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This week we are launching our new Digital Productivity and Services (DPAS) Flagship, a $40 million research initiative focusing on the services sector and optimising the full value of national broadband infrastructure. Ahead of the official launch, we took the time to speak with Geof Heydon the Digital Productivity and Services Flagship’s Business Development Manager about his predictions on what kind of technology-related trends are in store for the coming twelve months.

Last year, Aussies spent one in every five minutes on social media, took the amount of smartphones vs people ratio to over one-in-two and watched Gangnam Style more than any other video online. Geoff believes 2013 will be another mammoth year for technology, which will continue to see the rise of mobile and broadband apps, the uptake of senor technology and a range of potential innovations which come from high speed broadband as the National Broadband Network rollout gathers speed around the country.

The digital divide dies as ‘app-scriptions’ replace web browsers  

Since the first computers were connected to the web via a web browser, the digital divide has existed. The web was a place for tech-savvy people to get and share information and as it became more sophisticated with more rich media content, the digital divide widened. If you didn’t grow up using these digital tools then jumping in later in life seemed a bigger and bigger challenge. With the advent of smart personal devices like smartphones and tablets, special purpose applications have emerged as our way of engaging with these devices and their connection with the web. The Apple apps store is the app for getting new apps. The Google app makes it easy to search for anything. The Facebook app connects you to your friends. The Outlook app helps you to connect and correspond with your colleagues. Your Skype app helps you make video calls. Even your message app helps you sent text messages.

And this leads us to the point. On an iPhone, sometimes you see blue messages and sometimes you see green ones. The green ones are traditional SMS text messages and the blue ones are messages sent via the Internet. However, the user pays no attention to this difference and simply no longer care. This trend is very important. Applications do what we want, when we want them to but are increasingly hiding their complexity from users. People can now use apps without knowing anything about computers, browsers or networks, significantly reducing the digital divide and signalling that it will soon be removed completely.

Sensors for everything

These days we all have digital cameras and smartphones. Most of us even know how to email digital pictures and put them into social media sites. We also know that computers are appearing in almost every electrical device. Today, the average car has between 50 and 100 little computers all contributing to the smooth and simple running of each vehicle, and increasingly we have little or no idea what they are all doing. Chances are most of these computers are using sensors all over your car to measure everything from water on the windscreen to trigger the automatic wipers to air density to adjust fuel and air mixture in the injectors.

Sensors are on the move. They are finding their way into farms and waterways and into the atmosphere for weather forecasting. The list goes on and on. Most of these take analogue or real world information and convert it into digital so it can be captured and stored for analysis by computer programs.

In the context of farming, let’s consider a sensor that can detect botrytis fungus in grapes. If you can detect the fungus early enough then the crop can be treated to remove the threat before the grapes are destroyed. This is great news for grape growers but the story doesn’t end there.

Let’s now consider oyster farming. Sensors can measure water purity and this information can provide critical health information to the appropriate authorities who control the food quality and the harvesting of oyster. Note that oysters are filter feeders and are filter impurities from the water. Every time there is rain, the oyster may not be harvested until they have been in clean water for long enough to flush out the contaminants. This means that by carefully sensing the water quality, oyster farming productivity can be significantly improved by optimising the harvest down time after as rain event. This is great news for oyster farmers but the story doesn’t end here either.

A very exciting opportunity exists that will see information from land based farming. For example, data from the wine growers described above can flow to the oyster farmers and then on to dairy farmers. So in the future the chemical treatment on the farm will be known to the farmer in the waterway enabling even more careful environmental management to take place. This is just one example of an endless number of, as yet untapped relationships this technology may have within the environment. Sensors and the associated networks will enable a whole new kind of environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture to become common and indeed a necessity for our future

Online broadcasters take on the media moguls

In the early 80s we were all chanting that video killed the radio star, in the 90s we saw the DVD kill off our trusted VHS collection, and in 2013 we will move into a new era which will see Internet-based TV challenge traditional broadcasting. After more than a decade of half-baked attempts at web-based video-on-demand services, walled gardens and YouTube broadcast channels we are finally beginning to see serious competition from online broadcasters.

The rollout of a national broadband infrastructure and its increased bandwidth promises to offer high quality web-based TV services to the masses. NBN Co have launched their wholesale multicast service which is designed to enable efficient IP based broadcast services but is this what consumers will value? Major ISPs are offering reasonably good quality on-demand services that are today linked to only their Internet access customers. YouTube is massively increasing its high quality content and with high definition becoming the norm they are set to be an even stronger player. Smart TVs are bringing walled garden content and applications from the TV manufacturers. And the next generation of higher definition quality TVs are about to hit the market. The broadcasters are getting much better at supplementing their broadcasting service with online catch-up content as well as more trans-media value adds but they will struggle to deliver higher quality video that the TVs will support.

In our own research, we are working with NICTA and NBN Co on a Social TV trial to leverage their multicast services and some exciting new visualisation and recommendation capabilities. As a result, we predict seeing video services transition seamlessly between mobile devices and fixed devises, meaning that consumers will be watching and interacting with this content on a number of different platforms no matter where they are located.

2013 will see all of these new services and more mature into an innovation frenzy. Will the consumers cope with the wide range of new offers? One thing is for sure, the traditional broadcast model that was once the only way to view video will sit alongside dozens of quality options offering a huge choice of value propositions to the market. This means winners and losers. The consumer choice will be great but possibly overwhelming and the pressure on service providers will see the makings of a new market landscape with many albeit fragmented services. While the battle is about to heat up, the winning approaches are far from clear.

3 comments

  1. “Brave new world of (nano)-sensing: the next technological revolution and Quantum-Pi’s sensors” talk in Cairo December 2009. It used to be “Australian” sensing technology (back in 1999-2004), out of the first nano-sensors companies in Australia – ahead of it’s time.
    Now sold to the US. It came too early. Perhaps 2013 will be a year for sensors …

  2. I think you meant “trends in store for the coming 12 months” (not “install”).

    1. Thanks for that! Huw.

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