Entertainment | Tech and Innovation |

How to set up parental controls for safer Xbox gaming

By Luke Hopewell December 17, 2019

We’ve recently partnered exclusively with Microsoft to offer Xbox All Access to our customers, and we’re thrilled to be able to have gaming available as an add-on to our plans for the first time. Here we round up some tips on how you can ensure your family has a safe and fun gaming experience with Xbox with Parental Controls.

We spoke to Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Xbox Operations, Dave McCarthy, to find out how you can create a dialogue with your kids about their online habits, and how you can ensure safe guardrails are in place on your household Xbox.

Gaming for all

Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, recently penned his thoughts on what gaming should be as more and more families take up controllers everywhere. He recognised that gaming as a subculture shouldn’t belong to one particularly vocal group. Instead, communities like Xbox should strive to create a safe space where all players can come together harmoniously.

As part of this “gaming for all” mission, Spencer outlined that Xbox would work to be “vigilant, proactive and swift” in combating abuse on their platform. Furthermore, he committed Xbox and Microsoft to work across the gaming industry on safety measures such as robust parental controls and AI-backed applications.

We’re a huge advocate of this mission. Together, our values align perfectly with Microsoft’s around gaming, especially when it comes to keeping families safe online to create spaces where everyone can thrive.

Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to set up your new Xbox to be a safe and inclusive space with flexible and friendly parental controls.

Activate Smart Content Filtering (now with smart AI)

Learn how to enable new Message Safety Settings on your Xbox One All Access console

Dave McCarthy told us he understands that “competitive banter” is the by-product of online gaming, and filtering out potentially offensive messages is one step that the product team could take immediately to keep kids safer online.

“We’ve been moderating on Xbox Live now for almost 20 years. The way it has worked up until now is that you could retroactively go and report a user to our moderation team that works 24/7 around the globe to investigate,” McCarthy explains.

“What we’ve realised now is that in order to really be effective at size and scale, we need to augment our human intelligence and our moderators with artificial intelligence and machine learning models that run in the background.”

Microsoft has taken clever AI techniques and implemented them to work alongside human moderators, helping to create safe spaces online for all, starting with automated filtering of potentially offensive messages and Gamertag pictures.

Smart Content Filtering enforces these guidelines by helping to automatically filter out potentially offensive messages before their damage can be done. The AI-powered, human moderator-backed feature can be customised based on four levels of filtration: Friendly, Medium, Mature and Unfiltered. These filtration levels work across all aspects of the Xbox ecosystem, starting with private messages and expanding over time to tools that help players find other likeminded gamers. That includes LFG, Clubs and the Xbox Activity Feed.

On your console, you can configure your message safety by going to Settings > General > Online safety & family > Message safety. Whenever you receive a message that’s beyond your safety setting, it’ll be replaced with a [Potentially offensive message hidden] placeholder. You can click on that placeholder to learn more about the settings, and there’s a handy shortcut to change those settings. Adult accounts will have the ability to choose whether to see what content has been filtered based on the filter they choose.

McCarthy referenced Microsoft’s extremely rigorous Community Standards document that acts as the North Star for all things moderation on Xbox Live, saying that “they were really an effort to make sure people understood in plain words what our value system is”.

“It gives players specific examples of what good looks like and what crossing the line is overall,” he added.

Dave McCarthy’s team is now working hard to expand the AI moderation and auto-filtration features across other aspects of the ecosystem.

“Ultimately…we want to try and make sure that we’re getting into all areas of content and communication types on Xbox Live. We’re starting with text because it is one of the biggest communication formats on Xbox Live and there’s a lot that we can learn from that,” says McCarthy.

McCarthy adds that the human Moderation Team is also constantly working to ensure that it sticks with the times. “We’re constantly updating, and our model is trainable as well. Say all of a sudden we wanted to ban the word ‘Luke’ from friendly conversations because it’s now sensitive and offensive. We could put that in our tool and within 10 seconds around the world, ‘Luke’ would be a word filtered out of our Friendly message settings in 21 languages around the world,” McCarthy explains.

