Vectors & Vector Spaces 101, for Quantum Computing

If your a classical developer you will have a basis in maths of some form in any case. To become a quantum developer you have to either refresh your knowledge or get back to learning some linear algebra. We start with some vectors and vector spaces.

To Vectors We Go

The vector is one of the most important mathematical quantities in quantum computing. It has both direction and magnitude. Consider below we have a vector V with x and y components,

\begin{equation*} V = \begin{pmatrix} 3 \\ 5 \end{pmatrix} \end{equation*}

Visually this is 3 units along the x-axis and 5 units along the y-axis pointing in a direction no matter where its tail starts.

In Quantum Computing , vectors are used to show a particular quantum state. These are called state vectors and are visualised using a Bloch Sphere.

The Bloch Sphere ( a.k.a The Unity Sphere )

The Block Sphere contains all the possible points, the state space, that represent a quantum state to which our state vectors can point. The red vector below for example |y> corresponds to a superposition between |0> and \1> . Imagine the red vector below being able to move and point to any point inside the sphere, representing a different quantum state essentially.

Quantum States And The Bloch Sphere | Quantum Untangled

A 3 minute video on the Block Sphere …

The Vector Space

A vector is an element of a vector space. A vector space is a set of objects where 2 conditions hold.

The first condition is that a Vector addition of 2 vectors with real numbers in the vector space V produces a 3rd vector with real numbers in the vector space V

\begin{equation*} \begin{pmatrix} x_1 \\ y_1 \end{pmatrix} + \begin{pmatrix} x_2 \\ y_2 \end{pmatrix} = \begin{pmatrix} x_1 + x_2 \\ y_1 + y_2 \end{pmatrix} \end{equation*}

The second condition says that the scalar multiplication of a real number vector and some real number value n, is also in the vector space, for all n contained in the real number set.

\begin{equation*} \left\lvert \begin{matrix} n|v \\ \end{matrix} \right\rangle = \begin{pmatrix} nx \\ ny \end{pmatrix} \in V \\ \forall n \in \mathbb{R} \end{equation*}

If you have come this far, your doing well. That’s all for now. Next up, Matrices and Matrix Operations !

Entanglement – Quantums “spooky action at a distance” ? Well .. no.

The topic of quantum entanglement is an important thing to understand in quantum physics and important to know for quantum computing. In classical computing we work with definite values that are observed the same for however long they exist. In a quantum system the values are not in a defined state.

But what does that really mean ?

Albert Einstein used his colourful commentary when he called quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance”. When I first started looking at quantum my brain almost broke because I was under the impression that 2 entangled particles were actually connected to each other in some way that when one changes the other changes instantaneously. Surely, this is how we will communicate over massive distances as this evolves. It’s like magic! It is spooky or uncanny but thats not quite how it works.

I know …. hold … keep going … your almost there !

So, whats happening?

When two particles are in an entangled state, there is no action that occurs, that is when one changes state it does not exert a change on the other, which would for example allow a message to be sent instantaneously.

What happens is that after changes occur in state to the 2 entangled particles, say one on earth and one on a satellite in orbit, if you then bring the data from both together, after the fact, there is an uncannily perfect correlation between them. They don’t have the same “value”, but their “values” is correlated. The act of observation causing a quantum wave collapse …. another topic I will cover later.

In my previous post we talked about superposition, well entanglement is a special form of that. It is in this ability of quantum systems to have these multiple states, that with certain types of problems we will ( it is thought ) have extra ability to solve them either at all or quicker, over using classical computing.

This 8 minute video from the Scientific American gives a good overview of the inner workings of a quantum computer.

Quantum Computing is good for certain types of problems, for example when your trying to find a needle in a haystack, this is where quantum computers shine…

Scientific American

If you have some more time you can listen to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and friends on the topic of quantum entanglement. It starts with an analogy to the wishing bone experiment, and is a nicely relaxed explanation and fun discussion. Just about 10 minutes in, Mr. DeGrasse Tyson has a classic penny drop moment, or does a great impression of someone having one… it’s probably the latter. Enjoy!

My Quantum challenge ?

It‚Äôs time to become a quantum developer. And yes I will update my linkedin profile to say that! ūüėČ I will endeavour to learn everything I can in the area of quantum development using IBM‚Äôs resources and its software libraries. Where possible I will share all the links out and you can follow along. My ‚Äúbeginners mind‚ÄĚ is set and ready to go ( Shoshin) .

