New Zealand and the UK are using this week’s trade show as a platform to promote innovative young IT companies. Arif Mohamed looks at six of the best from each country
UK Trade & Investment, the government organisation that supports UK firms trading overseas, is bringing together companies with innovative technologies at the CeBIT show.
Jane Eardley, head of ICT at UK Trade & Investment, said, "CeBIT allows us to showcase leading-edge technologies and services. The UK@CeBIT initiative brings together academia, business, regional development agencies, devolved administrations and trade associations to highlight the best of British innovation."
Naviguide Search Technology
Based at the Innovations Centre at the University of Hertfordshire, Naviguide is launching website search software that works within existing search engines. The software uses context-based searching to provide a more detailed search.
It uses a downloadable Java script based on the user’s machine and a script on the service provider’s site, said Guy Saward, Naviguide founder and director.
"People are trying to make searching better by putting information into context - we are the only ones doing this using standard, existing websites. We repackage information that is already available," he said.
Sound Foresight is a company set up by researchers from the University of Leeds. The group has developed the Ultracane, an aid for vision-impaired people.
The cane has a computer in the handle and uses ultrasound to locate obstacles in the user’s path, converting the information into vibrating buttons that tell them where and how far away the obstacle is located.
Jane Fowler, managing director at Sound Foresight, said Ultracane is based on "biomimetics" - a way of using technology to imitate nature. "It imitates the way bats and dolphins use ultrasound," she said.
Alan Brooks, new initiatives manager at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said, "Many engineers think they know what blind people want, but here the developers have taken the time to ask blind people and to involve them in trials."
Berkshire-based Speed Trap is demonstrating software of the same name that tracks the behaviour of website customers. It logs all of their activities, even recording keystrokes, to find out what works on an e-commerce site.
"You can find all the users who put a product in their basket but did not purchase it. You can replay a session to see what happened. You can see where people trip over forms and where there are mechanical problems," said Malcolm Duckett, vice-president of marketing and operations. He said Speed Trap tracks all user activity on a website, not just predefined actions.
Mantic Point Solutions
Mantic Point Solutions is launching a product called Chaperone that uses radio frequency identification to tag and track mobile assets in hospitals, such as wheelchairs, beds and pumps.
Mantic Point’s research has found that hospitals cannot locate between 15% and 20% of their 25,000 mobile assets, said Mike Atherton, Mantic’s managing director. "Hospitals need to be able to track assets quickly and get the right equipment to the right staff in the right place. If I am a nurse, the last thing I want to do is spend time tracking down equipment."
The system uses zones, assigning assets to areas of a hospital, and uses browser software to locate the assets quickly. It supplies full audit trails using active tags, which contain the battery.
DeadMan’s Handle, based in Horsham, Sussex, is launching software that can quickly delete sensitive information on a laptop in the event of a theft. The software allows the user to set how much they want deleted.
DeadMan’s Handle director John Brazier said, "When you lose your notebook, the next thing you think about is the information on it, particularly if you work for a large company. Fifteen per cent of notebook thefts happen because of the information on them. DeadMan’s Handle software quietly deletes the information on the notebook, and then itself."
The firm will target the legal profession, the high-tech industry, car firms, and organisations with high up-front investments.
Cambridge Flat Projection Displays
Cambridge University spin-off Cambridge Flat Projection Displays is showing a new kind of display that transmits information across a panel using optical fibres instead of wires.
The screen can become part of an interactive gesture recognition system. Displays can be transparent, flexible or wearable, for example, as eye panels for virtual reality headsets, said Adrian Travis, technical director. The optical screens could also work as low-cost projectors, said Travis.
Fifteen companies from New Zealand will be exhibiting at CeBIT. New Zealand is appearing at the show for the first time as part of its Trade and Enterprise department’s strategy to establish the country as an international technology provider.
New Zealand’s IT industry has become known for its 3D visualisation and animation work in the Lord of the Rings films, but it also has strengths in software engineering, GPRS, wireless and telemetry, as well as moving into the outsourcing market.
NextWindow, which specialises in high-quality touch-screen technology, has developed gesture recognition technology - a concept seen in films such as Minority Report and The Sixth Day.
The technology allows people to access services and information from a computer screen with a wave of the hand.
The NextWindow eBeam Interactive Presentation software recognises where the user places their finger on a screen and also watches and interprets the user’s hand movements.
The firm said the technology can be used to switch on a PC and surf the internet, control air-conditioning from a screen on the fridge and to search for travel options and exchange rates from a virtual travel agent’s window.
Navman is launching the Navman Pin 570, a GPS (global positioning system) handheld device that runs on a Pocket PC and is aimed at mobile workers. The £349 Pin 570 has a dedicated navigation button that brings up the SmartST navigation software.
This features "turn-by-turn" voice instructions, 3D and 2D map views, a journey planner and navigation from the address book. This means the user can select a contact address stored in Pocket Outlook and be guided to their destination. Navman designs and manufactures GPS systems for marine, personal GPS, fleet management and OEM markets.
Information Edge is launching Vector, a tool that reports on a company’s financial performance and also carries out statutory reporting and reporting against regulatory requirements while tracking changes within the organisation.
Mark Mills, business development director at Information Edge, said, "The need to report transparently and meaningfully on an organisation’s activities, while that organisation is undergoing change, is one of the biggest challenges faced by commercial and government operations.
"In the commercial sector this problem is compounded by compliance regulations that require statutory and regulatory reporting in addition to the normal management reporting needed for day-to-day operations."
Right Hemisphere, an enterprise software firm that specialises in visual communication software, is exhibiting its Deep Server Visual Information Systems and Deep Creator products. Deep Server helps enterprises access and manage complex visual assets across their applications for training, documentation, marketing, parts management and support.
Deep Creator is an authoring tool for creating interactive 3D environments, assemblies and objects.
Right Hemisphere’s software was used by Airbus for animations and fly-throughs of the test ring built for the new A380 - the world’s largest airliner.
Deep View technology has also been included in Acrobat and Adobe Reader 7.0 so users can view 3D content.
Another 3D software firm, Terralink International, is exhibiting software tools that can help businesses integrate their data sets with imagery, cartography, spatial databases and mapping tools to create geographic information systems.
The company specialises in digital mapping, remote sensing, photogram-metric and aerial imagery applications and services as well as multi-layer, interactive, 3D and data integration.
Hit Lab NZ
The Human Interface Technology Laboratory (Hit Lab NZ) is demonstrating several products at CeBIT. The Lab is a human-computer interface research centre, hosted at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The lab creates interfaces to "enhance human capabilities", overcome human limitations and increase the flexibility and scope of existing products by using technologies such as 3D panoramic displays or virtual/augmented reality.
The lab aims to create inventions for the education, medicine, scientific visualisation, telecoms and entertainment sectors.
This was first published in March 2005