Enable Smart Parental Controls

App and game limits to cap how much time your children can use specific apps or games.

Smart filtration automates the process of removing potentially harmful messages from being sent to your kids before they have a chance to see them. For everything else, there’s parental controls that can allow you to manage healthy habits in the home as a parent.

Making sure kids spend the right amount of time on the Xbox is also important, and with the most recent update, Microsoft allows you to filter play time on a per game or app basis. That means you can give your child 1 hour on Minecraft, for example, while allowing 2 hours of Netflix streaming on their Kids profile.

All this data is also recorded into a dashboard you can view, digest and edit from anywhere in the world via an iOS or Android smartphone or Windows computer.

And the Family Group settings for the Xbox One include the essentials, like controlling access to content based on its rating; web filtering and whitelisting, as well as cross-platform privacy and matchmaking safety.

By creating a Family Group with your Microsoft account, you can add your children’s Xbox Accounts and set effective boundaries for their use of your new Xbox One.

Family settings on Xbox empowers parents and guardians to enable or block their child’s access to play or communicate with players on other networks.

Creating a Family Group allows you to first and foremost control the games and apps that your children are purchasing for use on the console. Instead of allowing them free reign to purchase potentially inappropriate material, this control sends you an email when your kids want to buy a game or an app so you can have a discussion on whether it’s appropriate.

Having the talk

It used to be that you could sit your kids in front of prescribed, child-friendly programming for the hours between when school ended and bedtime. But with the advent of smart devices and kids who are highly technically literate, parents can no longer be laissez-faire about their digital habits.

With almost every device in the home now connected to the Internet, along with the breadth and depth of potentially inappropriate content now accessible, parental controls are essential to helping you to make sure that kids are being kept safe online.

With a Microsoft Family Account, you can receive a report each week of how your child used the Xbox One, providing you with transparency on how it was used. This report can be sent to just the parent/s or the parent/s and the child/ren.

Dave McCarthy believes that – while parental control systems are vital for protecting kids online – being able to have a conversation with your kids about their habits is essential.

“[These features are] a conversation starter for our family. It’s not about saying to your kids, ‘Hey, did you follow the hard and fast rules or not?’ It’s: ‘Hey, we talked about not going onto YouTube and you still tried to do it. Can I assume you have a good reason? What was it?’. And then you get into the conversation on why they needed YouTube for that school project. Awesome! Cool. Let’s go change that setting specifically and go there together.

“It’s about having these conversations with your kids. I think, honestly, we need involvement on both sides. We need parents to lean in and understand what the digital activities of their kids look like, and we need kids to be able to be comfortable with all of these different tools and to have a conversation with you as a parent about how you’re using it,” McCarthy says.

Xbox gaming and 5G low latency

Before setting up a console with parental control features, it’s important to sit down with your kids and talk about what they want to use the device for, why and for how long. That way you can come to a compromise with your kids about how long they should spend gaming and watching other content.

It’s also a good opportunity to educate children about engaging with the potentially harmful discourse they may encounter online and arming the whole family with tools to identify and filter it.

“You know what’s best for your family; no technology can ever replace that. The right tools can help make parenting easier and family settings on Xbox does this by putting parents in control of what your children can access across the platform,” McCarthy adds.

We’re excited to bring gaming to our customers via Xbox All Access, and we’re confident that with the right tools available on the console via Microsoft that all parents and kids can game together safely.

To learn more about enabling safety features on your new Xbox All Access device, learn about the core safety features here.

Network | Tech and Innovation |

Our commitment to open source

By Stephen Hilton December 16, 2019

As our world shifts from “big project” vendors and standards bodies towards open communities focussed on driving deep technology development expertise, we see an increasing need to support the open source software movement. Here’s what open source means to us, and how we’re already using it to drive efficiency gains in our business.

