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Kiwi teams make a clean sweep at Microsoft A/NZ innovation competition

By Kai Ping Lew
Fri 4 May 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a large-scale global competition for student technology and entrepreneurship.

This prize is a springboard for innovative apps.

Facebook and Twitter started as student projects, and the Imagine Cup aims to capture great ideas and catapult them into a global market.

The global contest for the most original student applications will see the winning team take home up to US$100,000.

This year, three Kiwi teams are having a crack at the world cup.

They say that New Zealand was built with the two-by-four, number eight wire, and Kiwi ingenuity.

That can-do spirit was alive and well at the A/NZ Imagine Cup A/NZ finals, which pitted New Zealand against Australia.

For 16 years, the Imagine Cup has inspired nearly two million student technologists from all academic backgrounds to collaborate, innovate, and showcase their technology, to build innovative, real-world solutions to solve problems.

With 280 entries across New Zealand, Microsoft narrowed it down to the top four teams.

Sentinel, Hypebeat, UniRide and Southerly advanced to the A/NZ Regional Final in Melbourne to compete for the chance to represent Australia and New Zealand in the world final in Seattle in July.

The teams faced off against the top six Australian teams and came out on top with a clean sweep on the podium winning first, second and third place, proving they are Australasia’s top talent.

This is the first time in the Cup’s 16-year history that three teams will be representing NZ at the same world finals.

The winning team Sentinel created an Internet of Things solution for water management to encourage sustainable usage habits and help homes autonomously manages water supplies.

Sentinel is a control system that wirelessly monitors and manages your rainwater tanks.

It transmits your water level, and other meaningful info and tips straight to the Sentinel app.

Interfacing with local tank-refilling companies, Sentinel ensures rural homes, farms and holiday homes never run dry.

All data is aggregated using Azure Stream Analytics, where users may access their tank through our web-dashboard, or via the cross-platform Sentinel mobile app made using Xamarin.

Sentinel’s vision is to completely change the way we manage our water usage by educating and encouraging more sustainable water habits.

Sentinel’s Zach Preston says, “The Imagine Cup has been a great catalyst to push myself and my ideas into reality and even commercialisation!

“We are working hard to create a wonderful platform that both encourages sustainable usage habits and autonomously manages water supplies for residents and holiday homes alike.

“Solving problems like these is a great way to learn. The people you meet and the impact you can have is definitely inspiring,” he adds.

Hypebeat placed second with their platform to help emerging musicians get discovered through personalised playbook based on machine learning.

Matt Bastion, Benjamin Sweney and Rivindu Weerasekera want to help musicians to get discovered by showing them what works.

They unlock how musicians “make it” in each genre in a specific market by enabling a musician (or their management) to analyse which actions are driving a musician’s growth, and the growth of related artists.

Additionally, the app generates a Playbook of recommended actions and advise.

The Playbook utilises machine learning models that analyse which actions consistently lead to great outcomes for artists at different stages in each genre.

It’s an agent, manager, and friend all wrapped into one app.

Hypebeat’s Matt Bastion says, “Making it as a musician in the age of digital music, streaming and social media is just as much about doing what works for your brand and business as it is about great music.”

“It’s more complicated than ever before, but if you pull it off you could be somebody else’s idol.

“We show musicians what works. The Imagine Cup and the Microsoft team have been fantastic and have really opened up doors for us,” adds Bastion.

In third place was UniRide, who created a social ride-sharing app for university students.

Sukhans Asrani, Winston Zhao and Andrew Hu’s solution UniRide allows students to find, create and manage carpools seamlessly.

UniRide places an emphasis on pairing like-minded students together, creating a group of friends who grow closer through the countless rides they share together.

UniRide’s Sukhans Asrani says, “For me, Imagine Cup was unique. It gives you an experience that you just can’t get in an academic setting and it cultivates raw innovation.

“Moving ahead, we know Seattle will be tough, but we think it’ll definitely be an unforgettable experience!

“In terms of UniRide’s future, we just want to make it a reality. We want to make UniRide perfect and turn our idea into something real!”

Microsoft Australia audience evangelism manager Pat Stanton says, “For the first time, Australia and New Zealand student teams went head-to-head in an Imagine Cup A/NZ regional final.

“The quality of Imagine Cup A/NZ technology projects continues to rise and the students are showing more professionalism than ever before,” Stanton says.

“Three teams from New Zealand have qualified for the 2018 Worldwide competition and we are quietly confident they will perform on the global stage.” 

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