for Capgemini, Hutchinson Whampoa, Ericsson and Sun. She is a Privacy by Design Ambassador for the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, a member of the IEEE, IET and ICS, and holds an MBA, Masters in IT and BE in Telecommunications.

Jenny Brennan

Virtual Office Worx

LinkedIn | Twitter @VOfficeworx

Jenny Brennan is the founder of Virtual Office Worx, providing social media marketing management, bookkeeping, and virtual assistant services to many companies since its inception in 2011. She worked as a social media manager with Team BDS, was event coordinator for the Irish Executives Summit, and held positions at companies including Canada Life, Finavera Renewables and Eventive. Jenny is a past winner of the JCI Mayo outstanding young businessperson award and of the Network Mayo Business Woman of the Year, and she also holds a BA in Tourism and Business from the DBS.

Jill Holtz

Clear Bookings

LinkedIn | Twitter @jill_holtz

Jill Holtz is the founder of ClearBookings, an online private-labeled event ticketing service, and of Mykidstime.ie, an online site for parents in Ireland where they can find and book local kids events. She has consulted and lectured in strategy at the National University of Ireland Galway, and held positions as an analyst with Metis Solutions, Quadstone, RBS Advanta, Oscar Faber TPA and British Gas. She received the Diageo / IMI Sir Charles Harvey Award for outstanding academic achievement while doing her MBA at NUI Galway, and holds an MSc in Operational Research and a BSc in Mathematics.

Julie Cullen

Neelie Kroes Young Advisor

LinkedIn | Twitter @cullej29

Julie Cullen is one of EU Vice President Neelie Kroes’ young advisors, where 24 young people from around Europe were selected to advise the Commissioner on all things digital and technology-related. She also serves as the Irish ambassador for EU Code Week, and is an English, German and European Studies teacher in Drogheda where she is also regularly involved in CoderDojo Drogheda events. Julie holds an MSc in Education/Elearning and Management from Dublin City University, and a BA in English, German and Philosophy from University College Dublin (Erasmus at the University of Trier).

Kathleen McMahon

SoundHound

LinkedIn | Twitter @KatieMc___

Kathleen McMahon is vice president and general manager at SoundHound, a music search and discovery service that allows users to hum, sing or play a track, and that now has over 200 million users. Prior to SoundHound, she was VP for business development at Shazam, was founder and CEO of Westport, worked for Japan Communications Inc., and also for Hibernia Capital Partners in Dublin. She is on the board of directors for wireless charging company uBeam and the board of trustees for Lawrenceville School, and has a BA in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia.

Kathryn O’Donoghue

Google

LinkedIn

Kathryn O’Donoghue is the director of ads policy operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa with Google, where she has previously worked as a director for insights and senior manager for ads. She has held positions including CIO for GE Money South West Europe, having worked at GE from 1997 to 2008, and as a senior manager in IT consulting at both Ernst and Young and PWC. Kathryn was listed by the Women Executive’s Network (WXN) as one of Ireland’s top 25 most powerful women in 2013, and she holds a BA in Economics and Sociology from Trinity College Dublin.

Lynsey Duncan

Freelance

LinkedIn | Twitter @Lynsey_Duncan

Lynsey Duncan is a senior user experience (UX) and service design consultant based in Dublin, whose specialities include workshop facilitation, design research, usability and service design. She worked as lead UX designer at web services company iQ Content for almost four years, and prior to that held usability analyst and insights designer positions at Orange and live|work respectively. Also a speaker at IxDA Dublin events, Lynsey holds an MSc in Business Development and Innovation from the University of Ulster, and a BSc in Innovative Product Design from the University of Dundee.

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill

Accretive Solutions

LinkedIn

Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill is senior vice president for national business outsourcing at Accretive Solutions, where she works with venture-backed startup companies in a consulting CFO capacity. She has consulted with Asana, Airtime, Big Switch Networks, Causes, Path, Quora and Facebook, and is a board member for the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and the Cleantech Open accelerator. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mairtini holds a Fellow Chartered Certified Accountant qualification from the ACCA and graduated from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Business Studies.

