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Anousheh Ansari podcast: Let our choices reflect our hope — and not our fear

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 13, 2017

4 min read

When engineer and businesswoman Anousheh Ansari was a little girl, growing up in Iran in the 1970s, she loved to sleep outside and stare at the sky wondering, “What’s out there?” Could it be that somewhere, on a distant planet, there’s another girl looking up at the sky thinking about the same thing?

Ansari dreamed of going to space, and it was that dream — and those moments when she watched the stars at night — that gave her peace as her country underwent a revolution she couldn’t yet comprehend and then entered war with neighbouring Iraq. During a keynote presentation at the Telstra Vantage 2017 conference, Ansari said that her imagination saved her during those terrifying moments.

She called imagination “one of the most precious gifts we have as human beings,” as it allows us to change what we don’t like in our lives and to think about things that don’t exist — then make them real. It starts with the spark of an idea. For her, that spark was space travel. She drew pictures of herself visiting alien worlds in rockets. The adults around her thought it was an unrealistic dream and a phase she’d eventually grow out of and forget. But her stubbornness prevailed.

When Ansari moved to the US in the mid-1980s and saw, with some disappointment, that Star Trek had not become reality, she refused to let her dream end. She became an engineer and built up a successful career in telecommunications and technology, and in 2001 she sold her company.

A few years later she met engineer Peter Diamandis, who had since 1995 been seeking funding for his XPRIZE concept — a competition for non-government organisations to build a reusable vehicle capable of flying a pilot to the edge of space. He’d been turned down, repeatedly, but Ansari and her brother-in-law were impressed by his passion and decided to underwrite the competition. It became the Ansari XPRIZE in May 2004, with participation from 26 teams from 7 countries. The first US$10 million winner was a rocket-powered aircraft called SpaceShipOne.

Richard Branson and Virgin subsequently partnered with SpaceShipOne makers Scaled Composites to design and build rocket planes based on that concept to provide suborbital spaceflights to tourists.

Ansari said the prize helped spur innovation in an area where it had been sorely lacking. She noted that private space technology is now a $100 billion industry, and that it’s now even possible to build and launch low-cost nanosatellites for special communications and research purposes.

Ansari achieved her dream in 2006, aged 40, after training as a backup for a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station, when Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto was disqualified for medical reasons. She became the first woman and first Iranian (and fourth overall) private space explorer, and she lived aboard the ISS for eight days — during which time she conducted experiments for the European Space Agency and published the first ever blog from space.

Ansari said that she’s excited about the future, but the pace of change is now so fast — and new technologies have become so intertwined — that it’s hard to predict what lies ahead. She likened it to taking 20 steps on the stage. If they were linear steps, she might reach the end of the stage or a little beyond there. But it would be hard for anyone to imagine 20 exponential steps, which would actually send her around the Earth 125 times.

She argued that it’s important to be prepared for change and to be ready to adapt. To prepare, we can look at the trends: she said 3D printing may transform food, medicine, textiles, and more, and it will make it possible to build habitats on the Moon and Mars; gene editing may cure diseases or grant us new abilities; and augmentation will enable us to regain capabilities lost or to gain entirely new ones.

“Technology is just a tool,” she said, “and how we use it and what we use it for will determine if it’s a good technology or it will actually be a harmful technology.”

The most important thing, Ansari said, is that we let our choices reflect our hope — and not our fear. The future is what we imagine it to be, she concluded, so she implored everyone to “march into the future armed with our hopes and positivity.”

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Andy Penn’s top three insights on technology and transformation

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 10, 2017

2 min read

The world is changing rapidly and business needs to adapt in order thrive. At Telstra’s landmark Vantage conference, CEO Andy Penn laid out the company’s vision for the future, and the strategy to achieve it. Here are the top three insights that he shared:

A history of innovation

Telstra has always been a company of technology optimists, with a belief that technology can bring tremendous benefits for businesses, society and the nation. For 100 years, that optimism has driven investment and innovation.

Whether it was building the first trunk telephone connections between Sydney and Melbourne; laying the first coaxial cables to carry telephone, TV, and satellite transmissions; launching the first mobile phones in Australia; or launching the first gigabit per second mobile device and the fastest in the world – Telstra has been at the cutting edge.

But the technology innovation seen to date is nothing compared to that which we can expect over the next decades, which is which is why Telstra, like other businesses, must transform to meet the challenges of the digital age.

Services of the future

There is no tech innovation today that’s not intended to be connected, from drones to driverless cars, cloud computing to online banking, ecommerce to IoT. These applications and services rely on a high-quality, fast, reliable and secure telecommunications networks.

Many of the applications and services leveraging Telstra’s networks today are disrupting traditional ways of doing business. In the process, new companies and competitors are capturing the increasing value technology is delivering across a range of industries.

