ANU award honours Aussie challenger to Flickr, e-commerce software

IT-themed projects share runners-up award, heart drug developer takes top gong

Two IT-themed projects have shared the $25,000 runners-up award in the Australian National University's Innovation ANU program -- a staged business and commercialisation development program for ANU students and staff.

The program provided a sneak peek at Australia's first home grown challenger to the hugely popular and lucrative online photo sharing sites like Flickr and Photobucket, as well as an e-commerce project describing itself as the "future of comprehensive secure receipt management".

The winner of Innovation ANU was a start-up pharmaceutical company called Cardishield, which is re-developing an existing drug for treating heart attacks.

Innovation ANU provided participants with seminars and workshops on commercialisation and business planning, mentoring and guidance from professionals, and opportunities to collaborate within an interdisciplinary team.

The competition was designed to "transform talent, creativity, and energy into tomorrow's leading business and commercialisation ideas", with the top two proposals receiving AUD$25,000 in addition to financial, legal and patent advice from top local firms.

Photos Inkorporated and One Corp were announced joint runners-up at an awards ceremony dinner at ANU in Canberra on Monday night, and will split the prize money.

Photos Inkorporated (PI) will be a freely participatory community photo-sharing Web site (www.photos.com.au) deriving revenue from subscriptions, printing, photo storage, stock photo sales and advertising.

PI's executive summary states that the digital age has resulted in millions of irreplaceable digital images at risk of being lost through file format obsolescence, lack of physical copies, or being overwhelmed by the "tsunami of unreliable imagery proliferating on the Internet. As Fiona Hooton, manager of Picture Australia at the National Library of Australia states, 'the digital age is at risk of becoming the digital dark age'".

PI is aiming to combat these problems by building on the success and popularity of online photo sharing and printing sites like Flickr, Photobucket, Friendster, Facebook, Snapfish and SmugMug. However, PI says it will differ from these sites by offering photo credibility measures, photo sharing and storage, and low-cost, high quality printing.

Apart from a newly opened Australian division of Snapfish, the team behind Photos Inkorporated - business partners and ANU students Sabrina Caldwell and Mark Krivo - say there is no Australian photo sharing and printing site amongst the prominent 20 players in the international space, nor one that offers photo credibility measures.

Caldwell said PI isn't trying to compete with the already established online photo sharing and printing sites, but is instead targeting a niche market by identifying the credibility or otherwise of digital photos.

"A larger than you might think percentage of photos on the Internet are, in fact, manipulated images," Caldwell said.

"Our site is going to be focusing on the actual photograph as an unmanipulated entity, and also focusing on the data that goes with it to explain what that photo is....so we've come up with some ways and approaches to identify the credibility of the photo and of the photographer."

Photographer and photo ratings would give a third party a sense of confidence about an image on PI that other photo sharing sites cannot offer.

"There are algorithms involved. There isn't a piece of software as such - it's more know-how that's being put together," Caldwell said, understandably reluctant to reveal too much behind the technology.

PI has also come up with strategies for photo printing at a rate "much lower" than online competitors and digital printing outlets like Harvey Norman.

PI has already received over 1000 visitors and more than 200 expressions of interest for its services.

"We have a fully functional business plan courtesy of our efforts and the ANU Innovation program...It was an extra-ordinarily productive and useful program that was hugely influential; it nurtured our business step by step over the past seven months."

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