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How regional teens are embracing technology for change at Telstra Vantage 2019

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on September 16, 2019

4 min read

At Telstra Vantage 2019, we invited high school students from regional Australia to take the stage and present their tech solutions to the real-world problems facing their communities.

Bringing together leaders from the technology industry, ‘Tomorrow’s leaders embracing technology for change’ at Telstra Vantage 2019 was designed to help attendees draw inspiration from young minds.

In collaboration with Telstra Foundation partner Young Change Agents, high school students showcased innovative ideas and helped Telstra Enterprise partners gain a fresh perspective on technology.

Young Change Agents is a design-thinking based social entrepreneurship program for 10 to 18-year-olds that provides students with the tools to think creatively, build skills in critical thinking and communication, and empowers them to become entrepreneurs, leaders and world-changers.

Over three days, the four teams of students completed a design thinking process with Young Change Agents to identify real-world issues facing their community. They ideated potential solutions, developed a business model, and then validated, prototyped and pitched their ideas to our panel of judges – Mike Ebeid, Telstra Enterprise Group Executive, Jackie Coates, Head of Telstra Foundation, Kate Stewart, Telstra Head of Education Partnerships, and Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne.

The students pitched some inspiring innovation ideas:

Farm Watch: health tracking data for farm animals

Narromine High School, Narromine (West of Dubbo)

This team’s idea comes from using existing tracking systems (wearable tech bands for livestock) to an app that extracts research from data sets collected from the tracking systems. The data collected can be sold or donated to science or research and help educate schools and the public.

Mike Ebeid said, “This idea certainly speaks to everything that we do here at Telstra. Keeping a track of livestock is really important for farmers and helping to solve that is great because most farmers I know care a lot about their animals. It will also help people to see and appreciate the work of farmers. It’s a really good idea.”

Link Lamp: connecting people through light to relieve loneliness

Keira High School, Wollongong

How might we make people who are lonely feel more connected to others? This team came up with smart connected lamps that are paired so when one person touches their lamp, it sends a signal to the other one resulting in light appearing. This shows that the other person is thinking of them and they are not alone.

Sally Capp said, “This idea pulled at my heartstrings.  I’ve got a son in the United States at the moment and I think if I had this lamp (and I would love one), I would’ve been pushing that button every moment of today so that he knows I’m thinking of him.

There’s no doubt that even though we are more connected than ever, the mental health surveys tell us…that people are suffering from social isolation more than ever before. It’s just little ideas like this that can make such a big difference and a big impact.”

Travel on the Gravel: VR learning experiences for long bus rides to school

Trangie High School, Trangie (West of Dubbo)

Bus companies find that students get up to mischief on long bus rides. Students find bus travel boring and parents want their kids to productively use their time on long bus rides. If local buses have virtual reality headsets, bus trips could educate and entertain youth and allow the students to virtually experience situations they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

Jackie Coates said, “No one knows the tyranny of distance more than a regional student who travels hours a day to and from school on the same long and winding road. 

I love how this idea uses virtual reality to solve a real problem and the students did some excellent work scoping their business plan and hustling a local bus company to run their prototype.”

Happy Patch Packs: veggie garden packs using sensors connected to an app

Trangie High School, Trangie (West of Dubbo)

How might we help local families grow fresh produce without using too much available water resources? This team wants to create a self-watering/data measuring fresh fruit and vegetable garden growing kit helping people in remote or drought-affected communities to gain access to fresh food.

Kate Stewart, “Hearing from the students how tough it is in regional communities when it comes to accessing fresh veggies and water and the costs for families, I think this idea is fantastic. I love how the team has incorporated a tech solution in what is a very sustainable and clever idea and how you’ve solved a local community challenge.”  

Thanks to the Young Change Agents team and the amazing high school students involved who helped us to deliver a great event at Telstra Vantage 2019.

Over 3 million new IoT ‘things’ on our network

Telstra Vantage™ IoT

Posted on September 5, 2019

4 min read

Australians are well and truly embracing the Internet of Things, with over 3.2 million devices now connected to our IoT network and an average of 2000 more being added every day.

At Telstra Vantage 2019 this week, we’ve been showcasing how these connected ‘things’ are assisting to increase safety, reduce costs and help to make our customers’ experiences easier and better from start to finish. We took the opportunity to demonstrate our various IoT platforms including Track and Monitor, smart spaces, our IoT Connection Manager, and the Bluetooth finding network that powers our Telstra Locator

There’s a huge opportunity for IoT to transform the way that businesses operate in Australia. More than half of all Australian organisations surveyed are confident that an IoT strategy would generate significant revenue increases for their business*, while over 70 per cent agree that IoT can increase their employees’ productivity and lead to more positive experiences in the workplace*

It’s this strong positivity and endorsement from our enterprise business partners that has helped our IoT business revenue grow by nearly 20 per cent in FY19. We’ve made this possible by investing in and building the largest IoT network in the country, which means Australians can make the most of this new world of connectivity right now. 

