News

First Watch Ltd

First Watch Ltd

First Watch logo

The big news in cybersecurity in May 2021 was the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which affected about half of the petroleum products supplied on the East Coast of the United States. A week later, here in New Zealand, Waikato District Health Board was also hit with a ransomware attack, shutting down much of its healthcare activity for days.

It is becoming increasingly clear that cyberattacks are no longer just irritating or embarrassing but can do real harm. This is particularly so when they affect industrial control networks.

While traditional industrial control systems were protected from cyberattack because they were isolated from the internet by a so-called “air gap”, that is no longer the case. Efficient business operations require that control systems be connected to corporate IT systems, and that corporate IT systems be connected to the Internet, and that creates vulnerabilities. In 2010, the Stuxnet worm was believed to be responsible for causing substantial physical damage to the Iranian nuclear programme but attacks on operational technology (OT) that controls industrial plant are no longer the preserve of nation state conflicts. Organised criminals demanding ransoms, or even mischievous “joy riders”, are a threat to OT today. Unfortunately, existing cybersecurity solutions just slow them down, at best.

New Hamilton NZ-based OT cybersecurity company First Watch Ltd inserts a provenance-tracking zero-trust architecture into OT systems that use almost any supplier’s equipment to secure the core human-machine interfaces and programmable logic controllers that run industrial equipment in energy and water utilities, and manufacturing plants. First Watch’s patent-pending technology was developed in the recently-completed STRATUS cybersecurity research programme led by the University of Waikato and funded by the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and then commercialised by WaikatoLink and CTEK.

Since First Watch was established in October 2019, its team of software engineers has converted this research into an effective and stable set of software and hardware tools, validated by pilot customers and experts in the field. Led by Managing Director Bob Stokes, and now with paying customers, First Watch Ltd is currently raising capital at a pre-Series A stage to rapidly scale up the business to protect OT in New Zealand, expand to Australia later in 2021 and globally in 2022.

WaikatoLink is proud to be an investor in First Watch Ltd.

For more information on First Watch, see https://first-watch.co.nz/ or e-mail Commercial GM Matt McMahon at mmcmahon@waikatolink.co.nz.

New applications for Time-of-Flight technology

In addition to Chronoptics’ successes in automotive applications and other markets, as we’ve mentioned earlier, the University of Waikato time-of-flight research team continues to develop new insights and techniques to improve the technology. Their recent research is opening up opportunities in zone-based smart-sensing for safety, security and automated touchless interactions at ranges of up to 10 metres.

Existing distance-sensitive technologies in these application areas (like ultrasonic, radar or infra-red sensors, for example) have no, or very poor spatial resolution. An infra-red sensor can detect if there is movement in a room, for example, but it cannot say where the movement is in the room. Active ultrasonic or radar methods can locate objects in 3D space, but they do so by scanning a beam across that space, which means the location and motion of an object is measured very imprecisely and slowly.

In contrast, time-of-flight methods measure the distance to objects in the image at every pixel simultaneously, and precisely. Recent improvements in the technology mean object motion and reflective surfaces in the field of view, which had previously made safety, security and touchless interaction applications very challenging are now much less important than they were previously. WaikatoLink and Chronoptics are currently exploring a range of opportunities in these areas, from easily movable virtual security and safety fences to interactive digital billboards.

If you may have an interest in applications in this area, please contact Commercialisation Specialist Doug Hillyer at doug@waikatolink.co.nz

Battery monitors

Most people have experienced the frustration of having the apparent battery level on their mobile phone go from 50% to 10% in a matter of minutes, or having their car not start because the battery was dead. For more than 200 years, since Alessandro Volta invented the first battery, it has been difficult to accurately measure either how much energy a battery can hold – something that declines over time as a battery ages – or how much energy a partially-depleted battery will supply before it is exhausted. One can determine either of these measurements by draining the battery and measuring how much energy comes out, but that rather defeats the purpose. The University of Waikato’s Professor Jonathan Scott and his colleagues have developed a new understanding and a patent-pending method of measuring a battery’s capacity that WaikatoLink is commercialising with investment from KiwiNet and the University of Waikato, together with battery management solution provider PowerShield.

Specially-designed sensors implementing Professor Scott’s method have so far demonstrated much better performance than existing methods of measuring battery capacity for both Lithium Ion batteries (as found in mobile phones) and Lead Acid batteries (as found in cars and back-up and uninterruptible power supplies). We have demonstrated the technology with naturally-aged batteries as well as artificially-aged batteries, and at voltage ranges from 2 to 16V, and carried out a pilot trial at a telecommunications provider.

