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.

Business and Enterprise |

Walking the talk on digital transformation

By Michael Ebeid AM January 28, 2020

2020 is a milestone year. We all said we’d lose weight, take up that hobby or get back into that thing we loved by the time the calendar flipped over to the new decade. Many enterprise leaders said that they’d be well underway with their organisation’s digital transformation, but as it turns out, many are still working through the complexities such a transformation often demands.

How do we know that? They told us.

In both the 2020 KPMG CEO Survey and Telstra’s Digital Transformation Survey, leaders said that the one thing that keeps them up at night was… you guessed it: digital transformation.

And transformation isn’t a new worry, either. For the last three years, KPMG’s research has found that digital transformation has been the number one concern of Australian CEOs, even as it shifts dramatically under their feet.

While new concerns have emerged over the last three years (an uncertain geopolitical environment dominated by the China versus US trade war; climate change; and lack of public trust in Institutions and Corporations) digital transformation is still ranked as the number one business challenge.

Back in 2016, KPMG’s chairman collated the data and remarked that “[CEOs] feel that the next three years will be critical in shaping their industry,” adding that “CEOs are telling us the time for change is ‘now or never’”. Those critical three years have passed, and yet the concerns remain. So what’s happened?

The truth is, transformations such as these are hard. But every delay can compound the difficulties. It would be easy to sit back and throw popcorn from the cheap seats about digital transformation, but we’re not just idle observers at Telstra. We’re in the thick of it! We’re approaching the halfway point of out T22 plan, designed to streamline our business and transform it into the Telstra we want and need for the future, and it has by no means been easy. Additionally, Telstra is also working closely with many of our customers to help develop their strategies, design and implement their transformation journeys.

We’ve had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and be disciplined and courageous in the face of sweeping changes. Not only are we simplifying our offerings for our customers, but we’re also reshaping how we work in the back-end. We’re strategically investing in new IT platforms and retiring many of our legacy systems, while simultaneously building the networks of the future with 5G and IoT.

We aren’t waiting for the future to catch up to us. We’re building it.

By standing still, businesses all over the world risk the future overtaking them and digital native companies are disrupting or destroying traditional business models. Look at the banking and fintech sector, for example. Banks all over the world are being threatened by tech companies that move faster in their space, act smarter for their customers and rapidly transform to meet new challenges. Where legacy businesses see technology and related transformation buzzwords as a way to automate jobs and streamline processes in order to save money, tech companies are using it to innovate in order to make money.

By walking the transformative talk, companies around the world can take hold of their future and participate in shaping it for their customers and their shareholders in order to keep pace with the rapid rate of change around them.

Transformation is not without risk, but nothing worth having was built without risk. We’re determined to transform from the leader of today into the winner of tomorrow, and if we can transform a 150-year old incumbent, other leaders can too.

Technology is a broad church and digital transformation is never easy. You can find more information on the four most common weaknesses businesses encounter starting their digital transformation journey here, or if you’re stuck or yet to get started, talk to Telstra Purple today.

Tech and Innovation |

Tech of the decade: looking forward, looking back

By Luke Hopewell December 24, 2019

We’ve come a long way in 10 years. We’ve seen networks come and others go, celebrating our connectivity milestones along the way. Here’s our highlight reel from our decade in tech.

This piece is part one of a three-part series on how technology shaped the last decade of our lives. You can read more about the tech of the decade here.

Data hungry

At the beginning of the decade, we couldn’t predict the explosive demand for data, and how we’d always be able to keep up with new and incredible technologies. But in the first 12 months of our 4G network, we connected a massive 500,000 devices, and were more than up to the task of servicing them with all the data they needed!

When we launched our AMPS (or 1G) network in April 1987 it took until late 1992 before we reached the half a million customer milestone. When we launched our GSM (or 2G) network in 1993 it took us two years to reach the 100,000 customer milestone – so the pace has certainly picked up!

This year we wanted to make life even easier for our data-hungry customers, by eliminating excess data charges on all of our new plans. It’s a bright future for mobile data in the years to come!

Need for speed

We’re currently celebrating the incredible speeds we’re getting on the first consumer 5G devices to land in Australia, but the journey to such raw power came in leaps and bounds over the last decade.

In 2010, it was common for Australians to be connected to a theoretical maximum speed of 1.5Mbps on their home internet connections, with little to no need for big data caps on the go unless they were serious business users.

