Study sees pros, cons in wireless business

Plenty of expertise exists in potentially valuable niche areas of the wireless market, says a new study, even if a lack of market infrastructure could still hold entrepreneurs back.

Plenty of expertise exists in potentially valuable niche areas of the wireless market, says a new study, even if a lack of market infrastructure could still hold entrepreneurs back.

The study emphasises New Zealand’s potential as a testbed for new technologies and applications from international companies. But it points to a lack of access to capital for development, particularly to a shortage of funding for the crucial trialling stage, after research and development, but before deployment.

MediaLab South Pacific is preparing the report for Industry New Zealand. It presented its findings at last week’s Wireless Data Forum in Wellington, emphasising that the study was still a working draft. The final report is scheduled for publication late this month.

Researchers in other technical fields, such as Bruce Simpson with his authentication technology (see Sure things not wanted by tech funders), have pointed to the gap in funding for fully developed but not yet trialled innovations.

Other problems seen by MediaLab for the New Zealand innovator in wireless technology included crucial skill shortages, on the technical side, for instance, of radio-frequency engineers and digital signal processors, and of experts in commercialisation of technical ideas.

On the bright side, MediaLab has found a number of ventures with strong work in telemetry — machines talking to machines through wireless channels, an unglamorous branch of the technology, but one which is potentially lucrative.

Clusters of expertise are also building up in location-based services, using GPS, and health, mobile commerce and payment mechanisms, and security, says MediaLab chief Michael Gregg (pictured).

Infrastructure in the shape of wireless LANs and metropolitan area networks is building at an encouraging rate, he says.

The wireless industry in New Zealand is a tightly woven web where manufacturers, applications developers, infrastructure providers, “enabling software” developers and sellers are all dependent on one another as they are in the IT industry. Some integrated providers are developing, sometimes not entirely voluntarily, as innovators are forced to take on a dual role as service provider to help fund research and development.

New Zealand could be strong in mobile entertainment, leveraging off its creative and film sectors, MediaLab suggests. Location-based services could also be strong, and there is emerging “international-quality research” on usability. Our inaccessible regions and the deployment of the Probe broadband network could lead to a fund of expertise in fixed wireless deployment.

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