Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Revenue Dr Deborah Russell came to experience Company-X’s virtual reality (VR) capability but found the world’s first national roading quality assurance web portal more enthralling.

Russell, MP for New Lynn, was invited to the software specialist by Economic Development, Science, and Innovation Select Committee chair Jamie Strange as part of Labour’s Finance and Economic Development Caucus Committee.

Instead of donning a virtual reality headset, Russell spent the visit learning how Company-X partnered with its client the Road Efficiency Group (REG) to build the REG Insights web portal consolidating roading, financial and statistical data.

“VR overwhelms my mind,” Russell said. “Give me some nerdy numbers and I’m really happy.”

Deborah Russell
Deborah Russell, left, hears all about REG Insights from Jeremy Hughes.

REG Insights gives Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and councils the ability to interrogate data quality and measure performance trends on a national framework. The project took the entire roading sector on a journey and significantly moved it forward in evidence-based decision making.

“There’s a real tangible benefit to New Zealand,” she said.

Russell could see how a similar system could be used to manage and compare other council assets across the nation, such as water, parks, and libraries.

“There could a whole lot of stuff you could do across councils if you could just get them happy that the data you are collecting, analysing, and presenting has a good picture of reality.

“Who knew that this was all happening in Hamilton?”

Jamie Strange
GETTING AHEAD: Jamie Strange, left, tries a head-mounted tablet at Company-X.

Strange, Hamilton East MP, knew. That is why he invited Company-X to demonstrate its expertise in building VR solutions to Russell and his colleagues Auckland list MP Helen White, Botany list MP Naisi Chen, Canterbury List MP Dan Rosewarne, and Taieri MP Ingrid Leary.

They experienced a VR model of a state-of-the-art dairy shed in one simulation. They also saw a millimetre-by-millimetre digital twin of the of the Te Kowhai Main Line Valve created for natural gas transmission and distribution network owner First Gas.

Leary told reporters her visit had transformed her perception of Hamilton.

“Hamilton used to have the reputation of being Auckland's poor cousin. What we've seen today is a more confident city, proudly showcasing its points of difference,” she said.

“I am fascinated by the experience of it and interested in the social outcomes, like remote medical surgery.”

Their visit coincided with the launch of the Tech in the Tron initiative, designed to attract 500 more skilled workers to support the region’s growing technology sector.

“Every time I come to Company-X they’ve got a new, innovative project on the go”, Strange said.

“They are a cutting-edge tech leading company, investing in a range of areas, both within NZ and globally, and there is significant demand for their products. I’ll do whatever I can to see companies like this continue to thrive.”

Strange said he would report back to the Labour caucus on the visit and explore opportunities for the Government to support and collaborate with the sector.

“The action will be for us to discuss meaningful collaboration between government and Company-X moving forward so we can see companies like this continue to grow and bring in export dollars,” he said.

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TRANSFORMED: Ingrid Leary explores a VR cow shed.

Company-X co-founder and director David Hallett said it was great to showcase Company-X work.

"The MPs were able to connect with the doers,” he said. “There is nothing quite like seeing and tasting the work rather than just hearing about it. I had quite a lot of pleasure seeing them try out our VR equipment and letting them see how it can help."

Hughes said the MPs saw how Company-X was bringing revenue to the country through exports.

“I hope they get behind us and fund and promote the tech sector,” he said.