Companies shortlisted for innovation award

 

Four firms have been shortlisted for the ITLG/Irish Times Innovation award, writes JOHN COLLINS

LAST YEAR several of the leading Irish figures in the technology industry came together in the IT heartland of Silicon Valley to create the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG).

Its impressive roll call of members includes John Hartnett, senior vice-president of Palm; John Gilmore, chief operating officer of Sling Media; Brian Fitzgerald, a former vice-president at Intuit; Niall O'Connor, chief information officer of Apple; Rory McInerney, vice-president of Intel; Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice-president at Cisco; and Tony Redmond, chief technology officer at HP Services.

This year, in association with The Irish Times, among others, the ITLG is hosting its inaugural awards at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, next Thursday.

Among those in attendance will be Intel chairman Dr Craig Barrett, who will receive an award recognising his role in the development of the Irish tech sector. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, will also be recognised on the night for his department's contribution to public policy support.

In association with The Irish TimesInnovation magazine, the event will also recognise an innovative Irish technology company that is likely to succeed on the global stage in the coming years.

ALTOBRIDGE

The Kerry-based firm made the news last week through its provision of technology behind the inflight mobile calls and messaging services unveiled by Qantas and Emirates.

Aeromobile, Altobridge's aeronautical client, is providing the mobile services for Qantas to introduce text messaging later this year, while an inflight call on an Emirates flight last Thursday has heralded the way for passenger mobile phones to be used safely during flights. It is Altobridge's technology that makes all this possible. Aside from its involvement in aeronautical endeavours, Altobridge's core technology has been platforms that provide low-cost mobile networks, which are easy to set up.

Working with its client Maxis, its platforms are beneficial to remote locations around the globe, but also in times of emergency when either a natural or man-made disaster has put the network under threat and a new or support network needs to be put in place.

The firm is also involved maritime communication through Blue Ocean Wireless.

Altobridge has regional offices in Virginia, USA and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Headed up by co-founder Mike Fitzgerald, the company employs an experienced team which has gained experience of wireless networking with firms such as Ericsson, Motorola, Alcatel and Logica CMG. It's chaired by former tánaiste Dick Spring.

ITLG and The Irish Timeshave shortlisted Altobridge for its broad product line. The company offers products well-suited to both the US and global markets. It has signed up with strong partners such as Telenor and Honeywell, and it has a strong patent portfolio.

CHANGING WORLDS

Established in 1999, Changing Worlds was founded to bring the ClixSmart personalisation software engine to market. This engine was developed as part of an extensive research scheme in the Smart Media Institute at University College Dublin.

The technology was originally used to make recommendations to web users based around their stated preferences and previous behaviours, but the company has successfully applied the technology to mobile phones so that operators can deliver relevant content to subscribers.

Initially winning contracts in Ireland with Vodafone and O2, Changing Worlds has successfully expanded overseas and now has more than 50 mobile operator clients worldwide. It has more than 130 staff at its headquarters in Dublin, an office in Malaysia and two locations in the US - San Francisco and Kansas.

Vincent Ryan, vice-president for sales and marketing, explains that the personalisation technology is now being applied in the area of targeted advertising to mobile users, a potentially lucrative new source of revenue for mobile operators. "It's a natural extension of what we do because ads are very similar to personalised content," says Ryan. "We have the customer's profile and we can use that to target them with commercial assets."

Ryan says Changing Worlds brought the technology to the US in 2004. The company is understood to have signed up a major US mobile operator, although Ryan would not confirm this. The judges were impressed by the company's ClixSmart Intelligent Portal which is a complete platform for operators covering access, management, content integration and intelligence in a single product. It was also felt that its high-level partners and customers - such as HP, Ericsson, Vodafone and Swisscom - will help it stand out from the crowd.

DIGISOFT.TV

Cork-based Digisoft.tv was founded in 2000 and developed software to support interactive television services. The business model has been tweaked since then and in recent years the company has helped telecoms companies add video capabilities to their services.

The firm has offices in Ireland, the UK, Singapore, New Zealand and the US - where founder and chief executive John Allen relocated four years ago.

Its flagship product is Digihost, which enables operators to deploy interactive services such as video on demand, time-shifted TV, networked personal video recorder, e-learning, and a library of other on-demand services.

"In the US in particular the telcoms are trying to get into the video space, because the large cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast have had a triple play offering, including telephone calls and broadband, for a number of years," explains Allen. "They can't just add the same 200 channels and 6,000 movies as the cable companies so we help them introduce interactive value added services."

The judges recognised Digisoft for its innovative technology, which is supported by a strong portfolio of patents. The depth of the management team bode well for its future. The company has developed strong relationships with global manufacturers such as MotoTech, system integrators such as Tech Mahindra and technology leader Sun Microsystems. With more American consumers demanding that digital media direct to their television screen, the opportunity for expansion is significant and timely.

NUBIQ

The genesis of Nubiq was a research project in Waterford Institute of Technology's Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) research centre. The company develops software to allow communities to use mobile internet technology in their business and social lives and it describes its area of expertise as "bridging the gap between mobile operators and communities".

Its flagship product is Zinadoo which allows mobile users to create mobile internet content using a series of easy to follow wizards and then promote that content using text messaging.

A new version of the product released this week adds a mobile web discovery service previously sold separately as Mobiseer. For mobile operators it also provides the ability to create directories of mobile content, widgets to promote content and services on the web and mobile and search engine optimisation tools which make it easier for mobile content to be found.

Although Zinadoo was only launched in 2006 operators T-Mobile International and O2 Ireland have been signed up as customers. It also has 15,000 users of Zinadoo.com, the bulk of whom are in the US, said chief executive Helene Haughney.

"As well as operators we are looking to sign up anyone with a web community - whether it's based around music, sport or travel - to create a mobile web presence with Zinadoo," explains Haughney.

Nubiq has been shortlisted for having the ambition to target a truly global market. The success of its expansion into the US could be a key factor in whether Nubiq comes to dominate its space.