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10 innovative Irish companies steering us towards a green future

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Enterprise Ireland has launched a new campaign spotlighting companies from Ireland that are scoring sustainability goals.

This week, as the world turned green for St Patrick’s Day, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, launched an international green innovation campaign from Enterprise Ireland.

Taking the opportunity of the national holiday to showcase Ireland’s green innovators and the contribution they make around the world, Varadkar said: “Climate action is, after all, an enormous business opportunity.

“As the world emerges from Covid-19, we need to understand that there will be no return to the old normal. We’ll need to build back better and prioritise the sustainable investments that underpin a global green recovery and the transition to low-carbon economies.”

Ready for a Green Future puts 10 companies that are leading by example at the fore of its campaign. These companies are helping to reduce the use of fossil fuels and tackling emissions-heavy sectors such as food production, construction and transportation with creative sci-tech solutions.

Abbey Machinery

Abbey Machinery has an agricultural heritage dating back to the 19th century, but the company has evolved with the times and is a pioneer of low-emission slurry spreading (LESS).

Slurry spreading is just one of the factors contributing to agriculture’s significant ammonia emissions. But with Abbey Machinery’s LESS applicators, farmers can reduce emissions by placing slurry in narrow bands.

Continuing to innovate, Abbey’s new smart slurry tankers are fitted out with automation and sensing technology. For example, a near-infrared sensor analyses the slurry make-up, enabling farmers to target nutrients when and where needed, reducing the widespread use of artificial fertiliser.

CitySwift

Transport is a huge contributor to global carbon emissions and passenger road vehicles are the main culprit, accounting for almost three-quarters of all transport CO2 emissions.

Any effort to reduce the number of road vehicles can change that, which is where Galway-based start-up CitySwift comes in.

CitySwift’s cloud-native platform aims to improve the performance of urban bus networks through data analytics so that more people can ditch the private car in favour of public transport. The data engine is already used by bus services in the UK and last year the company raised €2m in funding and began expanding.

Cygnum

Irish construction company Cygnum uses automated systems to build precise, computer-designed timber frame structures. This off-site construction reduces energy use on-site, but the material also makes a big difference.

While much of our world is built using concrete, its key ingredient – cement – is the source of about 8pc of global CO2 emissions. Timber, however, actually stores carbon, and so Cygnum’s structures act as a carbon sink.

In 2014, the Cork company was contracted to build the UK’s largest sustainable commercial building. More recently, a street of low-energy houses built using Cygnum’s highly insulated timber structures was awarded the coveted RIBA Stirling Prize.

Davra

The internet of things (IoT) means we can gather data from many sources, and that data can reveal opportunities for energy efficiency, emissions reduction and better management of resources.

Davra is a Dublin company helping organisations to leverage the power of IoT. Irish Water uses Davra’s technology to monitor pipes across the nation and prevent millions of litres being lost through leaks. Bus services in the US have used the technology to measure fuel efficiency. And, using European Space Agency satellite data, Davra also helps the mining industry monitor underground activity, which in turns helps to protect surrounding farmland and prevent pollution.

Ecocem

As already mentioned, the cement used widely in the construction industry has a massive carbon footprint. This is why Ecocem is focused on making a low-carbon alternative.

Ecocem manufactures ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS), which it claims produces 32kg of CO2 emissions per ton, compared to upwards of 800kg from regular cement. Also, GGBS is manufactured using leftover material from steel mills, saving it from landfill.

GGBS and cement are typically mixed together to make concrete blocks, though they tend to take longer to set. However, Ecocem has patented an accelerant that can speed up drying time.

GridBeyond

GridBeyond started life as Endeco Technologies, a company using IoT technology to help businesses reduce energy consumption. That mission has expanded as GridBeyond also aims to power the switch to 100pc renewable energy.

The Dublin-headquartered company applies AI and machine learning to help businesses optimise their energy use. Further to that, GridBeyond encourages businesses to store excess energy from renewables which they can then sell back to the grid using the company’s robotic trading technology.

GridBeyond’s vision is to build a shared energy economy and it is already working with large energy consumers such as data centres, hospitals and refineries.

