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Company-X Developer Fights COVID-19

A Company-X developer is doing his bit in the fight against COVID-19.

Company-X software developer Mark Nikora has joined the fight against COVID-19 by volunteering his time to a project designing and building low-cost remote control medical ventilators.

Nikora, who joined Company-X in March after 20 years as an information technology lecturer at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), has been volunteering for the charitable Arden Auxiliary Medical Trust since January.

The trust is designing and building sophisticated low-cost medical ventilators to artificially respirate COVID-19 patients or provide oxygen through nasal canula or continuous/bilevel pressure.

The ArdenVent can be operated and controlled from an internet connection anywhere in the world.

The trust is also working on a low cost oxygen concentrator, the ArdenOxyGen to be donated to developing countries expected to struggle with COVID-19 patients for years.

The not-for-profit ventilator and concentrator can be used in tandem.

The trust hopes that its contribution will lead to more data being collected concerning COVID-19 treatment protocol and further mutations.

“I wanted to get involved in a project that made use of my skills and was personally rewarding, so that I could be proud of contributing to something worthwhile,” Nikora said.

While New Zealand’s team of five million has kept COVID-19 out of the community, Nikora has developed an empathy for the rest of the world where the pandemic has been rife.

“I wanted to help. Rather than sit here at the bottom of the world I wanted to utilise my skills,” Nikora said.

“For Maori people, early last century, influenza had a strong effect on the population, with a high mortality rate, and that's strongly embedded in our memory. So, when the pandemic came around, a lot of us took it deadly seriously because a lot of us have ancestors who were affected by it.”

Nikora spends up to eight hours per week on the project.

Nikora is one of an international team of about 50 working on the project led by co-founders and trustees Alan Thomas in Auckland and Michael Ilewicz in Germany.

“I came on board to focus on the user interface. I have been contributing to the user interface team,” Nikora said.

“You can have a medical professional or family member that could potentially supervise multiple people in multiple locations.”

The project is using ReactJS, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces, and Storybook, an open-source tool for developing user interface components.

“ReactJS and Storybook allows us to develop and test components individually and construct the interface with tested components,” Nikora said.

“One thing that I'm currently looking at is the need for a translation engine so that doctors can customise the user interface to see whatever measure he or she requires.

“I'm excited to be working with people from around the world,” Nikora said.

“To be able to talk to them about how the pandemic has affected them has given me some unique perspectives.”

Nikora appreciates getting access to other subject matter experts in software development on the ArdenVent team and is also seeking advice from the Company-X team too.

“I've been looking around and wanted to chase up whoever it is that knows a lot about internet of things (IoT) around here. Because working at Company-X allows me to tap into other experts who can give great advice on the architecture, my work and certain aspects. And that's what I'm hoping I can pick up as a way to apply to that particular project.”

Ilewicz said after getting familiar with the project, Nikora had contributed to the discussion on how to best implement the network infrastructure layers.

Thomas said: “One of the main achievements is cutting out all of the unnecessary costs that make the treatment of COVID-19 so expensive. Enhancing the capabilities of hospital services, and if they are overloaded being able to care for people at home, makes it much more economical and more viable, maintain a high standard of care at home.”

Company-X co-founders and directors David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes are supportive of the project.

“This project is Kiwi ingenuity at its very best, solving the world’s problems with the perfect marriage of software and hardware,” Hallett said.

“We were thrilled to hear about the project and will support Mark in whatever way we can.”

The trust is recruiting volunteers to work on the project, as well as seeking funding for manufacture.

About Company-X

Company-X offers Silicon Valley level software savvy delivered with a Kiwi can-do attitude.

Founded in 2012 by software specialists David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes, Company-X immediately won contracts with New Zealand government departments and a Silicon Valley multinational.

The team has grown to nearly 60 New Zealand-based software specialists, with only the best and brightest passing the Company-X interview and assessment process.

The Company-X team prides itself with experience in a wide range of technologies and languages and loves challenging problems.

Company-X is the first Australasian reseller of RealWear head-mounted tablets.

Company-X ranked on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ Asia Pacific, a list of the fastest-growing technology companies in the Asia Pacific region, in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Company-X has won many awards:

  • The Independent Software Vendor Award at the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 for state-of-the-art software that turns text into human-like audio files at a fraction of the cost of booking a voice artist, recording studio and sound engineer.
  • The Independent Software Vendor Award at the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2019 for a hands-free auditing application developed for AsureQuality.
  • The Service Excellence and Global Operator awards at the Westpac Waikato Business Awards in 2018.
  • The Services Exporter of the Year category at the Air New Zealand Cargo ExportNZ Awards 2017.
  • The Homegrown Innovators Independent Software Vendors Award at the Reseller News ICT Industry Awards 2017.
  • The Roading Asset Management Innovation Award at the Road Infrastructure Management Forum in 2017 for the One Network Road Classification Performance Measures Reporting Tool built for the New Zealand transport sector.

About ArdenVent

In the early days of the pandemic, ArdenVent co-founder Alan Thomas, worrying about his own condition, built a prototype ventilator for the very worst case. He realised that other people could need such devices and that there will be a life threatening shortage of not only ventilators but also medical professionals and oxygen. The places that will need those the most, however, will not be able to afford expensive and maybe not even cheap devices in the numbers needed.

He reached out to Michael Ilewicz, whom he thought to be qualified for the challenge ahead, and together they set out to build smart ventilators and oxygen concentrators that are cost and energy effective. They agreed, that what they will create should be made accessible to those who need it, not those that can afford it.

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