Tech Demo Day – 30/10/18

Our third Tech Demo Day proved that the model of attracting local and national talent to Northland works very well. We had an excellent turn out, despite a wet & stormy day in One Tree Point, Whangarei.  New connections were made and collective knowledge on latest transport technologies grew.

Again we had a very interesting mix of people presenting and lively discussions (last people left two hours after official end of event).  As participants, we had international post-graduate students, PhD researchers and professors, local and national fleet operators, road maintenance contractors, engineering consultancies, the port (and holding) company, road safety experts and local politicians supporting us.

The high caliber presenters and their presentation material are linked below.

Brief Summary of the discussions

Her worship the Mayor of Whangarei, Sheryl Mai, opened the event. She brought the very engaged deputy Mayor Sharon Morgan and Councillors Anna Murphy and Cherry Hermon as well. The Mayor stressed the importance of Technology for the growing the region, but also highlighted the fact that a lot of the more rural community are conservative and not necessarily embracing change open heartedly (yet).

De-carbonization of heavy commercial fleets

Andrew Clennett, CEO of the Hydrogen start-up Hiringa Energy from Taranaki, explained to the group the fast changing environment to decarbonize heavy commercial fleets. He recently came back from a global tour to hydrogen implementation best practices. One is Aberdeen in Scotland where hydrogen vehicles in public transport, waste management, car sharing and street sweeper & service vehicles are used. The hydrogen buses run 21 hours per day in several shifts and can travel up to 500 km. In Europe in the next two years over 800 hydrogen buses will be put on roads. In Switzerland Hyundai will deliver 1,000 lite trucks to various organisations in the same time frame. Hydrogen seems to be reaching a tipping point. Not for private cars but for fleets. The advantage for heavy vehicles is that they achieve a very long range (Nikola truck, 1,500 km), that they are getting lighter than diesel vehicles and therefore can take more payload, that heavy commercial vehicles can be retrofitted with an electric drive train and fuel cell. The total cost of ownership (TCO) is projected to be lower than traditional diesel fleets due to lower operating expenses, including less maintenance required.


The hydrogen distribution by now is safe and can be transported by existing oil pipelines  (e.g. via LOHC – liquid organic hydrogen carrier) or in liquid form on pressurized trucks, almost like LPG today.

Hydrogen production comes in various forms and recent breakthroughs are likely to improve efficiency rates. Electrolysis is currently the main process at present. At Cambridge University in the UK hydrogen production via photosynthesis and at CSIRO in Australia by a clever membrane technology look promising. Using electrolysis on water steam could be an interesting application at Northland’s Ngwha geothermal plant.

Hiringa is working with one of NZ’s biggest truck leasing firms to de-carbonize NZ heavy fleets. Hiringa received $ 950,000 co-funding from the NZ government to develop commercial models, build 2-3 refueling stations and get hydrogen trials in transport and industrial applications going.

The Future of Transport through an IT Lense

Brett Roberts from Datacom did an excellent job explaining how fast hard- and software development costs are coming down and what this means to democratization of information. He showed some interesting examples of Alibaba’s City Brain in Malaysia & China and a result of Datacom’s internal business/ development challenge to monitor OSH related compliance with computer vision technology.

Transport Innovations

Aaron Peterson and Derrick Williams from WSP-Opus showed the group some amazing innovations in transport technologies. This included road slip monitoring, smart footpath mapping & analysis, road monitoring. I liked the Mexico City best practice of using vertical gardens in dense urban environments to filter air and provide a more pleasant/ green feel to the concrete jungle. The geospatial visualization of costs of transport related cost drivers looked like an excellent decision support tool. See video links below.

Roadmap towards preventative maintenance

Martin Knoche reported on progress on N3T’s road safety solution, the Digital Road NZ project on Otaika Valley Road and the role N3T’s Road Inspector Suite can play on the route to preventative road maintenance.

Whangarei, an innovative transport concept

Peter Ogle and Martin Knoche introduced a proposal to change the face of Whangarei transport over the next five years into an area where anyone, of any age, in any location within 15 km of the CBD can call a carbon free autonomous vehicle (AV) pod to get from A to B, affordably and safe. This mobility-on-demand approach using currently available AV technology can be demonstrated in Whangarei this summer. With international and national partners the idea is to run a few demo projects as community events:

  • ZF-IBEO’s urban jungle demonstration – similar to the ITS World Congress Demo in Copenhagen, at Canopy Bridge Car Park
  • over several Sunday mornings from 7 am to afternoon run AV demonstration/s between Canopy Bridge, Clapham Clocktower and CBD/ Cameron Street 
  • Nuro last mile demonstration between several NDHB Hospital Sites – to showcase non-people-moving AV applications like transporting medication, probes, documents between sites instead of using fossil fuel vehicles
  • Connecting several aged care facilities via AV shuttle to the CBD eg. on Kamo walkway

The next step is to get agreement by council to access the CBD area for these AV demonstrations and then raise private & public sector funding to run this from April 2019.

The event concluded with a lively discussion on a lot of diverse topics triggered by the above presentation. The event closed around 4 pm.

Here is a link to video footage made available at the Tech Demo Day.

Please contact us if you like to correct any of the above, have questions, comments or like to discuss further.