Japanese technology powerhouse NEC is taking on the big issues in New Zealand with biometrics and facial recognition for government and law enforcement agencies and 3D modelling of our cities for emergency planning.
The tech company has moved away from the consumer market in recent years and into corporate solutions. Although it still offers digital cinema and screens, it's mostly for private companies rather than individuals. The bulk of the most interesting work in New Zealand is currently with the police and local government.
The firm has significant partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world for biometric technology including facial recognition and NZ Police has been a long standing partner for NEC here in NZ. Under the umbrella of NEC's "public safety" solutions, the company is also looking at mapping and modelling cities in order to plan for emergency situations and natural disasters.
With near-ubiquitous CCTV covering modern cities, NEC can study crowd and traffic movements in order to improve the placement of new roads, cycle lanes and crossings.
The analytics also help NEC make recommendations for civil emergencies.
Partnering with the local council, "Resilient Wellington" is a project in which NEC has created a 3D model environment of the capital where they can simulate disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis in order to see how the situations would play out.
"Public safety is a big thing for us," said sales and marketing director David Tse. "The IP (intellectual property) is being exported to other NEC offices around the world."
Tse said "significant investments" are coming in research and development for the New Zealand branch and said a city like Auckland could benefit from NEC's smart cities drive.
NEC could analyse traffic congestion and even simulate an influx of migration and it's effect on housing in different areas around the city.
The Tokyo headquarters has been approving of the Kiwi office's initiatives and Tse said they know that New Zealand needs to take a different approach. He said it helps that the two countries share a similar geography and risk of earthquakes and tsunamis.
For the Kiwi office, earthquake modelling is especially significant. The firm's staff are still displaced from the recent Kaikoura quakes and have not been able to re-enter their office.
Tse said the change is not without its benefits, however. Some of the younger staff are currently renting an office with BizDojo, a start-up environment and are enjoying and learning from their desk neighbours.
Over the next year, Tse said NEC will be ramping up the volume on the smart cities and public safety IP in New Zealand and reinvigorating the brand for Kiwis.
"We're a brand that's been sleeping for 20 years," he said.