Hanley Energy

Headquartered in Co Meath, Hanley Energy has been providing software to monitor energy use since 2009. It has particularly proven its expertise in critical power management for data centres.

Using Hanley Energy’s proprietary technology, businesses can track all energy usage, analyse trends and identify significant energy losses or overuse. Armed with this information, efficiency measures can be taken that not only cut energy costs but reduce the business’s carbon footprint.

By the end of this year, Hanley Energy itself aims to have a supply chain that is 100pc sustainably sourced, using only certified green suppliers and materials.

Keenan

Carlow company Keenan produces farm animal feeders that combine engineering and IoT technology to capture data on animal feed mixes in real time, in order to optimise the mix quality. The result is herd nutrition that is precise and tailored, which not only reduces waste but can also improve yields of milk and beef.

This contributes to an improved feed conversion efficiency in livestock, and the Carbon Trust has validated Keenan’s feeder as a more sustainable approach that can help to reduce on-farm emissions.

Established in 1978, Keenan was acquired by US animal feed company Alltech in 2016.

OceanEnergy

Part of Ireland’s ‘blue economy’, Cork company OceanEnergy captures and converts wave energy using its unique technology.

There’s more than a decade of R&D behind OceanEnergy’s groundbreaking device, which floats on the ocean’s surface, generating electrical energy. Each one can produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

OceanEnergy is backed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and also received $11.5m in funding from the US Department of Energy. It has partnered with the US Navy in a $25m project to launch a grid-connected device in Hawaii. This project will be used to test and optimise the device for future use.

Xocean

As OceanEnergy and other key players have noticed, the ocean economy presents an expansive opportunity. What businesses operating in this space will need for their operations is data.

Xocean is a Louth-based start-up that remotely operates unmanned surface vessels to gather ocean data for survey companies and other organisations. To date, the company has supplied data to more than 12 offshore windfarms across the EU, North and South America.

In a funding round that closed in November 2019, Xocean secured €7.9m from investors including Enterprise Ireland, the Marine Institute Ireland and the Creative Destruction Lab.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter lawsuit: what you need to know | Elon Musk

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Elon Musk did not become the world’s wealthiest person through a lack of confidence.

But the Tesla CEO revealed on Tuesday that he had sold $6.9bn (£5.7bn) worth of shares in the carmaker, in case he loses his attempt to walk away from a $44bn takeover of Twitter.

Twitter is suing Musk in Delaware over his abandonment of the deal and wants to make him buy the company.

In a countersuit released last week, Musk put his side of the argument. According to him: Twitter misled investors; it breached the agreement by failing to provide enough information on spam accounts; another breach occurred when Twitter failed to consult with him on business moves such as firing senior employees; and its misstatement of user numbers constitutes a material adverse effect, which substantially alters Twitter’s value and therefore invalidates the deal agreement.

Here is a breakdown of Musk’s suit.

The relationship between both sides remains poor

There is $44bn at stake and the language in Musk’s countersuit is just as punchy as Twitter’s in the original lawsuit, when the company described his behaviour as “a model of bad faith”. In the preliminary statement Twitter is accused of making financial disclosures to the US financial watchdog that were “far from true”.

“Instead, they contain numerous, material misrepresentations or omissions that distort Twitter’s value and caused the Musk parties to agree to acquire the company at an inflated price. Twitter’s complaint, filled with personal attacks against Musk and gaudy rhetoric more directed at a media audience than this court, is nothing more than an attempt to distract from these misrepresentations,” said the lawsuit.

Strong words, but Musk will need strong evidence as well to convince the judge.

Musk’s core argument is about user numbers

From the moment the deal started to go sour, the focus was on the veracity of Twitter’s numbers. It is at the centre of Musk’s countersuit as well. He argues that the number of monetisable daily average users (mDAUs) – authentic, active accounts that can see adverts (hence monetisable) – is falsely inflated by Twitter miscounting the number of false and spam accounts on the platform. As well as being a threat to the ad income on which Twitter depends, Musk said his plan to introduce a subscription service for Twitter would be affected because there would be fewer customers to target than first thought.

