With the New Zealand government’s 5G spectrum auction just weeks away, Spark, the country’s largest telecommunications and digital services company, is calling on Kiwi innovators to bid for half a million dollars. The money will be used to build new 5G enabled technology that will “benefit the country, disrupt an industry or provide an immersive experience".
As New Zealand gets ready for its 5G roll-out, the 5G Starter Fund will support up to three companies, with the first prize winner claiming $250,000 and another two receiving $125,000 each. The three chosen companies will all receive business and tech mentoring, a trip to New York to learn from the some of the best in global 5G technology, as well as gaining access to technology and equipment to test and build on Spark’s 5G networks.
Life-changing 5G use cases
Spark has been working with local innovators through its co-lab space since July last year, co-creating future 5G use cases that will transform lives. One of the game-changing 5G initiatives already underway is the Patience Project – a not-for-profit that uses technology to connect kids with long-term illnesses with their teachers and classmates when they can’t go to school, via a special 360-degree camera in the classroom, that the kids can use remotely as their eyes and ears.
Since working in the 5G lab, the charity is now developing a robot embodiment of the 360-degree camera, that will be the child’s ‘robot self’ in class, allowing them to interact from the comfort of their bed, home or in hospital.
“When we asked the kids how they wanted to stay connected with their class and friends they all wanted a robot. 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?” said Ben Martel of the Patience Project.
“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,” added Ben whose company is now gearing up to use 5G to enable a two-way communication link allowing the child to interact in real-time with their teacher and classmates.
5G potential in New Zealand
Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson, said: “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.“
“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,” Hodson continued.