What is open source?

Open source allows for software and its associated source code to be studied, changed and redistributed to anyone and for any purpose. Open source software allows for diverse perspectives and use cases as it’s developed in an open and collaborative fashion.

This open development community is often where new standards and innovation emerge. In fact, the open source ‘revolution’ is happening – and has happened – in other industries such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and automotive sectors, all keen to capitalise upon faster innovation, to better serve customers and differentiate in their market.

Globally, telcos in general are adopting open source to drive value and consistency. We’re no different through our use of numerous programming languages and libraries for applications and the web. It is crucial that we play a part in and take advantage of this approach to thrive and lead in an increasingly competitive market.

To show support for these communities, we recently hosted 120+ attendees from the local and international industry to knowledge share on the Open Source evolution in partnership with Linux Foundation Networking (LFN) and Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

The event featured plenaries, breakout sessions and tutorials on Next Generation Software Defined Network, Automation, and Edge Computing. With the advent of software-based transformation of our network, this event assisted our engineering teams to connect with the industry, understand the impact of open source software for us, and gather new skills.

Following the success of the collaborative event, we wanted to share what open source means to us and why we’re backing it.

Why open source for Telstra?

Open Source allows us to:

  • Share development effort for enabling technologies, lowering research and development costs whilst keeping pace with faster innovation cycles, leveraging from open communities and relying less on vendor product roadmap cycles;
  • Help accelerate product development by leveraging the collective development efforts, whilst maintaining a strong influence in open technologies that we rely on for our products;
  • Independently update and extend capacities in-house whenever we need to, while still retaining differentiating intellectual property, and
  • Become an attractive employer for talent looking to work on open technologies

Now that our network is becoming software centric, Open Source is being used in our engineering and operational groups for monitoring, network management and analytics with a focus on avoiding inflexible vendor roadmaps.

Game changer: We’re benefiting from this Open Source approach to deliver standard services in a standard way, crucially in a ‘language’ that the world understands and can interact with. This is essential as we transform our network into software and keep aligned with the global community.

Getting this functionality delivered into production to drive value for our business has required network integration and hardening – up to a year of effort to achieve component reusability, ongoing support and software currency.

The result has been through a collaborative effort with our partners – Arris, Infosys, TMF (Open API), Amdocs, Sea Street and others. In the future, we will expand this partnership approach to drive the initial innovation to build our business capability, then offload to others to harden, integrate and provide ongoing support.

Benefits and challenges

Not only does open source present a significant development opportunity, but it also offers cost savings in line with our company strategy.

It’s important to understand that open source software is not free, but by using it we should expect a significant reduction in software licensing fees, while being offered fewer restrictions in terms of scalability and distribution.

Simultaneously, we expect reduced hardware costs based on open software – as it runs on lower-cost, more commoditised “white box” setups. As we leverage open source for our data and analytics needs, we anticipate further cost savings in network automation and optimisation.

Cost reductions are great, but we need to be mindful of how we select our technology areas and delivery methods based on our own technology as well as our culture, capability and skills. Taking ownership of the software life cycle in-house brings with it a range of challenges, including the development, deployment and operational costs associated.

Of course, challenges such as these do not outweigh the benefits of leveraging open source technologies in our business and the associated community benefits of sharing our successes. We know using and contributing to open source software helps the broader community as well as our own goals.

We’re excited to take a leadership role in open source, and hope to share the journey with our colleagues in the tech sector.

Devices | Tech and Innovation |

Keeping the NRMA safer behind the wheel with Mobileye

By Gerhard Loots November 29, 2019

The National Roads and Motorists’ Association – more commonly known as the NRMA – has been keeping people moving around our great nation since 1920. When you lock your keys in the car, discover a flat tyre or breakdown in a cloud of smoke on the side of the road, the NRMA’s patrol vans are on hand to help. We’re proud to announce that we’re now helping to keep the guardian angels of the road safer while they drive with the Mobileye ® advanced driver-assistance system. 

