Melbourne’s 2017 IoT Festival

Billed as ‘the next big thing’ that most have never heard of, the Internet of Things (IoT) has already infiltrated our daily lives, fundamentally changing the way we live, work and develop. IoT at its most basic level connects people with things, and things with things, via the Internet. This concept is already in place in many common everyday objects—from mobile phones to wearable fitness trackers, wireless speakers to VR headsets and the list goes on.

With projections estimating there will be more than 20 billion devices connected to the Internet, it is more than timely that the IoT Festival was held in Melbourne in June 2017. The four-day Internet of Things Festival kicked off with a two-day hackathon, followed by a one-day business leadership Conference and finished with a day of Field Tours, offering attendees a hands-on experience of some of the latest innovations by major players in Victoria’s IoT industry.

Lead organiser Thomas Alomes says the goal of the Festival was to focus on the collaborative aspects of the industry and the effective application of IoT for businesses into the future. “A lot of people in our conversations, a lot of businesses, don’t really understand the possibilities of IoT… or they have an understanding of it, but there’s a reticence to apply it in a business sense. So, a part of this is saying, well this is how it’s applicable. This is how it’s more than just a gimmick”.

Victoria’s Commitment to the IoT

The advancement of digitisation technologies and the reworking of digital business strategies by large global corporations such as Bosch, KPMG and Microsoft among others, has been key to the IoT’s rapid worldwide growth in recent years. With a tech industry worth more than A$34 billion annually, Victoria has become the leading player in the Australian market and is well placed to support that grow locally.

The IoT Festival opened with a comprehensive outline of the government’s key areas of focus which included:

  1. Establishing Melbourne as a global hub for cyber and data security;
  2. Growing tech skills through better linking education providers and industry – including encouraging gender and cultural diversity across the tech sector;
  3. Strengthening regional connectivity (targeting mobile blackspots, connectivity of regional trains, free public wifi in more regional centres);
  4. International engagement; and
  5. Stimulating local vibrancy in Victoria’s tech sector that reaches and drives innovation across all sectors.

Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure

The fundamental importance of security as part of their strategy was discussed, with reference to Australia’s biggest cluster for cyber security based in Docklands, with the Oceania Cyber Security Centre (OCSC) at its core. Cyber and data security is a key focus for Victoria. “We have an ambitious objective to make Victoria and Melbourne a world leading hub for cyber and data security—in the top three globally.”

The Docklands cluster certainly puts Melbourne well on track to achieving that with eight Australian universities, the CSIRO’s digital research division Data61, Oxford University’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC) and various other partners, all setting up shop there to deal with the growing demands of cyber security, including the critical infrastructure security needs associated with the Internet of Things.  This cluster is attracting international research partnerships along with private sector investments and is driving advances in cyber and data security related education courses at all levels of Victoria’s education system. The Victorian Government is preparing Victoria for an IoT future – and for that future, cyber and data security is critical.

The IoT Festival Conference

The one-day IoT Festival Conference featured over 60 speakers, panels and keynote presentations, covering the very best of IoT innovations and strategies currently in place in Victoria. The speaker list included start-ups and makers, industrial players and corporate big hitters. Global players such as Bosch, KPMG and Microsoft inspired attendees with their innovative approaches to IoT—integrating products, digital technology and services to create solutions that will transform the capabilities of industry.

The much vaunted ‘rise of machines’ and the potential for a dystopian future as a result, is something that Matt Furse, Microsoft’s Digital Transformation Specialist for the Australia and New Zealand region comes across often. “The reality is that every 10 years something big happens and every time it happens, it becomes the framework for the next thing”. Matt cited Microsoft’s latest innovation—the mixed reality HoloLens headset—as an example of the IoT improving rather than replacing human efficiency. “Being able to call experts live from the HoloLens, see a hologram of the technician, show them the issue and fix it in real time … dramatically reduces time spent on maintenance… in some cases from two hours down to 20 minutes.” The application of devices such as these has far-reaching effects, from industry to retail, to healthcare and beyond.

The Bosch Group is also a company leading the charge in a rapidly changing world. The company is known as a manufacturer of ‘things’ and today most of their products have an IoT device embedded in them. Bosch has been one of the enablers in the industry, producing six billion sensors since 1995. Bosch’s key priority has remained simple: “we produce inventions and innovations that improve lives for individuals and companies,” said Gavin Smith, the President of Bosch Australia and also chairman of the country’s peak IoT body—the IoT Alliance Australia (IOTAA).

Today that simple value has become a full service offering and Bosch’s ongoing work is to combine things with connectivity – to create a function and support it with a digital service. This approach is really the foundation of any IoT product’s survival and can be seen in much of the work currently going on at Bosch’s new Australian headquarters in Clayton in Melbourne’s south east. Connected forklifts create more efficient warehousing; water testing sensors save thousands of dollars for oyster farmers and community parking innovations improve city congestion and make better use of street spaces. “Australia has some of the most unique capabilities in the Bosch world,” said Gavin. “From a things company with 135 years of manufacturing, we are now diving head first into IoT and in the evolution of that, Victoria is our staging point for Australia”.

By 2020 the Melbourne market for industrial IoT could be worth over $1 billion. Industrial IoT can transform our traditional industries, representing a significant opportunity for economic growth and development.

The Internet of Things Festival was held from 3-6 June 2017 in Melbourne’s city centre.

Kathy Coultas
Director of Digital, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources
State Government of Victoria