Jungle bangs drum in Australia

Three-year-old Auckland wireless technology company Jungle Drum Systems Ltd. is finalizing plans to sell a controlling stake to a U.S.-Australian telecommunications joint venture.

The investment, spearheaded by former Microsoft Corp. New Zealand managing director Chris Kelliher, will allow Jungle Drum to increase staff and immediately open a distribution channel for its products into Australia and further afield. Jungle Drum develops business applications for field staff using SMS (short messaging service) and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) technology.

“This is definitely a way of helping us get into the rest of the world,” says Jungle Drum co-founder Michael Buisson.

The joint venture company making the investment is 50 per cent owned by Atlanta-based BulletIN.Net, which acts as a gateway for wireless messaging services, and 50 per cent by voice, data and wireless network integrator Dataplex Pty. Ltd. Dataplex is a subsidiary of Australian telco Optecom, chaired by Kelliher. Optecom offers free local and toll calls to users who listen to 15 second advertisements while they talk, using a European “sponsored telephony” model in partnership with Primus Telecom.

Kelliher indicated several months ago that Optecom would acquire New Zealand wireless messaging technologies, and told shareholders at a recent meeting of the investment. He plans to start distribution of Jungle Drum’s applications using BulletIN.Net’s global network early next year.

Buisson, who formerly worked for Telstra in Australia, says he identified an opportunity three-and-a-half years ago for the mobile phone to be used for business applications instead of other devices. Since then the convergence of PDAs (personal digital assistants), pagers and mobile phones has been speeded up first by SMS and now by WAP, he says.

Jungle Drum’s five developers built their applications from scratch. Able to integrate with systems such as Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Lotus Notes, the applications can be used for messaging, remote monitoring of computer systems, dispatch and scheduling of jobs, and changes to inventory lists.

“One of the main advantages is it leaves a full audit trail,” Buisson says. “Companies trying to maintain service level agreements have recorded the time a job was received and when it was responded to.”

Jungle Drum’s customers include Amcor, Nike, Mitsubishi, the Police, Chubb Security, Sky Television, Lion Breweries and Harcourts.

Buisson says the company will be ramping up rapidly following the investment and will be looking for software developers and sales orientated staff.

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