Margaret Molloy

Siegel+Gale

LinkedIn | Twitter @MargaretMolloy

Margaret Molloy is CMO for Siegel+Gale, a leading strategic branding firm, where she heads up global marketing, sales and business development using a combination of analytical and creative skills. She has been listed by Forbes as one of the top five most influential CMOs on Twitter and as a must-follow marketing mind, and has been recognised by Irish America magazine in their top 100. An advisory board member for Sightsavers International and a board member for the IIBN, Margaret also holds an MBA from Harvard and a BA in Business and Spanish from the University of Ulster.

Niamh Bushnell

Dublin Commissioner for Startups

LinkedIn | Twitter @NiamhBushnell

Niamh Bushnell is the Dublin Commissioner for Startups, a new position which has been privately funded though the Ryan Family and Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. She recently worked as an entrepreneur in residence at Talent Tech Labs in Manhattan, is CEO and co-founder of the IDIRUS mentor-matching solution, and was also co-founder of TechResources.us. An angel investor at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, as well as a member of the strategic advisory board for Rising Tide Capital, Niamh also has an International Business Degree from UL.

Niamh Shaw

To Space

LinkedIn | Twitter @niamhiepoos

Niamh Shaw is an artist in residence at Cork Institute of Technology and Blackrock Castle Observatory where she is focused on making a new lecture performance piece about space for SFI and ESERO. She regularly contributes to popular science and technology-related topics on national media, and has spoken at TEDxUCD, the Space Expo in TCD, and the Festival of Curiosity with Dara Ó Briain. A member of Engineers Ireland and one of their STEPS/Smart Futures volunteers, Niamh holds a PhD in Food Science, and a Masters and BE in Biosystems Engineering from University College Dublin.

Rosheen McGuckian

NTR

LinkedIn

Rosheen McGuckian is the chief executive officer of NTR, a leading investor in renewable wind/solar energy internationally, that began life by developing and operating road infrastructure in Ireland. She has worked as group director at NTR, as CEO of Greenstar, as CEO of GE Money Ireland, as director of communications for GE Consumer Finance Europe, and as head of strategic change at the ESB. Rosheen received a PhD in change management from Dublin City University in 2000, holds a Masters from the same university, and graduated with a Bachelors in Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Sadhbh McCarthy

Centre for Irish and European Security

LinkedIn

Sadhbh McCarthy is director of the Centre for Irish and European Security, which carries out EU- and private-funded research into the implications and societal impact of security policy and technology. She is a strong advocate of women in technology, was chairperson of Women in Technology and Science (WITS), and has also been involved in the European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS). Sadhbh worked as a consultant in the public services and infrastructure domain for five years, also worked for IBM as a project manager for four years, and is a graduate of University College Dublin.

Sandra Maguire

EduBills

LinkedIn | Twitter @SandraMaguire

Sandra Maguire is the managing director of EduBills, an online payment and ordering system that allows parents to pay school bills (directly into school’s accounts) and order school supplies securely. She is founder and organiser of CoderDojo Dun Laoghaire, and worked as an administrator with NCB Stockbrokers, Davy Stockbrokers, US Trust (on Wall Street), and Ulster Bank Dublin Trust Company. Sandra was a participant in DIT’s Hothouse, where she also completed a Postgraduate Diploma in New Business Development, and she has a qualification in cyberpsychology from Dun Laoghaire IADT.

Sarah Bourke

Skytek

Twitter @Skytek11

Sarah Bourke is the chief executive of Skytek, creator of several software applications that assist astronauts in controlling and managing emergency situations on board the International Space Station. In 2014, Skytek announced that it was launching a new weather division to monitor solar storms, and has also developed tools for aircraft maintenance, security and emergency response industries. Sarah founded Skytek with CTO Paul Kiernan in 1997, and supported by Enterprise Ireland they developed technology that was part of an ISS payload in the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-114 mission.