The first applications of this technology are likely to be to back-up power supplies for telecommunications and batteries in marine applications – particularly yachts and small ships.

For more information, contact Commercialisation Specialist Anna Henning at ahenning@waikatolink.co.nz

Machine vision for parking management

We mentioned previously that WaikatoLink and Parkable Ltd had partnered to develop next generation parking management technology, using machine learning and computer vision on the edge. With investment from KiwiNet and the University of Waikato, WaikatoLink is developing a computer vision model for processing video images, which will be integrated into Parkable’s existing car park management software.

Since then, the development programme has gone very well and we expect to have a working pilot system in operation in a NZ carpark by the end of May 2021. Carpark owners are increasingly finding benefits from working with Parkable to improve carpark utilisation, while car owners are finding it easier to find a place to park. We expect this University of Waikato technology will help Parkable provide even more benefits to those groups. You can find out more about Parkable at https://parkable.com/

For more information, contact Commercialisation Specialist Shlok Kant at shlok@waikatolink.co.nz

Staff changes in WaikatoLink

Staff changes in WaikatoLink

We welcomed Katrina Churstain as our new Financial Controller in March. Katrina has experience in a range of financial roles, most recently within the University of Waikato.

We welcomed our new Commercialisation Intern Safiya Noorzai in April. Safiya joined us to build her experience in commercialisation after completing a PhD in materials engineering at the University of Waikato.

Finally, we welcomed Stephanie Chernishov in May as our Administration Assistant. Stephanie has had roles in the primary and not-for-profit sectors before, most recently, working in research management in the University of Waikato.

Much interest in Positively Pregnant

Much interest in Positively Pregnant

Positively Pregnant logo

With the launch of the upgraded Positively Pregnant app for iPhone and Android, there has been a great deal of media interest in the app and how it supports women to manage stress and maintain wellbeing during pregnancy. University of Waikato psychology researcher, Dr Carrie Barber, who developed the concept, has been interviewed in print in IdeaLog, Stuff, Newshub, and Radio New Zealand (audio). You can download the free app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, and you can find out more about the app and the research behind it at https://www.positivelypregnant.org.nz/.

With investment from KiwiNet and the University of Waikato, WaikatoLink is very pleased to be able to help support Dr Barber’s initiative, which is already helping pregnant women around New Zealand. Commercialisation Specialist Shlok Kant is working with Dr Barber to build partnerships with NZ organisations that support wellness, to ensure every woman who might find Positively Pregnant to be helpful has access to it.

By May 2021, about 200 women were downloading Positively Pregnant each week. By comparison, about 1000 women in NZ conceive each week.

For more information about how organisations can partner with Positively Pregnant, please contact Shlok Kant at info@waikatolink.co.nz

Waikato Scientific Instruments launched

Waikato Scientific Instruments launched

Waikato Scientific Instruments Logo

One of the many things that makes scientific research projects challenging is that it is often not possible (or, at least, it can be very hard) to carry out the project with the tools and instruments that are available at the start of the project. For example, when Italian mathematician/ scientist Galileo Galilei wanted to see the planets of the solar system more clearly, he first had to develop an astronomical telescope.

Researchers at the University of Waikato are often in a similar situation and, when they develop new tools or instruments to do their research, they sometimes find that other researchers around the world have the same needs. To meet those needs, we have created the brand and website Waikato Scientific Instruments to make those tools and instruments available more broadly.

Led by Commercialisation Specialist Doug Hillyer, Waikato Scientific Instruments’ first product is the SypTM automatic fluid sampler (shown on a benchtop and in a cave) conceived by Associate Professor Adam Hartland and developed and manufactured by our partners Bentech Ltd of Hamilton, NZ through a commercialisation project with investment from KiwiNet and the University of Waikato.

The autosampler sitting on a bench

We officially launched SypTM in May 2021 and the auto sampler is already attracting a lot of excitement and good numbers of sales to cave and water research groups around the world. You can find out all the details about SypTM and why cave and water researchers are excited about it on Waikato Scientific Instruments’ website at www.WaikatoScientific.com. If you are interested in the sampler, please contact Doug Hillyer at info@waikatolink.co.nz

The auto sampler working in a cave

We are currently working on another couple of instruments that could be suitable for distribution through Waikato Scientific Instruments and expect the brand to include a growing number of products over time.

