11 protégés of the Hungarian National Trading House have made it to the most distinguished international trade fairs showcasing technological development (CES, CeBit, SXSW so far). We met three of them at a press breakfast to find out more.
The weather was nice, the ambiance in this stylish inner city hotel welcoming, and the subject of our conversation more than thrilling: Hungarian creativity and commercial finesse are aiming for new heights. From the very start of the press briefing, Ms Zsanett Ducsai-Oláh, CEO of the Hungarian National Trading House was highly optimistic about the InnoTrade programme launched by her organisation only 5 months ago. At the end of 2015 this programme was set up primarily to help up-and-coming creative start-ups compete at the international level, and promises success on the world markets. According to the CEO, the innovation, know-how, thorough grounding and creativity of local businesses perfectly qualify Hungarians for an international presence.
To ensure that more and more such businesses succeed globally and produce further results in development, the latest technological innovations must move to the international playing field. The plan is to achieve this through networking with universities and incubators, which would provide a platform for developers and project initiators to gain access to research results. The cooperation agreement recently signed in the United States by Minister of State Levente Magyar with UC Berkeley is a good example for this type of research networking.
The US is a key partner in this respect, as are Singapore, Brazil, Kuwait. Or Pakistan, where Ms Ducsai-Oláh has recently discussed the possibilities of opening an international office with a view to expand HNTH’s services. She said in order to direct a Hungarian innovation to the most suitable niche or sector in any given country, it is vital that the needs of each country are identified and that they find the right person to partner with in any respective partner country. This will ensure that these contacts later prove to be productive.
We also heard about the main components of the InnoTrade programme and the legitimacy of successful applicants. The CEO explained what they expect from small or medium sized enterprises wishing to apply for HNTH assistance: As for any other project, the main consideration is the product’s uniqueness, the impact of the innovation, which must be evidenced by a concrete and operational prototype. For dreams won’t build neither business, market nor brand.
InnoTrade helps start-ups with building international contacts, organising and financing their presence at fairs, exhibitions, self-confidence and a good command of English are therefore a must. An innovative SME must also define what it expects to achieve by its foreign exposure as part of the project, and how it can advance on the path it had set for itself.
That said, the best will easily find themselves in the middle of a bustling technology fair, like the CES in Las Vegas, CeBit in Hannover or SXSW in Austin. The three start-ups introduced at the press briefing certainly did so.
Lego with a bit of a difference
First, introducing us to the game experience of the future was Márk Bollobás, a representative of Vengit Kft which came up with the idea for sBrick. sBrick, or Smart Brick, is a technology that links the everyday experience of playing with Lego to the quintessential accessory of modern humankind: the smartphone, thereby the player can be present in a virtual as well as real space. Our constructions can be controlled on the track remotely via a phone application. Designed for programmers and IT professionals of the future, this game is recommended for ages 8 to 12, but the invention has broader potential in both the toy industry and education after its début and the budding links with various multinationals at the CES in Las Vegas. I wonder when the phone version of Hungry Hippos will come out? Personally, I was bowled over by both the idea and its realization, and would have happily tested sBrick’s game called Towers, which allows players to shoot ping-pong balls into revolving towers.
Medical information in your pocket
A cloud based medical organiser, free of charge. Levente Szász, co-founder of the Laborom application, has come up with a hands-on and very accessible solution to a huge problem, as attested by hundreds of other competitors globally. (By the way, Szász has personally tested and recommends the use of the smart toothbrush, among others.) Medical information: tests, reports, appointments, prescriptions and all the jargon. What would happen if these were all made easily accessible for the average user with a stroke of magic? The Laborom app offers just that solution. Data can be entered and verified at any time, thereby making the relationship between patient and doctor more harmonious for consultations that are inherently ridden with stress.
With the help of our digitalised medical history we can understand the logic behind the medical procedures and set a personalized reminder for medication and appointments. xHealth, the company behind Laborom, represented Hungary at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas earlier this year, and was able to set new targets on the basis of the feedback it received. As well as broadening the pool of language versions available for the app, they are planning to go beyond communication and data exchange between patient and physician by creating a single system including insurers and clinics for more transparency and comfort. That is to say they came away from SXSW armed with ideas for a business model that could set them apart from their competitors. The sole fact of being there at the festival boosted the standing of the team, and they found that suddenly many more industry players were willing to talk business with them. The hefty attendance fee seems to convey to the industry and the outside world that they are dealing with a serious start-up, not just an empty promise.
I would add, in case anyone should feel unsure about managing their private medical information through an application, that personal data files and medical records cannot be accessed by no one, not even the developers themselves, only and exclusively by the user’s personal pass, Levente Szász said. This sounds a lot more manageable to me than traipsing from clinic to clinic with a thick folder, and if we have the future in our hands and pockets already why not use the possibilities that it holds anyway?
Taking an egg to the beach, anyone?
Beachegg wasn’t a novelty for me. I had heard of this unique and smart-looking little safe through the net and everywhere in the Hungarian media, and it immediately aroused my interest with its egg-shape and unbreakable security features.
I don’t think there is anyone out there who never had to deal with the conundrum of keeping their valuables safe during holiday, the moment they realised that the towel casually thrown over the bags will hardly protect wallets, keys or mobile phones from prying hands. Beachegg offers a satisfying solution to this problem which is becoming more acute the closer we get to summer. This Hungarian “smart egg” received particular attention at the CeBit fair in Hannover, and I think we can all be proud of this clever idea and the success it has met, not just its creators. Balázs Csapó from the developer Virgo Systems described the “golden egg” briefly, so we didn’t have long to brood over the intricacies of the machine in front of us. In a nutshell, this novelty device keeps our valuables safe by means of electronics and IT: only the person with the matching personalised smart bracelet can have access to the objects inside. If the safe is removed or the signal is interrupted, the bracelet starts to vibrate to alarm the user. (There is also a version for hotel beaches and exclusive waterfront areas where a security guard normally doing the rounds is overseeing several dozens of eggs armed with a tablet.)
These three start-ups really prove that we do have a place on the market. We are not lacking in creativity: be it for toys, the protection of our valuables or our health, we are able to come up with ideas that make everyone gasp in amazement.