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The power of 5G: Spark fund helps boost four Kiwi businesses

As part of Spark’s 5G starter fund, four lucky Kiwi businesses have received a share of $625,000 to bring some of New Zealand’s first 5G-powered initiatives to life.

The winners, selected from more than 200 entries, include Rocos, Beyond, Objective Acuity, and oDocos Eye Care, who have each demonstrated how 5G has the potential to bring positive outcomes to the communities across New Zealand.

Not only have the winners received a generous starter fund, they will also each have access to the Spark 5G Co-Lab and will benefit from tech support and business mentoring by Spark and international industry leaders from November 2020 till March 2021.

Spark’s innovation lead, Renee Mateparae, says the starter fund is about fostering Kiwi ingenuity and getting ahead of the game with new use cases for 5G.

“5G is game-changing technology and we believe the best way to put New Zealand at the forefront of innovation is to invest in our most innovative thinkers to show us what this technology can do.

“As we know technology and digital innovation will play a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery and transformation, it’s very exciting to be part of helping create some of the first 5G technology applications in the country.”

Ideas submitted for the starter fund were spanned across four categories, Next Gen Health, Good for New Zealand, Industry Disruptors, and Immersive Experiences. From those entries, eight finalists were chosen, each of them offering innovative 5G-enabled solutions that address real modern-day problems from environmental issues through to health concerns.

Rocos, the supreme winner, was chosen by the judges for its robotics platform which could use multiple features of 5G to enhance their exisiting solution in ways that are not possible with today’s generation of network connectivity. Access to Spark’s 5G network will give the business 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, all essential for wide-spread robotic automation.

Mateparae says Rocos has the potential to reach two global target audiences, the 190 million organisations looking to automate current processes, and the robot companies wanting to remotely operate their large-scale robot fleets.

The use of 5G is set to open up huge opportunities not only for businesses but the way we live, work, play, and connect. It will be much faster than 4G networks and will have the capacity to support mass connectivity of multiple devices with very quick response times. Mateparae says Spark sees 5G as a platform that will enable innovation like Smart Cities, emergency service drones, VR, AR, and driverless cars.

“There is so much opportunity for innovative kiwis to design the future with 5G,” she says.

“We’d encourage innovators and Kiwi businesses to factor 5G into their technology roadmaps, to imagine and explore new avenues for growth and development using the potential of 5G. We truly believe it could be game-changing with the right people creating the best apps to solve real-world problems in new and unique ways.”

One winner from Spark’s 5G starter fund is Beyond, a Wellington-based virtual reality game studio which tapped into the speed and advanced graphics enabled by 5G to help bring its Kiwi-made games to the masses. Co founder and CEO, Jessica Manins, says the win is a great boost for the team and credit to the patience and hardwork herself and co-founder Anton have put into the business.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised for the innovative technology and gaming content we’ve built, and we’re excited to start using 5G to build out our virtual gaming application.”

Beyond was created after the pair visited the Augmented World Expo in San Fransisco in 2018 and tried their first location-based VR experience. Although thrilled by the experience, it was the clunky hardware, backpack PCs, outside tracking systems, and violent content, that gave them the idea to build their own version back in New Zealand.

Beyond CEO and co-founder, Jessica Manins

Through their new partnership with Spark, Beyond will gain 5G expertise and 5G Co-Lab space to bring their ideas to life. The business’ next step is to connect mobile users to live VR games across the country and eventually across the globe.

“We are building the next generation of social competitive virtual gaming – our style is fun, colourful, funny. We’re making content that brings people together and encourages healthy competition,” says Manins.

“Along with our mobile application, we are in the middle of building a second VR game for players at home that will launch in 2021. This enables us to reach more players both at home and in entertainment centres.”

Spark’s commitment to assisting New Zealand’s next generation of innovators has come at no small feat. The initiative included not only a lengthy application process but interviews, mentorship, bootcamp, and final judging, which each of the finalists is extremely appreciative of.

“I’m blown away by their investment into 5G, Kiwi innovators, and their authentic commitment to improve the way we live, work and play,” says Manins.

Mateparae adds that the feedback received has been overwhelmingly positive, with all of the winners excited to work with Spark towards developing their 5G ideas.

“Right now, we are focused on working with our winners and making sure they’ve got all they need as they strive to take their proof of concept to minimal viable product (MVP) stage – we’ll no doubt explore the potential for a second fund further down the track.”

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