5G | Network | Tech and Innovation |

Our IoT networks are joining the 5G family: future-proofing for years to come

By Channa Seneviratne June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things is the massive network of connected tech you probably never see. But despite its subtle appearance, IoT is rapidly changing the way we live.

We already have two complementary network layers that cater to large-scale IoT deployments: NB-IoT and LTE-M (also known as Cat-M1).

Our Internet of Things networks have gone from strength-to-strength in a matter of years being deployed nationally right across our 4G 700MHz network and covering three million square kilometres with LTE-M technology. With recent breakthroughs on maximum coverage distance per site for narrowband our NB-IoT coverage now reaches nearly four million square kilometres.

The latest news is that both our LTE-M and NB-IoT are now formally recognised as 5G technologies, meaning we have a big head start in helping to deliver massive IoT through the fifth-generation of mobile network development. The global mobile network standards body’s (3GPP) acceptance of our existing Narrowband (NB-IoT) and Cat M1 IoT technologies as 5G IoT technologies means we can continue to support these technologies even beyond the lifespan of 4G.

NB-IoT is designed for carrying very small packets from simple devices, peaking at transfer rates less than 200kbps. That’s perfect for devices that only need to send a tiny amount of data, like water management, location management, and industrial sensors.

LTE-M, meanwhile, is designed for more complex devices that require more frequent interaction with the network. LTE-M connections are better for devices that you need to be mobile and reporting multiple sets of data such as positioning information like asset tracking.

Since we launched our NB-IoT and LTE-M networks, we’ve helped government and businesses of all sizes around the country learn more and optimise their operations.

Agbyte - The rise of the smart farmer with Internet of Things technology

Farmers are using the network to track water supply and help regulate deliveries for less waste in their supply chain. Hospitals are using the network to track down life-saving equipment, helping save crucial time and valuable resources. Logistics companies are using it to track freight across the country and give customers better insights into how their deliveries move. We’re even selling a LTE-M-enabled device to help you keep better track of your expensive gear. And we’re only making the networks that power these incredible innovations better as time goes on. For example, we recently announced the expansion of our NB-IoT network to cover almost 4 million square kilometres, by extending site range from 100km up to 120km.

With both LTE-M and NB-IoT now adopted into the 5G family of technologies, they continue to drive a massive expansion of connected things. This expansion into the 5G future allows our customers to embrace LTE-M and NB-IoT with confidence in the technology’s long-term future.

IoT smart industry robot within agriculture field

5G is a networking shorthand for the fifth-generation of mobile connectivity standards. Each generation – from 1G through to 5G – has brought with it a brighter future. 5G will deliver speeds, network capacity, and via LTE-M and NB-IoT bring scale to potentially connect billions of things globally that we’d only previously dreamed of. The global standards recognition here means our NB-IoT and LTE-M networks won’t be supplanted by the new 5G technology. Instead, these technologies will go from strength-to-strength together as 5G technologies evolve, with the capability to power massive IoT projects around Australia and the world.

Future 5G capabilities are expected to move in lockstep with IoT networks to provide ultra-reliable low latency communications and by leveraging these capabilities of 5G for IoT, we’ll be able to expand the role of connected devices to enable incredible new advances both in nationwide and hyper-localised settings.

These massive IoT deployments can benefit just about every industry. Connected transport, drones, healthcare and infrastructure could communicate with centralised dashboards to help the nation move more smoothly. Meanwhile, IoT deployed in industrial settings such as factories where collaborative robotics could receive almost instantaneous responses from machines around them to enable faster and smarter manufacturing.

Global IoT connections will simultaneously increase in tandem from the 8.6 billion connections at the end of 2018, to an expected whopping 22.3 billion by 2024, all driven by NB-IoT, LTE-M and the future 5G Industrial IoT standard all delivered by 4G and 5G connectivity.

Connectivity – like 5G – brings with it exciting opportunities for business, health, safety and innovation. We’ll continue to improve our NB-IoT and LTE-M offerings as we roll-out 5G to more places in Australia.

Digital, technological future
Tech and Innovation |

Telcos at the heart of distributed superpowers

By Sami Makelainen March 9, 2020

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.

Agbyte - The rise of the smart farmer with Internet of Things technology
Regional | Tech and Innovation |

The rise of the smart farmer with Internet of Things technology

By Janet Barnes March 6, 2020

Agbyte Director and agronomist Leighton Wilksch has a long history of being involved in innovative agricultural practices, but he sees IoT connectivity as being a potential game-changer for Australian farmers and regional producers moving into the 21st century.

Based on the Yorke Peninsula, two hours north of Adelaide, Agbyte specialises in soil moisture probes and weather stations. It helps service a growing interest in weather, soil and crop data acquisition in dryland broadacre agriculture and viticulture.

Leighton is already seeing technology create a new generation of smart farmers, and connectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way people on the land make decisions.

“For instance, a sensor or meter could be deployed at a farm to track livestock or collect data on things like soil moisture, rainfall, air quality, and wind speed and direction. It can also assist in making decisions relating to crop nutrition, crop protection and product application,” he said.

