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How Irish tech is helping in the battle against Covid-19

Posted: 14 Apr 2021

How Irish tech is helping in the battle against Covid-19

Innovation and collaboration are enabling numerous Irish companies to make significant breakthroughs in the global battle against COVID-19.

From leveraging artificial intelligence and wifi to analysing digital trends and rolling out new applications, Irish tech innovators have been centre stage in the battle against Covid-19.

“It’s really inspiring to see the innovation and collaboration that is currently taking place,” says Eolas Recruitment Managing Director Vincent Flynn.

“The challenge when we emerge from the pandemic will be to keep up the pace.”

Contact Tracing

In one of the best-known examples of Irish innovation since the outbreak of the pandemic, Waterford company NearForm achieved international recognition and success for their Covid Tracker apps which assist public health authorities while helping individuals to protect themselves against the virus.

Artificial Intelligence

Another early initiative saw Ireland’s applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) centre CeADAR offer its expert scientists and researchers to help companies, government agencies, medical centres or charities in the fight against the virus. AI tools can be used to help detect Covid-19 and track the compliance of the general public.

“We want to help make a contribution to improve people’s lives and help reduce the spread of the virus,” CeADAR Director Edward McDonnell said at the time.

Social distancing

Elsewhere, Taoglas, a leading provider of next-generation IoT solutions, launched a people movement analytics platform to help manage crowd sizes and social distancing. CROWD Insights uses existing WiFi infrastructure to monitor the numbers, flows and dwell times of people in public areas and sets thresholds to alarm if an intervention is necessary. The solution, which is suitable for use in any healthcare facility, venue, retail store, restaurant, airport, city or town, can be deployed remotely in a single day via a cloud management platform.

Telemedicine

At community level, GPs have implemented digital solutions to enable online booking for prescription renewals and vaccination appointments while Zoom-style consultations are helping to minimise the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Tests used by RocDoc Health Check, a GP practice based in Ashbourne, Co. Meath who provide Covid-19 testing services via an online booking system, include a rapid molecular test developed by Irish company HiberGene Diagnostics.

Pharmacies

In March 2020, the Irish Independent reported how Shane O’Sullivan, a Dublin-based pharmacist, has developed bot technology to deal with increased demand for pharmacy and GP services due to Covid-19— a great example of the benefits of learning to code.

Shane’s Dundrum-based business Healthwave has made its CareBot Covid-19 Assessment tool available to GPs free of charge during the pandemic.

Digital trends

The HSE are tracking trends in the questions they receive through their social media channels and sharing this information with their wider digital team. The results are used to proactively prepare responses and develop online content. At a broader level, across healthcare as in other sectors the use of algorithms to make discoveries and generate insight from search trends and big data is accelerating.

Wearables

Meanwhile, interest in the potential of wearable devices to monitor patients with Covid-19 and chronic illness is also on the rise. Data collected by wearables is analysed by algorithms which can alert doctors when a potential problem is identified.

Demand for IT skills

With tech-enabled initiatives emerging almost every day, it is not surprising that demand for IT skills is on the rise.

Data and security-related skills in particular, are a focus, at the moment.

“During the pandemic, we have seen how data can be used to track the progress of Covid-19. That is just a glimpse of Big Data’s potential to accelerate the efforts of researchers and policy makers. It is also clear that there is a lot of work to be done in areas like integrating medical systems so that all of the professionals involved in the delivery of services have access to relevant data,” says Vincent.

“Of course anything that involves data also involves risk. There have been numerous instances of ransomware attacks on healthcare organisations and reports of hackers being able to manipulate devices like pacemakers. So, data protection and the security of systems is a huge challenge and a good example of an area where demand for skilled IT professionals is only going to become more intense.”

Platforms

Looking to how future health platform capabilities are likely to emerge, EY recently predicted this will happen at two levels: “In immediate proximity to consumers, companies developing different applications, products or tools will join forces to create platforms of care that address specific health needs. Above these individual platforms of care, global technology, artificial intelligence and data analytics companies will combine skills to become supra-platform aggregators, helping to scale insights gained at the platform of care level across multiple therapeutic areas.”

Opportunities for IT workers

While the convergence of technologies is creating exciting opportunities for IT workers, candidates need to keep up to date with emerging trends, says Eolas Recruitment Technical Manager Peter Kirby,

“The pace of change really accelerated during the pandemic and one of the trends that is particularly strong is collaboration. So, it’s not just technical skills that companies are looking for. They want people who can learn and adapt quickly and who have the soft skills and emotional intelligence to collaborate and work effectively with both in-house and external teams,”  says Peter.

Advanced technologies like robotic automation and artificial intelligence are also driving demand for IT workers who can manage teams made up of both humans and bots, says Eolas Recruitment Principal Consultant Stephen Daly.

“Getting experience is the key thing. Contracting can be a good way to acquire skills with emerging and cutting-edge technologies. It’s also a great way to build your professional network. While developers, engineers, data analysts, project managers and candidates with expertise in areas like security, ecommerce, quality and project management are highly sought after, it’s vital that your skills are up to date.”

Another tip for candidates is to show commitment to ongoing learning and development, for example by doing online and distance learning courses. Relevant qualifications add value to a tech CV, says Senior Recruiter Nollaig Leydon.

A good way to keep up with what companies are looking for in terms of skills and qualifications is to keep an eye on the Eolas Recruitment job listings.

Some companies have found it difficult to source suitable candidates during the pandemic but this is where Eolas Recruitment can help, says Nollaig.

“As a specialist in the IT sector, we understand what companies are looking for which is very important when it comes to innovation and technical skills. So, we are ideally placed to manage every stage of the hiring process, from identifying candidates to screening applicants, arranging interviews and contract negotiation — all of the services that companies need when hiring IT workers in the current market”

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