Shannon Duffy

Facebook

LinkedIn | Twitter @sullytoduffy

Shannon Duffy is the head of marketing for direct response products at Facebook, where her specialities include marketing strategy, corporate communications, lead generation and nurturing. She was previously VP for global marketing at Salesforce.com, having worked as director of marketing at Jigsaw (later Data.com, bought by Salesforce.com) and as director of marketing at SourceForge. Shannon was recognised as a Salesforce.com Marketing MVP in the fourth quarter of the 2013 FY, has a Salesforce.com PR certification, and holds a BA in Communications from Boston College.

Sinead O’Sullivan

Georgia Tech

LinkedIn | Twitter @SineadOS1

Sinead O’Sullivan is an aerospace engineer at the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory of Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is also a project manager at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center. She also serves as co-lead on Space Technologies for Disaster Management for the Space Generation Advisory Council, and has worked at Danske Bank in Ireland and at Morgan Stanley in New York. Sinead studied internet access provision and environmental monitoring via microsatellites at the International Space University, and graduated in Aerospace Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast.

Susan Gallagher

One Fab Day

LinkedIn | Twitter @susangallagher

Susan Gallagher is co-founder of One Fab Day, a leading wedding media brand in Ireland, and is an entrepreneur and web technologies expert with ten years of multinational and startup experience. She previously spent five years as a software engineer with IBM, developing cutting-edge web tools for their Rational, WebSphere and Lotus Workspace brands, with a strong focus on user experience. Susan received the highest academic achievement award for her BA in Design and Interior Architecture from Griffith College Dublin, and has a first class honours BSc in Computer Science from DCU.

Susan McKenna-Lawlor

Space Technology Ireland

LinkedIn

Susan McKenna-Lawlor is founder and managing director of Space Technology Ireland Ltd., an Irish-based provider of instrumentation systems for space experiments by the ESA, NASA and Russia. She developed instruments to monitor the Martian solar wind on the ESA’s Mars Express mission, and is also an emeritus professor in the Department of Experimental Physics at Maynooth University. She received an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) degree for her significant contribution to astrophysics from the University of Ulster, and was also elected to the International Academy of Astronautics.

Sylvia Leatham

Engineers Ireland

LinkedIn | Twitter @SylviaLeatham

Sylvia Leatham is coordinator of STEPS at Engineers Ireland, a non-profit programme that promotes science, engineering technology and maths (STEM) careers to primary and second-level students. A co-founder of popular Irish science podcast Scibernia, she was previously editor and director of operations at ElectricNews.net, and was also a content editor and writer for Intrade and Rondomondo. An avid fan of online and social media as well as a science journalist with extensive writing, editing and marketing expertise, Sylvia also holds an honours BA degree from University College Dublin.

Tara Dalrymple

Mission Possible

LinkedIn | Twitter @Missionpossirl

Tara Dalrymple is the founder of Mission Possible, a reward and recognition SAAS platform which works with companies to improve and enhance their health and wellness offering to employees. She is also founder of Busy Lizzie, providing pay-as-you-go secretarial services, virtual personal assistants, appointment management and digital marketing to small businesses with lesser resources. She has worked with Marks and Spencer, Lepus, Financial Dynamics, Dorling Kindersley and Staniforth PR, and holds a BA in Human Geography and Business IT from the University of Gloucestershire.

Triona O’Connell

Science is Delicious

LinkedIn | Twitter @triploidtree

Triona O’Connell is a PhD researcher in bioanalytical methodology and technology at Dublin City University, and also writes the Science is Delicious blog (where science meets cooking and baking). She is an active member of the TOG hackerspace in Dublin (teaching LaTeX, squishy circuits, and more) and the Irish Linux User Group (acting as chairperson in 2013), and is a contributor to Scibernia. Triona has a MSc in Biomedical Diagnostics from DCU and a BSc in Biomedical Science from DIT and CIT, and interned during her courses at Arrow Generics, Medipure and Cork University Hospital.

