Gamified home loan product tops best Aussie inventions from 2021

Athena Home Loans

Athena Home Loans co-founders Nathan Walsh and Michael Starkey. Source: supplied.

A gamified home loan, a COVID-19 home-testing kit with 97% accuracy, and using machine learning to identify what residents were putting into their garbage were some of the top ranking innovations by Australasia’s Most Innovative Companies. 

The 2021 Australian Financial Review BOSS Most Innovative Companies list is now in its 10th year and assesses the innovation prowess of Australian and New Zealand organisations. The list is judged and compiled by my behavioural science consultancy Inventium.

Athena, a financial services company that specialises in providing home loans — or more specifically — freeing people of their home loans, topped the 2021 list. While Australia has one of the highest debt to income ratios in the world, Athena realised that ironically, everyone talks about getting a home loan, but no one really talks about getting rid of one.

Athena Home Loans’ AcceleRATES 

This is a product that empowers customers to drop their own rate by gamifying the goal of paying down their home loan. It’s a dynamic pricing model that rewards customers for paying down their loan with lower rates. So as customers pay down their loan to reach a lower tier, Athena automatically and immediately puts them onto a lower rate — an innovation unlike any other home loan in Australia.

When customers drop to a lower tier, they receive an email from Athena congratulating and encouraging them to keep repayments the same to pay down their loan even faster. On average, customers are saving $56,000 over the life of the loan, with 15% saving over $100,000. 80% of our customers are ahead on their repayments with the average customer three years ahead.

Ellume Health — COVID-19 Home Test

This company took out the award for best product innovation, and also topped the Most Innovative Health Company list for 2021. They created the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test, which is an over-the-counter, rapid self-test that detects the SARS-CoV-2 antigen, providing results in 15 minutes. 

Initially launched in the US, the Home Test consists of four main components — a unique mid-turbinate nasal swab which ensures more comfortable swabbing (with a removable adapter for children 2+ years), a dropper with processing fluid, a proprietary analyser, and a digital app which guides users through seven simple steps.

The test includes built-in connectivity that enable real-time reporting of results to public health authorities allowing better tracking of the virus while reducing the burden on the healthcare system. The Home Test has demonstrated 97% accuracy.

Ellume Sean Parsons innovations

Dr Sean Parsons, founder of Ellume. Source: supplied.

RSL Queensland ‘Light up the Dawn’

RSL took out the award for Best Marketing Innovation, and also came in sixth place in the Most Innovative Government, Not-for-Profit and Education list. When over 500 ANZAC Day services were cancelled in late March 2020 due to the pandemic, RSL Queensland had to re-imagine what a commemorative event could look like in a locked-down world. The resulting idea was called ‘Light up the Dawn’. 

‘Light up the Dawn’ encouraged Australians to gather on their driveways at 6am on April 25 with participants provided with a seven-minute recording for their own event. RSL Queensland further supported the interstate RSL branches by sharing local area marketing packs. 

‘Light up the Dawn’ united veterans and the community, despite lock-down. The tagline was adopted and used by politicians, media organisations, and the public. Even the Prime Minister asked Australians to ‘Light Up the Dawn’ in media and social media appearances. 41% of Queensland adults (2.1 million people) participated in the 6am #LUTD vigil, and there were 174,000 live streams of our ANZAC Day service.

City of Canterbury Bankstown — ‘Closing the Loop on Waste’ program

The winner of the Best Internal / Process Innovation was given to City of Canterbury Bankstown for their ‘Closing the Loop on Waste’ program. Prior to the program, the council fielded around 15 garbage-related calls every hour. And by the time a resident called to report an issue, it was often too late to efficiently resolve it. In addition, the council had the highest recycling contamination rates in NSW. 

To minimise the council’s footprint and recycling contamination rates, the City of Canterbury Bankstown launched the Closing the Loop on Waste innovation, which uses cameras and machine learning to enable them to identify exactly what is going into the waste from each resident. Cameras were installed on garbage trucks, allowing the council to look at residents’ garbage as it leaves their bins and goes onto the truck. This technology was paired with a bespoke machine learning algorithm to detect contamination, like when someone puts a pram in the recycling bin (which apparently does happen). 

The results than allows the council to automate its RecycleRight program where it educates residents on recycling habits. Before Closing the Loop, only 1.4% of contamination could be detected through this program, whereas now, the council can detect 78% of contamination and check every bin in the city in just 14 days. 

Closing the Loop on Waste allows the council to better educate residents on recycling habits while also contributing to less contamination and ultimately a cleaner environment for everyone.


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