Shoshin : It‚Äôs the open-minded attitude of being ready to learn; without preconceived notions, judgement or bias.

To follow along then keep an eye out on my blog or follow me on linkedin where I will share the blog post links and updates.

The Basics of Quantum Computing .. Quantum Superposition

I am the first to admit that a deep understanding of quantum physics is not something I have, and my goal ( or your goal ) of becoming a quantum developer does not necessarily need it. No more do you need to know the inner workings of transistors or microchips in order to be a classical developer using java, the same applies for quantum. However, let us delve into some basics, that will help us with the nomenclature of the software libraries we will use.

Quantum States Poster Wall Decor - Buttered Kat in 2021 | Physics poster,  State posters, Chemistry education

The Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman is attributed to the quote ‚ÄúIf you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t understand quantum mechanics”, and he was the leading physicist in the area, so let’s not get too caught up if we don’t fully understand everything. Try and develop a sense of meaning, as if you were going to try and explain it to someone else.

(Quantum) Superposition

The noun superposition is defined as “the action of placing one thing on or above another, especially so that they coincide.” Quantum superposition means that any two quantum states can be added together (superposed) and a valid quantum state will result. Or, that any quantum state can be defined by one of more quantum states.

Now … using this idea of superposition , let us take the example of sets of coins. We write out their states ( H – heads, T – tails) first…

2 coins – HH, TT, HT , TD – 4 results

3 coins – HHH, HHT, HTH, HTT, THH, THT, TTH, TTT – 8 results

4 coins – … – 16 results

5 coins – … – 32 results

So, as we add a coin each time the number of results that we can have are 2^n .

Whereas the n (classical) coins are in only one of the 2^n possible results, n qubits can be in a superposition of all 2^n possible results. ( we will dig into qubits later )

The Probability Difference

In the case of a set of coins, the state that they can be in is a 2^n space. And they can only hold that one particular state, even if we don’t know what that is. As we explained above on superposition , quantum computers can hold superpositions of 2^n distinct logical states, which means they can solve problems potentially exponentially faster. These values can be positive, negative or complex numbers unlike probabilities which are positive or zero.

Quantum Circuits

Where does superposition come into developing quantum algorithms. If you take sound waves for example, one is noise and the other is a cancellation tone to remove noise like in noise cancelling headphones, then the principle of superposition and interference is used to result in cancelled noise.


In the quantum circuit below, which we will develop, the same principles apply. We start with a superposition and then we apply an algorithm by creating a quantum circuit to apply interference on the superposition to result in our solution.


When we are talking about quantum development using for example we are talking about developing these quantum circuits. Next up, entanglement.

My Quantum challenge ?

It‚Äôs time to become a quantum developer. And yes I will update my linkedin profile to say that! ūüėČ I will endeavour to learn everything I can in the area of quantum development using IBM‚Äôs resources and its software libraries. Where possible I will share all the links out and you can follow along. My ‚Äúbeginners mind‚ÄĚ is set and ready to go ( Shoshin) .

Shoshin : It‚Äôs the open-minded attitude of being ready to learn; without preconceived notions, judgement or bias.

To follow along then keep an eye out on my blog or follow me on linkedin where I will share the blog post links and updates.

Quantum Computing vs Classical Developer – Fight.

Hi, I’m Andrew. Im a Classical Developer.

IBM Q Experience Strives To Bring Quantum Computing To Masses - Quantum:  Machine Learning & Analytics

In the embryonic world of Quantum Computing I am a Classical Developer. No violins, no greek legends, just a keyboard, a mouse, a laptop, and a bunch of screens.

It seems that pre-quantum computing has taken on the common term of Classical Computing ( just like in classical/quantum physics). It had to happen, the same way pre-color film photography was renamed “black and white photography” , after the advent of color film. I can imagine the job adverts of the future on linkedin or or where ever, looking for Senior Quantum Engineer’s with a smattering of classical skills. Or classical engineers looking to bootstrap their quantum career in the next quantum startup. So what’s the big deal?

