AUT launches new industry-linked technology programme

A new organisation launching at AUT is focusing on building world-leading data technology platforms that create industries and keep talented New Zealanders in the country.

The INTERACT Centre of Technology Excellence aims to create a quantum leap forward in the ability for New Zealand to be a leading developer of data technologies and to retain IT and data science graduates in local industries.

INTERACT will operate as a highly networked industry-linked organisation which has a key aim of addressing questions around large scale streaming big data processing and analytics.

Economic impact will be through new technologies, together with related application domains in smart city transportation, predictive analytics in social services, precision medicine, environmental surveying, disaster management & prediction, precision agriculture and autonomous vehicles. Social and economic benefits also follow through optimisation in health and social services and predictive health analytics.

A current project at AUT that will be part of INTERACT is a project working with sensor networks, cameras and data analytics to at make driverless cars safer.

AUT engineering professor Reinhard Klette chairs the project, which has contributed to improvements in this technology. Current technology provides driver assistance for improved safety but it is not yet at the level of allowing fully autonomous driving without a driver paying attention.

In 2017 Wuhan University will supply a DongFeng test vehicle with fully equipped sensors, which determine the car’s position and identify any possible collisions. Klette and his AUT PhD students will test it.

Dr Stefan Marks - his work in AUT’s Sentience LAB will be part of INTERACT.

Other projects which will be part of INTERACT include the use of neural computing in predicting earthquakes and the matching of therapeutic drug regimens to the individual person’s genetic make-up; using drones to make and analyse 3-D maps of plant species in the wild; and to create predictive models that support social services intervention decisions around families at risk.

The INTERACT collaborative framework will generate a number of PhD graduates and seek to retain them in New Zealand through exciting research and industry opportunities. It will seek to attract talent through postdoctoral fellowships and grow industry capabilities through close interaction with New Zealand companies.

INTERACT was conceived as a nationally collaborative organisation, hosted by the Auckland University of Technology. Key research partners are the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, Massey University and the University of Waikato, together with Callaghan Innovation and Opus International Consultants. 

AUT’s pro-vice chancellor of research and innovation, Professor John Raine, says INTERACT will significantly increase New Zealand’s engagement in data-intensive R&D.

“[It is] an area where we have lagged internationally, but which offers the opportunity for advanced technology development and potential spin-off industry benefits.”

INTERACT is currently seeking to boost institutional support for its R&D activities through investment by Government.