Cisco has formally launched the second of its two Australian IoT Innovation Centres, both of which were announced at Cisco Live! In Melbourne in March 2015. However it is a very different beast from what was foreshadowed in that announcement, with a much greater range of partners likely to make it much more effective.
Cisco had planned to partner with Sirca, a data analytics company co-owned by 40 Australian and New Zealand universities, but that deal fell through. The new partners are CSIRO’s Data61, University of New South Wales (UNSW), National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), NSW Farmers Association, ATP Innovations and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Since the announced of Sirca as the partner, both Sirca executives quoted in that announcement — CEO Mike Briers and chief strategy adviser Ros Harvey — have left the organisation.
Focus on agriculture, smart cities, transport
The centre will be hosted by ATP Innovations, a startup incubator located in the Australian Technology Park in Redfern, Sydney where it already hosts 70 startups in various stages of development. ATP Innovations CEO, Hamish Hawthorn, said: “Hosting Innovation Central inside our incubator will add value to existing and future portfolio companies and provide a dynamic link between startups, industry and research that will be the first of its kind in Australia.”
The centre will focus on the application of IoT to agriculture, initially, followed by smart cities and transport. (The focus with Sirca was to be agriculture only). Cisco’s Perth IoT Innovation Centre, operated in conjunction with Curtin University and Woodside Energy, focuses on IoT in astronomy and resources. Cisco has committed to investing a total of $15 million in the two centres over five years, but expects significant funding to come from other sources.
Cisco ANZ vice president, Ken Boal, said the aim of the centre, dubbed Innovation Central Sydney, was “to turn innovation into real commercial solutions based on IoT in agriculture, smart cities and transportation in Australia.”
Australia in prime position to exploit IoT
Cisco, in its 2013 Internet of Everything Value Index, estimated the potential ‘Value at Stake’ for the Australian economy to be more than $US74 billion over the next 10 years. It says: “Australia has the advantageous position of being one of a few countries with the greatest potential to benefit from IoT, thanks to its proximity to Asia, well-trained engineers and innovation power.”
Matt Brand, CEO of NSW Farmers said IoT was critical to enable data driven approaches to production and to optimising sustainability, profitability and quality assurance.
“Our participation in the Centre is about accelerating adoption by our members and helping to ensure that developers understand operational requirements as we seek to close the gap between farmers and their customers. We see digital innovation as central to our competitive advantage in export markets and to authenticating the quality of Australian food and fibre products.”
His acknowledgement of the importance of IoT is in stark contrast to the Federal Government’s White Paper on the competitiveness of Australian agriculture, released in July last year. It made only passing reference to IoT.
UNSW intends to use its campus as a testbed for smart city technologies. Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of Engineering, said that, with 54,000 students and 12,000 staff, most of whom are located on its main campus in Kensington Sydney, the University represented a mini-city, well placed to test and benefit from smart city technologies.