Tag: ai

Telcos at the heart of distributed superpowers

Tech and Innovation

Posted on March 9, 2020

5 min read

Every year, the tech industry likes to make predictions for the next year. That can be tricky as technology trends rarely align with the calendar year. For identifying broader trends and more fundamental changes in the landscape beyond just individual cool new products, it, therefore, makes sense to take a longer view.

Taking a longer view is what foresight work is all about.

When it comes to foresight, it is essential to look at the world with as broad a perspective as possible. That is why Telstra partners with the leading futures think tank in the world, IFTF. The Institute for the Future is a Palo Alto-based non-profit that has been around for half a century after being spun off from the RAND Corporation and typically considers the future with a 10-year horizon.

What the IFTF calls this decade is The Age of Distributed Superpowers.

As the world has become more connected and complex, as technologies and ubiquitous connectivity permeate our lives, corporations and individuals alike have seen a new set of powers come to their disposal – powers that can create impact faster and with more reach than ever before.

The Internet is enabling us to shift the public narrative seemingly overnight; rapid technological transformation is creating pressure for regulatory overhauls, altering the rules; markets are being re-invented almost overnight; data-centric tech companies pose an urgent competitive threat to many incumbent organisations that have enjoyed decades of relative stability.

We have already witnessed some early examples of these superpowers in action.

We see them in the remarkably fast creation of new or disruptive business models, from the rise of Uber to the electric scooters taking over cities globally; the latter went from being nowhere a couple of years ago to being practically everywhere today.

It’s not all awesome, of course.

Wind turbine farm over the water

Disruption inevitably has downsides as well, and the same powers that drive growth and innovation can be harnessed for other purposes. Not only do they enable quickly capturing opportunities, but vulnerabilities in our systems are also discovered and then exploited at breathtaking speeds and at massive scale, leaving critical infrastructure from hospitals to the power grid vulnerable to attacks.

What has enabled this state that is simultaneously scary and exciting, brimming with potential but also fraught with systemic risk?

Much of it has to do with connectivity – both the digital and the physical kind.

Humanity can look at the result with some pride – physically connecting the world has enabled a plethora of good things, such as aid to be delivered to disaster areas, and food to be transported to countries struggling with famine. Countless lives have been saved, and countless others enriched through industries like tourism.

Digital connectivity has an equally impressive list of good outcomes; it has enabled much more efficient operations of almost everything. From sectors like agricultural production to entertainment and connecting people globally, technology has had a transformative impact over the past decades.

However, there is a flip side to every coin. Especially in recent years, we have come to appreciate that not everything that happens online can stand the light of day – sometimes, we know the technological communities we have built are swarming with roaches, but we’re scared to turn the lights on. Unintended consequences often cast a shadow on even the best of intentions.

Using the superpowers responsibly

Recognizing the likelihood of unintended consequences, and as we enter deeper into the age of distributed superpowers over this decade, we need to do so with a sense of humility, and a sense of positive purpose.

It behooves us to consider Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology:

Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.

What he meant with that is the all technical developments have environmental, social and human consequences that go far beyond the immediate intended use of the technology – and the same technology can result in radically different outcomes when introduced in different contexts and circumstances.

This is why we – as a nation, as organizations, as communities, as individuals – need to approach the future with eyes wide open, acknowledging the potential for our tools to produce unintended consequences, and deploy them in a thoughtful, considerate manner.

What can we expect in the 2020s, then?

We can expect more markets to be re-invented and more rules to be re-written: by 2030, for example, it seems likely we might routinely be BBQing beef patties that come not from slaughtered beef, but either from lab meat or plant-based alternatives.

In futures thinking, it’s common practice to think of the future in terms of three cones expanding from today: possible futures, being all the possible ways the world could turn out to be – obviously, a vast range of scenarios. Then we have the probable futures, which are the scenarios the world seems to be heading towards currently. Finally, we have the preferable futures – for the lack of a better word, the utopias we would all like to happen.

What the emerging superpowers are doing is expanding the cone of probable futures.

Technologies like connectivity, communication, data processing, storage and artificial intelligence remain at the core of most future scenarios, so it’s our moral duty to do everything in our power to try to shift the window of probable futures to overlap as much as possible with the preferable futures.

In other words, to the best of our abilities, use the new superpowers for good.

A tour of your futuristic smart home at CES 2020

Smart Home Devices

Posted on February 14, 2020

5 min read

2020 is the year that tech takes over your house. From the front door to the bathroom and every room in-between, tech titans are bringing the latest gadgets home for your convenience. Step inside for a look at your smart home of the future.

