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.
IoT |

Connecting new Toyota cars using IoT to keep us safer on the road

By Gerhard Loots November 16, 2020

A quiet revolution in road safety is happening in Australia and the Internet of Things (or IoT) is playing a huge part.

Australia has always been on the forefront of road safety – we were one of the first countries in the world to mandate the fitting and wearing of seat belts in passenger cars, and ANCAP has been conducting mandatory independent crash safety tests of new vehicles for over 25 years.

The future of road safety, though, is being driven by connected technology, which is why we are proud to work with both KDDI and Toyota Motor Corporation Australia (TMCA), while leveraging our partnership with Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator, to bring industry-leading connected-car capabilities to Australians. We are on a mission to make driving safer, easier, more economic and more enjoyable.

This future, which our extensive 4G network helps make possible, has huge potential to transform the ways in which we live, and the pace of IoT is accelerating in Australia, with over four million things now connected to our IoT networks. Partnering with Australia’s automotive market leader Toyota is a big leap forward towards this future.

Toyota shares a long history of striving to make driving safer through technology. Since it pioneered the world’s first pre-crash safety system in 2003, Toyota has improved on driver assist safety technology with every iteration. In 2020, new Toyota cars are launching with a suite of advanced and interconnected sensors, cameras and intelligent features to make up the latest version of Toyota Safety Sense.

These safety features are now being joined by an inbuilt IoT communications device designed to connect drivers with help in a serious accident or if a car is stolen. The 2020 Toyota Yaris Cross is the first new car to launch with Toyota Connected Services, which enables features like SOS Emergency Call to the Toyota Emergency Assistance call centre, Automatic Collision Notification and Stolen Vehicle Tracking. These services are rolling out to other new Toyota models progressively.

Crucially, you don’t need a mobile phone connected to your vehicle for Toyota Connected Services to operate – the inbuilt 3G/4G IoT communication module in the car connects to wherever we have our extensive mobile network coverage and transmits important vehicle data including GPS location to Toyota’s Connected Service centres at the driver’s request or in emergencies.

As IoT develops, we have a keen focus on how it can be used in Australia’s national transport network. We’re two years into a partnership with Lexus to develop advanced connected vehicles that communicate with each other, innovating traffic infrastructure to improve safety and efficiency on our roads, and developing it at scale.

Our partners also use IoT to help deliver fresh milk to China, farmers monitor their crops remotely with more data than ever before, and help to make Australia’s critical trucking industry safer – and we’re learning along with them. Our efforts to develop and roll out IoT across Australian industry meant that we were recently named the country’s best IoT company for the scale of our networks, along with awards for our mobile network and cloud services.

We’re adding all kinds of new IoT services at a rapid pace across our business. We continue to grow our environmental monitoring and water management solutions, with a number of water authorities scaling their services using out IoT network to help consumers keep better track of their water usage and help conserve water. We know there is huge potential for IoT to make the services we use more useful and more efficient across all industries – together, these small changes will add up to make a significant difference to how we live.

Advice | Inspiration | People | Telstra Careers |

Uni students step up to Telstra through industry partnerships

By Campbell Simpson September 15, 2020

It’s critically important to the future of Australia’s technology sector that we invest in creating career paths for students and graduates. Our partnership with the Melbourne School of Engineering is already producing results.

At the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE), students’ career paths are looking clearer than ever: Telstra’s strategic industry partnership is already helping students apply their academic expertise in the technology industry.

While undertaking his PhD, Dr Allan Feng was awarded a Telstra internship as part of the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern (APR.Intern) program. His work on smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices and solutions has already led to his internship transitioning into an extended contract with Telstra. It’s one of the first proof points of our ongoing partnership with several Australian universities, and highlights the opportunities for students and researchers to take their experiences from the classroom into the real world.

At MSE, Allan’s PhD investigated ways to shorten signalling delays or queuing delays in wireless technologies and the application of machine learning and advanced mathematics. Now, he’s looking to develop improved IoT devices that can tackle a range of telecommunications challenges using the skills he’s gained at the University of Melbourne.

Allan says that as well as a world-class technology education, his time at the Melbourne School of Engineering gave him soft skills that translate across disciplines. “My research at UniMelb was to apply mathematical analysis and machine learning techniques to shorten latency in wireless communication technologies such as WiFi and mobile cellular networks. I also did a bit of programming in different languages (Python, C, Matlab) for network simulation that was used to evaluate my work.

“Now, I’m currently doing embedded system development in the IoT (Internet of Things) department here at Telstra. Although there’s a lot to learn, the knowledge I gained from my research in communication networks helped me understand the basics of IoT networks. My programming skills are applied to firmware development and data analysis; in general, the research skills I learnt from PhD really boost my problem solving ability here.”

