Developments in Impact Tech shine through at this year’s first Virtual Dublin Tech Summit

Dublin Tech Summit highlights the companies that are pioneering the most cutting-edge technology from all over the world and this year was no different.  Megan O’Brien has laid out her top impact technologies that she discovered at this year’s summit.

Image courtesy of Dublin Tech Summit.

The first virtual summit for Dublin  was impressively executed and one of the areas that shone through was the evolution section, where there was a lot of discussion around technology that is helping to change the world for the better. As we struggle on in this global pandemic, there is a spotlight being cast on impact tech. Denoted as a science or technology that is used to benefit people and the planet, impact tech ideally aims to address a major social or environmental problem. 

ApisProtect

There has been enormous development in the Food and AgTech industry over the last 20 years alone; crop and dairy farming as well as the farm to fork chain has seen enormous innovation yet the beekeeping industry has somehow gotten left behind. 

Co-founder and CEO Dr Edwards Murphy said this will turn out to be a global issue if we don’t see it scale up soon: “One third of the food we eat is bee dependent; for example, almond crops need two hives in every acre and that’s not something traditional beekeeping can provide.” With thousands of hives on just one farm it would be impossible for the keeper to monitor and check each one – this is where ApisProtect comes in. 

Using robust sensor technology to detect which hives are thriving and which ones are struggling, ApisProtect is helping to scale up beekeeping, increase efficiency, improve the health of the operation and increase profitability and that’s only the beginning for them.“As the cost of sensors go down, our technology will improve rapidly, sensor technology can be used to impact the real world,” Dr Murphy told the summit.

This was an extremely interesting talk from Dr Edwards Murphy, who’s award winning PhD research at University College Cork spawned this company which is definitely one to watch. You can find out more about this cutting-edge project at ApisProtect.com

SoapBox Labs

Remote work and remote learning are concepts we’ve all had to come to grips with in the last six months, between lockdowns and the closure of schools. This has been particularly difficult for young children learning to read and write.

SoapBox Labs  have created speech recognition technology that helps children to read and improve their language skills. Founder and CEO Patricia Scanlon set up this company in 2013 envisioning a speech tech that would redefine how children acquire literacy. 

“We know that children need a helpful adult in order to learn how to read; SoapBox Labs can act as that,” Scanlon said to the summit. Children speak into the technology; it listens and analyses the speech and returns a graded percentage for each word and syllable helping kids to find out what areas of speech and language they are weak and strong in. 

This technology is cutting edge and has huge impacts.“We can screen for dyslexia in children as young as four years old instead of the average age which is seven to eight,” the summit was told.

Speaking about why voice tech development is important, Scanlon says: “Communication is only 7% verbal, computers are a bit behind at the moment because expressions, gestures and context are all just as important for effective communication. We’re using buttons less and less, they’ll be antiquated in 10 years, we want voice to become the first interface for communicating with tech.”

Trustworthy AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its development has taken centre stage over the past few years. It has crept into our daily lives and we use it every day without even realising it, email filters that organise our emails into junk, starred and primary. Predictive searches and music recommendations are other examples, and then we have the more obvious types such as digital assistants like Alexa or self-driving vehicle technology such as NVIDA. 

But understandably so, there is a huge lack of trust in AI. Mark Surman of Mozilla Foundation hosted a session at the summit that was extremely interesting. “We know that data is the fuel of AI and the people that have the most data have the most power such as these companies [Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon], so we need to think about good data stewardship. Is there an alternative way to collect and handle data?”

Surman discussed some innovative ideas that are emerging regarding ‘alternative data governance approaches’ such as community data centres, data co-ops and data trusts which are all being experimented with right now. 

RegretsReporter

In the same talk, Surman talked about RegretsReporter which could almost be considered an impact technology. Born from the YouTube Regrets campaign run by Mozilla.

“It’s a browser add-on for Firefox or Chrome that prevents users from being shown volatile or disturbing content on YouTube, that they are seeing because of content recommendation systems”, explained Surman.

YouTube Regrets refers to the phenomenon of those being shown violent, disturbing or inappropriate content on YouTube when they started out looking for regular innocuous videos. When the YouTube Regrets Campaign was launched, scores of people sent in their personal experiences with this and it emerged that this was indeed a very serious issue. By using this browser add on and other such technologies, Surman feels “we have the potential to have an era of better AI, one that is much more about humans and caring for them”. 

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