5 WA tech startups win NERA grants to battle COVID-19

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// $227K has been collectively handed out to 10 Australian energy innovators, half of whom come from WA…

Ten projects will share in $227,500 worth of NERA funding as part of a national campaign to assist energy innovators pivot at speed and adapt businesses and technologies usually designed for the energy resources sector into innovative ways that can help households and businesses recover from the pandemic and limit future outbreaks.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews applauded the initiative by NERA to help innovators to adapt and pivot from businesses and technologies usually designed for the energy resources sector.

“This is a great example of how responsive and adaptable Australian industries are in developing innovative, forward thinking solutions to combat COVID-19,” Minister Andrews said.

“These projects aim to not only help Australian households and businesses recover from the pandemic, but also limit future outbreaks.”

The successful projects were chosen after a national EOI campaign was announced in March 2020 by NERA — the country’s Industry Growth Centre for energy resources.

Isol8

In late 2018, Craig Power, inventor of the digital isolation system iSOL8, was approached by an Eastern States Company – providing maintenance services to coal mines – on whether the system could send an alert to their employee and supervisor, if the employee had left the work site but had forgotten to remove their personal isolation lock from the equipment – thus preventing the equipment being started up.

Craig Power – iSol8 and Radius

Craig had seen this type of human error occur on several occasions in his career as an OHS specialist and site auditor.

“I was convinced it was a problem worth solving and could be solved by applying some elements of the iSOL8 system technology,” Craig told Startup News.

He approached his business partner Steve Asher who had developed the source code for iSOL8. This resulted in the android app Radius, where the phone App was activated by the employee when he scanned his isolation lock NFC tag at the point of placement of the lock.

“A set distance radius rule could be inputted in the app settings – say 1 kilometre, and the phone’s location was mapped against the zone settings using the GPS,” said Craig.

When the zone boundary was crossed, an alert was triggered on the phone and an SMS message sent to employee’s supervisor.

The system was trialled and worked. A provisional patent was put in place.

In the early stages of COVID-19 tracing Apps, Craig realised Radius could be repurposed as a zone or border control to assist with monitoring and taking action when people, either inadvertently or deliberately crossed government mandated COVID-19 zone boundaries.

Development works was undertaken by Steve Asher with assistance from Chris Baudia of GeoMoby.

Field trials are due to commence next week.

“There is one essential privacy feature of the system,” said Craig. “It does not record the location of a person inside or outside the zone boundary. It is designed to provide an alert to the mobile phone user and the authorised authority when the boundary is crossed.

“It is planned to make [the app] suitable for use with iOS and other types of mobile phones in the future.”

Craig and his team were alerted to the allocation of $200,00 NERA COVID-19 funding, to be awarded to ten Australian companies who could rapidly develop applied solutions to manage and lessen the risk of community exposure to the COVID-19 Virus.

Craig said he received advice and guidance from CERI CEO Carolyn Williams, Engineers Australia CEO Susan Kremer-Pickford and patent attorney – Rohan Wallace.

iSOL8 Pty Ltd had previously received support via the 2018 ‘Innovation Vouchers program’ and was a finalist in the ‘Innovator of the Year Awards’ 2019 for the main iSol8 system.

Other winners

The other winners of a NERA grant were as below, with 4 others also from WA…

Airscope (WA): Bringing digital twins to the home

Airscope are enhancing the network capabilities of their digital twin web based application to perform in low/no internet environments so that workers can digitally access remote sites and collaborate on projects from home.

Biarri (Qld, Vic, WA): Digitising emerging risks associated with COVID-19

Biarri have repurposed their Workbench 5 data analytics platform to enable tailored data visualisation insights that allows companies to visualise workforce risks and potential impacts of COVID-19 on their business and then plan accordingly.

Chironix (WA): Turning video conferencing into a hands-free learning tool

Chironix have dramatically improved communication across remote teams by directly integrating audio-visual hardware (e.g. Google Glass) with video conferencing platforms to allow users to engage with colleagues and experts whilst continuing to interact hands-free with their environment.

J.E.S.I. Management Solutions (Qld): Employee check-in for remote workers

J.E.S.I are extending their journey management software to include a ‘Working from Home’ module that enables organisations to manage remote workforce locations and ensure employees are safe no matter where they are.

MyPass Australia (NSW): Digital passports to protect critical workers from COVID-19

MyPass are expanding the functionality of their award-winning digital work passport to include critical COVID-19 eLearning training, self-declarations, test results and immunisation records to protect critical workers and offer real-time visibility for companies.

O2 Metocean (WA): WaveWatcher Buoy manufactured locally

O2 Metocean are adapting to significant international supply chain disruptions by locally developing and manufacturing the first Australian-made waves measurement buoy (WaveWatcher), supporting and enhancing the capabilities of Australia’s manufacturing in the oceanographic industry.

Sentient Computing (WA and Qld): Online hygiene videogame for children

Sentient have utilised their industry-leading skills in VR training, 3D visualisation, process control and automation to create Social Distance Dash — a free browser-based videogame that teaches children the importance of hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

SPEE3D (Vic and NT): 3D print antimicrobial copper coatings to flatten the curve

SPEE3D have modified their world-leading 3D printing technology to deliver a fast and affordable way to 3D print anti-microbial copper onto metal surfaces that ‘contact kills’ 96% of the virus that causes COVID-19 in just two hours.

Universal Site Monitoring (NT): Biometric early warning app

Universal Site Monitoring are customising their industrial ‘Personal Safety Monitoring System’ to remotely real-time monitor Australia’s emergency response crews, front line responders and quarantined individuals or groups to help minimise the spread of COVID-19.

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For more information on the ways NERA is helping to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, visit nera.org.au/COVID-19-hub.