PhD research inspires software startup

PhD research inspires software startup

Source: Massey University


Dr David Robinson


In an almost textbook case of innovation spurring economic development, a Massey PhD student’s thesis is at the heart of a hugely exciting New Zealand software startup. 

David Robinson’s thesis focused on algorithms to generate knowledge from complex, linked data – for example, knowledge useful for detecting terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud or other activities where an antagonistic actor is actively trying to hide their true identity.

Interest in law enforcement comes naturally to Dr Robinson: prior to studying his PhD he worked as an intelligence professional both in New Zealand and the UK and had long wished for more useful technology, particularly where a manual approach isn’t feasible.  The existing software was too inaccurate for many purposes or didn’t cope with large datasets.

“Some investigations involved thousands of people across dozens of countries. The ability to trace thousands of transactions become things that go beyond what you can do on a spreadsheet, so a manual approach is never going to succeed.  And the proprietary software was so inaccurate that you had to manually assess the results anyway.”

After moving back to New Zealand, he taught himself to code and began detailing how he might analyse data differently and the idea for his thesis was born.

Dr Robinson approached the academic dean for Information Sciences, Chris Scogings and discussed how his thesis would use a computer science and psychology approach as he also holds post-graduate qualifications in psychology.

“The PhD was a vehicle to put some rigour around what I was doing.  To have it validated amongst global experts that it was a valid and useful approach.  Now the focus is on applying what has been developed, to make a real difference.

“It was quite refreshing when I talked to someone at Massey and described what I wanted to do and the stage I was at.  Massey understood the need for creative applied research, so I give a big tick to Massey.”

The research involved discovering optimal ways to represent data, link data, and detect meaningful patterns while ensuring that all of this complexity was usefully presentable to an end-user. His background in psychology led to a technology design that mimics human thought processes, but is engineered for scale and incorporating machine learning techniques.

While writing his thesis, Dr Robinson was approached by technology entrepreneur Dr John Holt who proposed to develop and commercialise his ideas by starting a software company.  Subsequently, engineer Solomon Matthews came on board and Ramifier was born.

Ramifier solves the most challenging data problems for organisations: making data meaningful and actionable and breaking down the boundary between an organisation’s internal data and the data external to the organisation, enhancing the value of both.

Examples of Ramifier’s work include supporting the New Zealand Herald with mapping New Zealand’s property ownership using the entity resolution component of their software.  This had never been done before, and Mr Robinson says it is still the most accurate estimate of property ownership in New Zealand.

He says the applications of Ramifier’s software are wide and varied. To date, Ramifier has been used for invstingating financial crimes in the United States, property analysis, corporate analysis, data deduplication and cleansing, B2B lead generation, and there is interest in how the technology could support COVID-19 contact tracing.

Dr Robinson is now an advisor for Ramifier and says his passion to solve some of New Zealand’s most challenging problems is his main drive.

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Staff zoom in to celebrate with graduates from Singapore partnership

Staff zoom in to celebrate with graduates from Singapore partnership

Source: Massey University


Students graduating were congratulated by Massey staff in a video message played at the ceremony.


Nearly 50 students were welcomed to the Massey Alumni community in a video message at their graduation from an international collaboration in food technology education between Massey and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) recently.

The Class of 2020 is the second cohort to graduate from the honours degree programme in food technology at SIT’s Dover campus in Singapore. Almost half of the 48 students graduating should have spent 4 months studying at the Manawatū campus in 2020, but had to complete their project work in Singapore because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Cheryl Lee, who was awarded a Bachelor of Food Technology (Honours) with Highest Distinction, believes the knowledge and skills she has gained during the programme will help her contribute confidently to the industry.

“My three years as a Food Technology student with Massey University has been nothing short of amazing. It will always be a place that I associate with finding genuine lifelong friends. The curriculum of the Food Technology course is closely aligned and relevant with industry needs and it has definitely equipped me with skills and knowledge that are vital to succeed in the food industry.”

Massey staff joined in virtually to share in the celebrations and a video message congratulating the students was also played during the ceremony. In it, Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas said there has never been a more important time to be working in the food and nutrition sector.

