Auckland firm to help Big Apple find emergency crews

Three staff from Auckland-based Network Technology are winging their way to the Big Apple next month in the hope of signing a multimillion-dollar deal to supply tracking devices to 160,000 public sector staff in New York.

Three staff from Auckland-based Network Technology are winging their way to the Big Apple next month in the hope of signing a multimillion-dollar deal to supply tracking devices to 160,000 public sector staff in New York.

Executive director Kerry Harris says an official from the New York City Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) visited the company before Christmas and was impressed with its SmartPoint system.

SmartPoint, previously known as Secure Net, uses the Vodafone GSM cellular network to trace the position of a modem-sized device. It then transmits data over the network to a remote monitoring station. The system can locate people to within 50m or better. The three-man firm says it spent $1 million over six years developing the technology and related patents.

Harris says the events of September 11 put a greater emphasis on the needs of New York City officials to keep track of its emergency staff using devices such as a Palm or Compaq iPaq with a cellular card.

Harris and two other staff head to the Big Apple in March and expects a rapid decision after the trials, saying DOITT staff have tried two other systems that did not work well.

The devices have also been made more accurate by a technology share deal with Ireland spatial mapping company Digital Earth Systems, which opens up opportunities in Europe. The New York deal alone would be worth an initial “few million US”, he says.

But while Stateside users appear interested, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Network Technology, which is still seeking local resellers for its technology.

Harris had big hopes for SmartPoint in the domestic security industry, where its application would be in finding stolen cars, boats and cellphones.

“We have talked to security companies who were very keen. But they seem to have gone cold," he says. Maybe it's the $1200 cost of the devices, he says, but notes that rival GPS systems can cost $2000. "We have sold 200 [in the past few months] but it’s not the market we expected."

He notes the usefulness of the technology. "People said SmartPoint was the best thing since sliced bread. You can find your car on your WAP phone through our Bigfinger website,” Harris says. "Maybe we haven’t got the best marketing people."

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