But as we released our billion-dollar NextG network, we realised that this was all about to change. The convergent smartphones of the early 2010s meant that more could be done on the go, and we knew we had the network for the job.

In 2015, we crossed an incredible milestone that still feels shocking to read: we crossed 1Gbps of theoretical maximum speed over 4G, pushing the limits of LTE further than ever before. We successfully tested 1Gbps speed capability by aggregating together 100MHz of Telstra’s spectrum holdings across five separate 4G channels integrated on our commercial end to end network.

The changing face of usage

In 2007, if you told someone you could beam high-definition, live sport from the other side of the world to a supercomputer in your pocket, they’d tell you to dream on. 10 years later, in 2017, the biggest spike on our network came from the Floyd Mayweather – Conor McGregor bout!

In 2017 Australians used around 40 per cent more data on the Telstra mobile network than the previous year, with the day of the Mayweather-McGregor bout topping the list for data usage in a 24-hour period.

What we have seen is that data usage has been growing consistently and rapidly throughout the year. All our top data days were in the second half of the year and the biggest data day in the first few months of the year is just an average day now.

And in 2019, the records kept tumbling. Gaming smash hit Fortnite redefined how people used our network this year. Read more about our big data spikes of the year here.

A wild, connected future: predictions for 2030

10 years ago, we had no idea that video would be the biggest driver of internet traffic. We didn’t know that connected devices would number in the billions. We didn’t know that we’d all be working from home. And we definitely didn’t know that we’d be five-minutes-to-midnight when it came to global climate change.

As we look forward into the next decade, we boldly predict where we’ll be 10 years from now.

Plugging In

While many futurists predict the literal rise of flying cars by 2030, the more significant change will be how the four-wheeled future is powered.

A number of countries have already announced plans to ban the purchase of new vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs) by the year 2030. Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands and Sweden will all ban the sale of new gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles from 2030, while Barcelona, Brussels, Cape Town, Hainan, Heidelberg, London and Los Angeles have all announced similar plans. Other countries have announced de-ICEing plans including Costa Rica, France, Norway, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom within the next two decades.

2019-20 was the year the electric car went from being a pipe dream to a reality, and already in 2020 we’re staring down the headlights of major manufacturers jumping on board to create more affordable models. Some of the largest manufacturers even want up to 40% of their sales to be made up by EVs by 2030.

No matter what the new cars of the future look like, it’s going to be an electrified ride.

The New Colony

Since we crawled out of the caves, we’ve been developing new ways to build our homes to shelter us from the elements. As the cost of labour and materials continues to rise throughout the 2020s, we’ll be harnessing new ways to construct environmentally sound homes by 2030. This means harnessing the power of robotics and 3D printing to quickly “print” homes in as little as 24 hours.

The world’s first community of 3D printed homes has been unveiled in Mexico this year which allows families to live in high-quality, low-cost housing faster than ever before. The printer that made the homes is 10 metres in length and extrudes a quick-dry concrete mixture. Currently it can’t work in adverse conditions, but as the technology improves and becomes more reliable over the next 10 years, it’s set to revolutionise everything from low-cost housing through to disaster relief efforts.

And as NASA and the European Space Agency prepare to launch a moon colony in the second-half of the coming decade, they’re looking to take 3D printed structures to an extraterrestrial level. Next stop, Mars?

Automation nation

Automation is the process of replacing human workers for advanced robotics in the global workforce. It’s something that has already put millions of humans out of work, and it’s not slowing down.

CEDA research shows that more than five million jobs – representing almost 40 per cent of the jobs that exist today – will likely be disrupted by technology in the next decade.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Research from McKinsey and Company indicates that the number of jobs that the internet has disrupted and disappeared is lower than the number of jobs that the rise of the internet has created from new innovations and new industries. It’s around 2.6 jobs created for everyone that was rendered obsolete.

As new industries emerge throughout the 2020s, old industries will evolve and reengineer themselves to create a connected workforce of the future. Furthermore, we see a future whereby automated robots will work alongside human operators to create greater efficiencies in the workforce.

Research from PriceWaterhouseCoopers shows that the connected workforce of 2030 will look vastly different to the workforce of today thanks to technology. These changes will fundamentally reshape the way we engage with work and how we interact with our cities. Connectivity and environmental concerns will drive future workers to stay home rather than commute to an office. 5G will allow for near-instant communication, making high-resolution video chat more pervasive and useful than ever.

