From clothes lines to the Internet of Things: The reinvention of one of Australia’s most iconic brands

The company behind one of Australia’s iconic inventions, the Hills Hoist – the height-adjustable rotary clothes line that’s a fixture in suburban backyards around the nation – is focusing on a new kind of innovation.

 

Today, almost 70 years on from the invention of the Hills Hoist in 1945, the company is in the business of delivering technology and communication solutions for homes, hospitals, aged care facilities, schools and universities, enterprises and governments.

 

Hills chief technology officer Leica Ison says the company has focused in on “key growth areas” in home, health and secure communications, sectors Australia is well placed to tackle.

 

“We’ve had a strong history of innovation that goes back to 1945 and we’re looking to take that fabric of innovation into the tech area,’’ she says.

 

“We’re leveraging innovation internally and externally.”

 

It might sound like buzzwords, but there’s substance behind what Ison says.

 

Thanks to a partnership with the South Australian state government Hills has created two innovation centres, the Lance Hill Design Centre and Hills-Shop.

 

The goal of the two centres is “support and fund new and innovative next generation technology ideas, projects and startups”.

 

“The idea of the partnership is that we can support the commercialisation, we can support the go to market, even some of the startup products,” Ison says.

 

“We may well even offer them a distribution arrangement with their products when they launch it.”

 

Ison says there’s no reason other Australian companies can’t be harnessing external innovation in a similar way.

 

Hills operate pitch days for startups twice a year, the most recent event was in May, and the company is currently negotiating with four startups operating in the health space to bring them on board.

 

The company is also supporting Australia’s ICT innovators through the sponsorship of the Hills Young Innovator of the Year Award at this year’s iAwards.

 

The award offers $5000 prizes for the most outstanding innovations from people younger than 25 in mobile, big data and cloud.

 

In addition there will be a $10,000 prize for the best innovation across all three categories.

 

Nominations for the Young Innovator of the Year close on August 1.

 

For more information, visit www.iAwards.com.au/hills.

 

This article is adapted from one that first appeared at SmartCompany.

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