Transcript

Developing technology of the future

Jack Singh
Email: jack.singh@latrobe.edu.au

Audio

You can also listen to the interview [MP3 14MB].

iTunes

Visit this channel at La Trobe on iTunesU.

Transcript

Matt Smith:

Welcome to the La Trobe university podcast with myself Matt Smith and joining me today is Professor Jack Singh. He's the director of the La Trobe University Centre for Technology Infusion, thank you for joining me Jack.

Jack Singh:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Matt Smith:

I wanted to ask you about the work that the centre is doing. But first, there's a lot of high profile research projects that your centre is working on. Can you tell me what is the purpose of the centre and how do you chose the projects that you are focusing your attention on?

Jack Singh:

It's a very interesting question you asked me. Let me tell you what the centre is all about. This is a Research and Product Realisation Centre as against a research centre. We are located in the University's R&D Park and there's a reason for us being there because we work very closely with the industry. One of the things that we have done we have established state-of-art environment for academic and commercially relevant research targeted in a very high impact and industry growth areas.

So what we have done is to do that sort of research we had to develop or establish industry standard platforms. And some of the platforms that we have got are Microsoft Centre, as you know it is a world renowned centre that we have got. It is fully funded by Microsoft and their partners. We also got a Micro Nanotechnology Design Centre which allows us to do cutting edge microchips or nano chips for next generation applications and one of the applications is in Square Kilometre Array. The other centre that we are in the process of establishing is the VIC6 or IPv6 platform, a test bed that will allow us to research and develop a next generation internet protocol applications.

Matt Smith:

You mentioned in there that it's important for your centre to have industry links. How important is that in deciding what projects you work on and how dependent is your centre on industry?

Jack Singh:

Our centre is very much industry based centre. All our research facilities, that is the R&D infrastructure is industry based. One of the very important factors if you want to work with industry is that the deliverable should be able to meet the industry needs and if you start working on facilities which are not of industry standard than it becomes very difficult to engage companies. So in this case what we did, we went out of the way to encourage companies to come and work with us to set up the industry platform first.

And once we had done that then it was very easy to engage companies to come and do R&D with us because it's very cost effective for them and at the same time they get a deliverable that is industry standard itself. So some of the projects that we are engaged in is a $4 million intelligent transport system to improve safety at level crossing. This project is funded by state government, federal government, and a number of industry partners. This is the only project in the world where we are looking into safety at level crossing.

Matt Smith:

Let's go through that a bit. If I understand it correctly, what you've designed is a system where the car communicates with a level crossing. Explain the system to me and how does it work?

Jack Singh:

It's not the technology; it's a solution that we are developing. What this solution will enable the crane should talk to vehicles. So it could be at a vehicle to vehicle communication, or vehicle to infrastructure and infrastructure to vehicle communication. The idea is to have 100% reliability in this communication because we can't have a system dropping off because it's a safety issue. So when the vehicles can talk to one another, and by vehicles I mean trains, buses, trucks, cars, everything. When they can talk to each other, then the train can advise the road users that the train will be at the crossing at a certain time, what is the congestion at crossing, how long will it take if you'll take off that particular route to the crossing and what are the alternate routes.

So all that will be embedded in this solution at the same time what we are imbedding is human factors issues because lot of time the technology is already available. For example if you see at level crossing, there are boom gates, there are lights that tells drivers not to cross when the train is coming but people still do that. So there is a lot of human behaviour or human factor issues that have to be taken into account. So we are imbedding all those factors into our solution so that at least people can change their behaviour and then don't go through the crossing when the train is approaching.

Matt Smith:

But I assume that further down the line the technology will also have the application to maybe reduce car accidents if cars can communicate with each other. Would that be correct?

Jack Singh:

We have just signed an agreement with two of their top Chinese universities and also companies up there. And what we are looking with the Chinese contact parties the congestion issues, the pollution and also the productive cases. How do you list congestion on using this particular system? So it's a intelligent transport system that we are looking in to not only safety but mobility and also commercial applications.

Matt Smith:

Now it was recently implemented around Victoria or is that right or you had launch for it?

Jack Singh:

The project started this year so it was launched by the Minister. It is a 3 year project cycle so we're going to do the trial in Victoria and probably other states in 2012-2013. After that the government will roll it out.

Matt Smith:

Are you hopeful that it will be a standard in all vehicles on day?

Jack Singh:

I think it's a technology which is a global standard technology and I think it will be mandated. I am hopeful that it will be in every vehicle, and every crossing will have this set of information that drivers can communicate, they all connect and hence probably save lives and make sure there is no congestion also.

Matt Smith:

Another one of the projects that the Centre is working on which is quite high profile is the Smart Energy Management System. Can you tell me a bit about that project?

Jack Singh:

Yes this is a very high profile and a very important project as well. As you know climate change is a big issue. The number of ways which we can address climate change, one is looking at alternate energy, the other one is looking for carbon capture and that third is being more energy efficient. We thought if we go in energy efficiency then we can make an impact straight away. So what we are doing in the centre is developing solutions where we can monitor energy in real time and then control that as well. So we're giving the power to the users or the consumers to manage their energy in real time and also control it.

So we've got again human factor issues or human behavioural issues embedded into these solution and cost and all that and we can basically manage that. Just to let you know that this particular project was taken up by CSIRO and Henley Land Lease and it has been near rolled out into Australia's first Zero Emission House. And we are in the process of signing up another agreement with a few other companies where the technology will further develop and commercialized.