Employers may even implement rewards for workers who choose to work flexibly instead of commuting, as it falls in line with a broader organisational environmental policy.

Absolute connectivity

At the end of 2018, it was estimated that over seven billion devices were connected to the internet. When you think of the word “devices”, it’s easy to get caught up and think that we’re just talking about smartphones, tablets and laptops. The reality is, in fact, more pervasive than you think.

When we talk about devices, we’re talking about solar-powered sensors, automated terminals and even vending machines that can tell a company when it needs to be refilled. The machine-to-machine internet is alive and well already, and by 2030 it’s going to be absolutely everywhere.

Research predicts that by 2030, over 100 billion devices – including consumer smartphones, sensors and smart machines – will be hooked up to the modern internet.

Think of everything in your life right now, right down to the clothes you’re wearing. It’s more than likely that by 2030, there will be an internet-connected version on the shelves, waiting for you to use.

Think about a coat that was connected to the internet that could ventilate itself based on changing weather conditions, all the while playing your favourite music through bone-conduction audio in the collar. Think about how businesses will be able to streamline their workflow once every device on their network is reporting its status for effective workforce management. The possibilities are endless, and some haven’t even been discovered yet.

Thankfully, we’ll already have widespread 5G coverage by 2030 with more latency and capacity available on the network than ever before. We’ll also have a more mature dedicated Internet of Things network to compliment the leading one we already have.

The Sinkernet

On our current climate trajectories, the world will experience an ocean level rise of 15cm by 2030 – potentially higher if our behaviour gets worse. Technology built from the 1990s and into the 2010s was constructed on existing coastlines and often without thought to how it would be future-proofed against catastrophic climate shift.

We boast the largest undersea cable network in all of Asia, and we’re proud to maintain it into the future. Scientists warn, however, that land-based cable networks aren’t built to withstand the same kind of conditions as their underwater cohorts. If left unchecked, internet landing stations that connect oceanic cables into countries could be under threat due to climate change. And it’s not just connectivity that would be threatened. Research shows that facilities currently on dry land – including data centres, points of presence and other landing stations – run the risk of being underwater by 2030.

We’re already planning to make our network more resilient to climate threats, and calling on our leaders to heed the warnings from scientists about the potentially devastating impacts of climate change in the next 10 years.

Business and Enterprise | Tech and Innovation |

A new frontier of innovation with advanced remote operations

By Michael Ebeid AM October 4, 2019

I’m always impressed at our team’s ability to solve problems using our networks in the pursuit of a better future for our customers, and for their customers. Today we’re unveiling a new frontier in remote operations.

Through our ongoing partnership with leading geospatial specialist Fugro, we’ve developed the ROC, or Remote Operations Centre. Based in Perth at our International Telecommunications Centre, the ROC is helping to service Fugro’s maritime operations off the coast of Western Australia in a whole new way thanks to satellites, automation and innovation.

Using our satellite network, we are working with skilled Fugro engineers to operate a fleet of maritime submersible robots. These drones beam high-definition video to remote operators in Perth from an incredible depth. Paired with the range of our satellite network, Fugro could deploy this remote drone capability to anywhere on Earth – from the coasts of Africa through to the shores of the Americas.

These robots will operate up to 4000 metres below the surface of some of the roughest oceans in the world, with duties including the remote inspection, repair and maintenance of Fugro infrastructure.

Prior to the deployment of the ROC and its fleet of subsea satellite drones, Fugro would need to deploy a manned vessel into the area to control the monitoring equipment. This presented a challenge, as crews would need to contend with rough conditions and harsh environments.

This use of satellite technology means greater efficiency for partners like Fugro, but also means greater levels of workplace safety, as it reduces the need for crewed boats to visit subsea infrastructure. Fugro can now maintain its subsea assets off the coast of Western Australia, including oil and gas resources, telecommunications cables and more.

This incredible application of our networks to the cutting-edge sector of remote robotics holds incredible potential for other industries. We’re already investigating future opportunities for the ROC in the wider market.

Industries like mining, agriculture and even those in the space sector could benefit from remote monitoring and maintenance. Any industry contending with a harsh or remote environment could benefit from the capabilities and applications we’ve created at the ROC.

We’re excited to share the work of our partnership with Fugro with other customers and industries, including the potential of using our Remote Operations Centre as a hub for innovation that can support the development of joint government and industry automation initiatives.

We truly believe we’ve uncovered a rich vein of economic opportunity for jobs and growth in the Western Australian and national economies.