INSPIRED BY KIWI INNOVATION
Booktrack's CEO Paul Cameron with members of the team at their Takapuna office.
Booktrack is an AI company that creates movie-style soundtracks for Audiobooks.
Based in Takapuna on the North Shore, Booktrack began in 2007 when Paul Cameron, and his co-founder and brother Mark, noticed that people all around the world commuting on buses, trains, ferries and aero planes, would get out their headphones and listen to music while they read a paper book. They thought that this was a strange behavior, and wondered why we would read a book and listen to music that has nothing to do with the story? Paul and his brother then started to prototype, test and patent designs that would synchronize music to text & speech so that you would hear the right music matched in mood/emotion to the right part of the story. People loved it!
Today, Booktrack has evolved to use scalable artificial intelligence (AI) technology to automatically create movie-style soundtracks for audiobooks. There has been an evolution with new mobile devices and digital delivery, but the audiobook listening experience is the same as the 1970’s. The current audiobook experience is still a plain narration with no background music, ambient audio, or sound effects. Imagine if we still watched silent movies today! Audiobooks have not evolved to include soundtracks because soundtrack creation is expensive and cost prohibitive, it can cost up to $40,000 per title.
Booktrack solves this with a proprietary AI engine that generates unique soundtracks based on the mood and emotion of the story, which can then be customized by Booktrack’s tools and production capability to create a cost effective premium soundtrack. This production methodology is >50x more efficient, 10x faster than current competition and introduces new revenue streams for publishers and distributors.
Booktrack’s solution generates a new and totally immersive augmented reality listening experience by delivering a soundtrack while listening to Audiobooks; equivalent to the introduction of sound transforming the experience of film forever.
For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more information about Booktrack click here.
Digital disruption is not just a buzz term. It’s a reality in the travel and hospitality industry today.
Look at Airbnb. It has changed the way we book accommodation, giving power to the customer who can book into anyone’s spare room – literally! For accommodation providers, this spells a need to ramp up online marketing efforts.
There is a Kiwi company that is making it easy for operators to do this – STAAH.
STAAH opens up an accommodation provider’s inventory (or rooms) to more than 200 online channels. As hospitality businesses world over strive to keep multiple rooms occupied, isolated listings on a few online travel agency (OTA) sites (i.e. booking.com) is simply not enough. They need the power of a STAAH channel manager to be seen and booked.
A dynamic, cloud-based platform, the STAAH channel manager allows accommodation providers to make updates easily and in real time across multiple OTAs, reaching millions of potential guests with very little effort. Following a user-first approach to technology, clients who use STAAH products love them for its ease-of-use. You don’t have to be a geek to master it!
STAAH’s online distribution marketing repertoire doesn’t end there. Included in its product suite is a website booking engine, gift voucher management system and an online reputation management tool. Together, or used in parts, each of these are designed to enable properties to unleash their online potential.
STAAH has turned digital disruption into an opportunity to scale its business. Its agile approach to technology development with an objective of adding value has made its products invaluable for accommodation providers of all sizes. In addition to its cutting-edge technology, affordability, reach and a stellar service has made it a preferred choice for many. In less than 10 years, STAAH has managed to partner with more than 4000 properties across 60+ countries, handling in excess of 700,000 room nights every month (4.5 million bookings annually!).
STAAH was recognised for developing effective and long-standing partnerships in India with NZTE’s Innovation Showcase Award in 2016. In the same year, it was also chosen as one of the finalists in the Westpac Business Innovation Awards.
For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more information about STAAH click here.
Members of the Northern Arena team celebrate after winning Westpac North Supreme Business of the Year and Employer of the Year.
As kiwis, we love the water and as a nation surrounded by water, learning to swim is an essential life skill to be learned as children. Research carried out by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research and Swim Australia shows that children who have attended swimming lessons have many advantages when starting school.
“While we expected the children to show better physical development and more confidence through swimming, the children were ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, language and following instructions.”lead researcher Professor Robyn Jorgensen said.
