Spotlight: Kerri McMaster Of Performance Lab

At the pointy end of the activity analytics and automated coaching field, Performance Lab is an innovative North Shore company providing tech solutions to giants of the wearable fitness device industry. Co-founder, Kerri McMaster tells us how their work is different, why the North Shore, and why looking out your window is good for you.

Kerri McMaster – Director at Performance Lab Technologies Ltd

A powerful transformation

When it launched some 25 years ago, Performance Lab was a consulting business gathering test data to assist endurance athletes in boosting their performance, and to help manage lifestyle-controlled disease in the public via exercise intervention. With a massive pool of data and expertise to draw on, Performance Lab set about creating high-tech automated and intuitive coaching engines for the wearables market.

“We provide artificial intelligence software engines to interface with exercise platforms and hardware,” she says.

High spec tech

Chances are you’ve already unknowingly seen some of them. Performance Lab partner with big industry players like Oakley to bring products such as their Radar Pace sunglasses to market.

“You can talk to the glasses,” McMaster offers, “You can say ‘okay Radar, what’s my speed? Am I at the right pace? What’s my stride rate? Is this the right intensity?’ and it will answer you as well as coaching you independently.”

How Performance Lab keeps the wearer motivated

The wearables market is awash with all manner of watches, headsets, glasses and monitoring devices, but McMaster says many users become bored of these products and lose motivation as soon as the novelty of seeing your metrics wears off. People want to know what to do next. She says this is where their technology comes in. It computes the metrics based on where the user is up to in their programme and what their goal is, and tells them what to do next. “We offer the coaching component that’s missing,” she says.

The AI element of their engines allows the device using them to generate a training programme; offer an audible or visual in-session coaching experience; and to provide post-workout coaching based on what happened in that session, what was expected and what is yet to come in that user’s specific programme. This type of recalibration means it’s suitable for everyone from true beginners who are likely to deal with life’s interruptions like work, sickness and family responsibilities, right through to professional athletes for whom success depends on an intelligent training regime.

Look out the window – it’s good for you

An avid health and fitness proponent to this day, McMaster was a self-professed sports fanatic in her adolescence, culminating in two karate world championships. We asked her if she had any tips for the chained-to-a-desk nine-to-fiver. In addition to three-weekly sessions of a simple activity like walking she suggested substituting something we usually do for a healthier option.

“Could be in the form of food, the form of your mental health, the form of moving… you don’t have to add anything extra, you just swap it out, make a choice that is more health-orientated.”

She offered an example, “If you’re based on the North Shore you are very literally in one of the most beautiful places in the whole world… take a moment to observe the beauty of where we are. That will positively impact your health and wellbeing for that day – just look outside the window!”

Triathlete Craig Alexander uses Oakley’s Radar Pace smart eyewear.

Strengthening the hub and giving back

As a member of the North Shore’s innovative tech hub, McMaster is excited about two things Performance Lab has on its horizon. The first being its imminent move to the New Zealand Human Performance Innovation Centre, which is currently under construction at AUT Millennium – New Zealand’s world-class sports training facility based on the North Shore.

“We will be their first tenant”, she divulged proudly. “We have a strong commitment to keeping the business network for the North Shore bubbling away. We must remain innovative and the best way to do that is to get all the best innovator’s minds and research people working together in one location. I think it’s a really natural way to stimulate new ideas and generate more lateral thoughts on what we think the future is going to be.”

The other big news is Performance Lab’s upcoming three-stage trial involving a handful of corporations and 500 of its employees. McMaster describes it as “a health management programme, which will utilise our automated technology. In stage two we hope to expand to 1,000 [participants]. It’s our long-term view that we should trial for an entire region of New Zealand and longitudinally look at how we can impact on hospital admissions, GP visits, and see what kind of long-term impact we can have on lifestyle-controllable disease.”

If successful, the trial will be another example of the North Shore – New Zealand’s innovation corridor – leading the way with work that benefits the entire country and perhaps the world. Watch this space.

