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Why AI is good for us, and good for business

Tech and Innovation

Posted on March 1, 2019

3 min read

Not a day goes by without a headline about artificial intelligence, or AI. Whether it’s another breakthrough in capability, a prediction about big economic changes, or even killer robots and impending doom – we are fascinated by what this technology may hold.

I am a technology optimist, and after decades of working with technology companies in Australia, Europe and the US, I can see huge potential in AI.

There are many types of work that AI might always struggle with, particularly where instinct, experience and inference matter most.

However, there is one area in which it can clearly make a huge difference – putting our overwhelming amounts of data to good use.

Data growth, AI and IoT

Look at almost any part of our economy – healthcare, transport, logistics, agriculture, education or engineering – and you’ll see that we measure, monitor, video and track more things than ever before. The boom in Internet of Things (IoT) means sensors and other low-power gadgets are being used in huge and increasing quantities. For instance, we can monitor the location, performance and the condition of drivers and cargo in every truck on our roads. Or monitor and manage precious natural resources like fresh drinking water.

This has created a tsunami of data and the volume will increase exponentially as technologies like 5G and cloud computing become commonplace. With more data than people know what to do with, AI’s enormous analytical capacity can deliver insights and help us make good decisions.

Why AI is good for us, and good for business

AI capability on a reliable network

But before AI can help, all this data needs to travel across a network from where it is collected to where it is analysed and acted on. And the larger, safer and more reliable and more capacity a network has, the better. Luckily, this is what Telstra is famous for. Our Narrowband-IoT network provides more than 3.5 million square kilometres of coverage for NBIoT sensors and devices. Our mobile network connects around 18 million phones, tables and other services. And our international subsea cable network stretches for more than 400,000 km, carrying about one-third of all internet traffic in the Asia Pacific region.

To make sure our networks can run smoothly, we constantly monitor its performance. This generates a huge amount of data – 151 terabytes each day, or at least a terabyte of data every 10 minutes! This volume of data will grow over time as more people and devices are connected.

Our Next Gen Operations Support System already parses, enriches and analyses this ocean of data to provide actionable intelligence and insight into the current health of the entire network. Our ambition is to create an even smarter network, one that can use AI to make decisions to avoid failures before they happen, self-heal in order to keep the network stable, and present people with the data visualisation and recommendations on the most complex and critical problems.

The challenge of our digital age is that we can see plenty of problems, and we are collecting an ocean of data about them, but human capacity alone cannot deliver the solution. In short, these are the perfect challenges for AI to help us solve.

Solving customer problems before they knew they had them

Tech and Innovation 5G

Posted on February 11, 2019

4 min read

There’s a Darwinian edge to the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where every January CES gives 150,000+ industry delegates the chance to experience the world’s largest showcase of next-gen (and often pre-launch) devices, gadgets, drones and robots. Through the noise and colour it is easy to see the practical use cases that will change our lives. Also obvious – though maybe no less important – are the things that seem more like solutions looking for problems, cat bowls with face recognition and robots that fold your laundry among them.

With the benefit of a few weeks to reflect, I wanted to share three quick thoughts on what I saw as key themes this year.

5G focus at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2019

Solving customer problems before they knew they had them

The real decision-makers at CES were not the sales teams, the engineers or technologists – in fact, the real decision makers were not even there! The ones driving natural selection in the technology world are of course customers. The challenge in technology innovation though is that customers often do not know what they want before they see the solution. Did people know they wanted voice recognition AI on their mobile phone before it was developed? Probably not. Was the idea of a vehicle with software that could be continuously and autonomously updated a real need before it became possible? I don’t think so. Are the high def televisions you can fold up like beach towels at CES something customers will take to? Time will tell.

The point is the tech companies that are the most successful take things that customers did not know they wanted, develop them and then let the customer be the real judges of the experiences they create.

That dynamic is right at the heart of what we are trying to do at Telstra through our T22 strategy. We are working to transform the company around simple, intuitive products and services that offer a fantastic customer experience. Part of this work is getting the basics right and removing pain points but a lot of it is also about developing solutions customers did not even know they might need. That also underlines the real importance of Telstra being at events like CES and how we use it to inform our thinking around how to bring the best experience to life for our customers.