Based in the Auckland North innovation district, Northern Area operates a centre for fitness and well being.. During the last 5 years Northern Area has provided over 6,000 babies in the North Shore /Rodney area with a free term of swimming lessons.. Today 21 full time and 96 part time staff members teach 4,700 students a week, with more lessons under one roof than any other swim school in Australasia. This has been possible through developing an innovative programme and teaching system involving video analysis of teaching techniques – the only swim school in Australasia to use such advanced teacher development.
Northern Arena’s mission is to help Kiwis of all ages enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. They want to see as many children as possible become competent swimmers and gain the early development benefits uncovered by the Griffith Institutes’ research. And for Kiwi adults, swimming is the perfect way to gain and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Their vision is to produce twenty Olympian swimmers in twenty years and their highly motivated team continually improves the methodology that will make that vision possible. Outside of Auckland North, Northern Arena’s innovative swimming and teaching programmes are being used in Auckland Central, Tauranga and Hamilton.
This passion, dedication and their tight focus on their vision has seen Northern Area win 2016 ‘Best of the Best’ Auckland Westpac Business Awards, 2016 Employer of the Year, Swim School of the Year and Fitness Facility of the Year . Even the café in their Silverdale facility wins awards, most recently the Best Suburban Café, Auckland Region, in the Meadow Fresh New Zealand Cafe of the Year Awards . For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more on Northern Arena click here.
EROAD’s journey is one of predicting the future and then backing themselves.
EROAD offers road user charging, safety compliance and fleet management services on one fully integrated platform. Key to its accelerated growth is its team’s ability to look forward and ask questions about how technology will transform the global transport sector.
EROAD’s purpose - solving complex problems, delivering intuitive solutions that help its customers succeed - is behind its strategy to invest heavily in R&D to ensure it can develop and deliver the solutions to problems facing the transport sector in the future.
Its vision and courage has positioned EROAD to seize big opportunities. “We looked at the world and reframed a problem in a way that allowed us to enter a new market through regulatory disruption,” says CEO Steven Newman. “We came up with an electronic solution for a hard-to-solve, real-life problem. People had never taken such a complete future-industry view before, so that immediately made the solution we developed different.”
The team at Albany developed and implemented the first nation-wide electronic road user charges (RUC) solution, effectively disrupting the existing system, which led to new government regulations.
EROAD’s focus on predicting, investing and transforming didn’t end there. Implementing disruptive technology led to uncovering more challenges and new opportunities, which required more skilled staff and R&D investment. This has led to a number of successes:
Back at their Albany HQ, EROAD’s 250-strong team continues to ask questions about what changes the transport industry will undergo in the future, and what the innovative solutions needed to respond to those changes will look like.
Straker Translations is a New Zealand business success story. In 2000 the company employed a handful of tech-savvy employees but after identifying a big worldwide opportunity, the company then experienced accelerated growth due to the development of a unique translation technology platform that is now disrupting the traditional translation industry.
Straker Translations’ translation technology surpasses legacy translation technology by automating time-consuming functions and simplifying the user-experience resulting in a drastic decrease in turnaround times, improved accuracy and increased profit margins. Now with 50 people in their Albany head office, the born and bred Kiwi company also has production centres in Barcelona, Denver and Dublin, further sales offices around the world and more than 10,000 customers. Employee numbers are expected to double again over the next 18 months due to Straker Translations’ rapid growth in the global translation industry.
Straker’s unique Kiwi approach has created business opportunities for this North Shore company. The company has recently acquired two businesses on different sides of the world and converted them to the Straker Translations platform. There is an opportunity to acquire more legacy businesses throughout the world and to build a highly-effective global translation platform that creates a new standard for millions of translation customers.
The company's innovative efforts have not gone unnoticed. Straker has claimed a spot in the top 60 of the huge $40 billion translation industry and have set their sights on the top five. The company has won national innovation awards. They have been finalists in the special categories ‘Excellence in Innovation’ and ‘He kai kei aku ringa’ for Maori Excellence in Export. The CEO of Straker Translations, Grant Straker, has founded the company on Kiwi values and believes that Straker Translations’ success can motivate other Maori to choose technology as a valuable and rewarding career path.
