Nic Fearn, editor of Tech Dragons, brings you the latest news from the Welsh technology scene.
Over the last few months, the Welsh technology industry has witnessed some great milestones and success stories.
Whether it was the rebranding of the Digital conference in September or the launch of exciting startups such as We Build Bots, 2017 has been a stellar year for technology in Wales.
But of course, the year isn’t finished just yet, and there’s still lots more to come. November happened to be another big month for the industry.
From the opening of Wales’s first IoT accelerator to the deployment of a smart lighting network in Cardiff, here are the biggest Welsh tech stories from the past month.
Wales’s first IoT accelerator launches
Wales’s first Internet of Things accelerator programme opened to provide promising connected technology firms with financial investment, invaluable knowledge and industry networks.
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The Internet of Things Accelerator Wales is brought together by Innovation Point, The Accelerator Network (TAN), Barclays Eagle Labs, Inspire Wales and the Development Bank of Wales.
Set to run across 12 weeks, the scheme is to support businesses working in areas such as cybersecurity, energy, manufacturing, education and agriculture.
Ten promising businesses will be accepted onto the programme, and they’ll receive £50,000 in investment along with access to world-class facilities, academic expertise and free creative office space to promote intensive-growth.
Economy secretary Ken Skates said: “It is great to see the establishment of an Internet of Things Accelerator in Wales.
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“Digital Technology is developing at lightning speeds, and the Internet of Things focuses that change on how we live and conduct business.
“The connection of SMART devices and the analysis of the data they generate will help us to improve service delivery, productivity and resource efficiency in Wales.
Industry expert Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, who runs London’s largest IoT meet-up, believes that Wales has “a competitive advantage over London which it needed to capitalise on to make the most of the trend’s opportunities”.
She said: “You can make a profitable business in this space by manufacturing just 5000 pieces and through the production of the Raspberry Pi, Wales has the manufacturing capability which we just don’t have in London. That bit is potentially the hardest piece of the jigsaw.”
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Smart lighting network opens in Cardiff
Last month, 14,000 IoT-enabled smart lights were installed in the Welsh capital of Cardiff as part of new plans to reduce energy costs and provide better lighting for residents.
The city’s council finished work on first stage of the project, which deploy thousands of Phillips Luma LED street lights across the Welsh capital.
The lights are connected to the Philips CityTouch system, which city officials can use to set up and manage smart lighting networks. They can do things like dim and increase the brightness of lights.
Aiming to improve efficiency within councils, it provides managers with an overview of the city’s lighting network so they can quickly identify and address any faults.
Chris Jones, lead electrical officer at Cardiff City Council, said: ““Our top priorities were to ensure maximum benefit for our citizens and capitalise on potential cost and energy savings. Philips Lighting has given us an infrastructure that will grow with our needs and provide quality light to make our citizens feel safer.
Funding success for Doopoll
Doopoll, a polling software company based in Cardiff, secured funding from the Development Bank of Wales as it continues to grow.
The company, which has developed an online polling platform used by the likes of O2, Welsh Rugby Union, Admiral and Ty Hafan, processed its 250,000th vote.
It also announced the appointment of co-founder Marc Thomas as its first chief executive officer. Fellow co-founders Steve Dimmick and San Goudie have taken on new roles at the fast-growing company, becoming chief commercial officer and chief product officer.
Thomas, CEO of Doopoll, said: “This is a really exciting time for us as a company, working with clients like O2, Welsh Government and Admiral.
“The challenge of running a rapidly growing business like doopoll is exhilarating. We have a great team and I look forward to developing the company while also delivering success for our growing customer base.”
UK Government to create “tech hub” in Cardiff
Cardiff is to house a new “tech hub” as part of a £21m plan announced to drive the growth of technology across Britain.
Tech City UK and Tech North, which support the growth of the tech industry throughout the UK, will become a national body under the Tech Nation brand.
The organisation support the growth of startups, job pools and clusters in the UK. It said the benefits will be felt by everyone in the industry.
“Our priority will be to build a national network, connecting and catalysing growth in 10 regional tech clusters, plus London, through programmes aimed at every stage in the lifecycle of a digital business,” said TechCityUK.
“The new funding provides the resources to add tech clusters to the network already established by Tech City UK and Tech North (that is, London and three clusters in the North – the North West, Yorkshire and North East).
Neil Cocker, co-founder of Cardiff Start, said: “We’re very excited to hear that Cardiff, Europe’s fastest growing capital city, will be one of the proposed hubs and will hopefully benefit from the announced funding.
“We look forward to TechCityUK engaging with the community and clarifying how the proposals will support the already thriving ecosystem and successful startups here.”
Growth plans for Welsh ICE
Caerphilly-based innovation centre Welsh ICE secured a further 2,500 square foot of office space, adding to its impressive growth over year.
In September 2016, the organisation opened its third building, meaning the campus is now made up of 30,000 square foot of space.
The centre currently houses 170 businesses, as well as 400 staff and entrepreneurs who call it home. The former open-plan floor has been renovated to accommodate nine new, medium-sized offices.
Jamie McGowan, community manager of ICE, said the new space was necessary for the continued growth of the Campus and in its journey to help Welsh startups.
“For the past six months at ICE we have been operating at a 95% capacity, so in order to continue to grow, we knew we simply needed more space. When the extra space became available we jumped at it, and we are now proud to say that we will occupy the entire ground floor at Britannia house,” he said.
“The office space will be used to support smaller teams who perhaps have outgrown a single desk in our coworking spaces, but are not yet ready for one of our larger offices. The new space will be a perfect and affordable answer for the 4-6 person teams.
“Along with our other buildings, the Octagon and The Lodge, this expansion is all part of our ongoing long-term vision at ICE to have 1000 businesses on site, and with the popularity of our ICE 50 funded spaces, we are well on course to achieve that.”