Wellington IT scene: Capital brainstorming

Stephen Bell attended a session on creating business ideas to take advantage of the new fast fibre networks

Government has been accused of concentrating on the technological aspects of the nationwide broadband networks and giving scant attention to encouraging thinking on practical uses for the capacity.

In an attempt to spark some ideas, Wellington-based developers’ group Unlimited Potential held an open, multiple-round-table discussion recently. Ten groups were set to work at separate (appropriately circular) tables under the moderation of Pacific Fibre cofounder Lance Wiggs, with the incentive of a $150 prize. They brainstormed several ideas each, then chose the leading one or two according to a two-dimensional subjective rating on potential value and ease of implementation.

Wiggs then asked the entrants to pick their leading idea (or two) and come up with a first-cut business plan centred on cost, likely income and existing market competition.

Two hours later, the meeting had, in Wiggs’ words, 15 good ideas, “that if you push them a bit, they are OK”; five that survive a harder evaluation and two excellent ones that according to him had already sparked interest from representatives of potential ultrafast broadband network operators present at the meeting.

The ideas clustered around some common themes such as remote health monitoring, home security and crowdsourcing of unused storage, along with CPU capacity on thousands of PCs for commercial backup and other large-volume data storage and processing needs.

Also included were communication of place-of-origin and ingredient or component data (including video) for food and manufactured products, improving confidence in the products and providing traceability in the even of contamination or faults; and a competitive health and exercise regimen, like a distributed gym, with everyone using their own home equipment. Sociability, friendly competition, the formation of “league-tables” were suggested as benefits.

One team suggested virtual sports stadiums, presented in 3D to thousands of guests all over the world.

Most of the accounts of likely cost and profit were decidedly approximate, with some teams admitting to blind guesses; but a few showed deeper thought about the financial aspects of the idea.

Wiggs and a small judging panel chose two winners rather than one – a personal medical alarm continuously monitoring health signs, and a broadband home-security system with video and other sensors to provide instant response in the event of a break-in.

Wiggs encouraged the winners to come up with a full-fledged business plan and pitch the idea to UFB and RBI participants. The number and quality of ideas generated were impressive, he said.

So what about the companies in Wellington already harnessing the power of faster connectivity?

This is the first in a series of articles about the Wellington IT scene. Tomorrow Computerworld looks at the work of Kinross Group and its Application Messaging Service.

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