Network | Regional |

We’re testing a hyper-local weather network for Australia’s farmers

By Channa Seneviratne March 17, 2021

All across Australia, the weather influences what happens each day in many sectors – agriculture, utilities, mining, transport, and the communities that support them. Given the importance in our country’s regional communities and industry we are investing to explore a way of creating a nationwide hyper-local weather network.

We’ve got a pilot plan to help agribusinesses better understand and forecast hyper-local weather using our Internet of Things (IoT) mobile network which covers 4 million square kilometres of Australia’s landmass.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) supplies forecast data for the entire country, and therefore must cater for an extreme set of variables while covering a land mass that is comparable to the continental United States.

Given the size of Australia and the data that the Bureau has at hand, the science behind the modelling of Australia’s national weather forecasts is up there with the best in the world. However, with less than a tenth of the population of the USA, Australia must explore different approaches in forecasting that are more economical while still enhancing our international competitiveness.

Australia’s agricultural industry is directly affected by this dilemma. Farming is an undertaking where understanding the weather can mean the difference between a thriving business or a struggling one. Day-to-day decision making and planning on farms across Australia often revolves around weather conditions – and yet in 2021, local weather observations, ‘nowcasts’ and seven-day forecasts are not specific or local enough to use that information productively.

It is this “hyper-local” weather data and forecast system that we plan to deliver using our nationwide Internet of Things (IoT) mobile network.

Hyper-local forecasting demands a far more granular net of robust weather data and needs to function differently economically to be viable. To explore this complexity, we’ve partnered with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Pessl Instruments and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) on a project, where we’ll build a test system across the Lockyer Valley, Darling Downs and Granite Belt regions of the state.

Centred around Toowoomba, the first phase of the project will see the deployment of 55 robust, high quality IoT-enabled weather stations to existing Telstra mobile network sites, private farms and DAF research facilities to create the necessary grid of hyper-local and highly detailed observation data.

Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said more accurate weather forecasts would help producers better manage the effects of climate change on their businesses.

“Access to better local weather data will support improved management decisions on crop production, labour and the supply chain. This project will help to fill that gap by testing the viability of a weather network service to provide highly localised weather information at an affordable price,” Mr Furner said.

Due to the extreme reach of our national narrowband IoT network, this project will deliver weather insights where they haven’t existed before, and with the data ownership management capabilities of the Telstra Data Hub, we can ensure any private information is protected and private data suppliers’ interests are supported.

Once we’ve collected, checked, cleaned, and organised the data for this pilot project, it will be then used by the Bureau to develop hyper-local weather forecasts for the region. That forecast and the dense grid of observation data will be then made available to the project’s participants via the Telstra Data Hub.

Importantly, we realise that while we have an extensive set of sites to use across the entire nation to implement this project, there are also existing networks and local organisations servicing regional industry. We think that the most effective and sustainable way to deliver a national outcome is to partner with those organisations to develop commercial opportunities that can support regional industry.

Our hope is that the trial can develop an economically sustainable service that helps Queensland agribusiness, and also enable us to develop a sustainable and equitable partner model to eventually deploy the thousands of IoT weather stations to enhance our regional economy and international competitiveness.

Image: Queensland State Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner examines an IoT-enabled weather station at the launch of the project.
Supply chain and the internet of things (IoT).
IoT |

New wave technology: cutting through the hype

By Conrad Harvey March 8, 2018

With so much talk about the impact that Internet of Things (IoT) technology will have on the way we live, Linfox’s chief information officer Conrad Harvey asks what it means for community safety and the supply chain.

At Linfox, we are always looking at how advances in technology can help us operate more safely and efficiently. In the last year, heavy vehicle safety has been a key issue within our industry and community, with increases in road incidents across Australia bringing attention to the importance of smart technology to improve safety for drivers and the public.

Some of the most exciting innovations are happening in sensor technologies and data analytics. We’ve just announced our partnership with Telstra and MTData to deliver advanced transport and logistics data and quality benchmarking information to our entire truck fleet to enhance public and driver safety on Australian roads.

Enabling IoT to our trucks

With more and better quality location and routing data, we can improve communication with our drivers and the visibility of truck movements.

Working with Telstra and MTData, we are able to draw on years of in-cab technology innovation to upgrade our current FoxTrax fleet monitoring system.

The system’s built-in sensors will collect a range of information including vehicle tracking, product temperatures, optimal routing, harsh braking and acceleration, vehicle condition and driver fatigue data.

Managers will be able to monitor driver fatigue from a central control room and warn of impending safety issues. To minimise distractions, drivers can be notified of safety issues and route changes using text-to-speech technology.

They will also be able to streamline the maintenance of digital driver worksheets and improve accuracy.

Telstra’s IoT solution will include Samsung tablets mounted into all Linfox trucks across our Australian fleet, so drivers can access logbooks and complete safety checklists, and have the capability in some vehicles for in-cabin recording of road safety incidents.