The Superpower of Quantum Computing

The limitations of classical computing is entirely determined by the state of all its bits. We know this. Two states. So 2 to the power of N bits, and we are done. The Summit supercomputer in Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed by IBM , is incredibly powerful but is still limited in that it could not model the immediate state of a caffeine molecule for example. Quantum Computing has a much broader range of states that is defined through the idea of superposition. A quantum computer can take advantage of an exponential number of states and this is its superpower over classical computing. There is a-lot more, but let’s keep it simple for now. The video below will level you up a bit.

One of the perks of working in IBM is you get to see emerging technologies and to use them, and if look back over the past 100 years IBM actually defined them. We have spent decades transforming our software industry enabling us to leverage the infrastructure improvements over time. Mobile app development was not something that was even in our mindsets before we had the devices to develop on. The same applies for quantum computing in my opinion. We are only just trying to understand how we create the assembly languages and frameworks where we can create algorithms to solve problems in the quantum space.

My Quantum challenge ?

It’s time to become a quantum developer. And yes I will update my linkedin profile to say that! ūüėČ I will endeavour to learn everything I can in the area of quantum development using IBM’s resources and its software libraries. Where possible I will share all the links out and you can follow along. My “beginners mind” is set and ready to go ( Shoshin) .

Shoshin : It’s the open-minded attitude of being ready to learn; without preconceived notions, judgement or bias.

To follow along then keep an eye out on my blog or follow me on linkedin where I will share the blog post links and updates.

24 March 2021 – Cloud observability and app monitoring with Instana – IBM Cloud and AI Meetup Dublin

Upcoming event tmrw 24 March 2021 is the Cloud observability and app monitoring with Instana event, which will delve into the how it integrates with Kubernetes. Instana is an IBM Company and was acquired in late 2020, and is an APM solution designed for the challenges of managing microservice and cloud-native application

If Want to learn about cloud, kubernets or are you already knee deep in Kubernetes, Docker containers or writing your own operators, well the this meetup might well be for you. You join the meetup, and get notified of upcoming events.

If you want to learn more about Observability, APM and Montoring then you can checkout Sai Vennam from IBM Cloud, who can clear up what they means and they should not be used interchangeably.

Some useful reading:
Read the IBM and Instana acquisition blog ‚Üí‚Äč Explore free Observability guide ‚Üí…‚Äč
Explore free APM guide ‚Üí‚Äč
Explore free AIOps guide ‚Üí‚Äč
Check out IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps ‚Üí…

This is IBM Q.

IBM’s Quantum Computer, the IBM Q, jokingly called the Chandelier, has pure gold on the outside, and is kept at very cold temperatures. The bottom, where the quantum chip resides is 15 milliKelvin ( that’s -459.633 Fahrenheit or -273.135 Celcius ).

Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that studies things that are really small, are really well isolated and really code. IBM Q is built based on what on this branch of science.

Superposition is a key part of how it works. If you take a penny, its either head or tails. If you spin the penny, and while it’s spinning … what is it? It’s in a state of both. Superposition is the idea that it is in both states.

Entanglement in the quantum world, means qubits are connected. If you look at one qubit and it has one value, then the other qubit it is entangled with would also have that same value!

Interference is another concept that is used to amplify the right answers just like you would in wave theory for destructive or constructive interference.

Meet the scientists behind the IBM Q quantum computing systems as they answer 50 questions, one for each qubit in IBM Q. Learn about qubits, dilution refrigerators, even the secret handshake to get into the lab. And get their answer to “what is quantum?”

Inventing at the Summer of Patents Event in the IBM Dublin Campus Thinkspace. 12+ Teams. 50+ Inventors.

by Andrew Penrose, Mihai Criveti, Clea Zolotow and Jim O’Keeffe

The morning of Friday June 28th brought together IBMers from across IBM in Ireland divisions – those mostly based at IBM Dublin Campus in Damastown, and teams also travelled from our Belfast Office to attend at our Summer of Patents Event.

Inventing @
IBM Dublin Campus

The attendees represented by inventors from Watson Health, Watson Weather and Content (The Weather Company), Security, Global Technology Services, Global Business Services, Watson Services, Innovation Exchange, Cognitive Applications, Talent Management Solutions to name a few. Instead of availing of the flexibility afforded by remote working, especially on a Friday in June, this group of inventors came together to add their names to the list of those contributing to IBM’s success in patenting and innovation.

