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Research and Scholarship

The smarter way to use information

Information is everywhere. Each time you search for a product online, track your fitness with a connected device, or check the news headlines on your phone – you trigger a deluge of data.

Meanwhile, your behaviours and opinions online provide useful data for businesses and researchers. But how can we get the most out of this information?

Professor Barry Smyth and his colleagues at UCD have developed new software approaches that use information smartly. Smyth’s research has consistently married basic science with commercial impact.

Making life easier

“In all aspects of our life, whether work or play, we need to get access to all kinds of information quickly and easily. And anything that can help us to get to the right information at the right time saves us time and money and helps us to make better decisions”, explains Professor Smyth, who holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science at UCD.

 

We want to make people’s lives easier and get them the information they need quickly and efficiently – whether that is an end-user or a business providing a service.

A changing world

Today we are used to online service providers nudging personalised content our way. But back in 1999, when Professor Smyth co-founded UCD spin-out, ChangingWorlds, the concept was still in its infancy.

The company applied TV viewing recommendation software developed at UCD to Internet-enabled mobile devices, so that mobile operators could learn from a user’s behaviours and recommend appropriate information back to them.

 

The sensor web

In 2008 ChangingWorlds was acquired by Amdocs and Professor Smyth became Director of the new Science Foundation Ireland academic-industry consortium, CLARITY. Dedicated to the ‘sensor web’, a physical and interconnected realm of sensors that can be monitored and analysed using new technology, CLARITY research helped to improve Gaelic games, tennis, sports media coverage, environmental monitoring and assisted living in older age.

In 2010 Professor Smyth co-founded CLARITY spin-out, HeyStaks, a social search and advertising company, to allow people to search more efficiently online.

In UCD I am creating a culture of scientific entrepreneurship among my own students.

New insights into Big Data

Mining into data remained the theme when he became interim CEO of The Insight Centre for Data Analytics, the largest SFI ‘supercentre’ that helps multi-nationals, small-to-medium enterprises and academic researchers to find smarter ways to gather, analyse and harness the power of Big Data.

As a Principal Investigator and co-Director of Insight, Professor Smyth now continues to break new ground in analysing opinions and sentiments online to build better recommender systems.

“It was a move to the concept of mining user behaviours to generate appropriate content”, recalls Professor Smyth.

Entrepreneurship to the fore

The commercial and research communities in Ireland have each recognised Professor Smyth’s contributions. In 2012 he was honoured with the inaugural Irish Software Association Outstanding Academic Achievement of the Year Award and in 2014 he was named SFI Researcher of the Year.

Now an advisor to several start-up companies, Professor Smyth believes that basic research and good business mix and feed off each other. “My commercial endeavours benefitted from my science and my science was driven by what I found in the marketplace”, he says.

“In UCD I am creating a culture of scientific entrepreneurship among my own students, and as a result the majority tend to go into start-ups or become entrepreneurs themselves. We need to fully exploit the ‘unfair advantage’ that our research and innovation training provides us in a marketplace that recognises the value of game-changing intellectual property.”

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Featured Researcher:

Professor Barry Smyth

Prof. Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in University College Dublin and is a Director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. He is a Fellow of the European Coordinating Committee on Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI) since 2003 and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy since 2011.

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