A Whangarei-based engineering consultancy has used its experience of working in the aftermath of New Zealand's most recent earthquakes to develop an idea for a navigation and data system as part of NZ's effort to facilitate life in space. Christine Allen speaks to Adrian Tonks of Engin.Systems about how his team developed the system which came third in the northern regionals of the NZ Space Challenge this week.

Engin.Systems was established by Adrian Tonks, Raghu Koushik and Philip Cook as a sister company of Cook Costello after the consulting engineering and geotechnical crew were commissioned to the scene of the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

Civil and environmental engineer Adrian Tonks of Engin.Systems told the Business Advocate he was due to give a presentation at the Space Challenge Regional Showcase at GridAKL in Auckland last night as part of Techweek'18, with the idea having come third in the Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty regions.

Cook Costello, which operates in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Whangarei, developed the award-winning Sapper Project at Christchurch as a foundation solution and costing model to help insurers progress residential claims, streamlining the process with a special database and a web user interface.

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The data system allowed teams on the ground to collect and store digital data, as opposed to scanning in pdfs that meant that basic information couldn't be extracted and reused.

When surveying more than 600 properties for over a year after the 2016 Kaikoura / Marlborough quakes, the team – along with sister company GeoCivil - were again tasked with a similar job but were armed with learnings from Christchurch.

Engin.Systems was established to prevent the haemorrhaging of data and streamline the process for the teams on the ground.

"The data from handwritten notes and pdfs are not reusable – the data loss was the first problem we needed to solve," said Tonks.

"The whole purpose of a computer is to take information in, store and put information back out."

He said the development of a bespoke system was also a challenge and so the team created one using drag and drop software that eliminated the need for programmers.

"The extreme conditions of Kaikoura pushed the boundaries – it was a challenge, and this is where we first used Engin. It features a workflow process, data collection, exception reporting, trend analysis and calculations."

Space Challenge
The organisers of the Space Challenge, Spacebase, say that by 2050, more than 1000 people will live and work in space. The team arranged the challenge to ensure NZ companies and ideas were part of the effort. There are almost 100 NZ companies already involved in the space market and registered with Spacebase.

The team, combining Spacebase and Northland Inc, identified the challenging conditions of Antarctica as an ideal testing ground for space solutions and so asked participants to create ideas for the best methods to identify hazards and map a path across the ice, and design or prototype new sensor systems and algorithms to help vehicles navigate across the ice.

Engin.System's idea for the Space Challenge added a navigation solution to the data system, which could be used in Antarctica, and then in space.

"Engin is a fluid system platform which can pull in mapping and drone data – it is essentially the brain of an exploration mission, with the ability to also look after people and equipment," said Tonks.

He said he was looking forward to sharing the idea with the industry at the event last night.

The company would be looking at developing the system for use in other extreme locations.

"It is a case of watch this space."