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Current as of 22/10/14 06:20PM NZST

Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Telecom to pump millions into tech firm

Teaming up are (from left) Telecom's Rod Snodgrass and Chris Bowman with Vigil Wireless Sensor Technologies' 
Alan Brannigan and founder Sir Ray Avery.  Photo / Natalie Slade
Teaming up are (from left) Telecom's Rod Snodgrass and Chris Bowman with Vigil Wireless Sensor Technologies' Alan Brannigan and founder Sir Ray Avery. Photo / Natalie Slade

Telecom has joined forces with Sir Ray Avery's technology startup and is planning to invest up to $5 million in the business, which is developing a wristband that constantly monitors someone's vitals and uploads and stores the information online.

Avery - a scientist, inventor and social entrepreneur - founded medical monitoring business Vigil Wireless Sensor Technologies last year and has received government funding to help bring its products to market.

Vigil is also now being backed by Telecom's Digital Ventures arm.

Telecom plans to invest up to $5 million in Vigil in exchange for a 40 per cent stake in the business.

Telecom Digital Ventures boss Rod Snodgrass believed Vigil had strong growth prospects and that its technology had global potential.

Snodgrass said the telco, which will store Vigil's cloud-based data, wasn't only providing investment for the startup.

"We can also bring technology capability, networking, distribution, marketing, but we're also quite tapped into other telcos overseas."

A wristband which monitors vitals - such as heart rate and temperature - and uploads this information to an online storage system in real time is among the technology Vigil is looking to commercialise.

As well as raising an alarm if the wristband detects an event such as a sudden change in heart rate, the system can also provide a broader picture of a person's health for medical professionals because of its ability to continuously monitor a patient.

The Vigil wristband monitors vitals such as heart rate and temperature and stores them online.
The Vigil wristband monitors vitals such as heart rate and temperature and stores them online.

Avery said Vigil is responding to the challenges of increases in aged populations and obesity across much of the developed world, which is "fuelling an epidemic of long-term health conditions".

"The reality at the moment is the health care system globally is still very much in the stone age," Avery said.

"Smart technologies such as [the wristband] will enable more effective methods of medical monitoring. The potential benefits to New Zealand are enormous," he said.

As well as working to improve health, smarter monitoring technology can also reduce the cost of care.

Vigil's technology is being tested next year by ambulance operator St John, which also provides medical alarm services for New Zealanders.

The company is also working with Plunket NZ to develop baby monitoring applications.

- NZ Herald

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