The power of unexpected outcomes

My second reflection on CES is that you cannot always predict how things will work out. CES had all manner of robots, drones and devices that could perform every conceivable task but with some of them it was easy to think: “Well, that’s never going to take off!”. That might be true but I think it is important to never underestimate the power of unexpected outcomes. In this ,I am reminded of Amazon’s less than successful attempt to enter the smartphone market a few years ago. It did not work out but one piece of technology developed as part of that is something the world now knows as Alexa. It is interesting to think that if Amazon had been successful with that smartphone they might not have pushed ahead in developing the amazing, voice controlled AI capabilities that Alexa now has. There is great power in unexpected outcomes and who knows how the underlying technology in some of the technology on show might eventually change the world.

Networks – bringing it all to life

My third reflection from CES was the absolutely central role networks play. This year 5G comes to life and the list of things it will enable includes just about everything at CES along with technologies like artificial intelligence, smart cities, digital health and countless other life-changing and life-enhancing advances. The great news is Telstra is 5G ready and we already have more than 200 5G towers operational and have developed deep domain expertise, including at our 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast. As a network operator, what is exciting for us in planning and building a 5G-enabled network is that the full range of opportunities it will create in the future will not only be nowhere near clear when the first 5G devices begin to use it later this year, they will evolve with the market, with innovators and entrepreneurs and, most of all, with customer needs and preferences. We know where we have come from, we know where we are now, but we don’t know exactly what 5G technology will enable in the future – that makes the future unpredictable, unknown, but most of all incredibly exciting.

More to come as I head to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress from 25-28 February.

5G focus at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2019

Tags: 5g, AI, IoT,

4 technology projects our teams are working on this year

Telstra Careers 5G

Posted on February 4, 2019

3 min read

From launching 5G to creating new Internet of Things (IoT) experiences for our millions of customers, we continue to be at the forefront of technological advancements that are changing our industry.

This means 2019 is going to be another big year for all of our technology teams as they’ll be at the centre of this exciting journey.

So what are the biggest projects our teams will be working on this year? Here are the top four:

2019 is the year of 5G

5G will take us from a world of connecting people to each other and the internet to a world of ultra-fast mobile speeds and IoT on a mass scale.

Our people have already made some pretty huge advancements in this space, including turning on 5G in all major Australian cities, and opening our 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast.

But this is only just the beginning of what we are hoping to achieve together. See how our teams are helping to turn 5G into a reality.

Creating new IoT experiences

Our talented tech teams are creating the future of IoT and this means in 2019 we’re going to continue to deliver new experiences to Australian families and businesses, so they can be better connected, protected and empowered.

Since launching our IoT network, our people have created the Telstra Locator and helped to transform the agriculture industry.

With over 50 million connected devices expected on our network over the next five years, this is just the start of new innovations that our people will deliver.

See how our people are bringing new IoT experiences to life and the skills we’re looking to hire in.

Using AI and Machine Learning

Customers are at the heart of everything we do, so we believe it’s important they can speak with us in a way that’s easiest and convenient for them.

That is why our teams will continue to use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in innovative new ways, to help create amazing digital experiences.  Get a look into the work our people are doing.

Cyber security remains top of mind

With one of the largest cyber security teams in Australia, our hundreds of information security specialists will continue to play a big role in helping to keep Australia secure in 2019.

As an organisation, we’re committed to addressing cyber security threats, and continue to invest heavily to make sure our customers are supported.

We’ll continue to do this in a number of new ways including how we keep our code secure and help our people to keep up to date with latest cyber security trends.

Want to know what else we have planned for 2019?
Hear from our tech leaders.

Building the skills Australia needs for the future

Telstra News T22

Posted on January 31, 2019

4 min read

We’re working to partner with the tertiary sector to address skills shortages in areas that Telstra – and Australia – needs for the future.

Discussion on the future of work often turns negative with concern that robots and automation will take away most jobs. While this shouldn’t be downplayed as technology will adversely impact some types of jobs, the scale of technological change is also bringing with it huge demand for skilled jobs in areas such as software and network engineering, cyber security and data analytics. Demand in Australia is far outweighing the number of people available with these skills – and the number of graduates is simply not enough to stem the growing skills gap.

To put this into perspective, Australia produced around 1,200 new software engineers in the last 12 months, compared to 44,000 in India.

When we look at the deep domain technical skills that we need now – and into the future – there are not enough people with these skills available in Australia.

But this is not only a challenge for Telstra. Competitive advantage is becoming increasingly tied to an organisation’s – and a country’s – technical capabilities. So developing a skilled workforce is critical to our future economic success.

So what’s the solution?

A multifaceted approach is needed to develop the right core skills to set up Australia with a population ready and able to work productively in the innovative workplaces of the future. A major component of this involves collective and progressive action between business, government and the education sector to shape how we build these skills.

