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The deconstructed phone


Posted on September 14, 2017

4 min read

With the launch of Telstra One Number, marking an exciting new era for eSim technology in Australia, Telstra’s Chief Scientist Hugh Bradlow reflects on the future of smartphone technology.

It is now 10 years since the first widely-popular smartphone transformed mobile phones and moved the world from handheld devices that did calls and messaging, to pocket computers that do mobile internet. This provokes the question “what do we expect the mobile phone to look like in 2027?” Will it still be a slab of glass with a touchscreen and cameras?

The answer is that it is more likely that the phone will have ‘deconstructed’.

So what do I mean by deconstructed? To understand that, you need to look at the components of the phone and how they might evolve.

Let’s start with the screen. In 10 years, the streets of our cities have changed from people walking with their heads up and something held to their ear, to people walking with their heads down and staring at a screen. I think we will soon get our heads back up again thanks to new heads-up display (HUD) technologies.

People will be able to get glasses that allow them to look at the real world around them but also integrate the digital world through display technology that projects the screen directly onto their eyes.

We have already seen a number of attempts at this technology such as Google Glass, but we can expect the technology to become increasingly refined. Instead of clunky prisms attached to the glasses, they will have digital light processors hidden in their frames that direct the light into an almost invisible Fresnel lens in the glass which in turn redirects the light to the eyeball.

It is also likely that the light and lens system may have ‘Foveated Rendering’ which increases the resolution in the part of the screen that the eye is looking at, thereby improving the visual experience without loading the processor and battery. This requires eye-tracking which, in any event, will be a useful technology because it will be handy for the input system (effectively enabling the cursor to follow where you are looking).

If the screen is in the glasses, how do you implement the equivalent of the touch screen? The answer lies in the augmented reality system that will also be built into the glasses. It will consist of stereoscopic cameras and depth sensors.

Not only will this technology support true augmented or “merged” reality, but it will also enable gesture recognition by moving your hands in front of you. So, while people will lift their heads when walking down the street, they will be making funny gestures in front of themselves.

However, there is more to a phone than the screen, input and cameras. There is also the ‘core’, namely the communications technologies and the batteries. While it is possible that the glasses will have their own communications technologies in the future, initially battery life is likely to preclude that.

Without the requirement for user input/output, the core of the phone is likely to be in some form of wearable – a watch, a pendant, or even in your handbag (or the handbag itself). It will probably also do health measurements (assuming it is close to the body).

While it is clear is that the phone is being deconstructed from a monolithic slab of glass and electronics to a number of bits all working in unison, not all parts will need to be present at the same time and different situations will determine which bits we would have on our person.

However, we are still missing one critical element because the one thing that won’t change is, whichever bits we have with us at any time, we are still the same person and want to be reached in the same way.

To avoid the necessity of having multiple phone numbers and the confusion that creates, Telstra is introducing the capability to have a single phone number that works across multiple devices. If someone calls and you only have your watch and earphones, but your phone is at home, it will ring both simultaneously and allow you to answer on either. The Telstra One Number service is the perfect complement to the brave new future of deconstructed phones.

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The 21st Century space race: building a quantum computer

Tech and Innovation

Posted on August 29, 2017

4 min read

This week the Federal Minister of Industry launched a new company called Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) Pty Ltd. SQC is a joint venture between the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the Commonwealth Government, Telstra, and the Commonwealth Bank which aims to commercialise the world leading quantum computing research that has been conducted at UNSW for nearly 20 years.

Quantum computing has been described (by me) as “the 21st century space race” because it has the potential to go beyond the limits of today’s computers in solving certain key problems. Examples include the ability to simulate molecules (e.g. for medical research or chemical production), optimisation of complex mathematical systems (e.g. the routing of paths through a telecommunications network or the determination of a bank’s risk position) and setting the parameters in machine learning algorithms. Someday quantum computing may even allow us to perform homomorphic encryption whereby we can give an organisation our personal data for them to use, but that data remains entirely encrypted while they perform calculations on it, thereby greatly enhancing individual privacy. As people spend more time thinking about quantum computing an increasing number of possibilities keep opening up.

Why am I calling it a ‘space race’? Because governments and companies around the world are literally spending billions of dollars on quantum technology research in an effort to be the first to achieve ‘quantum supremacy’, which is defined as the ability of a quantum computer to perform a calculation which cannot be performed on a classical computer. Given the early stages of these developments, there is no clarity as to when quantum supremacy will be achieved, but it is likely to be within 5 to 10 years.

A look inside the quantum computing lab at UNSW (photo credit: UNSW)

Research groups around the world are testing different technologies, all of which have one thing in common – they exploit the mystical properties of quantum mechanics to create a ‘qubit’, the quantum equivalent of a computer bit. Unlike ordinary bits, which can either be in state 1 or 0, a qubit exists in a complex combination of both 1 and 0 at the same time (known as “superposition” – have you heard of Schrodinger’s cat?). This allows quantum computers to exploit the desire of nature in the quantum realm to perform parallel calculations, thereby creating the speedup compared to classical computers. To give a specific example, let’s assume that we have a giant directory of all the approximately 10 billion devices that are connected to the internet and we want to find a specific device for which we have the IP address. On a classical computer, we would need to go through all 10 billion entries to find our device, which on average would take about 5 billion attempts. A quantum computer, however, would only need about 100,000 attempts to achieve the same result.