Noting how his own research career has been given a strong start through the internship, Dr Feng says bringing students and industry together delivers an enormous mutual benefit.

Creator space connections

Telstra Creator Space Render - Melbourne Connect - University of Melbourne

We collaborated with the University of Melbourne to design and build the Telstra Creator Space, a laboratory to be housed within the University of Melbourne’s new Melbourne Connect multidisciplinary precinct nearing completion in Carlton.

The laboratory will provide a practical space for collaboration and skills building for students and industry partners. The partnership will also create several Telstra-funded scholarships for women and Indigenous Australian students from rural and regional areas in STEM subjects. In Dr Allan Feng’s case, he was undecided about whether to pursue a career in academia or industry until his supervisors encouraged him to apply for the internship through the APR.Intern program. Internships are supported by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment to connect PhD students with industry through short-term research projects.

Dr Feng says academia stills holds a strong interest for him, but in the meantime, he is enthusiastic about having a research position that is aimed at achieving tangible technological developments that advance how we live.

It is why he studied engineering (majoring in electronics engineering) in the first place: “I was always interested in technology and building my own devices … hands-on DIY,” he says. “I am interested in technology that improves people’s lives.”

For the next few years, Allan says his main aim is to keep improving his technical skills and knowledge in an industry environment. Beyond this he is anticipating further studies to complement his engineering skills with business management.

Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Coding with kids to teach valuable IoT skills

By Nicola Curnow September 8, 2020

As more of us work from home and our kids learn online, Code Club has been finding a way to make sure kids don’t miss out on valuable digital skills.

Code Club Australia, a program run by the Telstra Foundation, has been offering Virtual Code Clubs to Telstra parents stuck in isolation in Victoria as well as existing Code Clubs.

Telstra’s own developer advocate Michelle Howie participated as a guest speaker with a club in Tasmania. In her role as the developer advocate for TelstraDev – Telstra’s API and IoT Marketplace – Michelle is an expert on the Internet of Things (IoT) and taught the kids all about how they can participate in the global Internet of Things revolution in their everyday life – and gain some valuable skills and lessons along the way.

Nicola from Code Club Australia talked to Michelle about her experience.

Nicola: Thanks Michelle for guest-hosting our Virtual Code Club this week – I saw some really excited faces when you told them how many IoT devices there are!

Michelle: I was just as surprised the first time I found out that there are more IoT devices than people in the world! I started off by explaining some IoT devices they may see around their home, in their community, or on the TV! It was great to then show them how they could code with their own virtual IoT device from their desk. It proved that they already had the skills but also the access to technology. Nicola: What did you make with them?

Michelle: Using Code Club’s easy lesson plans we spent an hour virtually coding an IoT emulator that could display predicted weather conditions. The kids learnt about how computers see RGB colours, IoT emulators, and the science of rainbows, all while using Python! We used one of the Code Club lessons that uses a Raspberry Pi and a SenseHAT. The lesson was completely run on an in-browser emulator, so the kids didn’t have to buy any hardware and could jump in and have a go!

Nicola: How do you think IoT is relevant to kids stuck at home?

Michelle: The Internet of Things is a key technology of the 21st century that will increasingly affect every industry, in all aspects of our lives. From Agriculture to Education to Entertainment and Medicine, but also in AFL stats we see valuable data insights from IoT! Students of today are our future leaders, and so it’s important that they are able to understand, engage, and even build their own solutions to their world’s biggest challenges. You don’t need to be an engineer to have this critical coding and problem-solving skills, and I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to get started at home with self-guided projects like this. It builds confidence and creativity with technology in a fun, educational way!

Nicola: And did you have fun?

Michelle: For sure! I wish I had Code Club when I was at school – I’ll definitely do this again.

Code Club Australia and the Telstra Foundation are committed to providing digital skills to kids across Australia. We believe you don’t need a lot of experience to teach coding and that everyone should be able to access the skills of the future. Join our community at the Code Club website. You can watch this recording and find out about other IOT kids projects at Code Club’s blog post.

TelstraDev is Telstra’s API and IoT marketplace. They are committed to getting the raw tools for creating IoT solutions directly into the hands of the developers that will innovate with them.

You can find out more on the TelstraDev website. Follow their blogs and Twitter for the latest IoT and API developer updates for all ages and experiences!

Tech and Innovation |

Innovation and technology are the foundation of Australia’s new normal

By Kim Krogh Andersen August 24, 2020

There’s no doubt technology has helped Australians address the changes that COVID-19 has brought on. From working, learning, socialising, shopping, eating, being informed and entertained, technology has been the foundation as we attempt to continue with our lives as much as possible. COVID-19 has swiftly forced the uptake of digitisation and changed our behaviour forever.

