Northern Ireland Digital Futures

Last month I had the pleasure of heading back to Belfast to attend the Digital Futures seminar hosted by agendaNi, the magazine for Northern Ireland's Political and Business decision makers.
The Grand Opera House was a great setting for the event and I was impressed with the programme of speakers. Arriving in time for a nice cup of tea before the introductions allowed me time to talk to some of the other attendees about what they were looking to get out of the day. Most people were seeking to gain knowledge about the up and coming technologies and what the experts felt were the ones they should be researching and indeed using within their own organisations.
The first presentation of the day was titled "Big Data: The next big thing" delivered by Chris Roche from EMC. A great start to the seminar and very informative around the aspects of big data and how you should approach the issue. Innovation was a key message within the presentation and I was really pleased to learn that Chris' own department are using Open Source technologies throughout their infrastructure which has enabled scalability and flexibility whilst reducing their costs.
Next to the stage was Josh Holmes from Microsoft talking about Cloud solutions, a very enthusiastic presentation from someone who clearly loves their job. Some great case studies showing how businesses are making the most of this trending technology.
To finish off the morning presentations, our CEO Mark Taylor took to the floor to talk about Open Source in Government. Mark talked about how Governments throughout the world were implementing massive amounts of open source technologies and how our own, United Kingdom, Government have a lot of catching up to do. It was an interesting overview of how different countries are making the most of the solutions available and driving economic growth in the process.
The audience were keen to participate in the question and answer session and get the speakers thoughts on some of the areas surrounding the different technologies.
Another opportunity for a cup of tea and a few discussions between participants before heading back in for the second sessions of presentations.
First up was Colin Reid from Consilium Technologies talking about your organisation going mobile. The talk focused on some of how their customers have adapted their business to cope with the demand for their customers wishing to interact through their mobile phones. Most mobile application development is being done on the Android and Apple platforms with Microsoft and blackberry platforms lagging behind. Just seeing what can be done through the handset was inspiring and it was great to see the public sector engaging with this development.
Colm McGoldrick from Maildistiller was next to step on to the stage and gave one of my favourite presentations of the day (after Mark's, surely? Ed.). Colm is so passionate about his business and explaining how you can tackle e mail security whilst still utilising open source software. Colm explained how they started off with proprietary software, but threw it all out in favour of Open Source to get better performance as well as lower cost - it simply couldn't have been done with proprietary software! They have a really good product and I encourage everyone to track them down.
The focus then switched to social analytics with another fantastic presentation delivered by Marie Wallace of IBM. The case studies showed how information posted on twitter and facebook was used to assist emergency services who were responding to events during the Chile earthquake. Marie also went into depth about how analytics helps you to understand the community and engage with their needs.
The final presentation was from Nigel Farr from Equiniti-ICS explaining how to innovate without compromising data security. A very informative look into the area of security within your infrastructure and how to avoid some of the key mistakes during an audit.
Summing up I had a great day, I learnt a lot about more about the latest technologies and will be doing further research of my own into some of the areas explored throughout the day. A great event and I am looking forward to getting the opportunity to head over to Ireland again for the next event. A huge thank you to agendaNi for a well organised programme.

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