Grant and Merryn Straker at Straker Translation's head office located in Albany within the Grow North innovation district
Imagine you are walking past shops after business hours and something in the shop window or real estate office catches your eye. You touch the outside of the window and find that you can instruct technology inside the business to provide you with the information that you require to make a decision. You can browse inventory, place an order, organize delivery and pay for it - all from outside the shop front.
Labyrinth’s new interactive technology is transforming retail precincts, real estate and retail customer buying experiences. The company now offers next-generation, customer-driven touch window technology that allows customers access to the most up-to-date information on products and services from outside the store, and then give delivery instructions and purchase.
Orewa based Labyrinth Solutions is the first Kiwi business to develop this high-level, through-glass technology allowing customers to browse, send enquiries and purchase goods from outside just by touching the glass on the storefront.
In addition, Labyrinth Solutions is developing two new exciting features that will make this technology far more intuitive. Their next development is facial recognition using monitor on-chip technology that will adjust the information displayed based on who is looking in the window and identify significant customer traits such as gender and age range, and then present related categories and options to the customer.
The second new development uses artificial intelligence (AI). Vaughan Reed, managing director of Labyrinth Solutions, envisages Labyrinth’s AI as being the ‘Siri’ of touch window technology. These new developments will provide a whole new innovative marketing platform for customers to experience.
Real estate and retail are booming industries and the Labyrinth has already captured major New Zealand real estate clients. They have recently completed a nationwide rollout of Labyrinth’s interactive and innovative technology.
Coherent Solutions makes amongst the world’s highest performing test and measurement instruments for high-speed optical communications for research labs and component manufacturers. What comes hand in hand with the world inter-networking is the need for immense data storage. The arrival of the Internet of Things brings Coherent Solution’s big opportunity. “There are huge data centres being built all over the world. Originally all of the connections in these data centres were electrical, but now they need to use optical connections, and each data centre has hundreds and thousands of fibre optical cables” Andy Stevens the CEO of Coherent Solutions, said in a statement.
“Each optical component, including the actual fibre-optic cable needs to be extensively tested during the manufacturing process in order to make sure it achieves the high specifications required for these applications. Our equipment can be used to support production testing along with being used extensively in the development of the technologies being developed for future data centres”.
The explosion of data centres around the globe means that Coherent Solutions is now on-track to surpass their five-year business objectives. The company initially grew organically, thanks to a small amount of capital that came from their first purchase order. Now five years on, Coherent is on track to becoming a $30M business. The company has established a very strong reputation in an expanding niche market and they are known across the world. Their five-star reputation has enabled the company to sign large, very successful, global clients and they now have customers in over 20 countries including North America, UK, Europe and China which is now their largest market.
Coherent Solutions has its headquarters located in Auckland North’s smart innovation district where the business is surrounded by a multitude of technology companies making a worldwide impact that Stevens says provides his team with the daily inspiration to be the best of the best in their industry. Their international team of engineers and developers has global experience, knowledge and capability and can build bespoke solutions backed by worldwide support and high-level customer service.
With the help of a Callaghan grant the company has successfully launched two new products in the last few months with two more products set to be put on the market in upcoming weeks. The high-tech, manufacturing, exporting company has the vision of becoming the world’s leading test and measurement company. Coherent Solutions is on their way to achieving that goal.
It has long been acknowledged that the government’s vision to make New Zealand’s digital network one of the most complete and fastest in the world depends on laying a completely new network of fibre optics that runs to every home and business across the country. Laying fibre optic cable in streets and connecting to buildings does not fully deliver on the government’s vision because the devices inside homes and businesses still use decades old technology between the users of data and the fibre optic network. Many of the huge benefits promised from using fibre optics can’t be delivered because data streaming is choked immediately on entering the building.
White Cell Networks (WCN) has created a solution to this problem at their Greenhithe innovation lab. Before Anthony Ardelean the CEO of WCN brought this optical technological solution to life, only a small number of people had full access to the wide-ranging benefits of fibre. Now everyone can have access to all of the benefits promised from the fibre optic network.
“I have taken a traditional technology and converted that into a very advanced platform that has then been simplified to a process that is easy for anybody to be able to assemble and connect themselves and see immediate increase in data speeds as high as 80%. In addition we have been able to keep our product at a level that is affordable to most of the population.”