Ireland Technical Expertise Council ( ITEC) Initiative

The event was organised by ITEC members, the Irish affiliate to the IBM Academy of Technology. This is a community of selected IBM top technical leaders organized to advance the understanding of key technical areas & trends, enable attract & retain the technical community, and engage our clients in technical pursuits of mutual value.

Through ITEC, an initiative was created for this event lead by Mihai Criveti, Andrew Penrose and Clea Zolotow.

Andrew Penrose MC’d the event in the Hamilton Auditorium and began by running through of the process. The objective was to remain together for the first 30 minutes and then split into patent teams, each with a seasoned mentor, to work through ideation and the steps of patenting for first timers as well as those who have already gone through the process to an IDT board.

Andrew Penrose MC’ing the event in the Hamilton Auditorium.

Our executive sponsor for this event, which all Academy initiatives have, is Sean Brady, Vice President of the IBM Cloud Customer Hub (Europe, Latin America, Canada). Sean spoke about the importance of protecting IBM intellectual property and “that events like this are important not only locally but globally, bringing inventors from all parts of the business together”.

Clea Zolotow introduced the audience to patents in general, ideation tactics and the importance of ‘prior art searching’ before you go down the line of really getting into a disclosure’s detail. “If you don’t know, a disclosure or invention disclosure is the information you compile together to determine whether patent protection should be sought for the described invention.” The conversation flowed from GPS enabled dresses to VR motion rigs to ensuring that inventions are relevant and are white boxes rather than black boxes.

Clea Zolotow presenting on Ideation and Patents.

Mihai Criveti re-introduced the work of the Ireland Technical Expertise Council, and detailed the work of the IBM Academy of Technology and it’s place within the IBM ecosystem of communities and influencers.

Team Formation, Patents, Prior Art and Novelty

At this point, we broke out into teams of four with a mentor in each group and moved into the IBM ThinkSpace, to get into the patent workshop proper. This involved the following format which worked out quite well:

  • 30 minutes of ideation in order to brainstorm idea’s within each of the teams. There are many techniques for this, but more often than not, it’s the work that is done in each of the different areas and by different people that you will find the gold seam.
  • 30 minutes on “Prior Art” and the importance of doing this up front.
  • 30 minutes on “Patent Background, Novelty and Value Proposition” for IBM
  • 30 minutes on “Invention Summary” and “Invention Detail”

We closed out the day event with a group photo below. Over the month of July inventors will meet in their teams and in August we will have a submission event where we will submit our inventions for scrutiny and if successful will move forward to work with patent lawyers.

¬Į Summer Of Patents 2019 Inventors

Introducing The Inventing Teams

Faisal Ghaffar, Mark Levins, Sean Brady

Our executive sponsor Sean Brady joined Mark Levins, STSM and Ireland IDT board member, Faisal Ghaffar and Kruno Plecko to ideate and talk go through the workshop. Mark coming from Talent Management Solutions, Faisal a Data Scientist & Applied Researcher from the Innovation Exchange and Kruno an Applied Research Engineer all in the IBM Cognitive Applications division.

Yuri Barssi, Panpan Lin and Mark Wallace

Mark Wallace (mentor), Ruben Kos, Panpan Lin, Yuri Barssi and thought about IBM Assess, an application for pre-hire and employee assessment testing. The followed their scrum planning techniques with sharpies and post-its to brainstorm and explored ideas to solve some of the pain points associated with assessment testing while looking for some novel applications of the capabilities IBM has in this area.

Andrew Penrose, Nerijus, Ivan Gualandi, Massimiliano Gallo

Andrew Penrose worked with Nerijus Verseckas, Ivan Gualandi and Massimiliano (Max) Gallo, who all work day to day on the IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture. We thought about ideas spanning crop yields and analytics, to satellite imagery, smart farming devices and climate change. Our division is part of The Weather Company and as such we have access to the largest amount of weather data on the planet. Along with this, we are involved with IBM Pairs, a platform, specifically designed for massive geospatial-temporal data (maps, satellite, weather, drone, IoT), query and analytics services.

Maire Regan, Gerard Cregan, Seamus Brady

Sonya Purcell ( not pictured ), Pragya Singh ( not pictured) , Maire Regan, Seamus Brady and Gerard Cregan got together and talked about support queries and their validity in certain cases.

