More than 500 business and academic leaders heard the latest trends in blockchain technology, cybersecurity and the manipulation of data for nefarious political purposes at the second annual Beyond IoT 2019 in Cork.
The event, which is the brainchild of manager at the Nimbus Technology Gateway at CIT, Richard Linger and partnered by US medical device IoT firm Steritrack, fused speakers from Silicon Valley as well as business and academic figures in Ireland.
Mr Linger said: "Using our local and international network we have put together an unprecedented group of experts from across the globe and brought them to Cork."
The event explored the latest innovations within the IoT and how this new technology is impacting on commerce and industry.
IoT is said to be a system of interrelated computing devices and appliances that connects devices such as fridges and lighting to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
The conference also heard how cybersecurity was evolving rapidly to now include protection for IoT connected devices against the cybercrime industry, now worth trillions of dollars a year.
Speakers included chief executive of 410 Labs and maker of the email management tool Mailstrom, Dave Troy, who spoke about the onslaught of data manipulation in the political sphere, inherent sexism within major tech companies, and the "failure of ethical leadership" at Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Twitter.
Mr Troy, a data usage expert, said tech companies needed to accept the industry was not ethically neutral and needed to accept ethical responsibilities.
If the effect on society was corrosive and damaging, Mr Troy said, then it was not ethical.
He named Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, Tesla inventor Elon Musk, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and entrepreneur Peter Thiel among those who needed to improve their ethical standing.
Overall, I believe there is a lack of ethical leadership in Silicon Valley and each one of these leaders shares different amounts of blame. In Harvard, you can kind of get away with stuff if you are big enough and elite enough. That message passes forward to someone like Mark Zuckerberg as an undergraduate in Harvard, and he got the message that if you were big enough and elite enough, then the rules simply do not apply.
"Jack (Dorsey) I know, he is a friend of mine, but I think he is a little bit oblivious to this. There is a strong sense in Silicon Valley that if you build these platforms, then somehow magic will occur and everything will just work out in the end. I would assert that this is emphatically not the case and we keep seeing this is true. All of these folks could stand to upgrade their ethical stance
"When you build Silicon Valley and the culture of innovation around doing whatever you have to do, by any means possible, in order to become financially successful, then I think you lave yourself open to manipulation to external control by foreign state actors."
He said Facebook's share price decline in recent months, where billions were wiped off its market capitalisation, was evidence that doing the right thing was good for business.
Co-founder of Blockchain Rookies and former CEO of Opengoods, Troy Norcross said blockchain technology was still an evolving one, and that the book on it was still being written, with no experts as yet.
While blockchain was adding value to business across the world as it developed, Mr Norcross said, there was still a way to go when it came to the volatility of cryptocurrencies.
"You are effectively buying poker chips for a casino that hasn't been built, by people you do not know, who do not have a licence to sell poker chips, or to run a casino, in a neighbourhood that doesn't gamble, hoping you can sell your poker chips for more than you paid for it," he said.
Beyond IoT 2019 had a strong representation of female tech innovators, including Professor Linda Doyle, Dean of Research and Professor of Engineering and the Arts in Trinity College Dublin, and Dr Donna O’Shea, a principal investigator at Ríomh – Intelligent Secure Systems research group and member of Nimbus Research Centre.
Dr O'Shea, who was party to the establishment of the CIT-led national cybersecurity cluster, Cyber Ireland last month, warned that as IoT became more and more widespread, it was vulnerable to attack from cybercriminals.
IoT devices were "low hanging fruit" for cybercriminals, she said, pointing to the infamous Mirai botnet attack that was discovered in 2016 and has been used to attack IoT devices on a huge scale.
Mirai was a practice run and more is yet to come," she said.
The-partnered event heard from managing partner of venture capital investor firm MS&AD Ventures, Jon Soberg, who said that as data usage exploded in the IoT age, so did the amount of attacks.
That, in turn, was leading to the evolution of cybersecurity firms, who were now specialising in security designed for IoT devices.
The industry used to be about protecting against phishing and malware but has evolved to protect devices, he said.
The event also saw free entrepreneurial, investment and funding clinics featuring one-to-one sessions between attendees and the people behind some of the world’s most influential companies throughout the day.