Driven: Irish Inventors Aim to Make the Roads Safe – James McNamara, Ireland
To celebrate five years of Daily Edventures, we’re sharing some of our favorite posts. This Daily Edventure was originally published on March 16, 2012.
They call it “Project Hermes” after the Greek god who protects travelers. They believe their technology will help reduce road traffic accidents, and they’re not the only ones: Team Hermes – James McNamara, Aine Conaghan, Matthew Padden and Calum Cawley – won the top prize in software development at the Global Imagine Cup in New York. Team Hermes created a device that plugs into any car made since 2000 to track the driver’s behavior by monitoring things like speed, GPS location, RPM and acceleration, then uploads that information to the cloud. Their device then sends instant reports to the driver’s phone, advising him to change his behavior or warning him of a bad road ahead.
We asked James McNamara for some insight on his team’s win, and what he thinks we need to do to nurture young inventors like him.
What it was like to the win the Global Imagine Cup this past year? What was it like when they announced your names?
It was amazing! We put a lot of work into our project, so to get rewarded for your hard work…well there’s nothing like it! The team practically lived in the office for four months. To succeed after putting in that much effort, combined with representing our country on a global stage, was amazing. What was it like when our names were called? Pure joy.
How can we support people like you, who are developing the future? How does education need to change in order to help others solve the world’s problems?
I think efforts on a local, national and international level need to be made to enable ideas to go from the coffee house to the computer lab. There are loads of ideas out there that could make a real difference, but the support to go from a nugget of an excellent idea to something that can be viably explored is lacking. Private enterprise is stepping into the breach with incubators and accelerators, but this model should be expanded and any barrier to getting good ideas out there should be removed.
What is Ireland doing right to support education? What do they need to change?
The biggest issue is the legacy of construction/engineering-focused structures in the educational system. Teenagers do not study IT in school, so when entering university they are not informed enough to choose IT-based courses. Thankfully our country is finally moving its focus from construction/engineering to IT, and creating awareness and incentives for people to train in the IT areas.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
It is undoubtedly the advent of ubiquitous computer hardware and Internet connectivity. Access to up-to-date information, the opportunity to reduce costs on parents by not needing to buy physical books, and the possibility for remote learning are opportunities to be further exploited. Initial short-term investment would go a long way in these areas.
In our case, our achievement was made a lot easier by the Institute (ITSligo) simply
providing the space and resources we needed. If you provide the minimum necessary resources to students, the students will do the work and make the best use of them. And of course, relative to most courses, the resources needed by IT students are relatively small. A desk and a computer are a lot cheaper than a research laboratory.
What’s next for you and Project/Team Hermes?
What’s next is lots of work! Some of our team have gone back to complete their studies, some back to work. Myself and Calum Cawley, along with Chris McNamara and Chloe McGuckin, have started a new company based in ITSligo and operating from StartupBootcamp in Dublin. We are working on commercializing Product Hermes, which we developed to win the Imagine Cup. So lots of work, and we are looking forward to it!
About James McNamara
Co-Founder and CEO at Hermes Telematics, Captain of Team Hermes, Winners of Global Imagine Cup in New York 2011, pig and vegetable farmer, hobbyist lepidopterist and occasional DJ.
Birthplace: Ballyfarnon, Co. Roscommon, Ireland
Current residence: Dublin, Ireland
Education: BSc (Honors) Software Development
Website I check every day: LinkedIn
Person who inspires me most: Dennis Crowley
Favorite childhood memory: Making hay at the family farm
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): UK
Why did Team Hermes address this issue? If you’ve ever driven in Ireland, you can guess why driving fatalities were top-of-mind for this Irish team. But Ireland is not alone: traffic accidents kill about 1.3 million people each year. Between 20 and 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people, aged between 15 and 29.
Favorite book: Currently “The Lean Startup” by Eris Reis!
Favorite music: Ska-Punk
Meet Tim Rogers, a student at the European Social and Political Studies at University College London. Tim develops for the web and also for mobile! Check out what Tim has to say about his experience as a student developer. http://bit.ly/yJ7g0T
Sign-up today to change the world on www.imaginecup.com!
The world’s toughest problems will be addressed one solution at a time. But who will lead the change? Compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup student technology competition and you’ll join thousands of students from around the world who are stepping up to the challenge of global change. It all starts with you.