Data61 Live brought together a diverse group of hardware creators, startups, spinouts and design thinking experts to showcase some of the work underway at Australia’s data innovation network. The event attended by over 1500 delegates was an opportunity for CSIRO’s Data61 to share its vision for redefining our socio-economic future through global data opportunities.

Part of the national science agency, CSIRO’s Data61 conducts a wide range of research into digital megatrends and emerging opportunities to create technology solutions for a range of industries.

Among its focus areas are blockchain, cybersecurity and the potential for technology to be used in applications for use in agriculture, defence and geospatial services to blockchain, cybersecurity and more.

Data61’s annual showcase explored how science and technology are helping to create new industries, reinvent existing ones and achieve social, economic and environmental impact.

The two-day event provided an overview of strategic opportunities where Australia has the potential to deliver global digital products and services, including in the areas of precision healthcare, digital agriculture and data-driven urban management.

Topics canvassed included cyber-physical security, supply chain integrity, proactive government, legal informatics and smart exploration. Panels and keynotes addressed practical issues like raising capital, strategy and policy, softwiring ethics, design thinking, market verification and privacy.

A sense of urgency

Data61’s CEO Adrian Turner asked what it would take for the nation to develop a sense of urgency. How could we scale up knowledge transfer faster and boost both public and private investment in research and development in order to commercialise knowledge for global distribution?

Despite global metrics that continue to highlight Australia’s shortfalls in commercialising research knowledge, innovation and skills capability, Turner remains optimistic about the country’s ability to transform its economy through data driven opportunities.

Data driven solutions

Data61 research teams provided the case in point: researchers ran demos of all manner of impressive robotic devices throughout the program including world-leading 3D Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping systems (SLAM), stationary and moving legged robots, autonomous ground vehicles such as ‘Gator’ and drone technology.

Others were on hand to explain the useful applications of research across the globe, from testing water quality in real time and surveying hard to reach terrain to monitoring soil quality and spatial data and blockchain systems ensuring encryption.

The human dimension to AI

A provocative keynote address by Professor Ronald Arkin from Georgia Tech asked the audience to consider the ethical challenges of human-robot interactions.

An entertaining provocation was the question of when to program algorithms for deception and mimicry, behaviours observed to be used strategically by animals and often crucial for their survival.

“How do you design algorithms to teach a robot when to deceive?” asked Arkin, explaining that deception is a commonplace element of strategy in war, sport and business.

Through designing algorithms for deception, could humans better understand how to navigate real world interactions in situations where there is a proposed benefit to withholding the truth? If so, how would the deception be revealed according to an ethical and deliberate framework for it to occur in the first place?

While these interesting enquiry questions generated much negative press for his research in this area, Arkin maintains that teaching robots to lie serves a useful purpose, if only to reveal aspects of commonplace human behaviour and provide valuable insights into theories of mind.

AI by design

A design thinking workshop took participants through the now mandatory user centric process used at Data61 before prototypes are developed. Of particular interest are the inclusion of regulatory issues from the outset and methods for forecasting how societal trends might influence both customer behaviours and global supply chains 20-30 years into the future.

In other sessions, Data61 experts considered design principles from broader perspectives. For example, author Ellen Broad discussed open data and privacy and user experience designer Hilary Cinis reflected on how to create an inclusive, ethical and diverse design process for AI.

Most sessions highlighted the need to combine commercial acumen and logic with empathetic communication, ethics and creativity. Curiosity and imagination trump as the most important 21st Century skill to nurture and develop.

Data61’s outlook

Despite the lag on many fronts compared to global peers and an innovation system that remains largely under-scaled, undirected and under-supported, Turner believes we will be able to turn the economy around through data given his experience over the past three years.

“We have many new ventures underway and there are good people caring about the complexity of the issues, but the rest of the world is not standing still,” he warned.

Recurring themes included the need for deep tech researchers to identify more credible, global markets and to ensure they develop a robust business case. The burning question for all to consider is while the research may be world leading and the tech capabilities novel, would customers around the world be willing to buy the product or service proposed?

In asking such questions and striving to improve on design processes using an evidence based approach, the growing number of startups and scaleups emerging from research generated in the public domain at Data61 signals hope for the future.

D61+ LIVE took place on 18-19 September 2018 in Brisbane.

Want to know more?

As part of the 2018 Spark Festival Inspiring Australia NSW and Data61 are cohosting an opportunity to meet founders of some of the successul global spinouts created from public sector research.

Attend this free half day forum to get the low down on building teams and finding focus – in work, in opportunities and in the market.

Guest speakers

  • Dr Silvia Pfeiffer is CEO and cofounder of Coviu, a platform that provides universal access to healthcare. A skilled creator of web-based video solutions, Silvia has worked at leading corporations including Google, Mozilla, NICTA and CSIRO. She has a double degree in computer science and business management.
  • Dr Stefan Hrabar is CEO and cofounder of Emesent, a company formed to commercialise cutting edge drone technology developed by CSIRO’s Data61 Robotics Group, providing access to critical data in challenging underground environments. Stefan was Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO where he led the Hovermap project. He holds a PhD in Computer Science and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Dr Anna Liu is Head of Public Sector Partnerships at Amazon Web Services, responsible for enabling, growing an ecosystem of innovators and entrepreneurs across Australia and New Zealand. She founded and was CEO of Yuruware, the world’s first Disaster Recovery platform designed to simplify the migration, replication and disaster recovery process. Anna holds a PhD in Computer Engineering and Science.
  • Pete Field was a Software Engineer before transitioning to product and project Management and guiding the spin-out of Data61’s Doarama project, now re-branded as Ayvri. Ayvri uses 3D virtual world technology to enable participants in major sporting and adventure events like RedBull’s Wings For Life to preview their adventure and to visualise their race in 3D through live tracking. A self-taught Engineer, Pete’s achievements include building the world’s largest concert database and holding a WebRTC Patent.
  • Matt Barbuto founded Ynomia, a platform that digitises realworld construction projects enabling builders to have visibility over what is moving in and out of the construction site. He was CEO of efm Logistics, Australia’s largest supply chain integrator and served as Head of Strategy and Corporate Development for FLIP Group, a technology company developing logistics solutions. Currently completing a Masters of Applied Finance, Matt holds an MBA, a Bachelors of Commerce and is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Find out how they did it, lessons learned and what support is available to researchers seeking to commercialise their knowledge.

Event details

When: 2-5pm, Monday 29 October 2018
Where: Sydney Startup Hub
Cost: Free with registration via this link