“The pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for food systems worldwide – but also enormous opportunities. We need to respond with creative, ground-breaking thinking and strategies to address the complex issues the pandemic has exposed.”

School of Food and Advanced Technology head Professor Julian Heyes says while it is disappointing the students were unable to complete their final placement in New Zealand, the current circumstances only make their achievement even more special and impressive. 

“The flexibility, resilience & determination they have shown in completing their studies during a challenging year of online learning will have a far reaching and positive impact. We are proud to partner with the Singapore Institute of Technology to help produce an extremely high calibre of students.  Sharing research knowledge with other countries is an important part of building a strong network of global expertise that has a positive impact on communities.”

Despite Massey staff being unable to attend graduation due to travel restrictions, the Massey Tewhatewha mace was on stage at the graduation. Its name was chosen to symbolise the strong relationship between the two campuses. The Tewhatewha remains in Singapore as a permanent reminder of that link.

The Class of 2020 is the second cohort to graduate from the honours degree programme in food technology at SIT’s Dover campus in Singapore.

Related articles

Online orientation for 2020 international cohort of Food and Advanced Technology
Massey joins forces with Singapore Institute of Technology

WWF Joins Push for Bolder Corporate Action on Climate Policy

WWF Joins Push for Bolder Corporate Action on Climate Policy

Source: World Wildlife Fund

Today the CEOs of 12 environmental groups, including WWF, issued a public letter to companies urging them to more actively advocate for climate policy. The letter specifically urges companies to publicly support an ambitious national goal under the framework of the Paris Agreement, and to embrace the principles outlined in the AAA Responsible Policy Framework to guide their climate advocacy. WWF issued the following statement from Carter Roberts, President and CEO, in support of this effort:

“For four years, the private sector has carried the mantle of US national and global climate leadership. Leading companies have set ambitious science-based targets and are working with their partners and suppliers to achieve them.

“But even those companies know they cannot achieve their targets through voluntary work alone. We need whole sectors and industries to move, and that will only happen with good strong regulatory frameworks that set targets, ensure progress and create incentives to move markets at a much greater scale.

“Signals and experience from the private sector matter, a lot. As the stars line up for the new Administration and the new Congress to finally pass long-needed legislation, it’s essential for companies to line up their legislative efforts with their own climate targets and programs. That means prioritizing climate change for conversations with Members of Congress and the Administration. It means ensuring their trade associations carry the same clear message.

“The moment is now for us to move. We need the private sector’s voice and influence to solve the problem of climate change, not just in terms of their own corporate footprint, but on a global scale as well.”

Education – Ara Enterprise & Digital Innovation Department offers local businesses services from its new ‘Tech Colab’

Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Source: Ara Institute of Canterbury
At a time when an effective online presence is more important than ever, Ara has created a social enterprise through which local businesses and other organizations can access affordable digital solutions.
Harnessing the talents of IT and business students, the ‘Tech Colab’ will provide cost-effective digital products and services to the community while also giving learners opportunities to learn while working with real-world customers.
Small local businesses and not-for-profits will be able to seek help with website and app-creation as well as SEO, database management, sales and marketing strategies and much more. CoLab clients may be charged a small fee for the completed work, but the strategy is to simply cover the costs of supervisor hours and the administration involved.
Bhaswati Ghosh, the CoLab’s Operations Co-ordinator sums it up by saying “Our customers will get a great job done by our very capable learners, supervised by our knowledgeable colleagues, as they contribute towards the education of the next generation of industry leaders. Students will also already have made connections in industry before they complete their studies with us, so it’s a complete win-win!”
Finding ways for smaller businesses to thrive in a post-COVID world is viewed extremely important by the New Zealand Government, with a suite of new training options and tools for digital commerce now available, especially to operators within the strained tourism sector.
The $20 million package is part of the Government’s coordinated response to the extraordinary economic challenges imposed by COVID-19 economic response, and is designed to empower businesses to with improved digital capabilities.
Part of Ara’s commitment to the communities in which it operates is to help local businesses adapt and remain viable in the face of economic or social headwinds.
Bhaswati comments “As the enterprise grows and evolves, our aim is to foster collaboration across the different departments at Ara, so that the CoLab will be able to offer a wider range of services and even greater benefits for our students, and our clients.”