We also know that the number of IoT devices being connected each day is growing at a rapid pace. Connected vehicles are an exciting IoT use case in our portfolio right now, but we’re also seeing a huge range of high-tech devices like solar panels, humidity sensors, traffic cones, buses, whitegoods and even garbage trucks being connected to our network – and each one of those contributes data to insights that previously weren’t attainable. 

When businesses use IoT to solve traditional problems in new ways, we’re seeing some incredible success stories emerge. National transport company SCT Logistics used our Track and Monitor product across its rail freight and road transport fleet, dropping its loss rate of 3 per cent on average annually straight down to zero in a three-month trial.  

Not only is SCT Logistics stemming the $4 million cost of losses each year, but it also hopes to get better usage and utilisation rates out of its assets instead of letting them sit idle in customers’ warehouses and shipping yards. After this successful trial, SCT Logistics is now rolling out Track and Monitor across its 1500 non-powered assets like trailers and rail wagons, and integrating that data with its own systems. Despite the scale of this full roll-out, the initial cost is expected to be offset within three years through the efficiencies and constant visibility that our IoT network makes possible.  

By the end of the financial year, we expect to launch more devices in our Track and Monitor range for enterprise-scale use, including new asset tracking units with both LTE-M IoT and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for geolocation. This new unit will combine the strength of LTE-M for detailed critical tracking needs and the low power benefits of Bluetooth tracking in one device. 

Our Bluetooth finding network community has grown impressively over the last few months, too, with an increase from 7.5 million data points in February of this year to over 25 million in July. Track and Monitor customers, Telstra Locator customers, Telstra payphones, opted-in Telstra 24×7 app users and our nationwide fleet of Telstra technician vans all contribute to the density and quality of our Bluetooth community, and we’ve been pleased to see this grow as more customers join. We also plan to add Bluetooth locators to future Cab Digital taxis, potentially adding thousands of taxis to securely and anonymously help all our Bluetooth finding network users locate their lost valuables. 

We’re well on track to connecting over four million IoT devices by this time next year, and we’re really excited to hear more success stories from our customers as they find new and innovative applications for our nationwide IoT network and the wealth of data and insights that it allows businesses to capture. 

* Forrester’s Business Technographics Global Networks And Telecommunications Survey, 2019

Tags: IoT, Vantage,

Navigating technology demands to expand business into Asia

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 18, 2018

4 min read

A session at Telstra Vantage 2018 provided insights into the technology and solutions you can leverage in expanding your business, confidently and successfully, into Asia and the globe.

Despite the many opportunities beyond our shores, a 2017 Australian International Business Survey found that just 7.1 percent of Australian businesses are selling goods and services overseas. Partly this may be that it seems daunting, speculated Nigel Stitt, Telstra’s Australia/New Zealand head of sales for global enterprise services.

Asia is not a singular entity, after all. The region has a complex web of cultures, technology infrastructures, governments, regulations and employment and data sovereignty laws that all need to be respected and considered.

But if you pick the right partners, he said, there’s no reason to feel daunted. On the contrary, opportunities abound in Asia — a region that combines crisp and clean modernity with infrastructure and traffic chaos and lots and lots of energy. All the same, it’s best not to just jump blindly into operating in the region. Here are the key insights you need to know.

Preparation is key

Andy Tybell, Telstra’s head of solution consulting for Asia and Australia/New Zealand, advised that any businesses considering expanding into Asia will get the best results if they plan and prepare early. Feasibility studies and resources like Austrade and the Australia China Business Council can highlight the latest business trends and market conditions as well as help to determine how products and services should be localised.

A company’s product line might not be the only thing that needs some localisation in Asia, either. Unlike in Australia, business decisions are rarely made in meeting rooms, Tybell said, but rather tend to occur in informal environments like restaurants and karaoke halls.

Stitt added that you’ll need to leave impatience behind. Executing on a successful business arrangement first requires growing and investing in relationships, which means respecting Asian business etiquette.

That said, even just learning the local greetings in the local language can go a long way when you’re about to engage in a business conversation.

Investing in local talent

It used to be that many Australian businesses would open operations in China to improve their manufacturing capabilities for servicing the market here, but Stitt said there’s been a strong shift towards expanding for in-China opportunities.

Similarly, in other parts of Asia there are ample opportunities to build and grow a new branch of your business that’s been designed from the outset to meet the local market’s needs, as Telstra did with the Telkomtelstra joint venture in Indonesia.