As a major employer in Australia, we want to play a role in making this happen.

As part of our T22 strategy we are retraining our people in areas our business needs. For example, we recently trained some of our existing store team members as small business specialists so that we have more people dedicated to supporting this customer segment. We are also training some people to be Agile Coaches to help our teams adapt to our new work practices.

Beyond this, we have contributed to developing the next-generation of workers over a number of years. For example, we have long-running Graduate, Summer Vacation and Traineeship programs to develop early business and technology talent, and we’ve also been involved in the Australian Government’s P-TECH program for high school students. Parts of our business have also taken a leading role in developing specific technology skills, such as sponsoring the Australian Government’s Cyber Security Challenge Australia hacking competition which provides a practical application of the skills students learn in university and TAFE.

But we’re now stepping up this activity by taking a more holistic approach as an organisation and will be establishing formal partnerships with additional tertiary providers to develop the critical skills we need.

Building strong partnerships with tertiary providers

We recently started to partner with the University of Wollongong on their Global Leaders Development Program and have taken our first of their Big Data students as an intern (one of 80 students from around Australia who have been working with us over the summer).

We intend to expand this approach in the months ahead to include additional tertiary institutions with a focus on critical skills like software-defined networking and machine learning.

Adapting our Graduate program to develop the right technology skills

These partnerships will be supported by a new-look Graduate program for our next cohort starting in 2020. This group will go through a 12-month program that will include two in-depth rotations and three learning and experience accelerators to develop specific technology-based capability.

Graduates will be recruited in areas such as software and network engineering, information and cyber security, data analytics and management, product and service design, as well as finance and Human Resources.

In line with demand, we will increase our intake in Australia to around 190 for our 2020 program – up from 150 this year. Applications will open in March for Australian-based positions.

We will continue to access talent and skills where we need to, particularly in areas where there are skills shortages. This means we’ll expand our international Graduate program, which has run in our Hong Kong and Singapore hubs over the past few years, to include software engineering graduates in India who will be based at our new Innovation and Capability Centre in Bangalore.

This is just part of what we’re doing to develop future technology talent. We are committed to ongoing partnerships – with the government, the education sector and other corporates – to address the critical skills shortages in this country and set up Australia for future success.

 

Tags: AI, careers, education, IoT,

Tackling today’s technology challenges with innovation

T22

Posted on January 30, 2019

3 min read

Later this year we will open our Innovation and Capability Centre (ICC) in Bangalore, India. This centre will bring together talented Telstra and partner employees who will work on some of the world’s biggest technological challenges in areas like the Internet of Things, Networks, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

To successfully deliver our T22 strategy, we need to invest in critical capabilities such as network and software engineering and automation to enhance our competitive advantage and continue to meet the needs of our customers.

We’re taking this step because Australia currently does not have enough people skilled in these areas to enable us to recruit at the scale and level we need. Australia had around 1,200 new software engineers in the last 12 months and we are competing for those skills with every employer in Australia. To give that a global context, India produced around 44,000.

Our CEO announced today that we are committed to working with government and industry partners to explore building a bigger technology talent pipeline within Australia, for the overall benefit of the nation.

While we have plans to build and develop this technical capability here in Australia for the future, to meet our immediate needs, we’ve taken our search across the world to identify the right location that will give us access to the talent we need now.

While countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, Israel and US (Silicon Valley) provide niche and smaller scale opportunities, India produces a large number of graduates annually in the capability areas we need such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Data Analytics.

We intend to initially recruit around 300 employees in the ICC, across both network and software engineering, with a view to growing this in coming years. We will also continue to recruit across all of these capabilities in Australia.

And we’ve chosen Bangalore, also known as India’s Silicon Valley, with its high concentration of skilled technical talent so we can harness the energy generated by working in close proximity to other significant technology companies such as Apple, Google and major IT services players.

Creating an ICC in India also gives us the opportunity to embrace a start-up mentality. Our ICC will be a centre of excellence, using the latest ways of working like Agile, Lean, DevOps and Human Centred Design. And we’ll encourage the best of Australian and Indian cultures and working practices – for the benefit of our employees and customers in Australia and internationally.

This mentality, coupled with years as a successful global telco, means our people will have the opportunity to work on innovative projects that help to connect our millions of customers, and the communities in which they live, around the world.

I look forward to sharing updates on our Centre’s innovative achievements in the future.

Tags: AI, careers, IoT, networks,