Keeping a Mobileye on the roads 

An advanced driver-assistance system – or ADAS – is any electronic gear that works to help a driver as they operate a motor vehicle. The Mobileye system is an ADAS that helps give drivers a third-eye on the road to help protect from dangers. 

About 90% of accidents are caused by driver error and nearly 80% of crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the eventi. Even a few seconds’ warning can help prevent collisions. That’s where Mobileye comes in: it provides warnings that give drivers precious seconds to react, keeping them and the community safer. 

The Mobileye 6 series uses an artificial vision sensor to monitor the road of pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. It consists of a single camera and a dashboard alert unit to give the driver visual and audible warnings. 

Mobileye, an Intel Company, is a global leader in the development of computer vision, machine learning, and mapping technologies for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Mobileye technology is embedded in hundreds of new car models from over 25 of the world’s leading automakers, but luckily the technology can also be retrofitted to almost any car. Telstra’s partnered with Mobileye to provide solutions to suit NRMA’s patrol fleet and tow trucks. 

Mobileye

Mobileye provides audible alerts to drivers up to two seconds before a potential collision, allowing them crucial time to reactii. On highways and in urban areas, drivers are given up to 2.7 seconds forward collision warning for vehicles or motorcycles ahead. The Mobileye system also helps drivers reduce the overall likelihood of accidents by helping to maintain a safe distance between the NRMA vehicle and the car in front. It even provides speed alert warningsiii and lane departure warnings. 

Safer drivers with better protection lead to fewer collisions and reduced operational costs. Collision costs are steep, from replacement parts and vehicle downtime to late delivery charges, increased insurance premiums and more. With Mobileye’s alerts, you can reduce the likelihood of collisions. Drivers who use the system say that they brake harshly much less often, which helps reduce fuel usage and wear and tear. 

Helping the helpers 

The NRMA’s Roadside Assistance patrols keep drivers safe when they need it the most. When your car has gone bust, a call to the NRMA can see you back on the road in no time at all.  

Over 300 NRMA-owned vans operate across NSW, helping thousands of motorists every year. These vans can spend up to 4000 hours on the road each year. That’s almost 250,000 minutes where anything can happen, from major collisions through to dangerous near misses. But in a little under two hours of installation for each vehicle, we’re working to make those hours spent helping others safer than ever. 

We’re already working with the NRMA to install the Mobileye system onto its patrol vans, linking the vehicle’s computer to the front-facing camera while installing a small display for the driver to view alerts. NRMA patrol drivers are briefed on the new tech, and they’re back on the road. No advanced training or operation required: just a small, potentially life-saving upgrade to their invaluable mobile office.  

Mobileye
Mobileye

Most drivers have now had their Mobileye kits installed for six to eight weeks, and have already reported that they feel safer knowing it’s there. NRMA Patrols are set to provide ongoing feedback on Mobileye as they continue to roll with the system installed.  

These systems will benefit the NRMA by creating safer driving conditions across the Mobileye-enabled fleet. Typically, after driving for some time with the system installed, drivers grow accustomed to the alerts and anticipate them.  

The NRMA has kept Australia on the road for almost 100 years, and we’re proud to be supporting it with crucial tech that can save time, money and lives. Roll on, NRMA! 

Inspiration | People | Telstra Careers |

Using AI to create great customer experiences

By Jarrod Cardy December 3, 2018

How do we create great customer experiences using our best tech?

Customers are at the heart of everything we do, so it’s important they can speak with us in a way that’s easiest and convenient for them.

One way our teams are doing this is by using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to create amazing digital experiences for our millions of global customers.

You can get an insight into the innovative work our people are doing in customer experience in this video with our Sales Executive, Gretchen Cooke.

Want to be part of the Telstra team? Head to our Careers Website to learn more.