We have long used in-cab cameras to improve our safety performance. Through Telstra’s IoT technology, our connected fleet will make it possible to use smart cameras and IoT sensors to communicate with other vehicles and infrastructures.

We’re excited about the potential of IoT technology and how it can have such positive impacts within the fleet industry. Looking forward, we will also work with the broader industry to establish the necessary standards to help make our roads safer.

There has never been a more important time to be involved in supply chain technology. We will continue to invest and work with our partners, Telstra and MTData to implement technology that will enable us to coordinate our vehicles efficiently, reduce congestion on the roads and above all, ensure a higher level of safety for the community.

Business and Enterprise |

Today’s challenges are tomorrow’s opportunities

By Brendon Riley January 15, 2018

Today the world is characterised by intense disruption and change, but it’s not necessarily all about what’s around the corner.

When I speak with customers, regardless of what industry they are in, they, like us at Telstra, are all facing the same challenge – or opportunity depending on how you look at it.

It’s about deciding how to capture the opportunity of today – the new technologies, new capabilities and skills to invest in – and how that will shape a tomorrow where everything that can be connected will be connected and automated.

Switching on IoT

One of the most remarkable examples of this is in the deployment of new tech in mining. Autonomous mine sites, transportation links, port logistics is an area of massive investment, and we are heavily involved with a number of the leading mining companies here in Australia on that transformation. Combined with the IoT network we’ve lit up – the Telstra IoT Network – the next set of opportunities for this sector is already apparent.

We already have more than two million IoT services in place. With the Telstra IoT Network now one of the only in the world to offer both Cat M1 and Narrowband – specially designed IoT technologies that can support devices like sensors, trackers and monitors operating at very lower data rates and with extended battery life – we are working with customers on IoT solutions for a number of industries.

Another great example of IoT in action is that of Peloris Global Sourcing, a company that delivers Australian fresh food onto the shelves of Chinese supermarkets. They took on a challenge of shipping fresh milk to China – a challenge that was impossible just three years ago.

Peloris is now responsible for about 40 per cent of all fresh milk exports into China. This was made possible through the introduction of the Internet of Things technology into their supply chain.

The team from Peloris can access data in real time to assure the quality of the milk, monitoring its temperature all the way from the farm to when it arrives in China.

This visibility and transparency at all stages of the supply chain has helped improve overall efficiency and has been endorsed by China Inspection and Quarantine Bureau for rapid border clearance for China food imports. What used to take two to three weeks can now happen in just 36 hours.

What is even more exciting are the opportunities IoT technology has opened up for Peloris. The company is already developing channels to market for other short shelf life products into China and new markets across Asia. They have opened a new office in Malaysia which has potential to be a hub for the distribution of dairy, meat, fruit, vegetables and chilled seafood from Australia into the ASEAN region including Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Delivering smarter transportation

Recently, on a trip to Europe a number of Telstra’s leaders met with Scania, one of the world’s leading transportation companies.

They talked to us about how they are increasing vehicle connectivity that is allowing Scania to gather a huge amount of valuable information in real time and then use that data to increase productivity, improve maintenance and deliver services tailored to the specific needs of customers.

They also talked about their work in pioneering the concept of platooning, which will be reliant on increased connectivity across their fleet – they are already, working on the first full-scale autonomous truck platooning operation in Singapore.

Platooning involves the configuration of truck and trailer combinations driving in close formation, to reduce air drag and fuel consumption.

Currently, trucks drive at a safe distance from each other using common in-vehicle features such as radar and cruise control.

With the addition of vehicle-to-vehicle communications and interconnected control systems an even narrower distance between trucks would increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption by as much as 12 per cent.

Recently, Tesla, a well-known player in the autonomous driving space, debuted its electric semi-truck. Available in two years’ time – they will feature an enhanced autopilot, the company’s newest semi-autonomous driving technology used in its passenger cars, and will have a range of up to 800km.

Like Scania and Tesla, Telstra Enterprise sees IoT and smarter transportation as a major opportunity. In November, we acquired GPS and fleet management solutions provider MTData. This investment fast tracks our enterprise connected vehicle offering capitalising on our business ready IoT capability.

The future with 5G

As we enter a new era of disruption fuelled by the advent of 5G we will see more and more industries and companies exploring what that future could look like.

In addition to the big enterprise use cases for IoT, 5G technology will also enable opportunities around the edges of the network. This will put computing capacity closer to the home or the user changing the way we access information, delivering benefits such as dramatically decreased battery use.

We will discover new ways to address old problems, new opportunities to pursue and new skills to develop.

During our time in Europe, the discussions we had and the technology innovation we saw confirmed that the strategic path of Telstra Enterprise and Telstra as a whole is aligned to both the market opportunity and the way many other tech companies see the world.

As we purposefully invest to address the challenges of today and support Telstra’s shift to become a world-class tech company of tomorrow, Australia must also invest now to become more of a tech country and that is where we all have a role to play.