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Lessons from CES 2018: everything is connected

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 24, 2018

4 min read

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is a whirlwind of devices, gadgets, drones and robots. At times it is difficult to see through the noise and colour to get a sense of the practical use cases that have the potential to change our lives – versus what I call “we did this because we could” tech.

Now that I have had a bit of time to reflect on the show, there were a number of key themes and developments that stood out for me, which are important for our customers and for Telstra in the short to medium term – both as a network provider and as a technology company.

My overarching takeaway is that connectivity is everything, clearly reinforcing that our strategy to invest in providing the best networks to our customers, both in the home and while on the move, is the right one.

The battle for your home

Smart home at CES 2018

The first key theme was the number of smart devices on show and the battle for control of the home. Last year Amazon’s Alexa was a big talking point and voice assistants were a big part of CES2018 again.

While Alexa again had a big presence, Google Home was everywhere – and there was also speculation about what impact the Apple HomePod will have in the smart home market when it launches.

One thing was clear – anything that can be connected in the home will be connected, from fridges and mirrors through to toilets, beds and pillows; improving your night’s sleep was, surprisingly, a key theme itself!

For a company with connectivity at our heart this provides enormous opportunity for us to improve the customer experience.

While consumers grapple with the choice of calling out “Alexa”, “Hey Google” or “Hi Siri”, for Telstra the applications and benefits that will shortly be available to our customers mean the size, speed and security of their home wifi network becomes all important.

It means our customers’ home gateways will become a central hub that not only connects their TVs to stream the latest movie, but also their watering systems, air-conditioning and baby monitors.

Wi-Fi needs to reach into every corner of the home (and garden), which is why our aim is to differentiate our gateway to provide the best in market. We are also working with partners to provide a range of Wi-Fi extenders aimed at unleashing the full potential of the smart home for our customers.

Innovation acceleration in autonomous vehicles

Autonomous driving at CES 2018

The second key theme at CES was transport, and what I saw as the merging of drones with autonomous vehicles. These two technologies definitely took up most of the show floor.

Of course many vehicles are already connected, and have technologies like cruise control and lane departure warnings that help us drive. The technologies on show at CES were not about helping us drive, but were about doing the driving for us (or without us).

The broad convergence of a number of technologies including vehicle systems (particularly for electric vehicles), digital mapping, data analytics and artificial intelligence mean our roads will soon be home to fleets of self-driving, self-navigating, and effectively self-aware cars, trucks and vans. Soon steering wheels and pedals will be redundant.

Take the idea a little further and you have a scenario where you no longer need to ask what type of car should I buy, but ask what type of vehicle is right for the trip I want to make? A fleet of cars is available and when you get in the car recognises you through facial recognition and automatically configures your seat, temperature and radio station based on your preferences stored in the cloud.

Where drones and transport merge is in the development of autonomous drones with the capability of carrying people. Intel had a helicopter-like drone on show at CES which it is touting as the future of taxis – you simply climb in and tell it where to go and it takes you there.

The tech at CES 2018: The good, the bad, the mildly confusing

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 16, 2018

5 min read

Fresh off the plane back from Las Vegas, our Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson reflects on what he saw and heard at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

With Telstra working at the forefront of many different technologies, CES was a timely reminder for us to constantly think about how we can bring innovation into our customers’ lives. 2018 promises to be a big year, with 5G on the near horizon and our advancing work in areas such as IoT, big data and new technologies making great progress.

Home

The smart home is becoming smarter, and maturing from only being a network of independent smart devices to becoming a complete ecosystem – including artificial intelligence (AI) to help make your interactions with your smart home more effective.

At the same time, this means that many players that earlier had their niche in the home are now in competition, with all devices containing a microphone and a speaker, and becoming part of a meshed network.

Some companies are even starting to think about how their smart home solutions can deliver indoor coverage for 5G mobile networks.

5G

Predictably, there were still a lot of discussions around the use cases for 5G, with most ideas gravitating towards applications with short latency, and the follow-on opportunities presented by the distributed cloud and the potential for edge compute.

All across CES there were many references to 5G, with some major players making 5G the key theme of their show – and that’s not only the usual suspects like Ericsson and Qualcomm, but also companies like Intel. 4G is still going strong, with Qualcomm showing a Gigabit LTE Maserati at their stand.

Cars

Connected, driverless and electric cars have now made CES their home – separate to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which is the place for traditional vehicles with big muscle cars as the main attraction.

This year at CES, the latest concept cars from the big players like Toyota were shown, but also electrical and driverless “F1” cars that will take the battle of car-controlling software to the next level.

Drones and robots

Drones and robots were more impressive than ever at CES this year, coming in all shapes and sizes from palm-sized selfie stick competitors to helicopters. Drones are now also going underwater and can even catch fish for you. There was also a table tennis-playing robot that adjusted its skill level to its human opponent to make the game more interesting.

AR and VR

AR/VR and mixed reality was a bit of a disappointment. VR headsets are still big and heavy, and the resolution is still not really where it needs to be. It’s a very immersive feeling, but after a few minutes you still want to get out of the headset.

