"Smart" inhalers made in downtown Auckland are helping asthma patients across the world breathe more easily.

Nexus6 develops devices that record when medication is used and wirelessly transmit the information on to the internet or to a mobile phone. This allows patients and doctors to monitor the frequency of doses in real-time.

Nexus6 is a finalist in the 2011 University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

"[The technology] is aimed at helping folks with chronic diseases maintain wellness and prevent them from ending up in the emergency department, and through doing so reducing the cost of managing the diseases," said Nexus6's founder and chief operating office, Garth Sutherland.

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Sutherland, who suffers from asthma, said it is difficult for patients to track when and how often they are using their medication without this sort of system. Sutherland has run the company since 2001, but said the firm has recently hit a number of milestones.

'We've got [our software and systems] through the US Food and Drug Administration and through the Federal Communications Commission. We've also got our technology stress-tested to handle many hundreds of thousands of patients on the system," he said.

The company also signed a deal with Clement Clarke International in April to distribute its technology in Europe.

The Entrepreneurs' Challenge, now in its third year, aims to help small-to-medium businesses expand overseas by investing in their operations in the form of a low-interest, three-year loan.

This year's challenge has six finalists, all of whom are battling for a share of $1 million of business funding. The winnings can be scooped up by one company or shared by up to five.

The Dragons' Den-style challenge was founded with a $3 million endowment from New Zealand expatriate and former member of the Business Roundtable, Charles Bidwill.

Piako Gourmet Yoghurt, a previous winner, now stocks its product at Harrods as well as supermarkets around New Zealand.