John Delaney, Christopher Chavez Lopez, Gabriella Bacelli, Sean Keogh

John Delaney along with Christopher Chavez Lopez, Gabriella Bacelli and Sean Keogh delved in the area of productivity and tooling around translation, particularly automated.

Sinead McMcahon, Mark McGloin, Eoin McCann, Krishnaveni Mayuri
William Chatham , Liam Harpur, Lin Zhao, Dario Chimisso

Mark McGloin worked with Sinead McMahon, Eoin McCann and Krishnaveni Mayuri an investigated ideas in the area of agriculture. They also explored ideas to help patients in the medical sector and in for children in the insurance sector.

Liam Harpur and team comprising of William Chatham, Lin Zhao and Dario Chimisso used random work brainstorming to ideate to start with. Dario came up with a random work “Surfboard” … that lead to 15 characteristics of surfboards…. “sleek for speed”, “leach for safety” . From the derived characteristics they came up with 15 patent ideas ! They had plenty of fun converting the ideas .. mental gymnastics. They they selected on derived idea to start working on. Ideas are everywhere.

John Leonard, Cathal Dineen, Peter Poliwoda, Ju Park, Clea Zolotow

Clea’s Team or as Clea likes to call it the A-Team, was comprised of Peter Poliwoda, Cathal Dineen, John Leonard and Ju Park. Comprised mostly of Watson division employees, and Clea being from Global Technical Services.

“The team is amazing with their depth and breadth of knowledge. The ideas generated are not only good for IBM but also will make fantastic apps as well!”

– Clea Zolotow, Distinguished Engineer & Master Inventor working in Technology Innovation and Automation
Paul Dermody, Brian Daly, Shane McCarthy, DJ McCloskey

DJ’s team Paul Dermody, Brian Daly and Shane McCarthy also opened dug deep during ideation and came up with ideas in the areas of AI in healthcare, Wellness, Genomic Data Analysis and Leverage, Climate Crisis/Green Tech, AI in Human Communications and Workflows.

Martin Stephenson, Sigmund Vestergaard, Paul Brennan, Marta Mazur

Martin Stephenson and his team of Sigmund Vestergaard, Paul Brennan and Marta Mazur also had a wide-ranging discussion that included Martin’s area of expertise in Natural Language Processing but also in the area of Smart Agriculture and areas where Machine Learning algorithms can apply value.

Stanley Dunne, Axel Louchie, Brendan McGreen, Angelo Moore

Stanley Dunne, the chair of the Ireland IDT Patent Board, worked with Brendan McGreen, Axel Louchie and Angelo Moore ( not pictured). Currently, all involved in the area of IBM Global Business Services they talked about quality analytics and ideas around it, an area with large data sets.

“Patenting is encouraged for everybody in IBM. You don’t have to be a technical guru. If you are solving problems, you are creating solutions that might well have value, are novel and are worth patent protection”

– Stanley Dunne, STSM Architect GBS Process Method & Tools
Global Business Services. Chair, Ireland IDT Board.

Stephen Kelly, Michael MacLynn, Ryan Goldblatt, Olgierd Pieczul

Olgierd Pieczul’s team travelled from IBM Belfast on Friday morning to the event in Dublin. Ryan Goldblatt, Michael MacLynn and Stephen Kelly work in the IBM Security division. Good teaming, as Olgierd works as a Security Architect, they focussed on network security management.

Ziheng Cheng, Gilles Devillard, Mutaz Alsallal, Bill Looby

Last but not least, Bill Looby worked with Ziheng Cheng, Gilles Devillary and Mutaz Alsallal. Mutaz like the members of Olgierds team also travelled from the IBM Belfast office. Like the other teams, they had a wealth of ideas that crossed over many different areas. They focused in on crowdsourced data and the area of transportation.

The Nature Of The CardBoard Programmer


You: Afternoon Chewy.
Chewy: {silence}
You: I have been context switching all morning but¬†I am still stuck on one issue. Getting this segmentation fault when I run this python script against larger data sets. Doesn’t happen on my Mac with 10GB mem 3GB swap given to my minikube setup.

