Limerick software engineers the best in the country, says AI start-up co-founder

Members of the team at Protex AI, co-founded by Limerick man Ciarán O'Mara.

AN IRISH business start-up co-founded by a Limerick man, who are using artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce accidents and make workplaces safer, say Limerick is one of the best places in the country for producing software engineers.

Protex AI, co-founded by Limerick man Ciarán O’Mara alongside Dan Hobbs, monitor CCTV systems and study human behaviours to identify dangers before a potential workplace accident occurs.

Speaking at the recent Forbes Under 30 Forum that took place in Limerick’s Strand Hotel, Protex co-founder Dan Hobbs said that there is a lot of misconceptions about AI since it became a household name.

“I think when people think of AI, especially our clients, they think of The Terminator – like something is going to come and take our jobs,” Dan quipped.

“This usually isn’t the case, and we’ve definitely seen an uptake. I think the biggest part of it is the openness to it because people can understand what we do,” he explained.

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Speaking on the need for businesses to adopt AI into their infrastructure, he says “it’s going to be a case that if you don’t get on the train then you’ll miss it. It will very much help us to get things done quicker.”

During a conversation with Forbes Magazine’s Chief Content Editor, Randall Lane, Mr Hobbs said that the quality of engineers that come out of Limerick are second to none, helped by the University of Limerick’s degree in Immersive Software Engineering.

“Limerick is a fantastic spot for AI in general, the engineers that come out of Limerick – which is where most of our systems are based – are probably the best in the country by far.”

“General AI has become really popular now, but having the teams to back that up, that definitely helps,” Dan said.

Co-founder of Protex AI, Ciarán O’Mara, attended secondary school at Castletroy College, before obtaining a degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering from the University of Limerick, followed by a PhD in Computer Vision Privacy.

Ciarán and Dan were named on Forbes European 30 Under 30 list for 2023, which is something that came as a shock to them, according to Dan.

“It was a cool one alright,” Dan said.

“We just got a call that said ‘hey, you guys are on the list’ and we were just like ‘oh wow, this is a reality’. You kind of put it in as you get nominated, but it’s kind of a hidden hope.”

“My dad was pretty happy alright,” he quipped.

Protex AI operates mainly in logistics and warehousing, and Dan explained that despite neither of the founders having a background in workplace safety, they had a “solution before we had a product”.

He explained that the idea for Protex was born out of tragedy, following the death of a man on a site in Tipperary run by co-founder Ciarán’s aunt.

“He got crushed by a container and they thought it was a freak accident, but when they went back on the CCTV they saw that the behaviours that led to the accident were happening day in, day out. So it could’ve been stopped, and that’s where we came in.”

Despite only starting the company in 2021, Protex AI have already raised $18million (€16.5m) and work with companies like Tesla, Amazon, and Marks & Spencer.