Investing in local talent — at all levels — can be a huge advantage here, especially in the long-term, rather than taking the easy short-term route of flying expats in to fill all of the important roles. And for this, once again, there are partners that can help — both in terms of professional employment organisations and well-connected locals as well as Australian companies like Telstra that can lend their experience and tap into the networks they built during their own expansions.

Technology is on your side

The sheer breadth of technology options available today means there’s never been a better time to expand your business into Asia. Even in remote locations like Papua New Guinea, where terrestrial services are not readily available, it’s now easier than ever before to handle the needs of a technology business.

Satellite connectivity has been bolstered in the past decade by the introduction of mid-Earth satellites, which offer lower latency and higher bandwidth than older geostationary satellites (150ms and up to 100mbps, versus 600ms and 1-2mbps), while high-speed cable and 4G/5G networks have now opened the door for businesses expanding into more built-up areas of Asia to launch light.

“In the past you had to have a heavy capital expenditure — put in equipment, send out staff,” said Tybell. “Nowadays what you can do is you can actually virtualise the environment in the cloud and just go directly to that environment.”

But it’s important from a technical standpoint, he added, to establish a baseline so that you can replicate the user experience — or at least get as close as you can compared to the country you originated in.

To do that, he advised, start at the top-level. Look at your staff. First ask what functions and processes they’ll use to fulfill their role, then map those to the applications that they’ll use — because their user experience is key to a successful expansion.

Once you’ve determined which applications are critical, you can use your current site as an archetype to figure out your approximate CPU, bandwidth and storage needs and get a profile of what the new site will look like. Then leverage your partnerships to make it happen.

Tackling technology challenges and improving business through diversity

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 12, 2018

5 min read

A panel of female technology leaders at Telstra Vantage 2018 discussed the ideas, techniques and actions that will attract more women into the industry.

With a gender distribution of roughly 25 percent women to 75 percent men, the technology industry still has considerable work to do to be more diverse and inclusive. But Westpac CIO of consumer bank Anastasia Cammaroto said we’ve at least reached the point where it’s an accepted fact that diversity and inclusivity are the right thing to do.

The question now, then, is how to do it — how do we address this gender imbalance, at every seniority level, and reap the benefits of diverse teams and diverse leadership in technology organisations? And how do we navigate these challenges while also steering our way through the fourth big industrial revolution that’s underway right this minute, with 300 years of technology advancements crammed into just the next three years?

For panel moderator Katherine Boiciuc, enterprise operations executive at Telstra, it’s the technology businesses that achieve diversity and inclusivity that will thrive in this period of unprecedented transformation. And for Telstra COO Robyn Denholm, it’s precisely this transformation that should be the catalyst for the change we need to see in our workforce across the board.

Making tech careers more appealing to women and girls

Part of the solution for doing that, she added, is to leverage all this exciting new technology to add a cool factor to the industry so that more kids might then say “I want to be that nerd”, study STEM subjects and make their way into technology careers.

Cammaroto had much more to add on the long view. Westpac set a goal of 50 percent women across all roles, she said, and 10 years later they’ve made it. But achieving this goal took a serious look inwards.

Getting more women into technology and developing them into highly-skilled leaders is not as simple as saying you need them. It requires much greater inclusivity in the phrasing of job advertisements and workplace behaviours and biases, as well as a conscious effort to set role models for the types of values you have in your organisation.

It also means reaching out to girls about the technology pathways they could take in their careers. Westpac has started to run work experience programs for girls at underprivileged schools for this very purpose — because, as Elizabeth Hunter, chief HR officer and shared services at Incitec Pivot, explained, “if they can’t see it, they won’t be it.”

Hunter said that we need to make it clearer as an industry that there are many more kinds of jobs and roles than just being a coder sitting in a room and not talking to anybody all day.

Then once young women enter the field, she added, they need mentors and sponsors who will see their potential and be prepared to give them a go — to help them advance their career and to give them a voice to reframe their roles and step up.

Diversity improves business outcomes

Denholm noted the importance of empowering men to empower women as a practical way to address the gender imbalance. This has had “amazing” results for Telstra in a short period of time, she said, and more broadly the panel agreed that the results of having even a small amount of diversity in your technology teams will speak for themselves.

There’s considerable data to suggest that diverse teams are more profitable, more productive and better problem solvers than non-diverse teams. This goes for diverse leadership, too, with diverse executive teams 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than non-diverse teams.

The panel had plenty of anecdotal evidence to support these numbers. Denholm has been the only woman in many executive teams over the years, for instance, and the men on those teams have often commented that just having that one woman’s presence improved the team dynamics. Similarly, in a previous role in financial services, Hunter learnt that the most profitable team at the firm was also the most diverse.

