Te Ahi Hangarua | Vodafone, Nokia unveil 5G-powered tech hub

Vodafone Logo

Vodafone and the University of Auckland Business School officially unleashed the 5G-powered technology hub Te Ahi Hangarau powered by Vodafone at a launch event last week.

The tech hub is already helping to spark innovative ideas by enabling students to harness emerging technologies thanks to significant financial and technological investment from Vodafone in partnership with Nokia

At the launch of cutting-edge 5G technology hub Te Ahi Hangarau powered by Vodafone, it was fitting that a pair of voice activated, 5G-connected robot scissors cut the ceremonial ribbon.

When the magic words – “Alexa, open the technology hub,” were spoken, developer Hayden Moore says they were picked up by a smart home device, a message was then sent to the internet over Vodafone’s award-winning 5G network, and on to the Internet of Things (IoT)-powered robot scissors before a motor was activated enabling the scissors to snip the ribbon – sans finger power.

The build, which took around ten hours, utilised emerging tech including 3D modelling and printing, a custom smart-home routine, and finally, lots of testing, says Hayden. This was just a small demonstration of the impact 5G can have on our world which delighted attendees of the opening.

Before the cutting-edge ribbon cutting ceremony, Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer Tony Baird, Business School dean Susan Watson, and commerce student Isabella Bouwer shared their thoughts on the value of the future-focused tech hub, developed in partnership with Vodafone.

Isabella told those gathered that when she put on a Virtual Reality (VR) headset in the hub for the first time, she knew it wouldn’t be her last.

The Bachelor of Commerce student was elated to explore the power of the metaverse and VR during her Business School studies.

“Within the Business 202 ‘Future of Work’ module, we were assigned a task to create a virtual office space using the platform Spatial. Spatial is a software app that enables people to build their own spaces in the metaverse, both for personal and business reasons,” she said.

“My parents often ask me what I’m up to at uni, so when I told them I was creating a business space in the metaverse, they said – when did you get a job at Facebook?

“When they asked me to explain the metaverse, I initially struggled to find the words. I believe the clearest way to tell someone about the metaverse is to think about what it isn’t – it’s not a new technology, app, or tool; it’s a way of thinking about combining many technologies to experience how we use tech and interact with it across our lives in an entirely new way.

“It’s likely the metaverse and the utilisation of VR technologies will soon transform the workplace as we know it.”

Along with expansive virtual experiences, Te Ahi Hangarau offers students across the University the chance to utilise 3d-printing technology and the IoT.

“By engaging with these emerging technologies now, our students can develop the skills they need to succeed in the future,” Business School dean Susan Watson said at the launch event on 2 November.

“We are immensely proud to be the first business school in Aotearoa offering our students access to 5G and all the benefits that come with it.

“Te Ahi Hangarau – the Māori name gifted to the tech hub, symbolises our vision for this innovative teaching space. Ahi means fire, and hangarau translates to technology. This name encapsulates our goal of empowering our students through technology and helping them to ignite their potential as future change makers.”

Te Ahi Hangarau is already meeting its potential as a hub of inspiration and collaboration: Over 800 students have explored the business potential of the Metaverse, while students from across campus have participated in a week-long sustainability innovation sprint, and hundreds of students have participated in equipment training – learning about 5G, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and more.

Vodafone (soon to be One New Zealand) CTO Tony Baird spoke on the night about his experience travelling to the UK after he finished his degree at the University of Auckland and working with the first iterations of the technology we now know as 5G and the Internet of Things. He implored users of Te Ahi Hangarau to build innovation here within Aotearoa, so instead of having to immigrate to the UK to experience the best in tech, future generations of changemakers can change the world from their own backyard.