An on-screen tool which makes it simpler to operate everything from PCs to remote controls for domestic appliances has a strong New Zealand connection.
Zenu — for “Zen menu” — was first implemented for PCs, but its US developer, Change Tools, chose Auckland company Parochus to take it into the expanding and promising mobile arena. Zenu success would mean a significant worldwide boost for Parochus’ mobile platform.
Last month Change Tools demonstrated the beta version of the Zenu handheld device and Parochus’s mobile solution to a number of Fortune 500 companies and what Parochus calls a “leading US defence contractor”.
In its most basic form Zenu is a small floating multi-compartment “tray” that can be immediately available with a cursor click on a PC screen. Alternatively it can sit in a fixed spot on a smaller handheld or mobile phone display.
Zenu provides multi-level selection. Clicking on the compartment for, say, “communications tools” drills down to specific options and presents relevant icons in the tray. A conventional screen full of icons can be quickly harvested with click-and-drag and tidied away into a hierarchy of Zenu trays. Zenu can also accommodate a context-sensitive window in which a transaction can be processed.
Zenu was developed by Alabama-based researcher Joseph Leavitt, who runs Change Tools. Using its XML-based MobileML language, Parochus developed a prototype PDA version of Zenu in about 10 days.
The New Zealand connection arose through Fred Ordway, senior vice-president of Change Tools, who lived near Wellington for 20 years. Ordway went to a New Zealand associate, Mark Fowler, for market research on the Zenu concept and through a mutual acquaintance Fowler was introduced to Parochus head Neil Gray.
Wellington web company Intergen was also involved in the development of Zenu.
In another New Zealand link, the technology is now being mated with PIP (Personal Interaction Paradigm), a biometric identification tool, developed by Wellington-based academic-industrial collaboration Stitch (socio-transformational IT clearing house).
The aim is to make credit card payment over the counter and on the internet easier and more secure.