Spark awards funding to four Kiwi businesses to Power 5G Innovations

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Four innovative New Zealand businesses have been selected as winners of Spark’s 5G Starter Fund, securing a share of $625,000 to bring some of the country’s first 5G-powered ideas to life.

Each winner has showcased how 5G could bring positive outcomes to communities across New Zealand. The winners are Rocos (Auckland), Beyond (Wellington), Objective Acuity (Auckland) and oDocs Eye Care (Dunedin).

Rocos, was awarded the supreme prize of $250,000, with Beyond, Objective Acuity and oDocs Eye Care each receiving $125,000.

Selected from more than 200 entries that spanned four categories – Next Gen Health, Good for New Zealand, Industry Disruptors, and Immersive Experiences – these businesses have demonstrated how 5G is an enabling technology that has the potential to solve some of today’s biggest problems.

Spark Technology Director Mark Beder says: “Spark is thrilled to be able to offer financial support and expertise to these 5G pioneers, whose ideas have the potential to drive huge benefits for the country – whether it’s accelerating change through autonomous robots, fostering a sense of community through inclusive, immersive gaming experiences or fundamentally changing the way people access healthcare.

“By supporting these local businesses to create some of the first 5G technology applications in the country, we are bringing to life how 5G can improve Kiwi lives and play a role in New Zealand’s economic recovery and transformation.”

Rocos, the supreme winner, wowed the judges by showcasing how their robotics platform would use multiple features of 5G to enhance their existing solution in ways that are not possible with today’s generation of network connectivity.

Early access to Spark’s 5G network is set to give Rocos a global competitive advantage, providing benefits that go beyond speed. Robots will be connected 24/7 and will rely on the network for low latency data, but also critical capabilities around reliability, security and high-speed edge compute which are essential for wide-spread robotic automation.

Spark’s 5G technology will radically accelerate the adoption of autonomous robots and it is planning to enhance its existing cloud solution that connects, monitors and controls robotic ‘fleets’ at scale. The product has the potential to reach two global target audiences: 190 million enterprise organisations looking to automate physical labour, and robotics companies wanting to remotely operate their large-scale robot fleets.

oDocs Eye Care is a social enterprise with a mission to end preventable blindness by developing innovative eye care solutions. It is developing a platform that allows specialists to remotely monitor patients’ eyes in real-time, by creating affordable and portable ophthalmic diagnostic tools.

5G bandwidth will allow fast transmission of video consultations, providing an accurate view of more subtle and minute signs in the eye. This will contribute to a faster referral process, which will improve access and equity to primary and specialist eye care in remote areas of New Zealand, where specialist care is highly limited

Objective Acuity is developing a suite of software-based vision screening and vision tests that are more accessible and accurate for detecting vision problems as early as possible in younger children. With tests using high definition video, 5G would allow Objective Acuity to implement powerful AI analysis in the cloud to deliver accurate real-time test results on any 5G capable device.

This would make vision tests more accessible and able to be used more broadly within the community – for example, tests could be performed in pharmacies, early childhood centres and eventually, in the home. 5G will help Objective Acuity further optimise its existing tests and, in the future enable them to reach more people in the community.

Beyond, a Wellington-based virtual reality game studio, is tapping into the speed and advanced graphics enabled by Spark’s 5G network to help bring its Kiwi-made games to the masses. The creators of the successful Oddball game say 5G is the gamechanger that will transform how players interact with virtual reality games on all devices. It will allow real-time streaming and participation of its multi-player virtual reality games, opening a much larger market of gamers to its business. 5G will tackle latency issues that typically limit VR games from enjoying greater adoption, with the team aiming to develop an app that will live stream and enable users to join in on the action of a VR game via a 5G-enabled phone.

The four winners will each have access to the Spark 5G Co-Lab and benefit from 5G tech support and business mentoring by Spark and the judges – local and international industry leaders – over four months, from November 2020 to March 2021, as they strive to take their proof of concept to minimum viable product (MVP) stage.

“We have been wowed by the calibre of entries we received and had a difficult time selecting just four winners from our eight finalists – all of whom are incredibly talented and innovative. We hope Spark’s 5G Starter Fund programme inspires more businesses to factor 5G into their technology roadmaps,” says Beder.

“Many of the businesses that entered the programme earlier this year told us they see technology like our 5G network as a critical enabler for transforming industries and bringing much needed solutions to issues of national significance, so we are excited to see these come to life over the coming months and years.”


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