Eye care may not be the most obvious use of 5G technology, but for two winners of Spark's 5G Starter Fund, it could help them make a huge difference in Aotearoa and worldwide.
Objective Acuity and oDocs Eye Care launched their prototypes last week after claiming a share of $625,000 funding late last year by demonstrating how their solutions could use the technology to deliver positive changes.
"There is a big problem at the moment in New Zealand, but also globally, in terms of eye health and that really is the access and affordability," said Dr Ben O'Keeffe, co-founder of oDocs Eye Care.
There are an estimated 180,000 individuals with visual impairment in New Zealand, which costs the economy an estimated $2.5 billion a year. It is also the second biggest clinical outpatient burden in the country.
With oDocs' live consultation portal providing remote eye consultations for one-tenth of the cost of a traditional, in-person eye test this can result in a fast, affordable and accessible eye care solution, particularly for rural Kiwis.
And the hope is, through Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and learning algorithms, its platform will be able to identify cases that require urgent medical care.
"We are on a mission to end preventable blindness in New Zealand," O'Keeffe said.
"It's exciting times for oDocs Eye Care, really working on this teleophthalmology platform so we can deliver it to New Zealand but also deliver it globally."
Objective Acuity, meanwhile, is providing a solution to the traditional but often unreliable letter chart vision test.
It's developing a suite of software products to screen and test for visual acuity in children with a focus on identifying undetected vision problems in those under six years of age.
With current testing methods relying on subjective feedback, this can lead to inaccurate test results and false positives being referred to eye professionals.
Objective Acuity believes the use of 5G technology, combined with AI, will not only improve overall accuracy and reduce false positives by removing the need for feedback, but it'll also be up to seven times faster.
"We are currently doing clinical studies in the US with our vision screening test and also our visual acuity test," said CEO Adam Podmore.
"We're looking to finish those studies and then launch in the market both in the US and in New Zealand by the end of the year."
Spark’s Technology Director, Mark Beder says the Starter Fund uncovered some of New Zealand’s most innovative 5G pioneers.
"Each winner is set to make history by being amongst the first in the country to embrace the powerful potential of our 5G network to revolutionise their respective industries."
"These types of events and collaborations are really what's needed to unlock innovation and productivity across the world and definitely in New Zealand," added Spark Product Director Tessa Tierney.