Northern Ireland could emerge as a global hotbed for financial systems, creative media and cloud computing technologies if the potential of Project Kelvin is harnessed, according to a group of leading businessmen.
The sophisticated international telecommunications infrastructure, built by Hibernia Atlantic, between Northern Ireland and North America and also Northern Ireland and mainland Europe is currently being tested and is due to go live in March.
Its potential impact on the local economy was highlighted on Thursday evening at a major thought leadership event organised by NISP Connect.
The Monetizing Kelvin initiative brought together over 200 top technologists, entrepreneurs and business leaders to discuss how best to unlock the commercial opportunities offered by Project Kelvin.
The event was held simultaneously via live link-up between University of Ulster’s Magee campus in Londonderry and Northern Ireland Science Park in Belfast.
One of the panelists was entrepreneur Greg Maguire who has been instrumental in the launch and development of numerous heavy-hitters of animation, including Walt Disney Feature Animation and George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).
The Downpatrick native opened his own San Francisco company, Zoogloo with fellow ILM alumnae Andy Buecker in 2006 and Greg’s most recent projects include Terminator 4: Salvation and James Cameron’s Avatar, due to be released December 18. He has also worked on the award-winning films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Happy Feet.
At Zoogloo he oversees and manages all aspects of their character creation services from design, modelling, rigging, painting, animation, cloth simulation and rigid body dynamics to scheduling, budgeting, bidding, staffing and contracts.
Speaking at Monetizing Kelvin, Mr Maguire revealed that he will be setting up an office and a studio in Belfast as a result of Project Kelvin and discussed the benefits it will have for his business.
He said: “Before Project Kelvin, all internet traffic to Northern Ireland had to come through a single location in Dublin. If this sole connection went down, which does happen periodically in other places in the world, then a company with a remote client base or remote offices, or a data centre would be severely crippled until it was fixed, which could take weeks.
“Project Kelvin offers a resilience and a security that companies and data centres desire. Take that resilience and look at where Northern Ireland is located in relationship to the US and Europe; it’s slap bang in the middle. Northern Ireland has now created another option for services seeking to deploy a server in the US and in Europe. A single secure redundant server can instead be based in Northern Ireland serving both continents.”
With the future of computing needs moving from the desktop to large data centres, Project Kelvin is crucial to that development.
In fact Microsoft has just opened a data centre in Dublin, which would not |have happened without such a scheme.
Mr Maguire added: “Northern Ireland also benefits from having a super fast fiber optic ring encircling it. It only takes one millisecond for data to travel completely around the ring. To put that into context, most networks in your office will take 10 milliseconds for data to travel from one computer to the other 10 feet away. This means that if a company wanted to build a data centre they can build it at any location on that ring and they will not suffer any speed disadvantage.”
Other Monetizing Kelvin speakers included moderator for the evening Sinclair Stockman, former chief scientist of BT; Padraig Canavan, CEO & founder of Singularity; Johnny Gilmore, CEO Sling Media and Ben Greene, director, SAP Research.
Northern Ireland Science Park chief executive Dr Norman Apsley said: “The Science Park is located within a fibre’s length of a Point Of Presence (POP), and we’ve seen for ourselves what a powerful lure this provides for attracting global blue-chip companies into the area. So we can see how Kelvin will act as a honey pot for new investment and commercial opportunities across the region.
“A number of Ulstermen who have reached the heights of global business success are telling us that the world is our oyster. The Kelvin platform will be a key enabler both for local businesses’ growth and for drawing in big businesses and employers from outside the region.”
Fergus Innes, vice president of sales in Europe, Hibernia Atlantic said: “This |project has the potential to bring numerous benefits to existing businesses and to new investors in this region.
“Companies are interested in the additional fast and secure bandwidth, where critical information can avoid common and congested routes around London and New York waterways. This is attractive for global banks, content delivery networks, media houses, international carriers and others who require large bandwidth via a secure and diverse footprint from North America to Europe.
“Additionally, Northern Ireland businesses selling goods and services overseas can now take advantage of greatly improved competition in the international telecommunications market.
“Project Kelvin will open up new markets and new trade opportunities for the region where they will have faster, lower costing and more resilient connectivity. Local businesses and entrepreneurs can avail of a new wealth of capacity and the ability to be securely connect to Canada, US, GB and mainland Europe.”