Despite telecommunications companies around the wold investing tens of billions of dollars in networks to cope with increased demand, in some ways the industry has failed to capture the real value from this. Telstra sees this as an opportunity, not a threat, and remains a technology optimist.

A strategy for success

Two years ago, Telstra unveiled a vision to become a world class technology company that empowers people to connect.

Telstra’s success in this new age is not only good for shareholders and customers, it also helps underpin the success of other businesses across Australia’s economy.

In order to succeed Telstra needs to transform to become Australia's leading technology company with global reach, global capabilities and global partners.

We look forward to sharing this transformation, and the success it bring, with you.

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Feed yourself, feed the world: meet the Perth startup on a mission to end world hunger


Posted on October 4, 2017

2 min read

I grew up often not knowing where my next meal was coming from. Orphaned at the age of 10, I grew up in foster homes and often had to rely on external support during my childhood.

I spent some time on the streets and relied heavily on charities for food and support. I have always wanted to help people who are in the same hard situation that I faced while growing up.

I am now focused on paying it forward through technology. In February 2016, I founded Feedmee — a social enterprise for food discovery that lets people donate to food charities.

The Feedmee App works like Tinder for food, where users can choose from restaurant and recipe options. Each time someone buys a meal through the app, Feedmee donates money to food rescue charities such as OzHarvest and SecondBite to help them distribute food to people in need.

We have integration arrangements with UberEATS and Deliveroo, and a partnership with Quandoo. They pay us a referral fee that goes directly to OzHarvest, who collect food waste from commercial food providers and deliver it to people in need.

I chose OzHarvest as our non-profit partner because the money goes directly into feeding the community. We have covered the cost of more than 2,000 meals for people in need since we launched the app around 10 months ago.

I run the company with our chief technical officer Anthony Manning-Franklin and chief operating officer Brenda Lai.

Spacecubed and Telstra’s startup accelerator muru-D run the Plus Eight accelerator program, with support from Seven West Media and Hawaiian. This year the program is supporting six Perth-based startups.

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What I learnt at the Telstra/ANZ Graduate Summit

Telstra Careers

Posted on October 2, 2017

4 min read

‘We are both iconic brands in Australia. Everyone in Australia thinks they own a piece of us. What we do matters to them and has influence.’ – Shayne Elliott, CEO, ANZ.

This comment resonates with me as it highlights the important role that Telstra and ANZ play in the community.

Recently, Telstra and ANZ joined forces to hold a cross-industry development day for graduates, and I was lucky to be one of them.

The summit gave us the opportunity to network not only internally with Telstra graduates, but also externally with ANZ graduates, in tandem with access and exposure to a myriad of senior leaders.

We were fortunate to hear from ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott and Group Executive, Institutional – Mark Whelan. We also heard from Telstra EnterpriseGroup Executive, Brendon Riley.

It was great to get such senior support from leaders at both companies, affirming not only the importance of the relationship between Telstra and ANZ, but also in graduate development.

Three key themes emerged from the graduate summit were community, culture and digital. It also helped with our understanding of:

  • The roles telecommunication/technology and financial institutions can play in the community in which they operate;
  • The importance and relevance of cultivating a positive corporate culture and its impact on our organisation’s success.
  • The opportunities and risks posed by a changing digital landscape, and how large organisations like Telstra and ANZ can respond.

Here’s what I learnt:


A company’s reputation is always important, but the standard of what customers expect has gone to a whole new level. Mark Whelan,  Group Executive, Institutional ANZ says, ”I’ve seen so much change in the last 3 years, compared to the last 27 years. It’s picking up pace and going to continue this way. It’s inevitable that companies will make mistakes, but it’s how they respond that matters.” He emphasised that companies “need to listen more than they talk.” To complement this insight, Brendon Riley, Group Executive, Telstra Enterprise mentioned that “a common thread that connects us all together is trust – at the end of the day trust is your brand.”


ANZ and Telstra need to change in order to successfully deliver outcomes to customers. This can be seen through the adoption of ANZ’s ‘New Ways of Working’ and Telstra’s ‘FWOW’ (Future Ways of Working). Kath Bray, Agile Transformation Lead ANZ says , it is a new way to work, not another strategy- it’s simply bringing to life the strategy, and aids in operating collectively. Kath says we need to eliminate micro management from the top down, as there is no space for this in the future. She added that disruption to the traditional understanding of career paths will occur, as this cultural shift will erode layers and hierarchy. Furthermore, Ben Burge, Executive Director, Telstra Energy passionately sold the premise of bringing your whole self to work, and questioned why our Monday face was different to our weekend face, and the importance of fully embracing your colleagues for all that they are Monday to Friday.


