First Derivatives technology will be busy analysing shoppers' behaviour
Technology with its roots in Northern Ireland is set to "disrupt" another sector after financial software firm First Derivatives (FD) announced it would be adapting its data analytics know-how to retail.
The Newry-based firm, which reported pre-tax profits of £7m last week for the first half of the year, will use its Kx technology to develop retail analytic programmes.
It has recruited analytic specialists who worked with Asda and its parent company Walmart, to develop the technology for areas such as inventory control and insights into customer behaviour.
The move is part of a bid by the plc to adapt its technology so that it can enter vertical markets.
According to research company Markets and Markets, the research analytics market is expected to grow by 19% to be worth over $5bn per year in 2020.
FD said it plans to develop solutions to allow retailers to analyse large volumes of data in real time, to allow "instant decision making" to support the customer and help retailers operate more efficiently.
Damon Bryan - the former head of Callcredit/Asda Analytics at Callcredit Information Group, which carries out data analytics for Asda - said: "There is more data than ever in retail and this is growing as the industry becomes technology and multi-channel focused, but many retailers are still struggling to realise the full potential value through genuine, simple and executable solutions.
"Kx's ability to deal with huge volumes of data takes the art of what is possible to the next level.
"Combining Kx with our proven retail analytics solutions and expertise will provide incremental value in areas such as merchandising, marketing and operational optimisation to deliver huge and immediate value to retailers."
First Derivatives has also hired Peter Denby, head of business development at Callcredit Group, and a former client director at Sky, as well as Thomas Hill, a senior director in pricing and promotions at Asda.
Brian Conlon, chief executive of First Derivatives, said: "We are confident that the market-leading performance of our technology has the capability to disrupt a number of markets, of which retail is one that we consider to be sufficiently attractive to develop our own solutions.
"Combining the power of Kx with the deep domain expertise of Peter, Thomas and Damon will enable us to quickly develop and market solutions that we believe leading retailers will find compelling."
First Derivatives is today cited by Economy Minister Simon Hamilton as a major success story in the tech sector in Northern Ireland, and part of his plan to build a 'Silicon Causeway' of tech firms across the province.
The company, which employs around 1,700 people worldwide - including around 900 at its Newry headquarters - last week said revenue grew 34% in the first half to reach £72.4m.
Sales in its consultancy arm were up 21% to £43m, while software sales rocketed 60% to £29.4m.
Around 250 other staff are employed by First Derivatives in Belfast, while the rest of its workforce is scattered around its global premises in locations from Singapore to Toronto.
Chief financial officer Graham Ferguson told the Belfast Telegraph the company was hoping to increase sales by adapting its technology to vertical markets.
It's already in a partnership with the US firm Utilismart, which provides meter data management and analytics to more than 100 utility companies in the US.
The firm was originally set up by Brian Conlon, who is from Newry, to analyse fast-flowing data from banks and financial institutions. Vertical markets including retail are the next step.