There are three main approaches to making qubits – using the properties of superconductors (the most popular technology, which is favoured by US companies such as IBM and Google), ions trapped in an ‘electromagnetic cage’, and atoms trapped inside a silicon semiconductor. The latter is very attractive in that, once all the technical issues are resolved, it provides a path to manufacturing at scale because it uses the same manufacturing techniques that are employed in today’s silicon chips. This is the path that the UNSW researchers have followed and they are world leaders in this technology.

Telstra is committed to becoming a world class technology company and if quantum computers do represent the next generation of computers, we shall be well placed through our investment in Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd to be a globally leading provider of quantum computing cloud services.  In collaboration with our partners, the Commonwealth Government, UNSW, CBA, it is exciting to be right at the forefront of this incredible new technology.

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Welcome to the family: the network of the future

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Posted on April 11, 2017

3 min read

A day in the life of many families these days can see you rushing around, panicking you’ve forgotten something, knowing you’re going to be late and trying to organise someone to pick the kids up from school because you can’t actually be in two places at once.

A connected future could change this – it can remove the stress and even start to look ahead for us.

Picture this: someday soon, you will walk to the kitchen to prepare your children’s breakfast. You’re in a generous mood so you say out loud “house, how do I make buttermilk pancakes?” loud speakers in the kitchen tell you the ingredients you will need and, as you pull them out of the cupboards, you ask the house to play your personalised daily news brief on one of the many screens around your home. As you walk from room to room, the news brief switches to the screen that’s closest to where you are.

A little later, the house announces your children need to be at the door in five minutes to be collected by the school bus, which is doing the rounds. Because of the coordinated traffic system, the timing is predictable to within a minute. The bus reports its telematics on a second by second basis to the bus company, so you can know when the kids arrive at school and be confident of their safety.

You have a 9am meeting so at 8:33am the house announces the five minute warning for you to get to the front door for your morning pickup, which is in a pooled autonomous vehicle. Since there is no need to own a car anymore, the garage has been converted into a playroom for the kids.

On the way to work, your virtual personal assistant reminds you that your children have a footy game on Saturday and asks whether you want to book a drone slot above the footy field. The drone will track the children as they move around the field, all streamed securely to pre-approved interested friends and family in real time so grandma can see that winning goal on her smartphone even though she’s visiting relatives up north.

During your 9am meeting, your virtual physician notes there is a slight arrhythmia from the electrocardiography (ECG) sensor that you wear permanently on your chest and the hospital contacts you to find out if you are feeling ok. It turns out to be a false alarm and you continue on with your day; no need to find time for a check-up.

At the end of the school day, your youngest child has not quite finished all his schoolwork so when he is settled on the bus, he takes out his 2-in-1 tablet/laptop and continues the lesson he was working on in class. All his lessons are taught via an online personalised learning system so he continues seamlessly from where he left off. And you can jump in and check his progress, so you know exactly what he needs help with when you get home from work.

All of this may seem a long way off in the future, but it’s closer than you think. And it will only be possible with a network that has the capability to cover all the locations you and your family traverse during the day, with high capacity and very low latency. The high-speed network of the future is coming. Telstra has already started building it.

Find out more about how we are building a new kind of network

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Introduction by Dr Hugh Bradlow

Telstra News

Posted on March 23, 2017

2 min read

Technology over the past 50 years has played a significant role in our lives, but the next 20 years will see technology-driven change that will dwarf what we have witnessed to date.

Technology is set to change the human experience in some truly significant ways. We are moving towards having the ability to be anywhere at any time.

Our relationship with the technology itself is changing. The last quarter of the 20th Century was the ‘age of the geek’ – you had to understand the technology in order to use it. But in the first 25 years of this century technology is adapting itself to people so that anyone can use it. The interaction with the technology is becoming seamless and invisible but the impact is growing rapidly.

Our ever-increasing ability to measure the world around us (and the world inside our bodies) and communicate those measurements to vast cloud data centres, is changing the way we interact with the real world. Because we can measure the world, we can analyse it and because we can analyse it we may be able to control it.

Day by day technology is becoming smarter, faster, smaller and even more ubiquitous. The machines we create are increasingly capable of performing complex human tasks. Soon you will be able to have your own personal cardiologist monitoring your heart health 24 hours a day, seven days a week – even if you are perfectly healthy.

The pace and scale of technological change means this is becoming perfectly feasible and can take place wherever you are. These changes will open up huge opportunities for businesses in regional Australia to be more efficient and productive, as well as being more resilient and adaptable. Change also brings opportunity for communities to be healthier, happier and more in control of their lives and circumstances.

This White Paper is just a glimpse of some of the things Telstra, in collaboration with companies like Ericsson and organisations like the University of NSW (UNSW), is researching and developing today to make regional Australia’s tomorrow even better.

Dr Hugh Bradlow, Chief Scientist, Telstra


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VIDEO: The future of health is here

Telstra News

Posted on January 13, 2017

1 min read

Imagine a future where you could predict illness before getting sick. As Chief Scientist Hugh Bradlow discovered recently at #CES2017 it may be just a few years away.

Health and wellness technology was big business at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

From affordable wearables that give medical grade results to detect illness, to a device that puts the nutritional content of your meal at your fingertips – the wealth of potentially life-changing gadgets on display was incredible.

Check out the highlights video above.

This is personal post and is not an endorsement by Telstra of products and services mentioned.

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