Sync NI's 10 most popular news posts of 2020!

  • As we finish up another year and get ready to welcome 2021, we'd like to take a moment to look back at our top 10 most popular news stories of 2020 by page views.

    While the pandemic has disrupted the lives of people across Northern Ireland this year, 2020 was an extremely busy year for the local tech sector. Many of the year's biggest events went virtual, with events such as Digital DNA, AICon, and BelTech 2020 being delivered online via video conferencing software.

    Much of the big news this year has focused on the rapid advances in the MedTech sector and the ongoing financial support for businesses struggling with Covid-19. With many of us now working from home, we've also seen plenty of helpful hints for remote working and speculation on what it means for the future of tech in NI.

    Our biggest story of the year was the news that a Northern Irish couple had won bug on Dragon's Den with a new invention for electricians, followed by a brief look at whether the Netflix Party app is safe to use. Our most consistently shared news included a wide range of new degrees and free training from the local universities, and other opportunities for students and recent graduates.


    #1 - NI couple strike big on Dragons' Den with electrician's invention

    A Northern Ireland couple appeared on BBC’s Dragons’ Den show last week with their invention to help electricians secure cables more efficiently and safely.

    Lisburn man Davy Gray is an electrician turned entrepreneur. After spending over 25 years manually hammering electric cables to wooden joists with metal clips, Davy thought of the ViperClip. He took redundancy, sold his house and invested his life savings into bringing the idea to life.

    The ViperClip solution is a re-chargeable battery powered staple gun that fires fully insulated plastic cable staples. Davy’s wife Julie noted that as UK regulation states the cable must be supported in the event of a fire, the ViperClip’s staple is made completely from plastic so that it doesn’t conduct electricity which makes it safe to use. [Continue Reading]


    #2: Is Netflix Party safe to use?

    We’re all spending much more time indoors with the COVID 19 restrictions and my house is no different to anyone else’s, the kids are using loads of tech. I’ve made some use of this, recruiting my eldest to do a bit of data entry but a larger proportion of their time at night is still tech based entertainment.

    For young people (with even more time on their hands now) whos’ need to socialize may be greater, they’re lucky to have lots of creative ways to be connected with their friends digitally from Netflix Parties to Zoom Parties to TikTok and Snapchat groups. [Continue Reading]


    #3: Top tech companies to battle it out to be crowned Digital DNA Company of the Year

    The shortlist for this year's Digital DNA Awards is now complete, with the organisers today announcing the 8 companies who will contest the coveted Company of the Year category. For the second year running, the winners will be decided by a public vote and the overall winner revealed at the lively Awards evening on 26th March at ICC Belfast.

    The Company of the Year award is the only category which is decided by a public vote, which will close during the live awards ceremony, and is made up of companies who have shown outstanding strength and depth throughout the entry and shortlisting process. [Continue Reading]


    #4: Ulster University is launching a brand new fintech degree

    Ulster University has launched a financial technology degree, in response to sustained growth of the fintech industry in Northern Ireland.

    The university’s business school said the new BSc (Hons) in Financial Technology is the first of its kind in the UK, and has been developed with key industry partners to support the need for skilled fintech graduates. The course will commence in September 2020 and can be delivered as both a part-time undergraduate degree and a Higher-Level Apprenticeship (HLA).

    William Smyth, lecturer in financial services at Ulster University commented: “Technology is driving major transformation in financial services both at a local and global level, and despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, there is cause for optimism across the fintech ecosystem. [Continue Reading]


    #5: Sneeze simulation shows effect of masks and social distancing on Covid-19 transmission

    A new computer simulation shows the positive impact of masks and social distancing when a person with the Covid-19 virus sneezes.

    As the UK prepares for another several weeks of lockdown and the possibility of long-term social distancing laws, a new simulation has shown just how important masks and distancing can be for preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The aerodynamic simulation was carried out by developer Irie Tomohiro of MSC Software and was published in a series of videos online.

    The technology used to develop the simulation is usually used for testing aerodynamics in the automotive industry and has been used in the development of car racing video games, but Irie Tomohiro repurposed it to simulate a person sneezing near someone else from a distance of around two metres. [Continue Reading]


    #6: Workplus offers 120 apprenticeship places for 2020

    Workplus has announced that it has created 120 apprenticeship opportunities with 28 employers in Northern Ireland and applications are now open.

    The Belfast based company, which helps employers develop talent through apprenticeships, estimates that almost £8m will be earned by the successful candidates over the period of their apprenticeships, some of which will last up to six years, with the possibility of permanent jobs.

    Those successful will take up positions at companies including Liberty IT, Farrans, Translink, Atkins, Jacobs and McAdam Design in the autumn to gain on the job training in career areas including IT, engineering, construction, administration and accountancy. [Continue Reading]


    #7: Former GAA star among hundreds found using encrypted crime comms system

    Former Tyrone county GAA player, Peter Loughran has faced drug charges following his arrest that reportedly came after an encrypted communication network was hacked.

    The top-secret EncroChat system had been used by criminals to trade drugs and guns, and over 800 arrests across Europe were made after it was “successfully penetrated”, said the National Crime Agency.

    In Northern Ireland the operation led to the seizure of 15 Encro phones, over £360,000 cash, and over 2.5kg of cannabis and personal use cocaine. The system was decoded and intercepted by the NCA and other law enforcement organisations across the continent. [Continue Reading]


    #8: Free online hub details all COVID-19 info in NI to date

    Specialist in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Esri Ireland has launched an online hub to provide authoritative information, maps and resources about the COVID-19 response in Northern Ireland.

    The Holywood-based company has collated data from the Public Health Agency, Public Health England, The Living Atlas and other sources.

    A spokesperson said the hub visualises statistical data related to the outbreak of coronavirus across Northern Ireland. This includes the total number of confirmed cases and tests, as well as an age and gender breakdown of the confirmed cases. [Continue Reading]


    #9: Amazon to create 'hundreds' of jobs with new Belfast delivery centre

    Amazon has announced it will open a new delivery station in Belfast later this year to meet increasing customer demand.

    The premises will be built over 8500 square metres in Channel Commercial Park, to replace the current nearby operation which opened in 2018 as a temporary facility, while Amazon secured a site to meet its longer-term needs.

    Amazon Logistics is the official name for Amazon’s delivery service, and the company said this new station will increase its number of permanent employees from 25 to more than 40. Packages are shipped to the delivery station from Amazon fulfilment and sortation centres and loaded onto vehicles to get delivered to customers. [Continue Reading]


    #10: Introduce your child to cybersecurity with Allstate NI and CyberFirst

    CyberFirst and Allstate NI are hosting two free half-day events in Belfast on 7 March and in Derry/Londonderry on 8 March.

    The NI Cyber Security Centre and tech firm said the events will be an interactive introduction to cybersecurity, and are aimed at Year 9 and 10 students. They will be hosted at Allstate NI's Belfast and Derry/Londonderry sites.

    Both organisations hope the sessions will encourage young people to think about GCSE choices and how computer science can play a key role in future career prospects. An accompanying parent or guardian is welcome to attend. [Continue Reading]


    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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