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‘When I started in mobile, manufacturers were constantly trying to reinvent the phone’

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Samsung Ireland’s Quentin Doran O’Reilly discusses the changing world of electronics, a focus on foldable phones, and the ‘cool’ part of his job.

With 17 years’ experience in the mobile telecoms industry, Quentin Doran O’Reilly is now head of product management within the IT and mobile (IM) division for Samsung Ireland. This is the section of the electronics business that deals with mobile, tablet, PC and wearable technology.

After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, Doran O’Reilly went on to hold a a number of positions across the telecoms sector, from both an operator and manufacturer perspective. He has spent the last 11 years with Samsung Electronics in Ireland.

‘We live in an incredibly exciting time where technology is playing an ever-increasing role in both our work and personal lives’
– QUENTIN DORAN O’REILLY

What does your role entail?

It is a very broad remit, which gives me huge insight into the day-to-day workings of every aspect of the business. In this role, I have the opportunity to share my views on the market, identify where the next opportunity lies and, most importantly, ensure our portfolios fit our Irish customers’ needs.

It is my job to act as a bridge between Samsung headquarters in the UK and Samsung in Ireland. I help align the global strategy with that of the Irish market and I’m the guy who gets to introduce our customers to the latest innovations and devices from Samsung – which is, in a word, cool.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Security is an area that is facing increased scrutiny both in and out of the technology sector. In the past, it has been viewed as primarily an enterprise issue, but we are seeing increasingly complex threats to individual’s digital security, such as fraud and phishing scams.

At Samsung, we take security seriously and understand the importance of delivering a safe and secure experience to our customers when using connected devices. We have a team of engineers that continually think of new ways to build on our security credentials, combating even the most sophisticated of threats in our connected world.

In order to challenge our assumptions, we also established the Samsung Mobile Security rewards programme, which offers incentives to researchers who identify potential vulnerabilities in our products.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

We live in an incredibly exciting time where technology is playing an ever-increasing role in both our work and personal lives. Within our IM division, there are some really exciting things happening.

When I started in mobile, manufacturers were constantly trying to reinvent the form factor of the cell phone. There were sliders, jack-knives, candy bars, clamshells and a whole host of devices with shapes that didn’t even have a name. When smartphones hit the market, it put an end to this – because, no matter what, you needed a single sheet of solid glass screen and that limited design innovation.

This limitation is now old and with the introduction of foldable glass technology, Samsung is leading the way in reinventing what can be done with a smartphone. Foldables are at the fore of innovative smartphone design. It reintroduces some of the old favourite designs, while bringing a whole new world of productivity and possibilities to the smartphone market.

In the wireless audio category, we are seeing huge growth as people consume media and use wearable technology as a health and fitness companion. Due to this increasing trend, we launched the Samsung Galaxy Buds family of products. The same applies to the smartwatch category, where the Samsung Galaxy Watch series offers the ability to not only track your fitness but also keep up to date with work and social media without needing to reach for your smartphone.

The reintroduction of our computing business in 2020 saw strong growth as the demand for laptops for home working and education grew. We expect this growth and opportunity will continue into 2022 and with our new Samsung Galaxy Book portfolio, we have an incredibly compelling line up for both end consumers and enterprise.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

It was circuitous, but then all the worthwhile journeys are. After college and about five years working in the public relations and event management sector, I made the move to Vodafone, where I discovered my love for working in technology.

I spent six very happy years there in the handset testing department. Through this role, I got involved in end-user issue resolution for Vodafone’s enterprise clients, which then allowed me to gain an understanding of the network side of the business.

In 2010, I took on a technical product manager role in Samsung’s Irish office and I’ve never looked back.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I lead a team of incredibly talented engineers and product managers. It’s my job to provide both short and long-term focus and direction, as well as give support and guidance where needed.

The method that has worked best for me is providing the ‘why’ at the outset of a project. Why do we need to resolve a given issue? Why do we need to launch this flagship? Why do we need a new process or system?

Once that’s understood, then we work on the ‘how’. This is solved through collaboration. I might have an idea of the ‘how’, but my team might have a better one. It’s always important to listen as my way is not always the only, nor indeed, the right way!

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Across the technology sector, there are issues with gender diversity, specifically in senior management positions. But there’s no question that we need greater diversity in the technology industry to reflect our customer base and bring together different perspectives.

We believe that innovation and growth are driven by an inclusive culture and a diverse workforce. To do this, we have brought about diversity initiatives such as conscious inclusion training for management, and various employee resource groups to retain and develop minorities in the workplace such as women, people of colour, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.

I truly believe that teaching our youth about diversity and inclusion in the workplace will help the next generation be even stronger. I got the opportunity to support the BT Young Scientist awards and the Schools Digital Champion Programme over the last few years, where I worked to impart this message and share the understanding that technology is for everyone.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

Over the years there have been many, I’ve been terribly lucky. There are likely 10 different people who have in one way, manner, shape or form, helped me to get where I am now.

The easy bit is getting advice, the hard bit is learning to listen and take constructive criticism and action where needed. No matter what the situation, you can take valuable learnings and next time you will do it better. It is important to learn from our failures and build on our successes. This idea has become a central pillar of everything I do.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Stuart Diamond’s Getting More is very good book to help learn about negotiation. It centres around treating people as people, not as jobs or projects or targets. It offers a different perspective on both personal and business life and is well worth a read.