What Anthony and his team at WCN have created is technology that will help increase business productivity within New Zealand wherever it is connected. The business also has a big opportunity in the global residential market where the everyday consumer uses technology for living, entertainment and working from home. With WCN’s innovative technology, the government’s vision for a high-speed internet connected nation is now possible.
The business is growing offshore and now has a regional office in Australia. WCN has customers in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and aims to push into the residential market in Australia, US, Canada and Europe over the next five years however the best place for WCN’s innovation laboratory and headquarters will be in Auckland North’s innovation district.
It is common knowledge that it is becoming more expensive to live and higher living costs have driven the need for two working incomes per household. Around the world an increasing number of children are being cared for during business hours and within rapidly growing industries comes different standards of childcare.
One Auckland North business has stepped back and taken a fresh look at the childcare industry. By listening to working parents concerns, aimy Plus (correct spelling) has identified gaps in the current childcare model. aimy Plus is creating a complete childcare platform that helps satisfy both parents concerns and their childcare centre’s needs. This 18 month old company is attracting attention. They have recently secured a contract with a large international firm, instantly putting their product in seven countries.
The CEO of aimy Plus Dean Payn says “Our passion is families and we’ve talked to many parents from many different cultures who all share the same childcare concerns. As busy parents ourselves, we wanted to improve how families are run within the society that we are creating”.
Dean, his business partner Ray Lu and their team, have designed this solution at their base in Albany. aimy Plus offers childcare providers a business management system where the entire childcare business can be run on one smart programme no matter how many centres the business runs. This software is integrated with a finder app for parents, allowing them to have easy access to an abundance of information about everything and anything childcare-related in their local community, becoming the ‘booking.com’ of childcare for parents.
A third exciting planned product is under development. Fambam is a secure, family social network. “We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. That village historically has consisted of parents, grandparents and family relatives. With parents working that village has expanded further. There’s the soccer coach, the dance teacher, the afterschool care teacher or perhaps the neighbour, and all are helping to raise your child. With Fambam you have a private and secure social network where parents have information over who is in your village with up to date information allowing more control” says Dean Payn. aimy Plus directors have recently demonstrated Fambam in China and there has been a high level of interest.
The thriving market of childcare has brought forth a big opportunity for aimy Plus and the business has experienced rapid growth. With their product now rolling out into seven countries and many more countries with expanding childcare services, this company’s vision and long-term objectives are very clear.
Abel Software specializes in enterprise resource planning software (ERP) that is fully scalable to suit mid-sized and growing businesses, through to multinational corporations. International customers are running Abel ERP in multiple languages and currencies across thirteen countries. Abel ERP provides integrated core business management software that allows businesses to manage and automate many functions such as manufacturing, distribution, and financials.
What sets Abel apart is its true scalability and its multi-database capability, enabling businesses to easily expand to multiple countries while maintaining a global view of their whole operation. This Kiwi grown innovation has created big opportunities for Abel Software. True to the vision of its co-founders Allan Baird and Jane Mattsen, Abel’s architecture has delivered a functionally rich, fully scalable and affordable product that provides a long-term solution for customers as they grow.
US based Alsco Inc., a global leader in textile rental services, originally chose Abel for its robust operational and financial capability, its ability to grow with the company’s requirements, and to manage all operations long-term. Fifteen years on, Alsco Inc continues to expand its use of Abel ERP, adopting new functionality within its U.S. and international operations. They now run over 150 databases in eleven countries that link to their corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City.
Abel’s ERP software is also helping other mid-sized and growing businesses. Many of Abel’s customers are business innovators who are expanding internationally. Abel’s team understands the challenges of global expansion, and that makes Abel ERP an ideal choice to meet customers’ needs both now and in the future.
Abel Software was founded on Auckland’s North Shore in 1996, and they chose the Auckland North Innovation District for their company headquarters because it’s a good location to attract fresh talent and support their future plans. Abel’s vision and innovation is keeping them on track to become a $500 million business and a major global provider of ERP software.
Grow North articles are written by those who work closely with businesses, incubators, accelerators, academics, investors and business interest groups within the Auckland North Innovation Corridor.
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