Leitrim start-up Skellig AI holds the keys to Ireland’s industrial and manufacturing future by bringing experienced engineers up to speed with the latest AI and machine learning skills.

Once Manorhamilton in Leitrim had the distinction of having the county’s only set of traffic lights. But in 2020 it opens the door to the future of manufacturing and industry in Ireland.

Tucked away in ManorHUB innovation workspace just off the main street of Manorhamilton Skellig AI’s founder Iain Keaney (pictured above) is spearheading a business that brings engineers to the cutting edge of data science, AI and machine learning.

“We go in-house into an organisation and uptrain their current engineers on machine learning techniques. So instead of having to invest a huge amount of capital hiring expensive data scientists, manufacturers already have talented engineers working in the organisation. More importantly they know the business intimately,” Keaney explains.

“So what we do is help the paradigm shift to actually give them the tools they need to solve problems and be at the edge, which can in a lot of cases be more valuable than bringing in a data scientist who doesn’t understand your business.”

Talent wars and the future of working in Ireland

Keaney makes a lot of sense when you consider the ongoing war for talent and the fact that Ireland is pretty much at full employment.

It also speaks to the reality that experienced engineers also, by nature, want to bring their skills up to date and just because they may be older than the average college graduate, they are still in the fight and ambitious about making their mark.

“Most data science machine learning happens in the Python software language, but we take a very beginner approach to that so if they have been coding in C or Java, they’ll still be able to pick up the pen. It won’t be a barrier yet.

“We teach them how to use APIs (application program interfaces) that are available and that make developing for AI or machine learning easier. It’s a different world because 12 months ago they would have had to learn a lot of back-end stuff, but now the tools exist to automate that.”

While AI and machine learning are being trumpeted as the next big thing in technology, the question is what bottom line impact will it have on a business today.

“A lot of the potential lies in streamlining businesses and being able to derive insights from the data currently being created such as on the factory floor and understanding where losses are occurring.

“Many of the problems can be solved by using internet of things (IoT) devices that monitor what is happening and help with forecasting. Every factory struggles with warehousing.

“You can use AI to understand what’s happening and forecast what materials you’re going to need to store.”

Prior to starting Skellig AI, Keaney worked at LiveTiles in nearby Sligo. A native of Leitrim, Keaney views Manorhamilton as the perfect place to raise his family. His co-founders at Skellig AI work remotely from Dublin.

“I view remote working as the future of the business. I want to build up a team of machine learning engineers who are working on the cutting edge of machine learning technology who can then bring our clients up-to-speed with what’s happen. I have an on-site team but also a remote team.”

The cost of living in Leitrim is substantially lower than that of a city like Dublin and the ManorHUB is served with more than 800Mbps broadband.

“The community of businesses at ManorHUB is growing and they wouldn’t be here if not for the hub and you can see this adding energy in the town.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 23 January, 2020

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