The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters is another good one. It shares insights into listening to that voice in your head and understanding what drives your emotions and anxiety. In so doing, you can learn to be more positive and productive in your way of working. 

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Does coffee count? It is, unquestionably, central to my weekly arsenal.

I’ve started walking in the mornings, up to 10km before I start working. I find it centres me and helps to bring a bit of perspective. I don’t tend to bring any media or distractions with me, I just let my mind wander. I often get home with a plan for the day and solutions to problems that I had been struggling with.

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Iran reveals use of cryptocurrency to pay for imports • The Register

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Iran has announced it used cryptocurrency to pay for imports, raising the prospect that the nation is using digital assets to evade sanctions.

Trade minister Alireza Peyman Pak revealed the transaction with the tweet below, which translates as “This week, the first official import order was successfully placed with cryptocurrency worth ten million dollars. By the end of September, the use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will be widespread in foreign trade with target countries.”

It is unclear what Peman Pak referred to with his mention of widespread use of crypto for foreign trade, and the identity of the foreign countries he mentioned is also obscure.

But the intent of the announcement appears clear: Iran will use cryptocurrency to settle cross-border trades.

That’s very significant because Iran is subject to extensive sanctions aimed at preventing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons and reduce its ability to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions prevent the sale of many commodities and technologies to Iran, and financial institutions aren’t allowed to deal with their Iranian counterparts, who are mostly shunned around the world.

As explained in this advisory [PDF] issued by the US Treasury, Iran has developed numerous practices to evade sanctions, including payment offsetting schemes that let it sell oil in contravention of sanctions. Proceeds of such sales are alleged to have been funnelled to terrorist groups.

While cryptocurrency’s anonymity has been largely disproved, trades in digital assets aren’t regulated so sanctions enforcement will be more complex if Iran and its trading partners use crypto instead of fiat currencies.

Which perhaps adds more weight to the argument that cryptocurrency has few proven uses beyond speculative trading, making the ransomware industry possible, and helping authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea to acquire materiel for weapons.

Peyman Pak’s mention of “widespread” cross-border crypto deals, facilitated by automated smart contracts, therefore represents a challenge to those who monitor and enforce sanctions – and something new to worry about for the rest of us. ®



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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told SiliconRepublic.com

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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Meta’s new AI chatbot can’t stop bashing Facebook | Meta

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If you’re worried that artificial intelligence is getting too smart, talking to Meta’s AI chatbot might make you feel better.

Launched on Friday, BlenderBot is a prototype of Meta’s conversational AI, which, according to Facebook’s parent company, can converse on nearly any topic. On the demo website, members of the public are invited to chat with the tool and share feedback with developers. The results thus far, writers at Buzzfeed and Vice have pointed out, have been rather interesting.

Asked about Mark Zuckerberg, the bot told BuzzFeed’s Max Woolf that “he is a good businessman, but his business practices are not always ethical. It is funny that he has all this money and still wears the same clothes!”

The bot has also made clear that it’s not a Facebook user, telling Vice’s Janus Rose that it had deleted its account after learning about the company’s privacy scandals. “Since deleting Facebook my life has been much better,” it said.

The bot repeats material it finds on the internet, and it’s very transparent about this: you can click on its responses to learn where it picked up whatever claims it is making (though it is not always specific).

This means that along with uncomfortable truths about its parent company, BlenderBot has been spouting predictable falsehoods. In conversation with Jeff Horwitz of the Wall Street Journal, it insisted Donald Trump was still president and would continue to be “even after his second term ends in 2024”. (It added another dig at Meta, saying Facebook “has a lot of fake news on it these days”.) Users have also recorded it making antisemitic claims.

BlenderBot’s remarks were foreseeable based on the behavior of older chatbots such as Microsoft’s Tay, which Twitter users quickly taught to be a racist conspiracy theorist, forcing the company to apologize for its “wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images”. GPT-3, another AI system, has also delivered racist, misogynist and homophobic remarks. A South Korean startup’s chatbot, designed to resemble a 20-year-old college student, had to be suspended after it rattled off racial slurs and anti-LGBTQ+ remarks.

Given the cesspool that is the internet, Meta appears to have expected similar things from its own service. Before logging on, users must acknowledge that BlenderBot is “likely to make untrue or offensive statements”. As Vice notes, Meta researchers have described the AI tech behind the bot as having “a high propensity to generate toxic language and reinforce harmful stereotypes, even when provided with a relatively innocuous prompt”.

“Everyone who uses Blender Bot is required to acknowledge they understand it’s for research and entertainment purposes only, that it can make untrue or offensive statements, and that they agree to not intentionally trigger the bot to make offensive statements,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

My own conversation with BlenderBot did not veer into that territory, but it did highlight another flaw in the service: its utter inanity.

The bot began by asking me what subject I liked in school. The bot is open about which “persona” it is using in the conversation; our discussion involved a persona it described as “I like to read. I went to college.” When I asked it tough questions, such as which colleges accepted AI bot students, it offered nonsensical replies (“in some ways, aren’t we all chatbots?” No) and offered further reading by saying, “Here’s the link”, without providing a link. It also kept steering the conversation back to chatbots.

It did, however, maintain its firm stance against its own creators. When I said I wasn’t a fan of Facebook’s ethics, it wholeheartedly agreed: “Me too! That is why I stopped using it and just stick with reading books instead.”



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