“Data collection can now be automated and real-time decisions can be made and optimised faster than ever before increasing productivity, improving quality or shortening time to market. It also allows the logging of data for historical analysis.”

Agbyte
Image copyright by Agbyte

But connectivity is the key and the ability for everyday devices such as weather stations to send and receive data and allow access to this information in real-time is what excites him.

Small sensors located in each device and capture and send small volumes of data at very low power levels back to a base via the mobile network using one of our two new IoT technologies – Cat M1 or Narrowband.

Recently Leighton has been installing weather stations in the Upper North of the state as part of a South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission funded project to assist regional communities with decision making around high-risk weather events.

We are already supporting IoT, connecting more than two million IoT devices over our mobile network today. It is only early days and we expect the number and variety of IoT devices and applications to explode in the years ahead.

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.

This is the Internet of Things  in action. 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.

Telstra has 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 is a network that makes the future possible for regional and rural Australia.

Business and Enterprise | Network | Regional | Tech and Innovation |

Finding the answers to the country’s biggest farming challenges

By Kim Krogh Andersen February 20, 2020

While Australia is known as the lucky country it’s also known as an arid country. It’s no secret water shortages are compounding the pressure from a growing population and evolving consumer demands. The industry is looking for innovative solutions to help control this challenge. So how can we use technology to help evolve one of the nation’s least-digitised industries into a more advanced one?

Our connection with regional Australia is longstanding and manifests in our long company history. We work with all layers of the agricultural sector from farmer, peak bodies and government to make sure we understand this complex business and get it right.

Farming is a generational industry. And because of this, it’s not necessarily a sector that needs to focus on technology to survive. Farmers need feed, water, climate stability, luck, and a smarter way forward to reduce risk and hit ambitious industry targets.

We’re a country in dire need of more efficient water management. That’s why our team has prioritised and started building out our water management capabilities in our Data Hub and IoT platforms.

Think of Data Hub as a secured central location where data from numerous systems, devices and providers is all “plumbed” together, able to be exchanged in real-time, passing crucial data in a private, secure and highly efficient manner between all the applications that are needed to run the operation.

Importantly, our role is to protect the farmer’s data, it’s their data not ours. For example, at this week’s evokeAG conference, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) announced its Farm Data Code to help build trust between technology providers and farmers concerned about where their data is being used. We were part of the working group that helped develop the code and at our stand, we talked to attendees about why it’s important for us to do so.

This new approach enables unique systems integration, data analytics and ability to make informed decisions, while protecting the farmers’ interests.

For example, water and agronomy systems can use the Data Hub to “work” together” to know when, where and how much water to use, and allow farmers to check the status of the system from anywhere in the world. As the two systems can interact in real-time and gather on-farm data from IoT equipment, there’s almost no need to manually input data into the system.

Now extrapolate this across 10 or more systems that a farm will typically have. You can start seeing the synergies and increased economies of scale and severe reduction of cost of time and money.

We’re working with several Australian state governments and producers to turn our project into a reality. We believe this will be a solution set that will greatly aid the agriculture industry in the next 12-18 months. The project’s effectiveness will be further scaled by Australia’s largest and best mobile and IoT network.

Two years ago, we turned on Australia’s largest narrowband IoT network, a network specifically designed for long reach and the transmission of data from a myriad of IoT devices on farms, mines and rural communities.

We are continuing to improve the network as often as possible. As part of world-first innovation, we will improve the coverage of narrowband IoT network towers from 100km per site to 120km per site. This means our coverage will expand to almost 4 million square kilometres by the end of this month.

We’re also heavily involved in the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, investing millions of dollars in extending coverage to areas that need it most.

These networks allow projects that weren’t possible before, and it truly shows the benefits that connectivity and secure data exchange can bring to our agricultural regions. It means farmers and growers can use digital water, stock and crop management solutions to help run their operations more efficiently, increase profits and enhance their lifestyle. It means that Australia remains a leader in the global agriculture market.

By adding technology to the process of agriculture production, we can work to augment the generational knowledge that already exists. This helps enhance current procedures and productivity but just as importantly it can reduce the risk on-farm diversification and attract more people and skills to the industry.

We’re also partnering with the farming sector’s peak bodies to ensure that our efforts ladder up common industry goals. We’ve partnered with the NFF and other state-level peak bodies and agricultural groups to explore the potential for technology to help transform agriculture into an industry worth $100 billion by 2030.

We want to put the power in the hands of farmers to make smarter decisions with what they already have, to ensure maximum efficiency. And while our role isn’t to replace the tractor, or to be agricultural scientists, it is to help provide farmers with the ability to see in real-time what’s going on across their entire operation.

We want to help enable the best industry practices for our agricultural customers so that they can compete in a global market.

Ultimately, we’re working to make automated solutions that remove the need for farmers to manually manage their workload. This will help modernise and optimise the efficiency of agriculture operations, use of natural assets and supply chains. Importantly, it will also help reduce wastage and help drive quality up. We’re here to build a connected future where everyone can thrive, especially Australia’s most important industry.

Smart home and tech of the modern, future house
Devices | Smart Home | Tech and Innovation |

A tour of your futuristic smart home at CES 2020

By Luke Hopewell February 14, 2020

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.