HEATH Raftery’s rural upbringing is assisting him in his mission to improve the urban landscape.
“Being innovative is what I was born to do, growing up on a farm you learn to fix things pretty quick, because there is no-one else around,” he says.
Mr Raftery is a co-founder of Newie Ventures, a freshly minted start-up that has launched a smart parking trial at the University of Newcastle.
Newie Ventures is calling for car owners who park at the university to download their ap and help them gather data it will use to develop a system that allows drivers to see available university car parks in real time, rather than arrive and blindly circle car parks.
The company has placed 10 sensors in car parks located south of the Civil Engineering building, and information from the sensors on the status of the car parks (available or occupied) will be fed back to a reader.
The trial will run for six months, after which time Mr Raftery and Newie Ventures co-founders, Anne-Laure Peaucelle and David Sayer will assess the data in view of making it scaleable.
Mr Raftery said while there were similar parking trials happening in Australia and globally, none of them had managed to “crack the code” of bringing a large-format, financially viable product into play.
“It’s all about unlocking the data to fix the problem,” he says, adding that the solution would assist the university because the more car parks were used, the more revenue produced.
If successful, Newie Ventures say their product has the potential to help cities around the world to offer cost-effective and time-saving parking solutions.
A keen cyclist, Mr Raftery gained first-hand knowledge of the car parking issues when he studied computer engineering and mathematics at Callaghan campus.
“There are 5400 car parks and 22,000 staff and student at full capacity, and I’d hear people complain all the time, then when I did drive I’d think ‘oh, that’s what they were saying’,” he chuckled.
Mr Raftery decided to delve into the innovation space last year, when he began attending various groups around Newcastle to see the state of play.
He was quickly drawn to smart cities technology – of which local tech-start ups including Vimoc Technologies are pioneering products – thanks to his background in micro-electronics.
So far, the start-up lifestyle is suiting him.
“There’s nothing comfortable about having no salary but I like being outside my comfort zone,” he says.
To download the Foresight Parking ap go to www.newieventures.com.au/foresight-parking/.