There's more opportunity to adopt and leverage technology in Australia.

There's more opportunity to adopt and leverage technology in Australia.

Technology's potential to transform

Technology could transform regional Australia

Technology
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AI? IoT? The data-taming power of emerging technologies is at our fingertips.

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AI? IoT? The data-taming power of emerging technologies is at our fingertips.

In Tasmania, one of Australia's leading salmon farmers Tassal is using cutting-edge technology to harness the value of vast amounts of data on its precious fish stocks to better manage the business, boost its productivity and outperform competitors.

Meanwhile, in regional hospitals busy doctors are set to get the support of technology to help them better treat patients by taking on tasks like assessing x-rays freeing them up to spend more time with patients.

In Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges timber company Hancock Victoria Plantations is using heat-sensing drones to track koalas living in their trees and then relocating them.

All around Australia new and emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), are being leveraged to provide benefits for the businesses and people living and working in regional communities.

AI will be the next step to improving patient care by providing the tools to manage the information. - Matt Zwolenski, Dell Technologies chief technology officer

And it's regional Australia that could particularly reap the benefits and opportunities that embracing these new technologies can deliver, says Matt Zwolenski, Chief Technology Officer, Dell Technologies, Asia Pacific and Japan.

"These technologies are here right now," said Mr Zwolenski. "And we're seeing great innovation happening that has the potential to bring transformation [to regional areas]. But we could be doing more."

Having grown up himself in regional Australia in a farming family, Mr Zwolenski is particularly excited about the ways technology is being embraced by many agribusinesses.

"I was just talking to one of my team, an AI expert who has been working in regional NSW on a project using drones to collect data about crops that will then be beamed back to a cloud and then use AI to help accurately plan everything from when to dust crops to when to sow the seeds, and when to harvest," Mr Zwolenski said.

"With this technology the outcomes get better and better as more data is gathered. It's a combination of video capture and streaming and IoT and then using AI to deliver very precise information."

Mr Zwolenski points to technologically innovative companies like Tassal in Tasmania as well as overseas projects like Chitale Dairy India as examples of the potential of these tech tools.

Read more:Connectivity creates opportunities

Chitale Dairy, India's largest dairy operation, is a pioneer of the "connected" cow concept. From monitoring each cow using IoT sensors to automated farmer to-do lists, its creative use of technology is keeping cows healthier and more productive. In the process it's transformed the lives of the small-scale local producers supplying its milk.

Another, New Jersey-based company, AeroFarms, is on a mission to transform agriculture with its focus on sustainable indoor farming. It's achieving new levels of productivity using a wide range of technology, particularly IoT. Its annual productivity is 390 times greater than that of a commercial field farm while using 95 per cent less water.

In Australia, Mr Zwolenski said regional councils are also some of Dell's most enthusiastic customers, as they work towards digital transformation as part of their strategy to improve services and create better outcomes for the community.

"We have built small scale clouds for councils all around Australia," said Mr Zwolenski.

"Many of the regional councils still have paper-based systems but they are now in the process of automating all of their processes."

Some of the biggest opportunities are in healthcare with emerging technologies tipped to facilitate better, more accessible services.

"The 'connected' hospital approach is a huge area," said Mr Zwolenski.

"Most of the regional hospitals we are working with right now are focused on digitising. They're saying, 'How can we help more doctors see more patients by getting all the forms and medical assessments into a database'.

"AI will be the next step to improving patient care by providing the tools to manage the information."

A big area of research in technology applications in healthcare is the use of AI to help doctors make faster, more accurate diagnoses.

"For example where a doctor might be able to review five x-rays a day AI can do 1000," said Mr Zwolenski. "In AI you'll often hear us talk about the human machine partnership and this is an example of how people can be assisted - a doctor might go through and diagnose but then use AI to make sure nothing's missed.

"You'll also see the use of virtual reality in healthcare and the ability for doctors to diagnose patients remotely. We're working with start-ups around the world that are linking patients up to doctors remotely.

"For a regional hospital that has only a certain level of skills that will be a huge benefit - it's able to give care beyond its internal abilities."

You'll also see the use of virtual reality in healthcare and the ability for doctors to diagnose patients remotely. - Matt Zwolenski, Dell Technologies chief technology officer

Mr Zwolenski said two of the barriers to regional Australian communities being able to take the lead and foster the opportunities new technologies can deliver is education and attitude.

He said Dell annually measured how much companies in different countries are embracing technology and placed them on a Digital Transformation Index. The Index shows that since 2016 the rate of innovation in Australia has been overtaken by our Asian neighbours.

"It's not that Australia has slowed down but because these other countries, like India, like Thailand, are moving faster in their digital transformation journeys," he said.

"What we've seen in these countries is the rollout of massive technology education programs in schools and additional government support in platforms to support the transformation agenda.

"Australia ranking fifth in Asia on our Index shows there's more opportunity to adopt and leverage technology here.

"We need to do as much as we can to foster innovation and innovative thinking from the education sector to industry."

Rosie Ryan is a journalist with Australian Community Media. Dell Australia is a partner in the Future Focus project.

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