Twitter has consistently stated that it estimates the number of false or spam accounts on the platform to be less than 5% of its mDAUs base, which stands at just under 238 million currently.

The suit says that Musk became alarmed about how Twitter accounts for its mDAUs when, three days after signing the deal agreement, it admitted it had overstated its mDAU total for three years, by between 1.4 million and 1.9 million users per quarter. Twitter denies that the user change was a “restatement” (it describes the alteration as “updated values”) but admits it did not give the information to Musk prior to the deal being signed on 25 April.

Musk is not happy with Twitter’s verification processes

After agreeing to buy the business with minimal due diligence, the suit says Musk was “astonished” to learn about how “meagre” Twitter’s processes for identifying spam accounts were. It said 100 accounts a day were sampled by human reviewers in order to come up with the less-than-5% figure. Twitter’s CEO and chief financial officer were unable to explain how these accounts were selected to be a representative sample.

“Musk realised that, at best, Twitter’s reliance on and touting of its process was reckless; at worst, it was intentionally misleading,” says the suit.

Twitter argues that it uses a much more layered process for weeding out dodgy accounts, including using automated systems. It also pointed to the detailed explanations of how it polices spam accounts, which had been given to Musk, the press, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the public via a Twitter thread by CEO Parag Agrawal. In the most notorious episode of this takeover saga, Musk replied to the latter with a poo emoji.

But according to the countersuit at least Agrawal and Musk agreed on one thing. The document states that on 8 April Musk sent the CEO an example of a spam tweet saying: “I am so sick of stuff like this.” Agrawal replied, acknowledging “[w]e should be catching this.”

Musk’s counter-estimates

Citing “preliminary expert estimates”, the countersuit claims that in early July one-third of visible accounts may have been false or spam. This means that the true proportion of spam accounts among Twitter’s user base is at least 10%.

It says users that see zero or almost no ads account for almost all the growth in monetisable daily users. The majority of ads are served to less than 16 million users, the suit claims.

Twitter says that although not every user sees ads on a given day, in the first quarter “significantly more than” 229 million accounts contributed to Twitter’s average quarterly user number.

Regarding the 10% number, Twitter says it was based on a publicly available web tool, botometer, that has designated Musk’s own account as a likely bot.

Twitter made decisions without consulting Musk

One of the clauses in the merger agreement states Musk must be told when Twitter is deviating from its obligation to conduct its business in the “ordinary course”. In the countersuit, Musk claims that Twitter has made several “significant” changes – including firing two executives, starting a hiring freeze and initiating a legal clash with the Indian government – that occurred without his consent.

Twitter’s response is that axing employees or acting to protect users’ rights in foreign jurisdictions are part of the day-to-day business of running a company.

Information was not forthcoming

Musk is also claiming that Twitter failed to provide him with all the data and information that he requested “for any reasonable business purpose related to the consummation of the transaction”. The suit says Musk was sent reams of “stale data” that didn’t answer his questions.

It says, pointedly, that Twitter was happy to send data such as “a copy of its agreement with the Golden State Warriors for courtside basketball tickets and VIP parking”.

After more back-and-forth arguments over increasingly detailed information requests, the suit claims “the only conclusion the Musk parties could draw from Twitter’s obfuscation and delay was that Twitter knew that it had something to hide”.



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Economic uncertainty can’t stop cloud growth • The Register

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The hyperscalers and public cloud providers are barreling ahead, unfazed by a rapidly deteriorating economic outlook, according to a recent Dell’Oro Group report.

In fact, these internet behemoths stand to benefit from the current market conditions in more ways than one, analyst Baron Fung told The Register.

As chipmakers like Intel, Nvidia, Micron, and others face increased pricing pressure across their lineups due to declining demand, hyperscalers are well-positioned to take advantage of this and add more capacity on the cheap, he explained.

“Looking at the recent Q2 earnings, it was really pretty impressive from a growth standpoint,” Fung said of the cloud providers.

