by Divina Paredes

Movers and shakers: IoT group gaining traction in Waikato

Dec 26, 2017
Big DataCareersCloud Computing

An important focus for me is innovation for good…I look at the application of technology such as the Internet of Things through this lens.

“I have always been a champion of IT as an enabler,” says Jannat Maqbool of Wintec.

“Throughout my career I have been involved in initiatives that, to quote one of my previous managers, have looked at solutions to get ‘machines to do what machines do best and humans to do what humans do best’.”

Thus, it was a lightbulb moment for her when she attended a Wintec research symposium early this year and one of the speakers was Alexandra Deschamps. Deschamps, director of Designswarm, has been organising IoT London Meetups for the past seven years.

“We caught up during her visit and discussed whether an IoT Meetup would be of interest to parties in the Waikato,” says Maqbool.

She then met with Mariana Van der Walt, centre director at the Centre for Innovation Applied Research at Wintec, and within weeks of that meeting, they held the first IoT Waikato event.

“Wintec has brought Alex to New Zealand (and to Wintec specifically) for the past three years to help us remain relevant in the world of IoT – she is a global thought leader, and we have benefited from her input for a number of technology prototypeswe have built in the world of precision farming, environmental monitoring and technology-enabled solutions for aging well, using IoT principles.”

Today, Maqbool is one of the leaders of IoT Waikato, a group for innovators, thought leaders and organisations interested in developing the Internet of Things in the region.

The group, hosted by Wintec, holds regular meetups, where speakers share their experiences on deploying IoT.

As she stated during the group’s launch in September, “IoT refers to the ability to connect any device to the internet or to other devices to produce a network of connected people, people and things, and things themselves. It’s about networks, devices and data connected together to benefit people.

“On a small scale you could have your alarm alert the coffee machine to start brewing your morning coffee, or your car’s GPS connected to your meeting calendar to guide you to your next appointment. On a wider scale, the IoT can enable cities to be smarter and help to reduce waste, clear traffic congestion and improve energy use.”

It is early days yet for IoT Waikato but what I have learnt to date is that organisations and individuals in the Waikato are interested in the initiative,” says Maqbool.

She says through the meetups, the group has identified five pilots that they want to get up and running.

One of the pilots is looking at the integration of sensors, analytics and artificial intelligence in an industrial setting to monitor and manage maintenance and health and safety compliance requirements including those associated with personnel and site visitors.

Another project involves the application of sensors and analytics as part of a highly interactive waka sculpture planned for Hamilton’s Ferrybank Reserve on the Waikato River , an initiative led by Joe Citizen of Wintec’s School of Media Arts.

Maqbool is currently studying a masters in digital business at the University of Waikato, and is completing her dissertation next year. Her research focuses on fintech, as her background is in accounting, finance and related systems and technology.

“I am looking at the possibility of integrating IoT with this,” she says.

She says the group is looking at technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) in developing solutions to improve student and staff experience at Wintec.

Maqbool says she also connects with organisations and individuals in the Waikato and across New Zealand “to keep them in the loop regarding IoT Waikato”.

“An important focus for me is innovation for good which is incidentally similar to the theme for TechWeek 2018 which is about ‘innovation that’s good for the world’.”

“I look at the application of technology such as the Internet of Things through this lens,” she says.

“I also collaborate across the organisation with other initiatives like the recent Research in Action event organised by the Centre for Business, IT and Enterprise and The Design Factory NZ which is a co-creation space where students work with industry partners and community organisations to solve complex problems.”

So how does she explain IoT to groups outside the technology sector?

“The important thing to consider when looking at technology is to focus on the ‘Why?’,” she says.

“When I talk to organisations, I frame the Internet of Things in terms of ‘why the technology is relevant to the organisation’s strategy or value proposition,’” she adds.

“It isn’t so much about the technology as it is about what it can deliver,” says Maqbool.

“Technology can add value in a number of ways including identifying new products and services, and new ways to do and operate business.”

Elna Fourie (Wintec – Media Arts), Suzanne Hunt (Spark Digital NZ), Roselle O’Brien (IoT Project Manager – Downer NZ), Jannat Maqbool (Wintec), Margi Moore (Wintec – Design Factory NZ Director).

Send news tips and comments to

Sign up forCIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.

Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz