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AI Conference in GMIT – an insight on AI and the West – Irish Tech News


Seamus Dowling is a lecturer at the Mayo Campus of GMIT and speaker at the Mayo-AI event on the 20th November. We asked him some questions on AI and also how his students fare in the West of Ireland with regard to jobs, careers and keeping up to date with new technologies.

We are a small campus, but we think big and continuously look to provide excellence to our students and the wider region.”Seamus Dowling, GMIT.

ITN: Let’s start with AI – the subject of this conference – with a few big questions

AI is the killer app. So much so that Professor Stephen Hawkings said in 2014 that ‘”The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

SD: Can we ‘turn off’ the Internet currently? No one entity governs it. We have created a network that is hugely beneficial and insidious at the same time. It has been suggested that a new global force already exists in the form of ‘Technium’. Stephen Hawking was comparing the glacial speed of human evolution against the potential rapid expansion of AI beyond singularity. I would not be as pessimistic to say it could spell the end. The Internet is still very much in an embryonic state. We have learned a lot about setting up a global connected entity and we have made mistakes. But we are learning from these mistakes. As we approach singularity with the next revolution of robotics, AI, etc., we will still make mistakes regarding control and governance. I think, however that we will be more knowledgeable and have better structures in place to ensure future AI concepts do not become a SkyNet. (of Terminator fame)

ITN: AI right now is largely insidious – even the new version of gmail offers endings to sentences. If AI doesn’t end us, could it make us very stupid?

SD: Thank Dog for spell checking. AI is facilitating huge advancements which are opening new and exciting areas of research. Even though human evolution takes a long time, the impact of AI on individuals and society should be more immediate. AI has a beneficial impact on how society exists with smart cities projects and ecosystems enhancing quality of life. I don’t think it will make us stupid but it will change how we live. That transition may make us look stupid as we adapt to new concepts.

ITN: Then some more local departmental questions

Is AI on the curriculum currently in Mayo – in what formats.

 SD: We currently offer elements of AI in modules such as Networking, Security and Cryptography, Software Development and Data Mining. As lecturers, we are constantly updating content and we see AI and machine learning elements becoming more prevalent. In fact we are currently developing new degree programmes, common entry with specialised streams of modules. One of these streams is AI and machine learning. It will involve the application of software development to AI concepts such as data analytics and cyber security. 

ITN: How fast does technology teaching evolve – when compared to the speed of change in the fintech industry – is blockchain for example part of the curriculum?

SD: This is one of the reasons lecturing in technology is so exciting at the moment. We are continuously updating our content, delivery methods, award titles and programmes to reflect both what industry wants and current trends in technology. Web 3.0 and beyond is the semantic and intelligent web whereby AI, data analytics and IoT will enhance our lives. This requires us to look at those industrial and technological demands, such as fintech, blockchain and incorporate them into our content and awards. Logistically, this can take time to get it out there so it is so important that our teaching is constantly aware of evolving technologies. 

ITN: Are there many opportunities for students to get hands on experience with the latest technologies – have you partnered with companies or research groups to ensure academic studies keep up to date?

SD: As a project supervisor, I’m constantly encouraging our students to take on new technology for their project. We regularly partner them with industry and iHub startups to contribute and experience the technology in real world applications.

I’m part of the OSNA cyber security research group in NUIG. “The group’s prime focus is in researching and developing security solutions and services tailored to the network protocols and architectures used in M2M communications across numerous domains.”

 I’m currently working on the use of machine learning techniques to improve cyber security tools that can capture and analyse malware methods in IoT domains. This research all filters back to my teaching and recommendations to students for their own project work.

ITN: What other activities does GMIT run in this space – hackathons, workshops, etc

Digital West (http://digitalwest.biz/) is a hugely successful event and will run in late January 2019.

“As the digital media landscape rapidly evolves with the introduction of new technologies such as AI, analytics, automation and a movement towards high definition video communication, companies are finding it increasingly hard to attract and maintain talent. It is focused on emerging trends in Digital Media and how they will affect companies and individuals in 2019 and beyond” 

GMIT mayo is also partnered with the industry lead Digital Marketing in Mayo group, and they run numerous events across the year.  

We are very excited about our Digital Academy concept. It is a GMIT Mayo campus wide initiative that will incorporate course provision, co-working, community and industry engagement around the thematic focus of digital technology. The Academy will include a dedicated physical space on campus to attract companies in the domain with the intention to build a digital ecosystem in Mayo.     

Being a small campus, we have very close relationships with our alumni. Over the last number of years we have seen them climb to senior positions in the IT field. Along with industry experts, they regularly give talks on new and emerging trends in their area of IT expertise. 

ITN: Finally – is there any disadvantage to students in the West of the country. Do they miss out on the Silicon Docks in Dublin – is there similar geographical developments, access to finance etc. We all know people can enjoy a better standard of living in the West – but are the top jobs available there too?

SD: Every industry sector has an IT function and this applies to the west of Ireland also. In our immediate vicinity we have a number of large organisations and multinationals. Our review of graduates found 95% of them were working or in further studies with over 50% of them in the immediate western region. The jobs are there for our IT students and we constantly field requests from industry looking to fill core IT roles. There are huge benefits in the west with college costs being significantlyless than major urban area. There is the geographic disconnect being in the west, but technology bridges that gap. The Mayo Campus has great connections with Eduroam. 

All students have Office365 allowing them to video link with live seminars, conferences, staff and each other. The exciting development of the Digital Academy will allow closer interactions between students and industry. We are a small campus, but we think big and continuously look to provide excellence to our students and the wider region. 

To contact Seamus – check out his linkedin profile

To register for the Conference – check out the website

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