£4.4m funding boost for hi-tech security project
Futuristic technology pioneered in Belfast which is aimed at battling cyber-crime, anti-social behaviour and even terrorist attacks has been given a £4.4m boost.
Invest NI’s funding injection for the Queen’s University Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) in the Titanic Quarter will lead to the creation of 14 new engineering and research posts.
Northern Ireland is leading the way in developing combined face and full-body gender and age recognition through CCTV.
CSIT is the UK’s lead university research centre for the development of technology to counter cyber attacks.
The technology being developed is two-fold and complementary — cyber security and the physical security of data, infrastructure and people both at home and in the workplace.
While it works in the lab, taking it into the real world is trickier and the multi-million pound investment will help pay for more research.
A total of 45 people are currently working on the project, with 80 more staff expected to join the team in the next few years.
Michael Loughlin, senior engineering, research and development manager at CSIT, said the technology has huge commercial potential.
“This technology identifies emerging situations on a live basis rather than someone sitting and reviewing an incident once it has happened,” he said.
“It is hoped, for example, that it can be installed on a bus, which will have a mobile broadband link to an operational command centre. Computers will analyse information, such as four young males getting on a bus, the way they move, if their faces are covered, and decide whether a real person should be alerted, for example, the emergency services.
“Our face, gender and age recognition technology is some of the most advanced in the world and while it works in the lab, we need to work harder in transforming it into a real-world situation with changing lights and movement.
“We are at an intermediate stage here and this funding will really help move it to the next level.
“We work with many partners from large multi-nationals to SMEs and the long term hope is to exploit the potential of these analytic systems commercially. With more Government emphasis on cyber security and security of transport networks following terror attacks, this technology has never been more important and conventional.”
Welcoming the investment, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said that there could be an opportunity for Northern Ireland to become a global leader in such technology.
“In the past, people had to leave Northern Ireland to gain employment in high tech, high skilled industries, now the people, the firms and the money is coming here,” she said.
“CSIT is leading the way in this field and this investment means that it will be able to attract the research and engineering expertise needed to continue the excellent work being done here and keep the team in Belfast ahead of competitors across the world.”