Welcome home, reader.

You’ve just stepped into the home of the future through a front door that features smart, NFC keys. It’s a comfortable two-bedroom in the suburbs, and thanks to the major tech manufacturers at 2020’s Consumer Electronics Show, it now has all the latest gadgets. From smart fridges to clever household robots that pick up your dog’s business (seriously).

Fancy a tour?

The kitchen

The fridge is more than just a fancy gadget. It’s helped you cut down on food waste dramatically, and has saved you so much time going to the supermarket to pick up groceries. It’s a Samsung unit with built-in Artificial Intelligence that can recognise your food.

It lets you know what you’re running out of, makes suggestions based on what you have and helps you reorder stuff when you’re out thanks to the big screen on the front. You don’t even need to add stuff to your shopping list anymore!

Speaking of food, you’re about to be treated to a dinner designed specifically for you, down to the molecular level. DnaNudge is a new service you’re using that recommends the food you should and shouldn’t be eating based on your genes.

Because you’re the type of person who retains too much salt after eating it, you’ll find nothing too salty in that new smart fridge of yours. They know everything about what’s good for you after doing a cheek swab and sending it back.

When you do have stuff you need to throw away, it’s easier than ever thanks to the Townew trashcan that automatically seals your trashbags for you for more considerate disposal without the unwanted smells.

The sink is fitted with a smart tap that you can speak to via Amazon Alexa. You can ask it to pour you a specific measure of water at a specific temperature for perfect portion control while preparing recipes, and also for cutting-down on wastage.

The bedroom

When you lie your head down at night, you won’t have to worry about your sleep apnoea or keeping your partner awake with annoying snoring. Not since you got the second-generation MOTION Pillow that is. With airbag technology, it intelligently repositions you throughout the night, so your breathing isn’t inhibited. Your phone even charges wirelessly as part of the pillow too so you can see your sleep habits as soon as you wake up.

Of course, before you go to sleep, you want to watch some stuff, and control your content without losing a smart remote in the bed sheets. That’s why you’ve got the Hachi Infinite Projector installed: a short-throw projector that turns your bedroom wall into a touchscreen.

The bathroom

Yep, there’s even tech in here for making your life easier and more connected.

The Moxie Showerhead is from Kohler, and in addition to spitting out water, it spits out tunes and the latest news thanks to an Amazon Alexa integration.

There are touchscreens inside the bathroom mirror so you can keep binge-watching your latest show while brushing with your smart toothbrush, and your lipstick shade can change daily thanks to L’Oreal’s new Perso gadget that mixes you a new shade each day based on what your favourite influencers are wearing. And your skin glows each day thanks to Neutrogena’s new Skin360 app which delivers personalised skincare for your exact needs.

But be careful on your way out: the cat’s smart litter box that analyses its stool for health problems before intelligently cleaning it up is in the corner over there.

The lounge room

Every surface in your living room – from the coffee table to the arms of the chairs – allow for your phone to be charged wirelessly in here. After all, everything in your house is controlled from your smartphone, so why risk it running low?

Plus, all your content and smart home tech is controlled via the phone as it connects to the superfast new Wi-Fi 6 modem router with intelligent cybersecurity controls built-in so the bad guys can’t easily hack your house. You can pair that with the updates to Google’s voice Assistant, which can now schedule actions, read you an article or start a call for you.

“But where’s the TV?”, your visitors might ask in puzzlement. “Oh,” you can respond modestly, “it’s integrated into the ceiling”. At the push of a button, LG’s latest rollable OLED TV unfurls from the ceiling like a projector screen without the projector to deliver dazzling colour and deep blacks.

When buying the TV, there were a lot of considerations in mind. You had to consider whether you wanted either LG’s Real 8K TV, or Samsung’s portrait-oriented Sero TV. Perhaps you even wanted to pair a TCL TV with its new sound-reflecting technology for better Dolby Atmos sound immersion. In the end, however, you decided that technology shouldn’t be the focal point of a room. Rather, it should disappear out of sight when not being used.

All in all, your new home of the future isn’t a bad place to put your feet up.

Our 2020 graduates take their marks on our new grad program

Telstra Careers Inspiration

Posted on February 14, 2020

3 min read

Starting a job can be equally nerve-wracking and exciting. For some recent university graduates, this is their reality as they start their careers at Telstra.

