This year has been one of the biggest in technology and digitisation adoption for Australians and businesses, Telstra included. In a period of six months, we have seen the global response to COVID-19 accelerating change that otherwise would have taken years. Our response to these challenges, and both the risks and opportunities they bring, has driven a change in how we approach innovation.
While we have always been at the forefront of telecommunications innovation in Australia, we are seeing an increased need for a coordinated response from network operators, wider industry, academia, government and other technology partners to truly deliver the best products and services that Australians want.
We are investing heavily into 5G. 5G delivers an exponential leap in network speed and capacity in a period where the demand for data and a frictionless customer experience is exploding. The true power of 5G however is that it is arriving at the same time a number of other transformative technologies are maturing. They include IoT, cloud and edge computing, AI, SD-WAN, cyber security and many others. These technologies have far reaching implications for every industry. In many ways, we are entering the fourth industrial revolution as we enter the new decade.
This creates opportunities for businesses and governments to fundamentally transform their business systems and processes. These opportunities cover everything from monitoring logistics and supply chains, land and water use management, object recognition and video analytics, autonomous vehicles and drones, and enhanced medical and cancer research.
The potential applications of these technologies are too numerous to list, and too large for one organisation to develop on its own. Our innovation focus is on how we put these transformative technologies into the hands of the smartest people across different industries, provide them access to the resources they need to learn about them, and create the best environment in which to build and test their vision.
We have started this transformation journey already. We have had a long history in driving and investing in several incubation initiatives including Telstra Labs and muru-D. Here, we’ve developed industry-leading technologies like the Telstra Data Hub, Cellular Vehicle to Anything (C-V2X), Low Altitude Airspace Management (LAAM), etc. We have also helped startup founders take their early ventures and helped them grow across a range of industries.
This year, we developed a Telstra-wide Innovation Strategy that reflects our ambitions in the current economic climate and helps drive innovation fostering external partnerships. We also know we can’t do this alone, so we will continue to partner with technology leaders, industry bodies, educational institutes – to further educate our staff and also to help create a healthy talent pipeline – and work very closely with our enterprise customers and all levels of Government.
I have highlighted some of the transformation and change we are driving this year with many more exciting announcements to come.
Emerging technology at Telstra Labs
Telstra Labs’ goal is to explore and validate emerging deep technologies that have the potential to radically transform our economy and society; 5G, AI, IoT, xR, smart cities, autonomous machines, and wireless power are some of the things we are looking at. Recently, we have partnered with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads to deliver the next stage of the Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot program that will see 500 vehicles being retrofitted with C-V2X to enable communication with the road network infrastructure systems, in order to alert the driver to potentially hazardous situations.
We also continue to advance drone technology. Our Low Altitude Aviation Management (LAAM) program trials have continued into 2020 and are testing technology to enable both manned and unmanned aircraft to fly in low altitude airspace by providing a system that manages the registration, identification, mission planning, mission approvals and declaration of location of recreational drones and commercial UAVs.
Commercialising technology innovation
Our most recently commercialised incubated product is the Telstra Data Hub, developed in partnership with Microsoft. It is designed to facilitate complex data sharing and permission scenarios, while alleviating the need to create multiple, bespoke point-to-point integrations required between systems. In less than a year, the product evolved from a project incubated inside Telstra Labs into an enterprise offering solving the specialised data needs of government and industry decision makers. Some of the projects underway include optimising rural water management with the Queensland government, developing digital farming solutions with Charles Sturt University, and Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute where we are collaborating on a data sharing and analytics ecosystem focused on understanding sudden cardiac death in young people.
muru-D, our vehicle for engagement with the start-up ecosystem is also changing. Launched in 2013 and backed by Telstra, muru-D became one of the first and largest startup accelerators in Australia. The mission of muru-D was to support emerging entrepreneurial talent and businesses in Australia and Asia-Pacific, while helping provide pathways to success.
The local ecosystem has now greatly changed and there are now many start-up accelerators from venture capitalists, global accelerators, university and government partnerships to help early stage companies develop their initial product.
As part of Telstra’s annual innovation strategy review the decision was made this year to evolve muru-D and its structure and goals, to refocus on the current innovation environment.
We will use muru-D to provide start-ups with access to our core technologies and work selectively with more mature start-ups on partnerships with Telstra as either a supplier to us or as a go-to-market partner, including consuming and building new ecosystems around our network APIs.
Moving forward, muru-D will become Telstra’s vehicle for partnering with start-up accelerators, universities and other participants in the Australian start-up ecosystem. We will use muru-D to provide start-ups with access to our core technologies and work selectively with more mature start-ups on partnerships with Telstra as either a supplier to us or as a go-to-market partner, including consuming and building new ecosystems around our network APIs. muru-D will no longer be taking applications for future accelerator programs. And to support managing the existing muru-D portfolio, we have engaged international firm Pinsent Masons to take over the day-to-day administration of our portfolio investments.
We now want to help scale the next innovation opportunity by working closely with the current ecosystem as well as our strategic partners and universities. We are very proud to see what muru-D has become, the network of founders and mentors we’ve had the privilege to work with, its successes along the way, and where we can take the initiative moving forward.
We’re committed to playing our part in building a pipeline of technology talent in Australia. So, we’re partnering with a number of universities to equip graduates with the skills and adaptability they need to succeed in our rapidly changing global environment. Our latest partnership is a $5M investment in the Telstra Creator Space (fabrication lab) at University of Melbourne’s new Melbourne Connect technology and innovation precinct and 10 scholarships in STEM that focus on diversity and inclusion. We have initiated a number of student technology projects focused on 5G, Network Enablers and Power Systems, and we have built a joint pipeline of future R&D projects for 2021.
We have also begun a student placement program, with two female technologists receiving the Telstra Technology and Innovation Masters Scholarships for 2020 and joining Telstra in the summer on Network Engineering and Cybersecurity Internships.
Microsoft Strategic Alliance
Recently, we extended our long-standing partnership with Microsoft to:
- harness IoT, Edge, AI and digital twin capability to develop important new industry solutions in areas such as asset tracking, supply chain management, telematics and smart spaces;
- leverage Azure as preferred cloud for Telstra’s ongoing internal digital transformation;
- explore and pursue technology and data-driven solutions to advance our sustainability and climate commitments; and
- build ground-breaking, nationally important solutions that leverage the Telstra Data Hub.
Our combined goal is to deliver more innovative products for Australians that will increase customer experience and engagement, solve business challenges, and drive a new level of technology leadership. It is a great opportunity to drive further digital innovation to strengthen the Australian economy, and to build a sustainable, connected future so everyone can thrive
We anticipate that our relationships and engagements with our partners in government, industry and academia will continue to expand in scope as well as investment. Our ambition is to make Telstra a more open organisation, where the smartest minds can work with us to bring new technologies to life, in face-to-face and virtual environments, and even on a machine to machine basis.
The market is changing rapidly and we will continue to evolve to meet the demands of a changing environment. As Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau highlighted at the 2018 World Economic Forum, “The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.”