Vanessa Liston

CiviQ

LinkedIn | Twitter @listonv

Vanessa Liston is co-founder of CiviQ, a startup focusing on providing opinion knowledge and conflict management tools to local governments, the public sector, social organisations and industry. She has worked in a variety of research and development roles at Trinity College Dublin, General Electric Global eXchange Services, Cambridge Technology Partners, Accenture, and GOAL Ireland. With interests in democratic theory, the Social Web and emerging technologies for enabling innovations in political systems, Vanessa has a PhD, MSc (Multimedia Systems) and BSc (Music) from TCD.

Vicky Twomey-Lee

EventGeekie

LinkedIn | Twitter @whykay

Vicky Twomey-Lee is the founder of EventGeekie, advocating community spirit and diversity in tech by running workshops and events, and providing event management services for tech groups. She is also co-organiser of PyCon Ireland, PyLadies Dublin, Python Ireland, the GameCraft Foundation, Coding Grace, and is a board member of the EuroPython Society and Python Software Foundation. She has worked as a researcher at the Science Gallery, an engineer at Propylon, a senior engineer at Sun Microsystems, and has an MSc in Multimedia from DCU and a BSc in Computer Systems from UL.

You can also view our previous lists of Ireland’s Talented 38 Technology Women from 2013 and 2012.

Hacking Hotel Automation Systems and Targeting Country Infrastructures at Black Hat 2014

In the second of a two-part report on the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Alan Byrne gives us an overview of some more of the interesting talks he attended during the event.

Safeguarding Against Cyberattacks by Dan Geer

Dan Geer’s keynote was both highly praised and critiqued over the two days of the conference.

In this talk, Geer introduced some proposals to safeguard the future of the Internet as a safe place. For example, he suggested a system for mandatory reporting of security breaches, similar to the mandatory reporting of accidents by airlines and aircraft manufacturers. This could lead to greater sharing of information on cyberattacks and a joined-up effort to increase resilience to these attacks.

Geer made a total of nine proposals to the cybersecurity industry and I highly recommend watching the video recording of his keynote speech or reading the transcript.

How to Control Every Room at a Luxury Hotel

A Black Hat researcher recently stayed at the St. Regis Shenzhen, a gorgeous luxury hotel occupying the top 28 floors of a 100-story skyscraper. This hotel offers guests a unique feature: a room remote control in the form of an iPad 2. The iPad 2 controls the lighting, temperature, music, do not disturb light, TV, even the blinds and other miscellaneous room actions.

However, the deployment of the home automation protocol contained several fatal flaws that allow an arbitrary attacker to control virtually every appliance in the hotel remotely. This Black Hat researcher discovered these flaws and as a result, was able to create the ultimate remote control: controlling every room in this hotel! The attacker does not even need to be at the hotel – he or she could be in another country.

This talk provided a detailed discussion of the anatomy of the attack: an explanation of reverse engineering of the KNX/IP home automation protocol; a description of the deployment flaws; blueprints on how to create an iPad trojan to send commands outside the hotel; and, of course, solutions to avoid all these pitfalls in future deployments.

The attack has important implications for large-scale home automation applications, as several hotels around the world are beginning to offer this room amenity. The severity of these types of security flaws cannot be understated – from creating a chaotic atmosphere to raising room temperatures at night with fatal consequences – hoteliers need to understand the risks and liabilities they are exposed to by faulty security deployments.

Governments as Malware Authors

Mikko Hypponen’s talk titled “Governments as Malware Authors” revealed the extent to which governments across the globe are investing in malware for espionage, law enforcement and military uses. In the earliest days of the World Wide Web, governments initially saw no use in it. But since people have started to use the Internet extensively to share data, seek opinions, etc., and as people started to rely on the Internet, governments took notice and now they actively try to control it.