Operation Horn: Police look to identify people in Queens Park, Invercargill

Operation Horn: Police look to identify people in Queens Park, Invercargill

Source: New Zealand Police (District News)

Statement to be attributed to Senior Constable David Loader.

Police searching for missing man Raymond Horn would like to speak to two people who were in Queens Park, Invercargill at about 2.20pm on Monday 15 February.

We know Raymond was in this area on that Monday. We’re hoping they might have seen Raymond and can help us continue to build a timeline of his movements.

Anyone with information that can help us identify the two people in this photo are asked to contact Police on 105 and quote file number 210215/8028.

ENDS

Issued by Police Media Centre

Operation Horn: Police look to identify people in Queens Park, Invercargill

Operation Horn: Police look to identify people in Queens Park, Invercargill

Source: New Zealand Police (District News)

Statement to be attributed to Senior Constable David Loader.

Police searching for missing man Raymond Horn would like to speak to two people who were in Queens Park, Invercargill at about 2.20pm on Monday 15 February.

We know Raymond was in this area on that Monday. We’re hoping they might have seen Raymond and can help us continue to build a timeline of his movements.

Anyone with information that can help us identify the two people in this photo are asked to contact Police on 105 and quote file number 210215/8028.

ENDS

Issued by Police Media Centre

Introduction of a new business continuity test for tax losses

Source: Inland Revenue Department –

The Minister of Revenue has indicated his intention to introduce legislation to relax New Zealand’s loss continuity rules to allow businesses better access to capital. Inland Revenue has produced draft material to explain the purpose and design of the proposed rules. Legislation will be introduced in a supplementary order paper to the Taxation (Annual Rates for 2020-21, Feasibility Expenditure, and Remedial Matters) Bill later this month.

For more information see the set of questions and answers and the fact sheet.

Health Investigation – Escalation of care for rest home resident with cardiac symptoms

Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Source: Health and Disability Commissioner
Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall today released a report finding a registered nurse and a rest home in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failures in the care of a rest home resident with cardiac symptoms.
The resident, a woman in her late eighties, had a medical history including coronary heart disease and COPD (a lung disease). She began to experience pain in her shoulder and breast. Early the next morning, the caregiver became concerned and called the on-call registered nurse at her home. The nurse instructed the caregiver to record the woman’s blood pressure every hour and to call back if her condition deteriorated. The nurse and the caregivers discussed the woman’s condition by telephone on two further occasions, but the nurse did not assess her in person.
Later that morning, the nurse became concerned about the woman’s blood pressure and instructed a caregiver to call a GP. However, a miscommunication between the rest home and the contracted and locum GPs meant that no GP attended the woman. During the afternoon, the nurse did not attend the woman to assess her, or call the rest home to monitor her condition.
Later that afternoon, the woman’s son called an ambulance because the rest home had not done so. The nurse subsequently telephoned the woman’s son and expressed her displeasure that he had called an ambulance.
Deputy Commissioner Rose Wall found that the instructions that the nurse gave to the caregiver were poor, and that the nurse did not provide medical intervention or arrange for it to be provided when it was required. When she became concerned about the woman’s condition, the nurse did not conduct a face-to-face assessment of the woman. She did not check whether the GP had arrived, and her communication with the woman’s son was inappropriate.
Ms Wall also found that the rest home’s procedure for obtaining GP assistance was inadequate; the nurse’s workload and performance were not monitored effectively; the caregivers did not recognise the seriousness of the woman’s condition, and failed to take steps to obtain urgent medical care; and the Emergency Policy was out of date.
“I have concerns about the critical thinking demonstrated by the caregivers at the rest home, and with the systems within the rest home, which did not enable the facility to provide adequate care to [the woman],” said Ms Wall.
Ms Wall recommended that the nurse attend training in cardiac management, communication with family members, and the responsibilities of a sole registered nurse at an aged-care facility.
She noted that in response to HDC’s recommendations the rest home had made a number of changes, including developing a plan for professional supervision for the nurse, providing training to caregivers, and updating the “When to Call 111” poster. The rest home, in conjunction with the nurse, provided HDC with an apology to the woman’s family.
Ms Wall also recommended that the rest home provide additional training to caregivers and review its processes for requesting GP assistance. In addition, she recommended that the local District Health Board consider continuing to monitor the care and services provided at the rest home.
The full report for case 19HDC00188 is available on the HDC website.