Amazon and Azure in particular saw robust revenue gains in their most recent quarters. AWS saw revenues climb 36 percent from the prior year, while Microsoft reported its cloud biz saw year-over-year growth of 40 percent. However, things weren’t as peachy for Google, which saw a otherwise strong quarter for cloud revenue tempered by a $858 million loss in income.

Worsening macroeconomic factors may end up helping cloud providers as enterprises look for alternatives to capex-heavy server refreshes. We saw this phenomenon once before – in the early days of the pandemic.

These factors, combined with a wave of enabling technology – next-generation CPUs, GPUs, smartNICs, and CXL-enabled components to name a handful – will further accelerate hyperscaler spending, which is expected to grow 13 percent over the next five years, Fung said.

So it’s no surprise many chipmakers are optimistic about their cloud and datacenter-related revenues over the next few quarters, despite a slump in PC and gaming demand.

The analyst firm expects next-generation CPU platforms from the likes of Intel, AMD, and Ampere will be among the strongest drivers of hyperscale spending in the near term.

Intel and AMD are expected to launch their next-generation server processors later this year. Both of these chips pack a bevy of new features, including DDR5, and PCIe 5.0, in addition to having substantially higher core counts compared to the previous generation.

These chips are also among the first to support the CXL interconnect standard, “which will enable a new kind of paradigm in the datacenter,” according to Fung.

In its first iteration, the technology will allow systems builders to pack larger quantities of memory into servers than there are DIMM slots, using CXL memory-expansion modules. And in the years to come, the technology has provisions for tiered memory, memory pooling, and disaggregated compute architectures.

The operational and resource efficiencies enabled by the tech may eventually trickle down to customers in the form of lower prices, Fung added.

But it won’t just be the x86 stalwarts leading the charge in the datacenter. Fung also expects Arm chipmakers, like Ampere, to continue gaining traction in the hyperscale arena. Here, the chipmaker’s Altra and Altra Max processors have already attracted several high-profile customers including Microsoft Azure, Google, Cloudflare, and Oracle – to name just a few.

Finally, Dell’Oro predicts hyperscalers will drive edge infrastructure deployments – a market that Intel currently dominates – to 8 percent of the total datacenter infrastructure market by 2026. ®

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Limerick researchers’ findings show potential of food to treat heart disease

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The Irish-based study lead said food scientists, medical scientists and pharma companies must work together to produce functional foods to treat chronic conditions.

A team of researchers based at the Bernal Institute in University of Limerick (UL) have developed a new guide to designing functional foods to treat various chronic conditions.

Functional foods are foods that provide nutrition and act in a way that positively affects the body, similar to medicine.

According to the research, food has the potential to help in the treatment of heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.

“The capacity for our food to do more than provide us with nutrition is huge and relatively unexplored,” said study lead Daniel Granato, professor in food science and health at UL.

“Cardiovascular diseases are a main cause of death but they can be prevented. By bringing food scientists, medical scientists and pharma companies together we can employ the same methods used in producing medicinal drugs and produce foods that might mitigate health conditions,” Granato added.

The study has been published in Trends in Food Science & Technology, an academic journal. The UL researchers were joined on the project by academics from the Federal University of Alfenas and Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Granato and his team proposed an accurate computational approach to designing functional foods by predicting their bioactivity. This allowed the researchers to map how different food components benefit the body.

The study also drew attention to the potential of functional foods to treat illnesses and lessen the burden on the world’s health services. Functional foods are not too available on the market, despite their potential to help prevent conditions such as type-2 diabetes and glucose intolerance. These are both major contributors to heart disease.

Food science, cardiovascular disease therapy and computer modelling should be linked to produce functional foods that can mitigate atherosclerosis, according to Granato. He urged food and pharma companies to take note.

“This is critical to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in good health and wellbeing, as well as ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages, by optimising discovery of bioactive compound sources, and reducing time to market for new functional foods,” he said.

Granato’s co-author and senior lecturer in the UL Department of Biological Sciences, Dr Andreas Grabrucker, said this approach could go far beyond heart disease.

“It will be the basis of a new research project at UL that aims to identify functional foods that lower the risk for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” he claimed.

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