The resources these governments have are vast, and we know that their malware authors are highly skilled. Hypponen pointed to current job advertisements on US webpages seeking engineers for “exploit detection in mobile devices”. It appears that governments are using malware in a similar way to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War era. According to Hypponen, governments such as the USA and Russia are stockpiling software vulnerabilities and writing malware that can target specific physical infrastructures in certain countries.

There are companies that are quite openly selling malware and spying tools to unstable governments such as those in Egypt and Syria. The difficulty in fighting this malware is part of the reason that people need to start implementing security into all tech products from the earliest stage in their design and development, not as an afterthought.

The presentation slides are available here.

My Conclusions

Attending the Black Hat conference was a real eye-opener for me – the take home lesson was that software security needs to be at the core of the software design process, and must be an integral part of the software development lifecycle.

Since the Edward Snowden revelations and numerous large security breaches at companies such as Target in the USA, board members, policy makers and educators are finally starting to realise the importance of cybersecurity. It is no longer “an IT issue” that is left to a small, under-resourced team in a large organisation: it has become one of the most talked-about issues in the boardroom and is finally under the spotlight.

Companies cannot afford the bad publicity and loss of trust that a security breach brings, and because attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated and more common, there has been a huge surge in demand for cybersecurity professionals and proper policies to ensure security is “baked in” to tech products and services from the very beginning.

However, as it stands in Ireland, there is no undergraduate course in any of the universities offering a degree in computer science or engineering with cybersecurity. In this respect, we are behind the times. The recruiters I spoke to at Black Hat were crying out for skilled professionals with cybersecurity knowledge or experience. They ranged from traditional tech companies such as IBM and Intel, to consultancy firms such as Accuvant, to apparel manufacturers such as Nike – all eager to hire. In Ireland, some of the relevant companies are TrendMicro, Trustev and McAfee in Cork, and FireEye in Dublin.

With every device we use now having Internet access and full autonomy, we need to have security at the core of the development lifecycle. At one talk which I was unable to attend, a Black Hat researcher showed how smart cars are simply rolling PCs waiting to be hacked. With London approving the use of driverless cars from January 2015, this is a huge cause for concern.

The importance of security for SMEs/SMBs and not just the big multinationals was also obvious at Black Hat with a number of exploits demonstrated on Point of Sale terminals, and attacks which leveraged unsecured networks as part of a larger botnet to target other victims. SMEs should be taking basic measures such as encrypting disks, managing user accounts and using strong passwords. It is important for SMEs to make regular backups and keep software up to date (upgrade from your Windows XP!).

In Ireland, there is insufficient emphasis placed on security in the small business sector. Every business must realise that eventually they may have a security breach, if they aren’t already compromised. The important thing is knowing if they are compromised… For how long have they been compromised? By whom? And what can they do about it next?

The first part of this story was published last week.

Nest Thermostat Hacking and Google Glass Password Spying at Black Hat 2014


Image from Wikimedia Commons.

This month saw the Black Hat security conference return to Las Vegas for its 17th instalment. Alan Byrne was on hand to give us an overview of some of the most interesting talks he attended during the two-day event. Part one of his report is below.

Nest, a Smart Spy in Your Home

The Nest is a smart thermostat device manufactured by Google [following their $3B acquisition of the Nest company in January 2014]. The programmable thermostat learns what temperatures you like at certain times of the day, and automatically turns on and off your heating to your subconscious satisfaction. It is connected to your home Wi-Fi network allowing you to configure your heating system over the Internet. However, researchers at Black Hat 2014 demonstrated that, should a malicious person get USB access to the Nest device, it can be turned into a much more sinister, spying tool.

When the Nest’s physical button is held down for 10 seconds, the device reboots. But for a split second, it is available to receive new instructions on how to boot. The team created a custom tool that, when directly connected to the Nest, reworked the Nest’s software giving them total, remote control. Although physical access is required for this attack, it is not difficult to think of a number of scenarios in which this could occur. Once a Nest has been compromised, it could, for example, “phone home” to let the attacker know what times you are out of the house at work. Or, when you are away on an extended vacation.