Chewy: {stares back, in silence}

You: I know! And when I deploy in my Kubernetes cluster in IBM Cloud I am getting the same segmentation fault.
Chewy: {looks puzzled}
You:¬†Anyhow, it’s a resource issue of some kind. There are C modules in place within the python runtime on ubuntu … files ….
Chewy: { stares … silence}
You:¬†Hang on… what’s my ulimit value. “ulimit -n” … 1024 …still has default values in the running container.

andy@ubuntu:sudo vim /etc/sysctl.conf # add the following line to it fs.file-max = 65535 # run this to refresh with new config andy@ubuntu:~$ sudo sysctl -p

You: Its fixed!
Chewy: {alway’s helpful in a pickle, stares back silently}

The Cardboard Programmer

Sometimes all you need is a cardboard cutout of your famous chosen Guru!¬†When trying to¬†move forward on a problem, or overcome a blocking point it’s easy to go down paths that are not going to yield results. Maybe you have X amount of things to do before you think you can get to the point where you will have some result you can analyse. Maybe you already did them. Maybe you are at a dead end. You already stood up and went for a coffee. Slept on it. But there it is, still a problem.


Rubber Duck Debugging¬†suggests a rubber duck as per the book The Pragmatic Programmer¬†which goes into¬†what do you do, as an individual and as a team, if you want to create software that‚Äôs easy to work with and good for our users.¬† Whether its a colleague, a rubber duck or chewy, it’s a technique you probably are well aware of not only as someone in software but as a living breathing human being!


Becoming Chewy and Active Listening

I suggest actively seeking opportunities to be that cardboard programmer….or…be that active listener. It is at once a learning experience, a nice thing to do, and has a mushroom effect on one’s communication style.




I set you that challenge!

Try it for a day.

Then try and stop doing it.



Attributed to the Dalai Lama is the quote

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; But when you listen, you may learn something new.”

This is the advantage of the active listener. I always equate it to reading. People absorb books and get lost in the worlds they create. We are at the height of active thinking/listening when we read. We may interpret, have different thoughts on what is happening or agree/disagree with sentiments made, but we are always learning.

An opportunity and the challenge.

1st National Workshop on Smart Farming and Data Analytics in Ireland 2019 (SFDAI 2019)

muI had the pleasure of attending the 1st National Workshop on Smart Farming and Data Analytics in Ireland (SFDAI 2019) at Maynooth University hosted Dr Peter Mooney and Dr Liadh Kelly this week ( 12 June 2019).

My role as a Software Architect for the IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture meant I was well placed to join the workshop and help explore the opportunities for closer and more productive linkages between the farming and agricultural community in Ireland and the academic/research sector particularly in the areas of Data Analytics and Data Science.


We started in the morning with an overview of Smart Farming with both Darragh McCullough (Farmer, TV Presenter and full of passion for agriculture ) and Prof. Thia Hennessy ( Dean of School and Chair of Agri-Food Economics at Cork University Business School ) outlining their thoughts.

Meat-less Burgers and Automated Micro-dosing Weeder Robots.

Prof Hennessy¬†emphasised how the “appropriate” use of technology has a¬†role to play.

Image result for beyond meat

The question around what we eat, how its produced, where its produced, who produces it and how it is consumed all make up that decision process.  Ever see the Beyond Meat plant-based burger patties. The initial one cost 30K US Dollars to produce, which is now down to 10 dollars or so.  What will we eat in the future, and how will that inform how we produce it and how we manage the data that is involved in that!

The disruptive technologies in this area include robots, drones, 3d printing, sensors, Internet of Things, AI, Blockchain, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to name a few!

Prof Hennessy talked about how the Netherlands has an emphasis on the digital ecosystem that is making it a leader in the EU Context. European policy as a whole has a greater emphasis on research and innovation rather than adoption. There is a need for Smart Agri-hubs. The aim to build a pan-European network of digital innovation hubs.

Huge opportunities exist! The ability to generate more data exists in the industry as a whole, the questions are how to make better decisions about how we use that data. In the Irish context, the demography and scale of farming is a barrier to widespread adoption in comparison to other geographies.

Darragh McCullough (¬†From RT√Č‚Äôs Ear to the Ground to a full-time farmer now¬†) gave a passionate talk about his experience as a farmer (¬†), from growing up with it to now been heavily involved in flower production as well as livestock.¬†Humorously¬†self-deprecating at times, an example being his desire to invest in a basic fertiliser spreader, only to visit the Netherlands to find their use of solar-powered micro-dosing autonomous weeder robots. As Darragh alluded to, these days we all need to up our game!

