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2020: A year of rapid digital change

Announcement posted by Australian Council of Learned Academies 04 Nov 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) – devices with sensors enabled by connectivity and enhanced by artificial intelligence and data analytics – presents significant opportunities to improve businesses and our individual and collective quality of life.

No other year has highlighted the opportunities and challenges of emerging digital technologies. The IoT is globally recognised as one of the emerging technologies that will continue to cause disruptive change in our cities and regions over the next decade. 

The IoT presents a critical economic opportunity for Australia. In 2016-17, IoT activity – from goods and services that enable an internet connection – was already worth $74.3 billion to the economy, with growth in gross value added (GVA) outpacing the Australian economy overall since 2014-15. 

An Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) report released today highlights the significant benefit Australia can derive from the IoT. The report explores a range of application across Australian cities and regions; to create an on-demand manufacturing sector, monitor carbon emissions in our supply chains, track energy usage in our homes, enhance telehealth to tailor patient care and support the monitoring and treatment of COVID-19 patients in their own homes.

The ACOLA study provides critical evidence of the IoT’s potential opportunities and challenges, with practical measures for governments, industry and community to build community understanding, safeguard the rights of citizens, build workforce capabilities and ensure the appropriate regulatory environment is in place.

This report, the sixth in ACOLA’s Horizon Scanning series, was commissioned by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO FAA FTSE FAHMS on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). This study was supported by the Australian Research Council (project number CS170100007) and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. 

Dr Finkel said, “The ACOLA IoT report examines how we can improve the way we live through using technology. It also shows how industries can grow by facilitating better processes and automation. Reflecting on the challenges of 2020, IoT could help us monitor environmental disasters, support pandemic management and enhance the delivery of services to regional and remote populations. The IoT can also be useful to track and demonstrate sustainability in supply chains, such as low emissions products, and will assist industry to create a greater trust in data.”

The Chair of the study’s expert group, Professor Bronwyn Fox FTSE said, “Digital transformation has been fast-tracked this year due to COVID-19. It has shown that Australians are able to adapt to digital technologies quickly when needed, and it is fascinating to imagine where we will be in ten years’ time. It is vital that policy makers, industry and community work together to ensure we can continue to evolve and use IoT for the benefit of businesses and individuals in cities and regional Australia.”

ACOLA’s Chair, Professor Joy Damousi FASSA FAHA noted, “The Government has already taken steps to improve Australia’s readiness for the IoT. The release of the IoT Code of Practice is a welcome signal to industry to improve the security of IoT devices and protect consumer safety to maximise gains from IoT and other emerging technologies.”

The report and summary paper are available at https://acola.org/hs5-internet-of-things-australia

The project drew together expertise of Australia’s Learned Academies and the Royal Society of Te Apārangi New Zealand, and involved consultation with all levels of governments, academia and industry. 

The study was led by an expert group comprising:
- Professor Bronwyn Fox FTSE (Chair)
- Professor Gerard Goggin FAHA
- Professor Deborah Lupton FASSA
- Professor Holger Regenbrecht 
- Professor Paul Scuffham FAHMS
- Professor Branka Vucetic FAA FTSE

The Horizon Scanning Series is commissioned by Australia’s Chief Scientist, on behalf of the NSTC. Previous reports have focused on the future of agricultural technologies, artificial intelligence, precision medicine, synthetic biology and the role of energy storage in Australia. Reports can be accessed at https://acola.org/programs/horizon-scanning-series/

Media contact
For more information or to arrange interviews, contact: 

Sheena Ireland
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ACOLA is the forum whereby Australia’s Learned Academies and our Associate members come together to contribute expert advice to inform national policy; and to develop innovative solutions to complex global problems and emerging national needs. Through the learned academies, ACOLA has access to more than 3,000 of Australia’s greatest minds to bring together critical thinking and evidence to inform robust policy decisions.