Furthermore, the researchers explained how they could use the Nest as a network “sniffer” to tunnel all the user’s internet traffic through the Nest. This means that the attacker could read a user’s login details, credit card numbers, etc. Even without any exploit, the researchers noted the excessive data logging and communication that the Nest does, raising concerns over user privacy. Does a thermostat really need to contact Google (an advertising company) that much? Nest users are unable to opt out of this data collection.

The full paper is available here.

The State of Incident Response by Bruce Schneier

Bruce Schneier gave a very interesting talk in which he outlined some current trends in cybersecurity, theories from economics and psychology that affect cybersecurity, and he explained a systems theory from the US Air Force that can be used for effective incident response.

Bruce highlighted that with the rise of cloud computing, users have less and less control over their data. It is the vendor that has all the control: this includes devices and operating systems we use to access our data which are locked down, for example iOS.

He warned that cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated. The skill of attackers is getting higher, and their focus is getting stronger.

Finally, Bruce noted the increased cyber-investment from governments and what this might spell for the future of the cybersecurity industry. Will businesses be forced by law to implement cybersecurity measures? Will we see government-managed defence in the future to secure the likes of water reservoirs and electricity power plants? Bruce foretold that the days of letting the industry take care of incident response may soon come to an end as government requirements for data safety are coming.

My Google Glass Can See Your Passwords

Almost every “smart” consumer device today includes a camera – from smart watches to smart TVs, glasses, phones and MP3 players. Researchers at Black Hat demonstrated how these cameras can spy on people tapping and inputting credentials such as passcodes or passwords into phone and tablet keyboards.

By tracking fingertip movements, it was possible to identify the touched points on the victim’s screen and map its location to a reference image of the soft keyboard for that phone. The researchers have had a 90% success rate, up to 9 feet from a victim with this method.

What can be done about this? Well, Apple’s fingerprint technology makes this exploit redundant. But, for the majority of device users out there, combatting this attack will mean installing a keyboard app that does not use a fixed “qwerty” layout, but varies they location of the keys on every unlock attempt.

The full paper is available here.

We will publish part two of Alan Byrne’s report from the Black Hat 2014 conference next week.

EC Announces €10 Million Fund for Accelerating Web Entrepreneurship at Recent Eurapp Workshop

Representatives from the European Commission announced details of a €10M fund for accelerating web entrepreneurship in the European Union at a recent Eurapp app economy workshop in Berlin. The €10M fund is being put in place to help interlink and grow various web entrepreneurship ecosystems across the EU, with a focus on starting up and scaling up web companies.

Mr Bogdan Ceobanu from the EC detailed how interested parties can apply for grants in this new €10M funding round during the EC’s first call for Horizon 2020 (see the web entrepreneurship call page). The call for applications will open in mid-December.

The aim of this fund is to create an environment in the EU that encourages more tech entrepreneurs – who leverage web and mobile technologies as the main components in their business model – to start their businesses in the EU and to stay in the EU while growing them internationally. There are two main focuses for funding applications:

  1. Accelerating web entrepreneurship in the EU by connecting existing tech hubs or ecosystems and providing new services for web entrepreneurs (e.g. through innovative online platforms); and
  2. Coordination activities for web entrepreneurship that will expand the reach of online platforms, exploit synergies across stakeholder communities and help tech entrepreneurs to connect to service providers.

To accelerate web entrepreneurship in the EU, the EC is looking for project proposals that will create cross-border environments composed of a few highly-integrated local ecosystems (around 3-4), where members of the individual ecosystems will feel like they belong to the new cross-border environment created by the project. Project proposals are expected in the €2M range, with a total budget of €6M.

As regards coordination activities, a further €4M is being made available to support, connect and create more web startups and other highly-innovative tech companies.

