New Zealand's technology image will get a major boost when New Zealand firm Virtual Spectator delivers real-time virtual reality graphics in the US of the America's Cup. The graphics will be showcased on a giant video wall opposite the New York Stock Exchange.
Although this is great news for Virtual Spectator, it is also good for New Zealand technology in general, says Craig Meek, Virtual Spectator joint director and managing director of Auckland Internet services company Terabyte.
"It's a real coup for us," he says. "It's right in the heart of 'silicon alley' which is where the New York developer community is.
"While the America's Cup is great for New Zealand, it's also a chance to highlight the New Zealand technology behind the event. People still don't know what New Zealand's Internet technology position is and if people don't know it's not helping New Zealand get ahead in the world of [electronic] commerce."
Speaking last week at an APEC e-commerce meeting, Meek used Virtual Spectator, which will allow paying spectators around the world to track the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup races visually, as an example of how the New Zealand economy can benefit from e-commerce. He also offers advice to local companies on what they may face when they electronically take their products to the world.
"We're doing pay-per-view over the Internet. Our target audience is American so we've had to set up a US company so we can trade in US dollars.
"In New Zealand we can't capture US dollar transactions."
Meek says in dealing with traditional banks and credit card companies it soon became clear that not all of them have an e-commerce strategy. For this reason VS decided not to use traditional banks for clearing transactions.
"We're dealing with a new e-commerce company called Internet Secure. They facilitate the clearing of an e-commerce transaction and settle it depending on what credit card we want to use. It's an online clearing house. A lot of the new e-commerce transaction companies are not traditional banks."
As managing director of Terabyte, which develops Internet technologies including Web site development, Meek says local business is changing its approach to the Internet looking more toward e-commerce than static representation on a Web site.
"E-commerce now comes up 70% of the time in the projects we do. However, 12 months ago financial transactions weren't really part of the brief.
"Before we were forming relationships with public relations and advertising agencies - now we're busy forming relationships with banks.
"People used to look at the Internet as a cost centre [usually a marketing cost], but now they're justifying the development of an Internet strategy with business drivers and a profit centre.
"We've just developed a Web site for Rodd & Gunn (see review, page 19) which is hosted in New Zealand but is aimed at the New York fashion market. They're already trading successfully and they've only been online for a few weeks."
Meek believes with Y2K out of the way, 2000 will be a boom year for e-commerce.
"The New Year is offering an opportunity for New Zealand to get itself going. A lot of companies will have got their infrastructure revamped because of Y2K and will be ready to take e-commerce all the way."