As for AR, the interaction with the applications was still quite clumsy – the best sign around the show floor that there was an AR demo going on was seeing someone trying to pinch the air in front of them in a desperate attempt to get the just-rebooted app to work.

Sight and Eye Control

A relatively new area, at least for consumer applications, is technology that can detect where you are looking. With more and more devices having integrated microphones, the devices now know when you are talking to them – but still don’t know when you are looking at them.

This technology has evolved from helping people with a disability to type by looking at the keys on the keyboard, and can now be used for better understanding how we read a web page including its ads, as well as assessing how alert a driver is.

The next step could very well be our devices at home – we will soon get tired of saying “OK Google, turn down the TV volume”, when it would feel more natural to just look at the TV and say “could you please be quiet”.

Health

The health sector was basically two segments – one focusing on all kinds of devices to monitor your health at home, mainly for those who already have an existing medical need, as well as various ways to make you sleep better.

One of the more odd devices at CES was an inflatable pillow combined with a microphone. It detected when you were snoring, then changed the shape of the pillow – with the assumption that you would stop snoring in the new position.

The other sector focused on a healthy lifestyle, mostly using different kinds of wearable devices and clothes with integrated sensors. An example was a smart helmet with built-in lights, microphone, and speakers – but also a G-force sensor that detected if you had fallen off your bike, and then called an emergency contact. There was also some connected sports underwear, which I still don’t understand.

And, of course, CES would not have been complete without the gyro-stabilised selfie stick…

CES 2018: The future of the smart home is AI

Smart Home

Posted on January 12, 2018

5 min read

Advances in smart home technology are proving to be one of the biggest trends at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

What would life be like with AI (artificial intelligence) technology in your home? A home that understands you.

A home that knows when you wake up and cools your house to 23.5°C, the exact temperature you feel most comfortable.

A home that turns on the news at 6pm and dims the lights at 7.53pm as you sit down for dinner.

Not because you asked it to (through the voice assistant linked to your Telstra Smart Home) – but because it’s been learning from your habits and pre-empts your needs. What’s really exciting (and no doubt scary to some) is that this reality isn’t as far away as you might think.

Last year Telstra brought the Internet of Things (IoT) into Australian homes with the launch of Telstra Smart Home.

From sensing sofas to techy-tupperware, we’ve been deep diving into all CES has to offer to share our premonitions for the future of the smart home.

Couch potatoes and smart sofas

You might not see your trusty three-seater settee prepare you a sofa snack in the next few years, but there’s no doubt couch life is about to get a whole lot smarter.

French furniture retailer Miliboo’s connected sofa aims to revolutionise our couching and slouching with motion sensors.

Not only will you be able to wirelessly charge your mobile handset or tablet – the connected sofa will track how long you’ve sat in front of the TV – and monitor your posture.

Techy-tupperware

IoT brings endless opportunities to connect and integrate devices in our homes. Through the power of Telstra’s networks, we’re working to grow the potential of the connected home.

But did you ever think that your trusty plastic tubs and would join the smart home revolution?

Startup Ovie is promoting “the world’s first smart food storage system” that tracks foods in your fridge and reminds you to eat them before they go bad.

It also claims to help with meal planning by suggesting recipes based on what’s in the fridge, and includes a sharing feature for users to offer food to family members and friends that they no longer want.

Smarter homes becoming safer homes

Through the one-stop Telstra Smart Home App, Through the one-stop Telstra Smart Home App, Australians can now be at home when they’re not physically there, integrating smart cameras and smart lighting into their lives.

Here at CES 2018, safety and security are continuing to be a big focus. AI and video analytics capabilities have advanced significantly over the past 12 months, and are increasingly being built into smart home cameras to detect anomalies and make homes safer.

We’ve seen new fall-detectors, which monitor and alerts family members if an older person has a fall, as well a smart safe that lets owners know if anyone has tampered with it.

Hands-free cooking and voice assistance

Cutting raw chicken but need to steam the vegies in the microwave. No worries. Just ask.

Amazon announced this week that customers in the US can now control their microwave ovens using the Alexa virtual assistant.

The growth of voice assistants, and integration into the home, we believe will be one of the biggest tech trends in Australia this year.

We welcomed Google Home as a Telstra partner into the Australian market mid-last year and our insights show us that Telstra Smart Home users with Google Home, use their Smart Home technology four times more than those without voice assistants.

Voice assistants have really brought smart home tech to the mainstream.

Wearables come of age

In the last few years, wearables have at last found their niche as health and fitness devices.

But long before Fitbit and Garmin brought wearables to the mainstream, futurists had much bigger things in mind. This is starting to come to fruition as wearables integrate with smart home technology.

We’re seeing examples of how smart home technology will detect when a person is present through their wearable, triggering smart lights and power sockets to automatically react.

About-face and AI

In today’s Telstra Smart Home, you could wake up and ask your voice assistant to turn on your coffee machine, all while lying in bed.