According to Dr Isidro Laso of the EC, “We expect proposals which will ‘think European’: [to] allow for the provision of pan-EU services for web entrepreneurs; [to] involve the right partners in the consortium; [to] engage the real players in the local ecosystems to be connected; [and to] complement existing activities in [member state] and EC policy initiatives.”

The impact of this will be to create a dynamic ecosystem that can help shape entrepreneur-friendly policies for implementation in conjunction with the EU’s Startup Europe initiative.

Startup Europe aims to raise awareness around the opportunities and challenges faced by web entrepreneurs, to network the various stakeholders and to develop more web talent in the EU. Over 6000 people have signed up to the associated Startup Europe Manifesto, expressing their support for 22 actions under five headings which aim to give EU startups the best possible chance of future success.

The €10M fund announcement was made at a workshop highlighting survey results and innovative ideas from the Eurapp app economy study, launched by the European Commission and being carried out by Gigaom Research and the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway. The Eurapp project is currently surveying startups and larger IT companies to model and profile the EU app economy.

It’s Not What They’re Seeking, It’s What They’re Hiding

As I said before in another context, what’s wrong with what’s been going on at the National Security Agency (NSA) “is not the spying, it’s the lying.”

Spy agencies are supposed to spy, but within the rules laid out for them by the US Congress. They are not allowed to lie to Congress or to Congress’ mandated overseers like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Nor, it should be said, are the NSA, The White House or leaders of the Congress allowed to lie to the American people about what they’ve learned about law-breaking activities in the name of national security.

When lies like this become routine, the bond of trust between citizen and government breaks down and democracy dies with it.

In November, Wikileaks published an August summary of negotiations over the Intellectual Property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement which is meant to strengthen economic relations among twelve signatory nations: the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Several commentators have noted, the Wikileaks document may not be current; there have been a couple of secret negotiating sessions since August. But the release is timely, as the last round of talks among the 12 nations’ Chief Negotiators was held at the end of November in Salt Lake City.

If the document is still relevant it indicates that what the US Trade Representative is seeking is bad enough, but worse by far is that the Obama Administration is hiding all the potentially consequential details.

Make no mistake, what’s being proposed could directly affect you if you suffer from cancer, if you’re going to have surgery using a new medical device, if you read a book or use the internet.

Think you might fit into one of those categories? Think you ought to be included in at least the theoretical discussion of new global rules for who can claim patent protection, for what, for how long? Or are you happy to leave that to the fine folks at the US Trade Rep’s office or the Oval Office or lawyers for a few hundred directly-interested corporations?

Even if you’re appalled to be excluded from the whole discussion, don’t take it personally. You and I are not the only ones being cut out until the dips have their fait accompli. According to the International Business Times,

“Only 700 representatives of various corporations have access to the text. The governments of the countries involved in the negotiations are not able to view the text while it is being discussed by the corporations, meaning that the public will have little to no input on what will be included in the final version.”

And The Guardian notes,

“Even members of the US Congress were only allowed to view selected portions of the documents under supervision.

“‘We’re really worried about a process which is so difficult for those who take an interest in these agreements to deal with,’ says Peter Bradwell, policy director of the London-based Open Rights Group.

“‘Lots of people in civil society have stressed that being more transparent, and talking about the text on the table, is crucial to give treaties like this any legitimacy. We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks to start a debate about what’s in then.’”

What’s not to like about the Intellectual Property rules the USTR (US Trade Representative) has put on the table? International Business Times cites five major issues.

The first is the strengthening of Big Pharma property rights to their proprietary medicines. What this generality could mean specifically is spelled out by Politico.

“Pharmaceutical patents and copyright issues addressed through the intellectual property rights chapter have proven especially controversial, as the United States seeks strong protections for its drug-makers, and Asian countries fight for cheaper medicines.”

What protections to the pharmaceutical giants want?

Politico says they want to eliminate, or sharply reduce countries’ rights to breach patent rights “in the interest of public health,” by restricting those exceptions to epidemics and disallowing diseases such as cancer.

