Excellence Awards: Incubator's innovators up for award

Auckland's Icehouse incubator is home to two companies in the running for an innovation award in a fortnight.

Auckland's Icehouse incubator is home to two companies in the running for an innovation award in a fortnight.

SentryBay, which has taken a novel approach to stopping computer viruses, and Nexus 6, the inventor of an electronic asthma drug dispenser, are finalists in the "technology innovator of the year" category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards, to be presented on July 25. They're competing with PLATO Health Systems, which has developed a means of automating the coding of hospital records for billing purposes, and Progressive Enterprises' iPro internet-based promotional planning and management system.

SentryBay's ViraLock differs from other anti-virus systems in that it stops viruses from leaving a system, rather than entering.

Typically, viruses spread by sending themselves to addresses in the email software of an infected PC. ViraLock prevents that from happening by encrypting addresses.

However, since it does not stop incoming viruses, ViraLock is a complement to traditional AV software and firewalls.

Fellow Icehouse dweller Nexus6 has developed an electronic inhaler that uses the web to aid the administration of drugs.

Director -- and asthmatic -- Garth Sutherland says most of New Zealand's 550,000 asthma sufferers do not administer their drugs correctly, compounding their health problems.

The Smarthaler tracks the amount of medication the user takes; they can upload that data to a website, which proceses it and formulates a suitable drug administration programme.

Sutherland says other electronic inhalers exist, but this is the first that is web-enabled. The former Microsoft employee has used that company's software for the system, which is being extended to create delivery mechanisms for other drugs.

PLATO Heath Systems is another health sector innovator. The Auckland company says US customers are making significant savings with its PLATO Code, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret hospital clinicians' patient notes so that medical procedures can be coded and billed for. The company has its eye on a large slice of the $US15 billion US coding market.

Traditionally, coding has been done manually, but that is an error-prone and labour-intensive process.

PLATO clinical director Katharine Sowden says it is "the smarts in the algorithm" that allows the company's software to "extract information from the typed word" to accurately determine appropriate codes. The company says that a US hospital is using the software to send out bills in under five days instead of the 50 it used to take.

The last of the four innovation finalists is supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises. IPro is an internet-based system for managing its 740 suppliers' instore promotional activities.The system allows Progressive to monitor suppliers' promotional spending and effectively manage retail space.

The system, which uses Microsoft .Net, was developed by Enabling Technologies (ETL) of Dunedin, taking 90 days to design, develop and test.

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