During the past 12 months, ng Connect has expanded its global presence and launched in New Zealand and Australia. The ecosystem provides a way for companies to innovate and contribute to the new economy and it has big plans for 2014.
A global programme created and funded by Alcatel-Lucent, ng Connect is designed to accelerate the development of applications and services that depend on ultra-fast broadband technologies. It now has more than 150 members worldwide, and the numbers are growing with its launch in New Zealand in early 2013 and in Australia 10 months later.
Collaboration is fundamental to ng Connect and members work together to devise business and economic solutions to drive the next generation of online user experiences.
Richard Fraser, Alcatel-Lucent Australasian director of emerging technology and commercialisation, says 2013 was a busy year; ng Connect New Zealand’s 15-strong memberships now includes founding member Chorus, local government and policy makers, developers and start-ups working in content distribution and digital signage, healthcare integrators and AUT University (the first university to join the global innovation programme).
“We’ve also built two labs in New Zealand, each demonstrating seven or eight different service concepts,” says Fraser. “Our Auckland lab, which is part of the Chorus Showcase Lab, demonstrates the sorts of business models and services UFB can deliver. The Wellington lab shows advanced consumer software and apps, including a cloud-based gaming platform, smart metering using fibre, and real commercial services that have been taken to market in the US.”
A two-day ideation session with ng Connect members produced three new service concepts, including an agriculture-based farm dashboard app being built by AUT students with funding from ng Connect. In December 2013, the Smart Cities workshop drew a range of companies interested in exploring how their capabilities might contribute to the concept.
“The hero project for 2013 has been exploring the Connected Service Vehicle for Chorus,” says Fraser. “With a number of software partners and ng Connect, we transformed a Chorus van into a connected vehicle with live inventory and customer management, and integration into the workflow back end, to dramatically reduce the cost of delivering a broadband connection.
“We want to stimulate more projects like this. Our big focus in 2014 will be to commercialise some of the concepts we’ve been testing, so we can take them to market and generate revenue.”
Another objective is to broaden ng Connect’s appeal into areas such as healthcare, which will be a major beneficiary of UFB.
In October 2013, the ng Connect programme was launched in Australia. Liza Noonan, Alcatel- Lucent’s head of emerging technology and commercialisation, says it was a natural step.
“Because of its location, Australia has had to be self-reliant in many respects, and it has a proud history and a reputation for innovation. Australia brought the world the first Flying Doctors Service, the pacemaker, cochlear implants and Wi-Fi technology, and Australian companies are continuing along that innovation trajectory,” says Noonan.
“There’s a real momentum in the marketplace to move beyond technology innovation to business-model innovation.
“The challenge for innovators is building a sustainable business out of their technology, and ng Connect Australia is excited to be supporting a new wave of innovators using the National Broadband Network to take new broadband service concepts to market.”
Since the ng Connect Australia launch, many organisations have expressed interest and are joining as members, including two major organisations, NBN Co and IBES (see below). Other members include Cloud Herd, Read How You Want, Open Learning and Native Tongue, which offer models for distributing education coursework and engaging students in online learning. Noonan says Manage My Group, a retail service provider and integrator in the health industry, is another good fit for the ecosystem, which is initially focused on the health, education and agriculture sectors.
Now that ng Connect has the necessary critical mass of organisations, the next few months will see its first ideation session (facilitated brainstorming) to identify and develop service concepts in the healthcare industry.
Research to reality
Based at the University of Melbourne, IBES (the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society) is a foundation member of ng Connect Australia.
Set up in 2009, IBES conducts interdisciplinary research into high-speed broadband technologies, applications and services.
The Institute works across four research themes: business and government, culture and community, education and learning, and health and ageing.
It fosters research collaborations across the University, other research institutes and industry, and aims to become a leader in the development of broadband services and innovation for the benefit of Australian society.
“With its multidisciplinary approach, IBES is a very important member for ng Connect and a vital funnel to bring ideas into the ecosystem,” says Liza Noonan.
“IBES and ng Connect want to involve the University of Melbourne’s students in the development of new concepts that come out of the ng Connect ecosystem.”
Prof Thas Nirmalathas, Associate Director at IBES, says the aim is to build links that increase the influence of its research in the community and create new opportunities for IBES technologies and skills.
“The ng Connect collaborative framework is the perfect complement to our existing academic and technical foundations,” says Prof Nirmalathas. “It provides a strong basis for facilitated open innovation and the realisation of new services and business models that address real-world problems.”
IBES is one of only two NBN test facilities in Australia. Members of ng Connect will be able to use its state-of-the-art lab, the Australian Broadband Applications Laboratory, to build and test service concepts and broadband solutions.
“Having access to the IBES test lab is very exciting for ng Connect Australia,” says Noonan. “It makes things much more tangible for our members working to develop successful service concepts for the Australian market.”
ng Connect Program New Zealand: Richard Fraser, firstname.lastname@example.org
ng Connect Program Australia: Liza Noonan, email@example.com