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Company-X developer fights COVID-19

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

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.

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