Under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 and Level 3 our offices will be closed

Source: Human Rights Commission

Under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 and Level 3 our offices will be closed

March 1, 2021

The Human Rights Commission’s Auckland office will be closed to visitors under level 3. Under level 2, the Commission has restricted access for visitors to our Wellington office. Our Infoline service is still fully operational on 0800 496 877 to make inquiries or to make a booking for our Wellington office.

NZ’s first farm sustainability linked loan to deliver water and biodiversity benefits

Source: BNZ statements

In a New Zealand first, ethical dairy investor Southern Pastures has entered into a three-year $50 million sustainability-linked farm loan with BNZ and its syndicate.

Southern Pastures, owner of Lewis Road Creamery, will receive financial incentives for meeting new water quality and biodiversity targets and for achieving further reductions in its already low on-farm carbon emissions. Achievement of the targets will be directly linked to lower loan costs.

“This deal recognizes that farming to mitigate climate change and environmental impacts is in our common interest,” says Southern Pastures Executive Chairman Prem Maan. “In my view, farming in New Zealand should be driven by the ambition to become carbon neutral.”

Southern Pastures owns 20 farms in Waikato and Canterbury. It produces milk under an independently certified 10 Star Certified Values Program which stipulates strict environmental, climatic, animal and human welfare requirements. Its Waikato farms which supply Fonterra include the largest organic farm in the country.

“We use our organic farm, for example, to learn how to minimize antibiotic use,” says Prem. “So we now use less antibiotics on all our farms than what is allowed under EU organic regulations.”

BNZ Head of Natural Capital, Dana Muir, says, “Southern Pastures is a leader in the NZ primary sector with ambitious environmental goals. It made sense to partner with them to show that capital incentives can deliver financial and environmental benefits.

“Like BNZ, Southern Pastures are driven to make a real difference improving New Zealand’s environment. The environmental targets linked to the loan are ambitious and go beyond compliance minimums – achieving them will require innovative on-farm planning, practices and reporting,” says Dana.

Angela Mentis, BNZ CEO, says BNZ has developed the innovative loan structure as part of its Sustainable Finance portfolio to help deliver carbon reductions and sustainable benefits in New Zealand. She says that BNZ will increasingly seek to use Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-linked lending with New Zealand farmers, agribusinesses and other sectors to help meet New Zealand’s climate change obligations. 

Angela says, “Bold ESG initiatives not only help protect the environment and build Natural Capital but also increase the value of our consumer products globally and strengthen brand New Zealand.

“There is great work underway on New Zealand farms, throughout the primary sector and other sectors. We want to partner with businesses who are striving to go above and beyond compliance minimums and show what best practice in environmental management, labour and governance looks like,” she says.

As part of the loan arrangement, AsureQuality is acting as an independent on-farm auditor, visiting the farms on an annual basis to collect data and verify progress against targets. Discounts to interest rates will be applied during the term of the loan provided interim and final targets are met and verified.

AsureQuality’s Environmental Assurance Lead, Simon Love, says “We have used our expertise to turn environmental targets into measurable and auditable proof points. It was a challenge and the right thing to do for future generations.”

Southern Pastures is a long-standing signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment and BNZ is a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition, a signatory to the Principles of Responsible Investment and committed to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Banking and the Collective Commitment to Climate Action.

Bank of New Zealand was founded in 1861 and has been an integral part of New Zealand life ever since. Today the bank employs over 5,000 people in New Zealand; works with Personal, Business, Agri and Private Wealth clients; and has 180 branches and Partners’​ Centres across NZ.