A particular interest to the Irish farming community, which has a large emphasis on cattle is the work done by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation ( ICBF)¬†which maintains genetic data on millions of cattle regarding breeding, disease and much more.¬† Darragh, a cattle farmer himself, talked about texting cows that have devices attached that indicate how they are doing, as well as the state of the art in milking machines. If it were not for Peter having to call time, Darragh would have continued on into the evening, and we wouldn’t have minded too much.

Data Governance, Privacy and Farm Data

In the early afternoon, we broke out into different workgroups led by¬†Dr Aine O’Reagan of Teagasc, Dr Simone van de Burg of Wageningen University, Dr Peter Mooney and Dr Liadh Kelly both event organisers from Dept of Computer Science in Maynooth University.

I joined Dr Simone van de Burg in her workshop. Dr van de Burg works in the area of Ethics and responsible research and innovation in the Wageningen Economic Research Area of the university. These workshops are being done around Europe and are based on interviews with farmers and agri-workers in both Holland and Belgium.  The question we had to discuss was how we should deal with farm data regarding data governance and privacy. Dr van de Burg asked what models are most appropriate in our opinions.

  • The “I choose” model
    • Data owners choose what happens with their data. Copa Cogeca¬†( Copa, European Famers * Cogeca, European Co-operatives), was setup as a united voice of farmers and their co-operatives in the European Union
  • Data as a Digital Library (Hub)
    • Where the management of the library develops the sharing policy. But who pays for it?
  • Data governance should be settled by the market.
    • Farmers and other businesses will share data when it brings them to benefit.
    • The issues being competition, and the inequality of knowledge along with the big data divide.
  • Data should be shared in the value chain
    • Farmers shape their collaboration with the supply chain and the supermarkets. ( reduce waste, agree on the price )

Which one would you choose, if you were pushed to choose one? Personally, I think its a mix of them all and very dependent on the type of data involved and its eventual usage.

Using Military Grade Drones for Crop Management.

In the afternoon, Mr Aidan Magee from the National Center for Geocomputation, Maynooth University talked about drone technology and its use in agriculture. From UAVs to SUAs to LUAs, Aidan talked about the increasing restrictions on the use of drone technology in Ireland by the Irish Aviation Authority which is mirrored globally.

dron2 drone1

To name a few, any drone over 1kg has to be registered with the IAA, and cannot be out of your line of sight or extending past 300 metres. If you want to be able to do more, then you need to attend ground school training in order to prove that you have a need and the ability to use your drones for your business.

This training gives you a special access permit essentially and would allow you, for example, to send your drone on a route to get data on your crops that exceeds the normal distances.

The sensors that are available on these drone range from RGB cameras, multispectral sensors, hyperspectral sensors, thermal and infrared sensors and LIDAR.

To help plan your routes around your crops or count your herd as well as processing your images to create visuals, software exists like Pix4D, Photoscan and OpenDroneMap.

Stuff in Space, and how that “stuff” is changing how we work.

Dr Conor Cahalane¬†from the¬†Dept. of Geography in Maynooth University referred us to the website¬† while giving his lecture on “Exploring Copernicus”. Stuff in space really is an appropriate term considering how much is actually up there and the range of its utility.

Harnessing the power of Weather: IBM and The Weather Company

As part of The Weather Company division and our decision platform, I am familiar with satellite imagery and the myriad of the challenges it poses. Dr Cahalane illustrated the difference between the weather satellites like Meteosat and the Galileo and Sentinel satellites that orbit our planet.


It is the near earth Copernicus Sentinel satellites that orbit close to the earth.

Sentinel-1 provides all-weather, day and night radar imagery for land and ocean services. 

It is Sentinel-2 that gives us high-resolution optical imagery for land services. It provides, for example, the imagery of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas.

Sentinel-3 provides high-accuracy optical, radar and altimetry data for marine and land services. 

Sentinel-4 will provide data for atmospheric composition monitoring, and is due to launch in 2019, with Sentinel-5 also going to be dedicated to atmospheric composition  monitoring. 

You can use the Sentinel EO Browser¬†at Sentinel hub to get images from of the planet. It’s good fun to play with.

Overall a great event with lots of interesting speakers, not all of them mentioned in detail here. Thanks for the team in Maynooth for putting this all together.