As a nation, we have collectively invested time and resources into learning how technology can help improve our lives in 2020, and we expect it to continue to play a vital role in the years to come.

Looking forward, COVID-19 will change the way we live and work forever. Just like other times of significant change and disruption, we need to learn the lessons, adapt to a new norm, and come out of it stronger. We cannot miss this chance to ensure the pandemic becomes a catalyst for innovation and growth in order of a better future.

In the home this year, we relied heavily on a stable and fast internet connection to support our working-and-learning from home environments during the day, while depending on it for seamless video streaming and gaming in the evenings. Furthermore, Australians have increasingly realised the benefits of shopping for goods and services online. Even when COVID-19 passes, we expect our newly-formed habits to remain, having a better appreciation of a fast, strong, and reliable internet and Wi-Fi connection.

Outside of the home, innovation was also being developed and deployed to keep us safe when we leave the front door.

The Government encouraged Australians to download and use the COVIDSafe app in order to provide an easier way to automate contact tracing to reduce further infections.

Telstra’s Track and Monitor asset-tracking platform was used by a healthcare industry customer as they swiftly deployed COVID-19 triage clinics across the east coast of Australia. This helped ensure there were no misplaced expensive and in-demand equipment, especially during a time of constant change.

We also saw the fragility and our dependency on delivery and supply chain systems, exposing the lack of end-to-end visibility. As an example, we are working with major suppliers to accelerate the development of Telstra’s Connected Supply Chain product and are also negotiating with transport companies to help increase supply chain visibility with domestic deliveries.

Quick, transparent and interactive communication was also very important. Victoria’s Department of Health & Human Services needed technology to help ensure compliance to the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for close contacts of COVID-19 and chose Whispir’s mass communication platform to perform this function with great success.

It is more imperative than ever to ensure the country does not encounter a second wave of nation-wide infections and the respective lockdown as a result. If it were to happen, the OECD has said the Australian economy could decline by 6.3 per cent this year, which would take us back to where it was in 2016.

The technology pioneered to help manage the pandemic will continue to help us live in the ‘new normal’.

Travellers passing through Canberra Airport may notice new Temperature Screening solutions at the security check-in. This allows the airport to increase its protection against COVID-19 and includes thermal cameras to detect travellers with high temperatures. The key goal is to help reassure passengers transiting through public spaces like airports. We may see more of this type of technology installed at other public spaces like train stations, shopping centres, and maybe even at some workplaces where thousands of people pass through daily.

Traditional offices will also evolve as a result of COVID-19. Employees will demand to be allowed to continue working from home after the forced experiment pressured companies to change their flexible-working mindset and accelerate the required digitisation. This also meant the need to evolve the cyber security, technology processes, and communication and collaboration tools to enable successful remote working. The pandemic has pushed CIOs and IT departments (no matter what size) to finally modernise various procedures and systems.

Telstra’s Smart Building product already measures people’s movement through infrared sensor data to deliver insights on desk usage, meeting room usage and general occupancy levels. The product is now being expanded to measure social distancing and hygiene compliance, and will be highly relevant to all industries, especially retail, transport, health, and commercial offices.

Elsewhere, video analytics will be deployed to assist critical industries with real-time thermal scanning to ensure the ongoing safety of staff and the public. AI will help deliver insights such as people flow and count, movement analysis, alerts, and more.

There is also set to be a widespread acceleration of automation (as robots can’t contract COVID-19) which has several drivers. One of the interesting opportunities I’ve seen is robots that can clean, disinfect, help detect fever symptoms, and monitor mask and social distancing compliance.

In the home, we’ll see faster internet enabling more advanced entertainment and educational technologies. I expect further innovation in television, gaming, smart home, and communication devices will be front and centre in consumer electronics R&D in the next 12-24 months.

I have no doubt these examples of technology and innovation will be scaled even further.

COVID-19 has reinforced how critical technology is for our daily lives, specifically dependable and fast connectivity. The swift need for network reliability and resiliency when we first moved to working from home, was an early indication of how vital connectivity will be in the future.

The world is slowly exploring ultra-reliable low latency use cases like autonomous driving, remote surgery, robotics, smart cities and smart homes. 5G, Edge Computing, IoT and AI are critical technologies for us to enable these advanced scenarios, but we can’t forget security, privacy, customer experience, and operational excellence are equally as important when we embark on this journey. Because it’s people that will give purpose to technology.

COVID-19 has meant new cultural and workforce transformation for the better. We strongly believe technology plays a central role in these shifting and accelerating trends and will be the foundation in what the new normal looks like for Australians – in the home, at the office, and anywhere in between.