In the future, through AI technology, your smart home might be able to monitor your behaviour and predict when to turn on your coffee machine – without even needing to ask.

But what if you (yes you) walked into the kitchen, and your home used facial recognition to know who just walked into the kitchen, and started making the flat white you enjoy at 7.23am every morning.

Facial recognition is certainly on the cusp of being big in the home, with startups like Woohoo combining facial recognition, voice recognition, as well as AI into smart home technology.

AI is certainly looking set to be the future of the smart home – and has been one of the biggest talking points at CES this week in general. Watch this space.

From receiving a live video when the kids get home from school, to being able to lie in bed and turn off the lights – Telstra Smart Home is already changing lives.

But after four days at CES, we can’t wait to bring some of this emerging technology to Australian homes.

New Internet of Things capability a huge opportunity for Australian start-ups

Network

Posted on January 12, 2018

3 min read

From drones to cars to kitchen appliances there’s one common feature shared by virtually everything at the Consumer Electronics Show this year – it is all connected.

Connecting everyday objects and enabling them to send and receive data is what we mean by the ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IoT’. By putting real-time information and decision-making power about the world around us in our hands, IoT has the potential to transform the way we live and work.

At Telstra we are already supporting IoT – we connect more than two million IoT devices over our mobile network today and we offer connected lights, cameras and motion sensors on the Telstra Smart Home platform. It is only early days though and we expect the number and variety of IoT devices and applications to explode in the years ahead.

Underpinning the emergence of IoT will be the capability of mobile networks to connect millions more devices sending small volumes of data at very low power levels on a national scale. We have been investing in delivering this capability by enabling two new IoT technologies in our mobile network – Cat M1 and Narrowband.

This week we have announced that Narrowband IoT coverage is now available over Telstra’s mobile network in major Australian cities and many regional towns. This is in addition to the approximately three million square kilometres of Cat M1 IoT coverage we turned on in 2017.

We have long offered our customers Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network and now we have added the ability to support IoT devices, like sensors, trackers and alarms, that can sit inside machines and vehicles and reach deep inside buildings.*

This means Telstra is the only carrier in Australia and one of the first carriers in the world to offer both Narrowband and Cat M1 IoT technologies.

Cat M1 is well suited to applications with data in the 100s of kilobits per second with extended range and long battery life, such as personal health monitors or devices used to measure vehicle performance. Narrowband is better suited to applications sending even smaller amounts of data and operating with an even longer battery life, such as moisture sensors or livestock tracking devices.

These network capabilities are crucial but for IoT to truly take-off in Australia it will require a vibrant IoT ecosystem developing solutions designed for local conditions and solving problems for local businesses. In particular, this is a fantastic opportunity for Australian start-ups·to build IoT products and solutions operating on two internationally recognised technologies.

In this way, our investment in deploying both Cat M1 and Narrowband technologies is an investment in the IoT ecosystem in Australia, especially when considered alongside our Gurrowa Innovation Lab and muru-D start-up accelerator.

We would call on Australian developers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of Cat M1 and Narrowband technologies now as there are huge opportunities across a range of industries, from agriculture to mining to manufacturing to transport and logistics, for Australia to be a global IoT leader. But to succeed we need to move quickly.

* Australia’s fastest mobile network based on national average of combined 3G and 4G mobile speeds.

Tags: CES, IoT,

CES 2018 takes tech to Vegas

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 11, 2018

3 min read

Our team is on the ground at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, meeting partners and strategic vendors and experiencing new technologies. Here’s a live feed of highlights from Telstra CEO Andrew Penn as they happen.


Google has a strong presence at this year’s CES, and is heavily promoting its Google Assistant voice recognition. You can already talk to Google on the new Pixel 2 smartphone to check the weather or hear your agenda for the day, and control your Telstra Smart Home using a Google Home Mini smart speaker.


Telstra partner Netgear has plenty of new technology on show, with everything from gaming to high-speed Wi-Fi networks demonstrated to CES attendees. Faster wireless networks in the home are important as more devices are connected, and new Wi-Fi standards allow more efficient communication.

The Telstra TV was designed and built by Telstra in partnership with Roku, and brings movies, TV shows, live sport and free-to-air TV into one place. Over a million original Telstra TVs were sold before the launch of its successor in October last year.

As we move into a connected future, even the cars on our roads will talk to each other and to the pedestrians around them, using technologies like 5G to communicate on a massive scale. Several different companies have autonomous and self-driving cars on show at this year’s CES.

Believe it or not, even clothing is becoming smarter! And it’s not just for style; smart clothing can track your sleep and fitness activity, or give you insights into your stress at work. We’ve already seen see smart, internet-connected technology make its way into shoes and watches, and more is on the way.

Quantum computing will be a field of intense interest in 2018 and beyond, as advancements in the emerging technology allow new applications to be developed. This quantum computer concept is especially beautiful, too, using liquid cooling to transfer heat away from internal components.

Our team has spent their time at CES meeting with exciting new technology companies and trying out new gadgets – the devices that will transform our future and shape the way we interact with our homes, our cars, and each other in the years to come.