Getting ambulances out to emergencies in double-quick time has created a business opportunity with global potential for an Auckland-based technology company.
The Optima Corporation uses operations research to take complicated logistical problems, run complex mathematical equations under the hood and make it all simple for end users.
The company began with a system to manage crew rosters for Air New Zealand - saving the airline $14 million a year.
Chief executive Chris Mackay said the plan 10 years ago was to continue to focus on the airline industry.
Then came the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, hitting airlines hard and forcing a rapid refocus for Optima.
An approach to develop a solution for Melbourne's ambulance service provided the lifeline the company needed.
Mackay said the aim was to improve response times, not only by getting an ambulance to the scene faster, but to ensure the right ambulance was sent to the job.
Ambulances are not all created equal with vehicles fitted out with different ranges of equipment and some paramedics more advanced than others.
"It's about how you match the resources you have got available most effectively to the emergency calls that are coming in and it's not just matching the ambulance to the call but also matching it from a geographic sense as well," said Mackay.
"It's a very difficult thing for somebody to do in their head which is typically what happens in most dispatch centres."
Optima also offers a back-office strategic planning solution that Mackay said was like "SimCity on steroids" and allowed organisations to run "what if" scenarios. This can be anything from population growth to changes in the roading network.
The company's technology smarts has put it in the running for a share of $1 million in growth funding through the University of Auckland Business School's Entrepreneurs' Challenge.
With 30 implementations across six countries Mackay said a funding win would be used to rapidly grow its customer base. At present the competition is limited to two other companies offering a more limited product line-up, said Mackay.
"We are fortunate because we have this fantastic opportunity in the marketplace because it is greenfields and so we've got to land grab and secure as many of these customers as we possibly can before the competitive landscape changes, and it will change in time."
In the United States there are 15,000 individual ambulance providers and another 30,000 fire providers.
"North America alone for us is potentially a billion dollar market. Even if we can get 5 per cent of that we'll be doing well."
"Finding the opportunity is not our challenge, it's securing the opportunities as we move along."By Helen Twose Email Helen