Chronoptics-Melexis exclusive licence agreement

Chronoptics-Melexis exclusive licence agreement

Melexis, a global microelectronics engineering company, will have exclusive use of Chronoptics’ multipath and linearity error correction technologies for automotive applications. This includes ADAS for autonomous vehicles, and interior monitoring and safety systems. The companies will also work together to further improve and deploy the technology in the automotive market.

Multipath interference in Time-of-Flight cameras can, in some use cases, lead to inaccurate depth measurements under specific conditions, such as when a wide Field-of-View (FoV) is used, or when the scene contains highly reflective objects. It is typically caused by stray light and scattering due to bright reflections in the scene. Chronoptics’ patented multipath correction technology recovers the correct depth values to produce accurate and robust point clouds even in the most challenging scenarios. With future vehicle applications set to demand an even wider FoV, the technology enables Melexis’ customers to address and mitigate potential challenges in advance.

Richard Conroy, CEO, Chronoptics, said: “We are excited to partner with Melexis to deliver robust depth sensing solutions for the automotive industry. We are experts in tailoring fit-for-purpose 3D cameras that leverage our patented depth pipeline technologies and know-how to deliver clean and accurate 3D data for any application.”

https://www.melexis.com/en/news/2021/4mar2021-melexis-announces-an-exclusive-license-agreement-with-chronoptics

WaikatoLink is proud to be an investor in Chronoptics.

Positively Pregnant V2 app

Positively Pregnant V2 app

Pregnancy is a time of continuous change – not just physical, but social, emotional, and psychological. While this can be exciting, it can also be stressful. There are dozens of books, websites and apps out there that tell expectant mothers how big their baby is, what to eat and all the possible complications that might occur. There is much less about the thoughts and feelings that evolve during pregnancy, how to handle the worries, shifts in relationships, and hassles, and how to use the time during pregnancy to build resilience and plan a healthy future for the whole family. Now there’s an app that covers all that. A team from the University of Waikato School of Psychology, headed by Dr Carrie Barber, has been working for the last three years to develop Positively Pregnant – an app for pregnant women. Positively Pregnant includes tools for self-assessment, taking inventory of the mother’s strengths, stressors, support, strategies for coping, health behaviours, and more. From each of these, the woman receives feedback with links to New Zealand resources and information. Other modules include guides for talking or thinking about plans for things such as parenting, the birth, finances, and family traditions. There are activities for relaxation, affirmation, journalling, and just taking a break, as well as information related to the social and emotional side of pregnancy.
https://lnkd.in/gk-6NVt

Revolutionising car parking using AI

Revolutionising car parking using AI

WaikatoLink is working with University of Waikato AI experts and parking management company Parkable to revolutionise the car parking experience.

Researchers from the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences are developing the new technology that could radically improve the experience of finding a car park, with the help of machine learning algorithms which monitor the car parks in a smarter way, identifying available parks from video images.

“We are prototyping a car monitoring system that uses a small, cheap camera, with a small micro-computer plugged directly into it,” explains WaikatoLink General Manager of Commercialisation, Matt McMahon, who is working with the researchers and Parkable on this collaborative project.

“The system uses machine learning models to identify cars and empty car parks so that the Parkable service can direct parkers to available parks in real time, and car park owners or administrators can monitor occupancy.”

The goal is to have a better parking experience for everyone.

Improving the car parking experience

Toby Littin, CEO of Parkable, says the current parking model is broken, characterised by monopolies, punitive infringing, and frustrating processes.

“I think there’s a really exciting future for parking. Innovative technology is the way to move toward a world where we utilise our space better and create more seamless, positive parking experiences.”

This year Parkable launched Licence Plate Recognition technology and added EV charging functionality to the platform.

Mr Littin says this venture with WaikatoLink is the next stage in bringing new, human-centred innovations to parking.

Using a mobile app to manage the car parking experience

Parkable is a mobile app which allows people, businesses, and property owners to rent out their underused parking space. Drivers use the app to find available car parks, book them in advance, and pay for parking.

Parkable also offers car park management software to enterprises that want to make better use of their parking space, through simple booking and sharing of car parks.

This new technology solution is aimed at small and medium municipal and private car park owners, with the potential to dramatically change the price point for car park management, which in New Zealand is largely controlled by big car parking management businesses.

Instead of existing in-ground technology using sensors, the new system will process video data in real-time, monitor multiple parking bays at once, and run on several cheap computers, removing the need for high bandwidth, expensive servers and cloud processing.

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