But Eglantine Etiemble, the CIO of Dulux, cautioned that, for all the many benefits diversity provides, it is also harder to manage diverse teams. You need to work on yourself as an individual and a leader, she advised, to transform yourself and to understand your bias. Only then will the transformation follow.

Hunter echoed the sentiment. Assumptions are often wrong, she said, “So check your assumptions, find out if they’re true, and you might find that a whole new world opens up.”

Greater diversity to tackle the challenges ahead

Business is changing tremendously fast. A whopping 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 don’t exist yet. And these new jobs are likely to require diverse skill sets across our industry.

Christine Russo, technology sales executive at Telstra, said that the future of sales — and all professions — lies in softer skills like humility and empathy and abundance. For that, she said, we need to think about how to build teams where ego is left at the door.

Women leaders also need to think about and choose carefully how to “lean in” to create conditions for women to be successful, she added, while Boiciuc likened diversity to the high school dance. “You can invite everyone to the high school dance,” she said, “but there’s a difference between being at the school dance and being asked to dance at the school dance… So how many people are you inviting to dance?”

Mixed reality and business: bringing value to VR

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 12, 2018

4 min read

Telstra brought together three experts on immersive new mixed, virtual and augmented reality technologies to discuss trends and business impact in a panel at the Vantage conference in September.

The panel emphasised that one of the most important considerations to make regarding the three technologies is that they each have different strengths and each lends itself to uses that the others do not. Take VR, for example:

“Virtual reality is as the sci-fi films promised,” said Jumpgate VR founder and managing director Anton Andreacchio. “You can put on a headset and go to a new world. But the way we see it is you can bring places and situations to people.”

No longer “a solution looking for a problem,” experts in the field now understand that the value of VR lies in its experiential quality. It connects deeply with people, and so it’s ideal for engagement with art or ideas or keeping everyone on the same page in complex stakeholder environments.

With the AFL, for instance, Andreacchio said they started out using VR to let people run through the banners with their favourite team, but now they use it to livestream games and train players. And even their understanding of how to do this has evolved, as they’ve learned the importance of the relationship dynamics between players and coaches in the training process.

Augmented reality, in contrast, is best utilised to add information to your view of the world, while mixed reality devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens fall somewhere in between the other two and adds in better capabilities for sharing and collaboration.

Untethered, hands-free, remote computing

Microsoft HoloLens evangelist Lawrence Crumpton said that Microsoft is famous for putting a PC on every desktop, but now 80 percent of workers don’t actually have a PC. That’s as many as two billion people underserved by access to technology, who can’t carry traditional computers around with them and who in many cases do jobs where they can’t hold their hands in front of their face either.

It’s little wonder, then, that mixed reality — which essentially involves wearing a self-contained computer on your face — is quickly transforming how we conduct all sorts of business activities, especially in fields that involve 3D visualisation.

The construction, engineering, architecture and urban design industries have already embraced mixed reality, Crumpton said, because it improves their ability to manage tasks, change workflows and see instructions — all in 3D, without ever having to stare at a manual — and it allows them to get instant feedback about their work.

Specialist engineering firms, too, have found that with mixed reality they now have the capacity to solve problems remotely rather than flying people out to help in person — saving days of lost productivity for both them and their clients on every single machine breakdown or parts failure.

Solving impossible problems

Tatham Oddie, the managing director at Telstra-owned companies Readify and Kloud, talked about how mixed reality helped Qantas re-imagine big problems. The airline dramatically reduced the turnaround time on assessing and repairing damage to aircraft grounded after lightning strikes when it adopted a mixed reality solution that superimposes the inner wiring and systems onto a HoloLens wearer’s view of the plane’s panels — kind of like an x-ray — so now they can trace the problem without pulling anything apart.

The value of mixed reality here is not just on the business productivity side, either. Engineers and architects have begun to use mixed reality to give their clients walk-around tours of buildings during conception and early building phases.

Figuring out whether mixed reality — or perhaps instead AR or VR — will help your business comes down to understanding not only the context of how they each work but also, Andreacchio suggested, the dynamics at play.

The mixed reality solutions that are having the biggest impact consider the interpersonal side of a problem, and they reflect a company’s culture, values and people.

This doesn’t mean that you need to be an expert on the technology to understand how it could fit with your business, however. Crumpton suggested that businesses should look to partners with experience devising and implementing immersive technology solutions — like Telstra and Jumpgate — to help think through a problem. And also to leverage their expertise to chase after the big solutions — because you’ll never get the full benefits of digital transformation if you test the water with small, inconsequential problems.

Instead, he advised attendees, “pick the impossible problem. The thing you cannot solve another way. The thing that will not work on your mobile phone or your tablet or a large screen. The thing that involves people collaborating remotely because now you have a tool that allows you to solve it.”