How CSIRO is using the NBN to drive research

CSIRO is developing several new technologies that can take advantage of the National Broadband Network, according to an article in Computerworld by Stephanie McDonald

The article mentions the following research projects persued by CSIRO:

hydrological forecasting

It previously carried out a project where around 3000sq. m of existing sensor networks were connected to carry out hydrological forecasting.

“Now what we’re doing in Tasmania is working with a few other groups to do a much more ambitious project which potentially covers a much greater area in Tasmania and allows us to do very widescale environmental sensing … and link that together using the National Broadband Network rollout in Tasmania,” Oppermann said.

workflows in hospitals

 In the healthcare sectore the organisation is developing technology to better predict workflows in hospitals. Using historical data, CSIRO can predict patient arrival rates and how many beds might be required for emergency rooms on any given day. However, to do this it needs to have patient records in an electronic format to aggregate data.

“Then if we link hospitals together, we have a much bigger drawing area that we can look to optimise so we can then do better predictions by being able to share information between hospitals,” Oppermann said.

“That speaks to the high speed availability [of broadband] and also [the] affordability of broadband.”

capturing retina images

CSIRO also has a pilot telehealth program set up in the Pilbara region of north-western Australia at a regional health clinic which captures images of individuals’ retina. These images are typically around 24MB and have traditionally been burnt to DVD and sent by post to an ophthalmologist in Perth for later diagnosis.

However, using high-speed broadband, retina images can be quickly sent to the ophthalmologist over the internet.

“[If you have high-speed broadband], it doesn’t matter if you’re in a regional community in central Australia or north western Australia, now the ophthalmologist can have a teleconference directly with a patient whilst they’re imaging the eye,” Oppermann said.

allow government service telepresence

In the government sector, CSIRO is working on technology that will allow government services to be diverted from traditional in-person interactions to an online platform in a virtual-type environment.

“We’re looking to replace the need to physically go to a government office, physically queue up and stand there and talk to a human being,” Oppermann said.

CSIRO has proposed a telepresence solution to make this process more effective and efficient, which goes one step beyond videoconferencing in that it allows the user to point, gesture and share their desktop with another person.

The NBN would help facilitate this type of technology and allow other resources to be utilised. For example, if an interpreter is required, they could be linked into the conference to create a truly networked experience, Oppermann said.

“You can link those resources in as you need without needing to chase someone up. So the whole point there is really [to provide] the same personal experience, the same human interaction and the same ease of gesturing and pointing but removing the need for people to travel to an office,” he said.

This would enable the public to gain easier access to government services, particularly in regional and remote areas, and also save the government money — Oppermann said Web-based solutions are often the least expensive to offer, compared to a call centre or in-person services.


National Broadband Network a huge boost

National Broadband Network a huge boost to our bid to land the $2.5 billion SKA  project, says CSIRO

FORGET about how quickly you can download porn, the real reason the  NBN is awesome is because it may make the world’s biggest radio telescope  network a reality.

ASKAP radio telescopes, which Australia hopes will form the foundation of the much larger SKA project. Picture: Charles Brewer

ASKAP radio telescopes, which Australia hopes will form the foundation of the much larger SKA project. Picture: Charles Brewer

Dr Brian Boyle of the CSIRO said the fibre-optic broadband network was one of  the reasons Australia was suitable to host the $2.5 billion SKA project.

“The NBN doesn’t make or break it, but it’s a huge boost for Australia’s  bid,” he told

The Square Kilometre Array, or SKA, would see an enormous network of 3000  radio dishes scattered across Australia and New Zealand, feeding data into a  central point in WA.

To get that data from one side of the country to the other, you’d need  something more than old copper telephone cables.

Dr Boyle said there were existing fibre-optic research networks that might be  up to the job, but they would have to be upgraded.

“In order to connect to the 25 remote array stations dotted around Australia,  and indeed the one or two in New Zealand, we will absolutely be relying on the  NBN,” he said.

“If it was just reliant on the existing research network, and upgrades to  that network, you’d have to upgrade the fibre.”

Dr Boyle said the CSIRO hadn’t yet determined how much it would cost to  upgrade and expand the existing research network.

A spokesperson for NBN Co said the company was aware of the SKA project but  couldn’t yet give a timeframe for the network to be rolled-out in key areas.

“We keep track of many of the new technological advances being made by  organisations and are well aware of the Square Kilometre Array and CSIRO’s great  work,” they said.

“Currently, we haven’t finalised our rollout schedule past first and second  release sites but will announce more sites as the rollout continues.”

Australia is one of the two countries in the running to host the SKA, along  with South Africa. A decision will be made next February.

As well as transferring data over the NBN, the SKA would need to build its  own network at the epicentre near Boolardy Station in WA to cope with the  enormous amount of incoming information.

“If the SKA was to come to Australia, the core of the telescope — that’s the  sort of central 100km — would have to develop its own network to carry data  rates that are hundreds of terabytes per second,” Dr Boyle said.

When it’s completed, the SKA will be up to 50 times larger than the world’s  current largest radio telescope. It’s hoped it will play the central role in  unlocking the mysteries of how our universe came into being — from the nature of  gravity to the evolution of galaxies.

Narelle Clark of the Internet Society of Australia said the NBN made projects  like the SKA more feasible in Australia.

“I really hope we get it and I really hope the NBN rolls out for that and  many other purposes of discovery,” she said.


 Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI)

ACBI  is a collaborative national research initiative which connects people and  business to the benefits of game-changing services and applications enabled by  next generation broadband technologies. Below is an extract from a web page a

Who is involved?

“ACBI’s focus is on  developing and   testing  technologies and services which provide  solutions to nationally important problems.”

ACBI is  supported by CSIRO in partnership with National ICT Australia (NICTA),  Australia’s two leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT)  research organisations.

ACBI draws on their broad and diverse  research capabilities.

Foundation  funding was provided by the NSW Government with matching resources from CSIRO  and NICTA.

More recently, the Tasmanian Government has become a partner  and ACBI is in the process of extending this support with other Australian  governments.

To  support innovative new ways of using Australia’s national broadband  infrastructure, ACBI has a formal collaboration agreement with the company  building the national broadband network, NBN Co.

Focus areas

ACBI works in the following six  areas:

  • Media  and Entertainment
  • Health  and Ageing
  • Education  and Learning
  • Government  and Business Services
  • Smart  Infrastructure
  • Social  and Economic Analysis.

Our focus is on developing and  testing technologies and services to provide solutions to nationally important  problems.


Three of ACBI projects are:

  • Kirby Farm, a commercial farm and research station owned by the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale, New South Wales, has been selected as a demonstrator to showcase the benefits of broadband connectivity for agriculture and rural communities.
  • In a quiet street of Armidale, a ordinary looking weatherboard house has been transformed into something rather remarkable.  It has turned into a Smart House, a place where people can come and experience what new services are possible using the NBN.
  • The Social TV service will use a new approach to how content can be recommended to users, harnessing the riches of social media and smart learning systems.