Ireland is one of the world’s IT hotspots. A highly trained workforce and a host of attractive state incentives have led to some of the biggest technology companies in the globe relocating their facilities to the Emerald Isle. That now looks like it will pay off, both for the country and for Intel. The corporation has just unveiled details of what could be the most important development in microchip technology of recent times.

Ireland Galileo development board

Small is big

A team of engineers working for Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) in Leixlip, County Kildare, have developed a piece of hardware that Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO), the American networking giant, predicts will be used in some 50 billion devices by 2020.

The Galileo development board, unveiled recently at the Maker Faire conference in Rome, is well named. Based on the tiny Quark X1000 chip, Intel isn’t the only one to believe that it will be an important component for what’s tipped to be the next big growth area in technology – the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). The IoT is comprised of everyday objects, appliances, systems and ‘wearable’ devices, all connected to the Internet and each other. It’s thought that the Galileo development board will be pivotal in making the IoT take off.

Introducing a new way of getting things done

How the Galileo development board was conceived is also intriguing, as the technology was developed by a start-up operating within a multinational – Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), a corporation employing over 100,000 people, 4,000 of whom are based in Ireland.

Intel chief executive, Brian Krzanich explained that he wanted “to spark a new way of thinking”, that showed that Intel was working “at an atomic level”, so he issued a challenge across the organization to come up with a new device especially for the Maker Faire convention:

“We started a skunkworks project in Ireland with the support of the IDA to fund a low cost piece of silicon that could work with the Internet of things.”

With the support of IDA Ireland, the country’s inward investment organization, Philip Moynagh and Neil Murphy went to work on the project. Moynagh, who, in the past, managed a workforce of more than 2,000 people in facilities in Ireland and the U.S., said operating as a start-up required a different type of mentality. At the outset, they had neither the time nor the resources to complete the project:

“We stole people and we stole ideas and we stole business processes and office space,” he said. “We used and abused this magnificent infrastructure that the Ireland site has developed over a quarter of a century.”

The end result was the Galileo board with the X1000 system on a chip, which Krzanich revealed at an internal conference.

“We thought all our birthdays and Christmases had come at once. He also said that it wasn’t enough; that we needed to enable the developer community and go to market with a dev board.”

Exciting times ahead for Ireland

The new technology will have far-reaching consequences, both for the IT hardware sector and for Ireland, which is already staking claim to this new growth area in technology. Donal Murphy of the IDA said:

“It truly puts Ireland at the top of the designer community and puts the country in a new category in the technology world.”

The sentiment was reinforced by Moynagh, who confirmed that the words ‘Designed in Ireland’ would appear on the first generation of boards. The technology has already meant new opportunities for other companies in Ireland, such as Emutex, an engineering firm in Limerick that specializes in embedded software development.

Of course, it’s the companies designing the applications that will make IoT happen that are set to gain most. Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and ARM Holdings plc (ADR) (NASDAQ:ARMH) (LON:ARM) are all planning future strategy around IoT. Hardly surprising, when you consider that IDC analysts have already suggested that the market could reach $8.9 trillion by 2020.

As for Cisco, officials there say that’s a conservative estimate and that the market has already been worth $613 billion to businesses this year and will grow to $14.4 trillion by 2020.

That’s no small change. Investors would be wise to take note.