We’re excited to recently welcome 178 graduates who will experience our redeveloped 13-month Graduate program. They will be involved in two in-depth rotations to get an understanding of the business, with three learning and experience accelerators to develop specific technology-based capabilities.

These new team members join specialised pathways including software and network engineering, information and cyber security, data analytics and management, product and service design, technology consulting and solutions, as well as finance and human resources.

This intake is a significant boost to our talent pipeline. Our graduates will be spread across the business, supporting the cutting edge work we’re doing in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), software-defined networking, 5G, cyber security, drone technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Transforming our graduate program has been a huge effort from many people across Telstra and we were thrilled to hear in the past week that the refresh is making its mark with our graduates and their experiences:

We are proud to be recognised in both the engineering and technology space and are committed to boosting the pipeline of talent in these areas within Australia.

Harrison Jones

Among the new starters in the 2020 cohort is Harrison Jones, who was previously part of our CareerTrackers Indigenous internship program, having completed rotations with Telstra Health and Telstra Broadcast Services.

“I really enjoyed being a Telstra intern. The culture, the employees and the grads that I worked alongside seem to shine – which is what I want in my career. I’m very excited to be joining Telstra as part of the 2020 graduate program and seeing all those people I worked with and meeting more in the future.”

Justin Dolman

Justin Dolman echoes these thoughts after 13 months in the program and is excited at the opportunity of travelling to Hong Kong for his final rotation in the International Sales team.

“I have found that my graduate experience at Telstra has been an amazing opportunity for me to explore where I can best apply myself. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to take ownership of projects in Telstra’s Global OTT (Over the Top) team. 

“There’s so much available within Telstra, and so much that I have yet to explore. It’s great knowing that even after the grad program I’ll be able to move through the organisation. The graduate program has been an opportunity for me to explore different areas of the business, while showcasing my abilities to different teams. This has allowed me to find where I fit best in the organisation, making sure I’m both challenged and rewarded throughout my career.”

For those interested in applying for the Telstra 2021 Graduate program, applications open 3 March 2020. 

Balancing business smarts and tech know-how as a Telstra Graduate

Telstra Careers Students

Posted on February 6, 2020

3 min read

As someone who studied a Masters in Machine Learning at Monash University, being part of the Telstra Graduate Program has given me an insight into what I need to do to be a successful programmer.

I chose to apply for the Program because of the cutting-edge projects that the company is delving into – the organisation has a clear direction of moving into edge computing and building Australia’s 5G capabilities.  These projects also go hand in hand with artificial intelligence, which is my focus area. Because of these factors, I knew the work I would be doing at Telstra would align with my own career direction. 

As part of the Program, I need to do three rotations in different areas of the business. In my first rotation, I worked in Networks and IT where I was mainly designing chatbots. It was a great experience because I’m really interested in deep learning and artificial intelligence.  I’m currently in my second rotation where I’m working in the computer vision department in Telstra Labs.

What I really enjoy about my current rotation is the diversity of the work I do. For example, I could be doing something quite technical or I could be engaged in a task that requires me to learn more about a different business unit within Telstra. Whatever it is I am doing, I’m finding out a lot about the broader business because my current team does a lot of work for different business functions. 

I love being part of the Telstra Labs team.

Since starting at Telstra, I’ve noticed the size of the business is a strength in terms of what it offers graduates. I’ve been able to get involved in the commercial aspect of how things work and how products are launched. This has helped to grow a different side of my career as previously, I’ve only been involved in the technical aspects of a product.

On top of that, the people and mentorship I’ve had access to has really given me a lot of guidance and helped me grow professionally.  During my first rotation, my direct line manager was a real technical specialist and very attentive, so I learned heaps from him. Then in my second rotation, my leader has taught me a lot about the commercial aspect of technology. In terms of personal development, my managers have given me a lot of time and have been invested in helping me build my skill-set and knowledge.

But what I have loved the most is that I’ve been able to take my love for edge computing and apply it to a passion project of mine where I had a number of cameras roaming around the vicinity of Telstra Vantage. While they normally record this event, I wanted this year to be different so I enabled them with 4G technology so they roamed around doing object recognition in real-time.

For anybody who is considering applying for the Telstra Graduate Program, I would say, be open to new things and be open to learning, as that’s the way you’ll continue to grow and develop if you are successful in your application. For example, I’ve recently been given the opportunity to showcase and demonstrate my work at Telstra Vantage to technology peers, higher Telstra leaders and other AI and programming buffs, which is something I don’t believe I would be able to do anywhere else.