Radar Pace is smart eyewear featuring a real-time voice-activated coaching system powered by Intel® Real Speech. Radar Pace will be available in stores on Oct. 1, 2016. (Source: Oakley)

Dan Walker cracks code on lack of young Māori in New Zealand tech

Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

North Shore’s Dan Walker has three passions: Māori, the digital world and entrepreneurship. In 2016, he combined them to great effect in a thesis exploring the lack of young Māori in the tech sector. As well as bucking the trend, he hopes his findings will help shape the future of the entire industry.

Part of a new breed

Originally from Christchurch, Walker relocated to Auckland 10 years ago and in April was part of the first class to graduate Massey University’s new Master of Advanced Leadership Practice. A commercial account executive for Dell EMC, he works from his home on Auckland’s North Shore, where he embodies the location’s move toward becoming New Zealand’s innovation corridor.

“I’m a technologist looking after the digital disruption and the innovation requirements of my client,” says Walker, but he wears hats for several other organisations, bringing innovative and forward-thinking solutions to them all.

The Stanmore Bay resident “gives back to his people” as a leader for his South Taranaki iwi, Ngati Ruanui; draws on his own fathering experience as a chairman for Whanau Manama Parenting (which runs value-based positive parenting strategy courses for around 250 parents a year); and as Chair for Indigenous Growth, he helps corporates like Fletchers and SkyCity create better outcomes for Māori and Pasifika employees.

Tikanga Māori values are the key

Māori currently represent less than 2% of the tech sector and it was this that drove Walker’s thesis: Tikanga Māori ki te Ao Matihiko or “Māori values as a framework for digital leadership”.

His case study focused on 2NuiCODE, a year-long Ngati Ruanui-run course that introduces young people to the digital world of coding, programming, robotics and app development. In its first year, the Hawera programme had a 100% completion rate, which Walker puts down to tikanga Māori values being at the heart of the studies. He identified the lack of relatable values in the digital industry as the key reason why young Māori don’t feature more, and why older Māori often seem to suddenly return home to work for their iwi despite reaching a high level in their field elsewhere. Sighting the success of 2NuiCODE as evidence, he concluded that, “If we can create initiatives that have tikanga Māori values at their heart, we’ll get more Māori in there [the digital sector] because they trust it, they value it and see an alignment with their own values.”

Strong values lead to profit

 

Another key takeaway for Walker was just how evident the lack of any values framework is across the tech sector. He believes that if profit is the sole driver, social and environmental factors will continue to fall by the wayside. He says by adopting values involved in tikanga Māori – things like quadruple bottom line, the environment, their community – the work of digital companies will be more beneficial for everyone. “Get the values piece right…”, he explains, “…you’ll get more engagement from Māori, but also much more engagement from everyone”.

So, what next?

Aside from identifying a core problem and offering a solution, Dan Walker’s thesis has opened the door for further positive outcomes. “We can now move past the negatives and move to the areas of opportunity for Māori in the digital world. The government is looking at a Digital Marae which involves having digital experiences for our kids and our elderly so we can really get that cross-generational wisdom being passed down. It’s been broken but we can use digital to start it again.”

 Walker’s thesis works in nicely with the Grow North initiative. If his insightful thesis and the exemplary work of Ngati Ruanui can be championed throughout New Zealand, he will surely be joined on the North Shore by increasing numbers of young and innovative Māori venturing into the digital world.

 

 

 

SPOTLIGHT: PROFESSOR JOHAN POTGIETER

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Professor Johan Potgieter is at the centre of almost everything in the Engineering Faculty at Massey University’s Albany Campus. Referring to it as more of a ‘hatchery’ than a faculty, Johan has created a hub for some of the most outstanding innovation, robotics, IOT (Internet of Things) and 3D printing in the Southern hemisphere. You can find him guiding and advising students, directing projects, and sharing his knowledge with the aspiring innovators of the future.

Aside from his teaching work, Johan is also involved with over 70 companies throughout New Zealand which he has built and developed alongside students, bringing their ideas and projects to life. He then helps students to commercialise their innovative products into viable and fully operational businesses, an invaluable real world experience seldom offered by tertiary institutions.

Some of New Zealand’s largest companies such as:

  • Fonterra
  • Transpower and
  • Auckland Transport are using the high tech robotics, IOT and 3D printing creations of Johan’s students, to further connect their communities and streamline tedious processes. Many of the inventions coming out of Massey under Johan’s guidance and direction are proving pivotal to the acceleration and effectiveness of key roles within various industries.

