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Spark rallies Kiwi innovators to share their 5G ideas

09 Mar 2020

Spark is calling on New Zealand’s most innovative businesses to pitch their best ideas about how 5G could benefit the country.

The company has a new initiative called The Starter Fund, which will provide a total of $500,000 to three businesses that are determined to bring their 5G ideas to life.

Spark says that those ideas must benefit New Zealand, disrupt an industry, or provide an immersive experience. CEO Jolie Hodson says the initiative will showcase new use cases for 5G – and it will also showcase Kiwi ingenuity. 

“5G is going to be game-changing for our country. But this technology is bigger than us – so we want to invest in other Kiwi businesses and enable our innovative thinkers, like Ben, to show us what this technology can do,” says Hodson.

“There is no shortage of ideas in this country – businesses in our lab have tested and refined driverless car technology, worked on future payment solutions using facial recognition, and tested an ‘eye in the sky’ security solution using drone technology. We have even helped Emirates Team New Zealand get 5G on the water. Now, we want to unleash this potential early in the 5G journey so New Zealand can realise the benefits this new technology can offer, faster.”  

One company that already has its teeth into 5G is not-for-profit called the Patience Project. When a child is sick and can’t attend school, the Patience Project provides 360-degree cameras to connect the child with their peers in the classroom in real time.

The Patience Project’s Ben Martel says that when his team asked children how they wanted to connect with their classmates, they all wanted a robot.

As a result, the team began work on a robotic version of the camera, which will sit in the child’s place so they can feel like they are in the classroom.

“We think their classmates will also interact more with the robot versions of their friends – I mean what kid hasn’t wanted their own robot?” says Martel.

“This hasn’t been possible without 5G, because the way our cameras currently have to work is reliant on a school’s network infrastructure, so the child is tethered to the classroom. With their own 5G robot, they will be able to join their mates on the playing field and on school trips.”

“Additionally, we’re currently only able to deliver a one-way experience, so the next step is to have a two-way communication link allowing the child to interact in real-time with their teacher and classmates. 5G will make this possible wirelessly,” continues Martel.

“The opportunity to understand and experience 5G technology with Spark has absolutely been the key driver in our development for the future as it gave us the opportunity to ask ourselves, how can we do things better?” 

The 5G Starter Fund will support up to three companies, with the 1st prize winner receiving $250,000 and the two second-prize winners receiving $125,000 each. All three winners will receive business and tech mentoring, a trip to New York to learn from experts in global 5G tech, as well as access to technology and equipment to test and build on Spark’s 5G network.