Interested in a career in emerging technology? Learn more about Telstra’s Graduate Program.

Rethinking your learning and career development

Advice

Posted on February 3, 2020

5 min read

On Friday I spoke at a CEDA event about the human value in the future of work. This is an important discussion to have as we often hear about digitisation and automation taking away jobs, when in fact it’s not so clear-cut. Because automation is also causing a shift to more complex and value-add work. And as technology evolves, new roles – some you’ve probably never heard of yet – are being created.

What is often left out of the conversation about the future of work is that human skill and capability will become more valuable than ever. What now needs to change is our approach to learning and career development.

The currency of the future and why you need to invest in it

Skills and capabilities are fast becoming the currency of the future. To be a well-rounded worker of the future it won’t be enough to have skills in technology – however basic they may be. You’ll also need to be intellectually curious, and use design-thinking, creativity, and communication skills to bring innovations to life. And you’ll need to be collaborative and highly adaptive as the way we work evolves.

Learning mostly used to be ‘set-and-forget.’ Once you got a degree or diploma you would enter the workforce for a lifelong career in the same industry or profession. But as technology and ways of working evolve so too does the need for lifelong learning. Complacency will not be rewarded.

Significant skills development will be needed every 3 – 5 years. Of course, it’s not feasible to step out of the workforce to undertake a traditional degree. So we need to shift our mindset to continuous learning – and doing so in bite-sized chunks will be critical to ensure our skills remain relevant.

Individuals certainly have a responsibility for investing in their development and ensuring their skills remain competitive, but so too do employers.

What we’re doing at Telstra to develop our people’s skills for the future

In this financial year alone we’ll invest more than $25 million in training, with more than 3,000 people picking up a new skill. That’s more than 10% of our workforce. This training covers three key areas: technical skills, customer skills and professional skills.

This builds on the significant investment we made in training during the first year of our T22 strategy to transform Telstra. This included an Agile Essentials program for around 15,000 employees to understand the fundamentals of Agile at Telstra, and was followed by more in-depth training for specific Agile roles. We also put our people leaders through a one day program so they’re better equipped to lead their teams in different ways.

Some of this training we’re running in-house. But we’re also partnering with universities to co-design and run micro-credentials in critical technology areas such as data analytics, cyber security and software defined networking. These 6-8 week programs are recognised externally and are designed to upskill our people in areas complementary to their current jobs so they’re better equipped as the skills needed for those roles evolve.

Beyond these formal programs we’re also helping our people understand the concept of continuous learning and providing easy access to short ‘just in time’ online learning modules they can access at any time as part of their regular development.

Rethinking what a ‘successful’ career looks like

Like many people I started my career in a world where I saw progression as moving up through the hierarchy in my chosen field. But as workplaces transform, the way we think about career progression – and our expectations of what a ‘successful’ career looks like – also needs to change.

Alex Badenoch spoke at a CEDA event about the part human value will play in the future of work.

The traditional, linear career path where one works their way up the ‘corporate ladder’ will still be available. But this will no longer be the norm as organisations become flatter and new ways of working like Agile are adopted.

Career progression will become more about broadening your skills and experience through lateral moves, and increasing your ability to take on work with higher complexity and impact.

A Mobile Network Engineer, for example, might move into a Mobile Product Design and Development team to deepen their understanding of what drives value for customers and help them build the commercial insight that’s so critical in strategic technology decisions.

This will not be an easy mindset shift for many who view success through their level and title in an organisation – and we’re very mindful of this.

So we’re focusing on creating a clear and compelling view of what a career at Telstra can look like and helping leaders work with their teams to tailor development plans and build the necessary skills and capabilities we need into the future.

In the short term this will involve redefining job descriptions so they’re less about a role’s span of accountability and control, and more about complexity and the level of expertise and skill.

Longer-term, we’re looking at using technology to help us make internal mobility simpler and more transparent.

All of this is to say your skills and capability will become more valuable than ever as technology evolves. It’s up to us as individuals to understand what this means and invest in our career success through continuous learning and taking advantage of opportunities to broaden our experience through increasingly more complex and impactful roles.

But more broadly, businesses, education providers and government also need to work together to develop technology talent for the future. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we’re trying to take simple, tangible steps to build a talent pipeline for our benefit – and the benefit of Australia. We all need to test and learn together – because if we’re idle or wait for a perfect solution it will be too late.


Read more about Telstra’s university partnerships to develop future technology talent.