One of the projects that Johan and his students are working on is robotics in agriculture spaces.  Partnering with C-DAX, the team are building a robot that drives into paddocks to measure the length of grass with the ability to act as a farm hand.

IMG_4980Another key robotics project is a machine developed for Transpower, inspired by the Pike River disaster that sits inside power substations with the ability to detect faults and errors and fix various problems.

“At times there may be a fault at a substation, it might happen in the middle of the night and be located in a remote location which would take a human engineer hours to get to and fix.

This robot will be able to sit inside the substation permanently and not only detect, but resolve common issues so that are fixed more quickly than manual labour” says Johan.

Under Johan’s direction Massey has purchased the largest range 3D printers in the country and often run consulting and professional development training on how they work.

Creating everything from fabric materials to customised guitars and drum sets, Johan is excited about the future of 3D printing and how it will contribute to all industries. “One of the most exciting projects we are working, is building a machine that will be able to print a cornea which can then be transplanted on to a human eye. We do this by electrospinning collagen on a microscopic level,” says Johan.

Finding solutions to social issues are also being found in the engineering school and recently a psychologist approached Johan’s team to develop a product to prevent bullying. Hoping to create a more comfortable environment for bullying victims, Johan is working on a bracelet, pendant or watch that young people can push to alert a teacher who can then subtly extract them from the situation without making a scene.

Potgieter is tuned in to the fact that the tech industry is consistently changing and says he will learn from his students just as much as they can learn from him, “I can’t be doing what I do now the same way for 25 years”.

Recently inducted into the world robotics hall of fame, Johan is being sought out by large companies that are looking to implement technology into their processes and framework, and the exciting hub of innovation in Auckland North is becoming known for more than just the University Campus. See Johan’s profile on the Massey website here: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/expertise/profile.cfm?stref=914630

GROW NORTH: WHAT’S ON FOR TECH WEEK

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Are you an aspiring innovator? Do you have a great business idea? Tech Week is coming up and Massey University are offering three events with great opportunities to gain invaluable insight into the smart innovation district of Auckland North and get involved in the Grow North community. Led by Massey University, Grow North was launched to open the Innovation Corridor for entrepreneurs to connect with businesses and to encourage more visionary projects, cutting-edge research and courageous leadership.

shutterstock_522554203.jpgSome of the fastest growing new exporters are located in Auckland North, including High Tech Awards finalists for 2017 including EROAD and Performance Lab. Numerous successful entrepreneurs such as John Daniel Trask, who won the Hi-Tech Startup of the Year in 2015 and has had global success with his product RayGun, developed their skills at Massey University. Grow North exists to tell stories like John’s to inspire and surface hidden Kiwi innovation and develop a world-class university campus at the heart of the district that is closely integrated with the industry.

On the 8th May from 8:30-3:30pm, take the Start Up bus tour of some of the most successful and innovative global businesses in Auckland North who will open their doors and share their experience in the industry. Tour stops will include:

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This free event is an incredible opportunity to expand your network and find out what help you can get to test, develop and launch your business ideas to have impact on global markets. After the bus tour, Massey are offering a panel event at 4pm at their business incubator ecentre for aspirating thinkers, creators and connectors. This is your chance to get an inside look into the minds of New Zealand’s most experienced entrepreneurs and investors. Panelists include Rudi Bublitz of Auckland-based angel investors Flying Kiwi AngelsLance Wiggs, an Independent investment and business advisor, Greg Murphy, the founder of Unleashed Software, and Pauline Davis, co-founder and CEO of InsuredHQ.

Lastly, don’t miss the PWC Herald Talks at Sky City on the 10th May, designed to give you the knowledge, insight and strategies to grow and diversify in the ever-changing landscape of New Zealand business. This event brings you the latest case studies in innovation and provides insights to help you apply innovation within your business to make sure you stay ahead of the curve and get outside of the box. To see what else Tech Week has to offer, head to their website: http://techweek.co.nz/

  • Register for the Bus Tour (only 35 seats)
  • Register for Amplify & Collision | Investors & Entrepreneurs
  • Buy tickets for the PWC HeraldTalks on Innovation