Uni students step up to Telstra through industry partnerships
By Campbell SimpsonSeptember 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
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.
Campbell is the External Editorial Lead at Telstra, and is responsible for Telstra Exchange's editorial strategy and publishing. In his role, Campbell finds interesting stories from within our business and shares them in new and innovative ways. He came to Telstra after working as a technology journalist for over a decade at websites like Gizmodo, CNET and PC World, and has a longtime love of tech and gadgets. When he's not writing, Campbell spends his downtime outdoors whenever possible, hiking, camping or mountain biking around New South Wales.
How to set up parental controls for safer Xbox gaming
By Luke HopewellDecember 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
Content Filtering (now with smart AI)
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,”
“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
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
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
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.
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
“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.
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.
Luke Hopewell is an editor, tech expert and Senior Specialist Writer at Telstra Exchange. Luke joined Telstra in 2019 where he has had the privilege to help bring stories to life in a unique and human way. He was previously the head of editorial at Twitter Australia and the editor of cult tech site Gizmodo. For over a decade, Luke’s passion for technology has always driven him to seek out the latest gadgets and game-changers, and help others to understand how it all works. In another life he was a cyber security specialist where he sought to educate people about how to stay safe online. When he's not writing, he's getting outdoors and patting all the nice dogs he meets.
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
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.
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:
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;
product development by leveraging the collective development efforts, whilst
maintaining a strong influence in open technologies that we rely on for our
update and extend capacities in-house whenever we need to, while still
retaining differentiating intellectual property, and
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.
Principal and Technology Area Lead -
Programmable Infrastructure at Telstra Labs
Stephen Hilton is a Principal and Technology Area Lead for Programmable Infrastructure at Telstra Labs. During his almost 30 years at Telstra, Stephen has held positions across technology strategy, innovation, solution architecture, product development and operations. Stephen is passionate about understanding and communicating the benefits that new network technologies can bring to Telstra and the business opportunities they will create. His other passion is photography and he loves nothing more than getting out and about with his camera.
Keeping the NRMA safer behind the wheel with Mobileye
By Gerhard LootsNovember 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 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.
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!
Global IoT Solutions Executive -
Products and Technology
Gerhard Loots heads up Telstra’s IoT business, a key growth area at the heart of the company’s transformation. His experience stretches across multiple industries, having fulfilled leadership roles in security, advanced manufacturing, consumer electronics, health, real estate and telecoms as well as appointments on the advisory board of several start-ups. Gerhard holds formal qualifications in law, commerce, engineering and continuous improvement. With credentials that also include building a technology company from start-up, he is passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship. This experience and focus on innovation drives Gerhard’s success in delivering pragmatic and transformative business outcomes for Telstra customers, leveraging new technologies to solve real business problems.
I am an experienced communications professional, who has spent time working in content marketing, social media, public relations, television journalism and news producing roles.
Throughout my career, I have worked on high profile digital, public relations and social media campaigns that have helped to drive engagement.