Alan Huse, Head of Transaction Banking Australia and Pacifc ANZ discussed how the channel experience is evolving, through the likes of concepts such as Apple Pay. Suggesting that the plastic card will become secondary in the future, as paying with a device will be primary. Michelle Bendschneider, Executive Director, Global Products, Telstra Enterprise discussed that many organisations outsourced a lot of capabilities such as IT over the last 15 years, as it wasn’t deemed to be strategic. Businesses are now rebuilding their muscle, to re-architect their businesses for the digital era.

Here’s what graduates thought of the day

“The thing that I got out of today was surrounding partnerships. It was something that all of the speakers talked about. With partnerships, and working together there are lots of things that we individually do really well as businesses, and if we work together we can capitalise on that.” – Andy Dixon, 2017 Telstra Graduate.

“The highlight of the day for me was getting to meet some of the Telstra graduates. It was really good to expand that network, and get a better understanding of what Telstra gets up to.” – Hugh Bailey, 2017 ANZ Graduate.

In addition to gaining an insight on the three key themes, the most common feedback received at the end of the day was regarding how similar our two organisations are, despite operating in different industries.

As graduates, to be exposed to such senior leaders, in an intimate setting- was an enriching experience we feel fortunate to have been a part of.

Learn more about Telstra’s Graduate Program.

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The opportunity of IoT: it’s all on show at Telstra Vantage 2017

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on September 26, 2017

4 min read

After years of hearing about how the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to transform business – and the world – we’ve seen at Telstra Vantage in 2017 that it’s very much happening now. IoT tech is improving productivity across multiple industries, monitoring weather and transport, collecting huge amounts of analytics data, and much more.

For those unaware, the Internet of Things refers to the billions of objects – both natural and manufactured – that are being imbued with the power to collect and transmit information about their status, operation, location, and environment across the Internet. It’s a subset of the Internet of Everything, a concept that expands on IoT to…well, the interconnecting of everything – including data streams from other Internet-connected things, online services, and any other non-physical entities.

One IBM representative I talked to at Vantage likened IoT to a new national resource, like coal or oil, that can be “mined” in great quantities but isn’t actually useful until you refine it. IoT is less about the data than it is the insights that come from the data. One of IBM’s IoT solutions, for instance, uses data gathered from machines on a factory floor to optimise production and predict and prevent equipment failure. Another can manage excess storm water to prevent flooding, to selectively water local plant life, and to measure the quality of that excess runoff so that dirt particles can be filtered out before it gets diverted to the river bank.

Cisco sees the potential value of the Internet of Everything at around $14.4 trillion in the private sector and $4.6 trillion in the public sector by 2022, while semiconductor firm ARM estimates one trillion IoT devices will be built between 2017 and 2035. IoT is clearly about much more than just smart thermostats and other home appliances, but it’s not all that easy to get your head around exactly how it’s transforming business and society.

Smart cities and agriculture (and more)

Telstra has been working with the City of Joondalup in Western Australia to improve quality of life in the community with a smart park. Besides environmental sensors to monitor humidity, pollution, light, and noise levels, Tom Simpson Park’s IoT infrastructure includes 32 smart bins that monitor how full they are and tell maintenance staff when they need emptying. There’s also a camera that tracks cars in the parking lot to determine things like how long people typically park there and when passenger drop-offs are most frequent. Telstra is also developing a bench with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and phone charging capability for future roll-out.

All this data is helping Joondalup planners to learn how the park and its infrastructure is being utilised, to optimise their use of resources, and to plan for future growth and development in the community. It’s providing insights, in other words, that can be used to both improve the area for current residents and to make it more attractive to tourists and new residents and businesses.

Other real-world examples of IoT include automatically warning miners to put their helmet back on if they take it off in a dangerous area, tracking the location of delivery trucks, monitoring the temperature of milk in transit for export to China (not only was the milk still fresh, this could be proved to customs through IoT data), and putting motion sensors on cows in Japan to identify when they’re at their most fertile. Seriously. Cows apparently get restless when they’re feeling a bit frisky, and they especially move around more at night. By putting sensors on them and then inseminating the cows when they showed signs of fertility, farmers were able to increase the productivity of their cows by around 20 percent.

And that’s barely scratching the surface of IoT. Another company, Libelium, recently published a white paper showcasing 50 successful IoT projects that have, among other things, improved crop yields and air and water quality. And HP Enterprise IoT tech helped Auckland Transport reduce carbon emissions and passenger congestion while simultaneously increasing usage.

Smart questions + good data = innovative solutions

As a business proposition, IoT boils down to two ideas: can we collect enough meaningful data to form a viable business case to do X? And what would it mean if you could improve Y? Without focus – without refinement – any data collected is just noise. But once you start asking the right questions, IoT data can give you solutions and insights that transform your business and in certain cases improve your customer experience.

Keep up with the latest in business and tech innovation at Telstra Vantage in our podcast series. Subscribe to the podcast via apple.

Tags: innovation, IoT,

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