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Letterkenny drives advanced use of Internet of Things in Uganda

Letterkenny IT helps develop water pump devices as Athlone IT focuses on artificial intelligence

In a novel application of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Letterkenny IT has helped to develop a remote monitoring system for village water pumps in Uganda.

In east Africa, it is common for villages to share water from a single borehole using a manual pump as the source of fresh water. When a pump breaks down the villagers can resort to drinking unsafe surface water, posing significant health risks due to seasonal weather patterns and parasites.

District governments struggle to manage hundreds of boreholes in their areas so there is a requirement to monitor the status of the pumps and, if possible, build in a level of predictive maintenance. The Smart Water: Internet of Things for Uganda project focused on improving the hand-pump reliability in the Kumi district of rural Uganda by incorporating IoT technology into the pumps using an affordable communications method.

The Smart Water consortium consists of seven partners led by Fields of Life, an NGO which has drilled more than 30 wells in the Kumi region over the past 25 years. Letterkenny IT is the academic partner responsible for defining and developing the IoT monitoring system, funded by an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership grant and contributions from Analog Devices.

The monitoring devices developed by Letterkenny IT were manufactured by CW Applied Technology in Shannon. ARUP Ireland played a significant role on the ground providing hydrogeology, project management and funding the drilling of 10 new boreholes for the Kumi district local government.

A different aspect of artificial intelligence is being investigated by a project being carried out by the CIT Nimbus Technology Gateway in conjunction with Clarke Analytics, an Irish consulting and training company

Through these new installations, 16,000 people are benefiting from reliable access to clean water and system testing is underway. Data from the pumps supports local government and community decision-making, enabling preventive maintenance to be established through early identification of issues. The new system is scalable and can be further adapted to increase functionality such as the addition of water quality monitoring.

In the artificial intelligence (AI) sphere, Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has partnered with the NPD Group, a global market research firm, to launch a million-euro ICT research technology lab. Expected to employ 10 staff and PhD students, the lab will develop, test and optimise artificial intelligence strategies for real-time market analysis.

“Our close working relationship with the NPD Group has given us a practical insight into the kinds of technical challenges faced by multinational market analysis companies,” explains Dr Enda Fallon, who heads the Department of Computer and Software Engineering at AIT.

Software research

According to Dr Fallon, who is also a founder of the Software Research Institute at AIT, such collaborations create “rich opportunities” for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The formation of the research lab exemplifies how close collaboration between the academic institution and industry can create both commercial and academic benefit, the former Ericsson software engineer adds.

“The presence of Athlone Institute of Technology was a major factor in our decision to locate our global IT and operations centre in Athlone in 2010,” says Dermot Ainsworth, general manager of NPD Group, Athlone explains. “The results of our collaboration have shown just how productive such a collaboration can be.”

Welcoming the formation of the ICT research lab, Dr Seán Lyons, dean of faculty of Engineering and Informatics at AIT, says “We have a demonstrated track record of engagement with industry and this collaboration serves to further illustrate what can be achieved through our close links with local companies.”

A different aspect of artificial intelligence is being investigated by a project being carried out by the CIT Nimbus Technology Gateway in conjunction with Clarke Analytics, an Irish consulting and training company specialising in data analytics and data science.

Ethics guidelines

Company founder Dave Clarke recognised the challenges company executives across all industries face ensuring that wherever they use AI, it is used in an ethical and trustworthy way. Following the publication of the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence by the European Commission in April 2019,

Clarke Analytics decided to develop a software platform solution to independently assess the compliance of AI algorithms employed in industry.

Working with the Nimbus AI team, Clarke Analytics is developing a proof of concept prototype that will autonomously appraise if a company is ethical in its application of AI technology and if an AI algorithm is making an ethical decision.

16,000: Number of people benefiting from access to clean water in Uganda thanks to the Letterkenny IT/Fields of Life Smart Water project

According to Clarke, the project will help the company’s clients to better understand how to use their data for business value and to eliminate any inherent bias that may be contained within an AI solution. This will give customers confidence that any software analysis isn’t prejudiced.

“The work being delivered by the Nimbus Technology Gateway is pivotal to new Clarke Analytics services and offerings,” he says. “The Nimbus team has been very innovative and the whole experience to date has certainly been worthwhile, amazing value and rewarding. We are currently planning further projects with the Nimbus Technology Gateway.”

The Nimbus Gateway at CIT is part of the Technology Gateway Network funded by Enterprise Ireland.