ALUMNUS MATALA CREATES A WRISTBAND TO ENHANCE AND ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO BE CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE
Creating adaptive graduates who are able to adapt in a global working environment is in line with the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) strategic plan ENVISON2030.
For alumnus, Litha Matala, being an adaptive, innovative graduate and entrepreneur has become his ultimate goal. He has created a pioneering wristband called the Level Band wristband that serves an electronic digital student card, access card and will assist as an exam attendance register.
The team consists of himself, who is the product designer and innovator, Njabulo Msimang, the app and web platform developer, Andile Msimang, Client Liaison Manager and accountant, Nhlanhla Mnguni.
Matala, who has a National Diploma in Civil Engineering, has committed himself to solving problems through technology. He has completed numerous ICT courses as well as product design in electronics. He is passionate about creating a technology company that not only solves problems in the most innovative way possible but that also gives back to the homeless by creating a non-profit organisation company that will provide skills development opportunities for them in the future.
When asked about the inspiration behind the innovation, Matala said that it came from his close friend and business partner Njabulo Msimang who would constantly lose his student card or if he had his old student card, his picture on the card would be worn out and that would make it hard for the security at the gate or for the lecturers during exams to identify if it is really him on the card. Therefore, he would be required to renew his card.
“The third problem he would have is that he would still be required to renew his student card every semester, which involved standing in long queues twice a year. So when I saw him going through this trouble every year, I thought if he’s experiencing this problem, I’m sure other students are too. So since I enjoyed solving problems I decided to partner with him and help him out with this issue, that is where the concept of the Level Band came about,” he said.
Matala expressed that his passion for creating solutions that would help others came about when he started to enjoy listening to people’s problems.
“When I saw people frustrated about something that can be solved somehow, I would further ask questions relating to solving that particular problem,” he chuckled.
He and his team had entered the 2017 Ithala Inkunzi Isematholeni competition in which they were the top 5 finalist. The second competition they had entered was the 2018 DUT Research and Innovation which they won the Most Innovative Startup award.
Matala explained that the development of the Level Band took six months from concept to having the complete working prototype. Since he never had any experience in ICT, he took short term courses and watched a lot of YouTube video’s on developing products to further upskill his knowledge.
“Within the first two months I had already finished designing the wristband, how it would work and the mobile application mock up design which Njabulo helped me out with. The remaining four months were spent on getting someone to build the mobile application and acquiring funding which the DUT Entrepreneur desk assisted us with,” he added.
Speaking of challenges that the team had encountered, Matala added that the main challenge they had faced is getting a university to give them a chance in introducing this product to at least one campus.
“We have completed a successful pilot test at the DUT Ritson Campus and received amazing feedback from students and a letter of recommendation from the Chief Information Officer, Dr Progress Mtshali,” he remarked.
He explained that the main objectives of the Level Band are to serve as an electronic digital student card, serve as an access card for students in the university and certain lab rooms within the campus. To also serve as an exam attendance register tool with the aid of their mobile application.
“This product is greatly in line with the DUT’s ENVISION2030 as it will be one of the first products developed by the university’s alumni to enhance and encourage students to be creative and innovative as well as letting the world know that DUT is not afraid to adapting change,” he explained.
Matala indicated that the Level Band simplifies the students’ lives as it is convenient, stylish and durable. He conveyed that would not have to worry about renewing their student cards due to the photo being worn out.
“The Level Band also makes the students life easier when it comes to exams as they won’t have to write or search for their name on a piece of paper to mark their attendance at the exam, all they have to do is stick their hand out for the exam invigilator to scan their wristband. This also makes their lectures job easier because that exam attendance register will be uploaded to the universities database for later download as a PDF,” he said.
He communicated that the envision for the Level Band is to have it in five universities in the next two years.
“We also plan to upgrade the Level Band with other features which will be useful to the university and the students,” said Matala.
His advice for future entrepreneurs is to make a start. No matter what idea you have, first establish what you have to start with your idea. Once you have established that then draw up a definite plan to reach that final vision of your idea,” he said.
Pictured: Alumnus Litha Matala