Wiring the Island State

The Australian state of Tasmania sees an opportunity in reinvigorating its economy through the Sense-T project that looks to connect the state to the Internet of Things.

“Sense-T started as a combination of two things.” Ros Harvey, one of the project’s directors explains.

“One is looking at how Tasmania can use fast broadband and the second is that we went through a fairly big structural adjustment with the forest industry so we were looking for ways to diversify our economy and make it more resilient.”

Sense-T is a project to connect data sensors across Australia’s Island state to improve the local economy’s productivity and kickstart a region that’s been falling behind the rest of the nation.

“We want to build a community knowledge infrastructure that stays out there, so we made a business decision that we would build a sensor network without ever owning a sensor asset.”

The idea with the project is that sensors will be owned by private companies and individuals – such as farmers and vineyards – and the data gathered will be shared with the communities.

“If we are creating value, people are prepared to invest in sensors because of the value in apps that they’re getting at the end of the day.”

Harvey sees the immediate opportunities for Tasmania in agriculture, carbon markets, freight and logistics along with health and tourism.

“The new ideas are limitless around this technology,”.

Big Data meets small business

Harvey believes the state’s small business sector as being the big beneficiaries of the Sense-T project.

“We know that 96% of businesses are small businesses; we know that 63% of Australians work in small business and we know, from experiences in Europe, that 85% of new jobs come from new businesses.”

“If that’s the case then it’s really important that if Big Data and the internet of everything is part of this future we want to create then we better make darned sure it’s available to the innovators.”

One of the projects ‘pathways to markets’ that makes the supply chain more transparent to consumers in Australia and in international markets such as China and the United States to give more.

Interestingly, Harvey has encountered a concern within the business community that regulators could use data that’s been collected on their properties; this is something Sense-T is working through by consulting with the community. It is interesting though that this is seen as business risk with the project.

Building the STEM community

One of Harvey’s hopes is that the statewide network will encourage students to study STEM subjects.
“I really hope to inspire people, particularly younger people,” Says Harvey.

“We know we have a shortage in STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and we really need to excite young people about the possibilities of science and ICT by showing the concrete ways it can be used and by the really cool IT to address problems in their communities and create business opportunities.”

“That for me would be a real indicator of success, that we’re seeing young people say ‘wow! I really want to do ICT, I really want to do STEM. Because I can see I can do incredibly cool things with it.’”

Hopes for Tasmania

Harvey hopes that the Sense-T project will re-invigorate the Tasmanian economy, “we hope to establish Tasmania as a living laboratory on high density, low cost sensors. That we have a thriving ecosystem where researchers, innovators and government are all working together.”

The Sense-T project is big, ambitious scheme that may define how communities and governments can apply the Internet of Things to entire economies. It’s an experiment worth watching.

About the author

Paul Wallbank is the founding editor of Networked Globe and has nearly twenty years experience of working in and reporting on computers, the internet and the future of our connected society.