“The United States is also pushing to ease drug-makers’ ability to obtain patents overseas and in developing countries and to extend the duration of those patents beyond 20 years.”

As Public Citizen put it in their response to the Wikileaks document, “These proposals would strengthen, lengthen and broaden pharmaceutical monopolies on cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS drugs, among others, in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Second, the manufacturers of medical devices want the right to patent-protect their use by surgeons and technicians in the operating room. IBT sums up the real-world meaning of this: “In layman’s terms, the United States’ TPP proposal would make it so that the patent protections exception would apply only to ‘surgical methods you can perform with your bare hands,’” quoting Burcu Kilic, legal counsel to Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program.

Third, what’s sauce for Big Pharma is also to be served up for Big Ink, the publishers or words and music. IBT reports, “The preliminary version of the TPP would also rewrite the guidelines on international copyright law by lengthening the terms that copyright protections. [Today] copyright term protections are capped at the life of the author of a work plus 50 years. But under the TPP, longer copyright protections could extend copyright term protections to Life + 70 years for works by individuals, and either 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation for corporate owned works (such as Mickey Mouse).”

The net-net here, says IBT will “bolster the profits of corporations and harm consumers by keeping works out of the public domain for far longer than under current law.”

Points 4 and 5 would, several critics claim, gut many of the freedoms enjoyed by today’s citizens of the internet. International Business Times quotes from “the relevant section of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter leaked Wednesday: ‘Each Party shall provide that authors, performers, and producers of phonograms have the right to authorize or prohibit all reproductions of their works, performances, and phonograms, in any manner or form, permanent or temporary (including temporary storage in electronic form).’”

Then IBT cites the EFF response: “‘the provision ‘reveals a profound disconnect with the reality of the modern computer,’ which relies on temporary copies to perform routine operations.

“‘Does that mean—under the US proposed language—that anyone who ever views content on their device could potentially be found liable of infringement?’ the EFF wrote. ‘For other countries signing on to the TPP, the answer would be most likely yes.’”

Finally, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership rules would dump the job of enforcing these radical new limitations on Internet freedom on whom? Again, IBT quotes the Electronic Freedom Foundation: “The TPP wants service providers to undertake the financial and administrative burdens of becoming copyright cops, serving a copyright maximalist agenda while disregarding the consequences for Internet freedom and innovation.”

With such big changes with such big consequences in play, why is such a small, unelected, unrepresentative group of corporate lawyers and carefully anonymous government bureaucrats allowed to debate and promulgate in such secrecy.

It sounds like the answers are (1) they have so much to hide, and (2) they know many if not most people, in the US, in the other 11 TPP countries, in the world, would not agree to their diktats.

By the way, if you think these arguments are harmless abstractions, check this list from The Guardian’s George Monbiot of how “investor-state rules” in similar international trade agreements have enabled private companies to bully elected governments.

“The Australian government, after massive debates in and out of parliament, decided that cigarettes should be sold in plain packets, marked only with shocking health warnings. The decision was validated by the Australian Supreme Court. But, using a trade agreement Australia struck with Hong Kong, the tobacco company Philip Morris has asked an offshore tribunal to award it a vast sum in compensation for the loss of what it calls its intellectual property.

“During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people’s energy and water bills (does this sound familiar?). It was sued by the international utility companies [and] for this and other such crimes, it has been forced to pay out over a billion dollars in compensation.

“In El Salvador, local communities managed to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long, perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.

“In Canada, the courts revoked two patents owned by the American drugs firm Eli Lilly, on the grounds that the company had not produced enough evidence that they had the beneficial effects it claimed. Eli Lilly is now suing the Canadian government for $500m, and demanding that Canada’s patent laws are changed.”

The last round of TPP negotiations finished on November 24. Let’s see if anyone outside the secret circle can find out was discussed, much less actually join in the discussion.

Wasn’t one of the first things Barack Obama promised, long before he said anything about being able to keep your health insurance coverage, was transparency.

Well, you gotta say that promise has been easy to see through.