Matt Smith:

I've seen this Zero Emission House. What was very impressive about it - what stood out more so than other houses that you can actually see is that there was a computer screen where you could see where energy consumption is being monitored in different rooms and where your power is being used? So do you think it's part of the psychology that we'll be able to see that sort of thing so we'll consciously make an effort to reduce our energy?

Jack Singh:

Yes I think we as human beings if we exactly know where the energy is going we'll do something about it. And then they've got to be something that is really going to change our behaviour, just giving us that, OK, viewing as so much energy might not change our behaviour, but if you getting back some cares to it like what's sort of cost is involved in that. What we're spending by each and every device in the house then people start doing something. So there are a number of things that we have embedded into our solutions that people will change their behaviour.

Matt Smith:

Another aspect of this Smart Energy Management System is that you can remotely control the energy consumption in your house isn't it?

Jack Singh:

We can remotely control each and every device. It can be controlled from anywhere. You can use your mobile phones. If you are in your office you can use your computer or anything. Basically what it does it gives you the transparency of what the energy usage is in your house or in any property that you want to monitor and also it gives you an indication of where the energy is going, which particular device is using how much. Because if everything is in IP based, in other words every device that you've got has got an address. So what if that is the case then I can basically monitor the device and at the same time control it from anywhere.

I'll give you a very lame example. One morning in a rush you might have left your iron on and then you start driving and after 15 minutes or 20 minutes or it depends what set of cycle you have got on monitoring, it will advise you through e-mail or SMS that this particular device has been left on. It could be an iron. You don't have to go back home, you can pick up your mobile phone where the message was sent and then see what device was left on and if you think, "Ok, it has to be switched off" you can switch it off from your mobile phone and keep moving. So that gives the power to the people, to the consumers and that's what we want to do. We want to make sure that the decision that you make is informed decision and you can control things from where you are.

Matt Smith:

That seems to be a very intelligent house that you've created there. Is it also integrating with energy generating methods such as solar panels?

Jack Singh:

The system will allow you to integrate the entire system either it is solar or wind or electric cars. So it is a full integrated system. So it allows you to integrate and manage energy that is being generated at the same time energy that is being consumed. Just to give you an example you might get an iPad with you, the latest iPhone devices. It could be integrated to that and then basically what it gives you is a power in your hand anywhere anytime.

Matt Smith:

You've put technology in one house in Australia as a kind of a test. How is that house going because there is now a family living there isn't there?

Jack Singh:

Yes. The family was supposed to move in this month and the energy usage is being monitored on a regular basis and after one year I think we'll decide what to do. What I understand the company is very keen in rolling it out into new homes so probably what you could do, you could buy a Smart Home from the plan or a home that is already there that can be retro fitted with this technology. The system can be retro fitted into about 80% of the homes that are already in there.

Matt Smith:

The next thing that I'd like to discuss is that a project which also sounds very exciting, groundbreaking and that's the radio receiver microchips you've been working on.

Jack Singh:

I don't know if you are aware of Square Kilometre Array or SKA. This is a radio telescope, one of the largest in the world, it will be. A few years back, the International Consortium said, "No, you cannot have radio telescope in every country, let's do something big that we all can share." So there are two finalists now in this run, Australia and South Africa and I understand the winner will be announced in 2012.

So what the Australian government has done, they have put in about $200 million to setup a demonstrator in Australia and that is being done in Geraldton in Western Australia and the technology for that, the microchip or the nano chip that receives the signal, the faint signal from outer space has been outsourced to us. Well that says itself the quality and the capability of the Centre and mind you, this project is done in partnership with CSIRO and Sapphicon which is a company in Sydney and we three are working together, developing this microchip which is a receiver chip which should be tested in this demonstrator project in a few years time.

Matt Smith:

That's a massive achievement to be part of that. What exactly will the dish be able to do?

Jack Singh:

Things like big bang theory, what is out up there in the cosmos we don't know and this thing will allow us to see a large area and then be able to come up with research outcomes which takes years so we'll save a lot of time. There is a number of antennas that will be spread all over Australia if Australia wins this bid. So I think it's a huge economic impact it will make in Australia at the same time the research community will really excel in this area because the infrastructure will be in Australia. A lot of people will be using this and the education part will play not the secondary and primary school students being exposed to this technology. I think it will be a huge boost for science and technology in Australia.

Matt Smith:

One thing that I do want to talk to you about as well is what you are doing with the VIC6 project?

Jack Singh:

Just briefly what VIC6 is; VIC6 is Victorian Industry Collaborative IPv6 project. It set an industry outreach project. This is funded by state government, their putting $350,000 plus the number of companies out there who are putting in kind contribution and La Trobe is part of that consortium. What we are doing is we're developing a test bed where the companies and researchers come in and test their equipment, hardware, software for IPv6 compliance.

See one of the problems that we are going to face in a year or two is that we'll run out of number IP addresses. If you look at the applications that--I just gave you an example of home automation, you'll find that nearly every device that we have got will be Internet enabled so they will need an IP address and the present IP version that we've got which is IPv4 we are going to run out of address lines. So we won't be able to address each and every device, so IPv6 overcomes that problem. Also it has got much better security and mobility issues so it's a win and I think we cannot turn away from that.

What I understand the federal government has already put in a strategy that by 2012 all hardware should be IPv6 compliant. So there is already a move to make sure it happens and the other thing what will happen with NBN slowly being rolled out, you'll find that more and more devices will be used for education, for research, for community engagement and we need this IPv6. We cannot turn away from that. So La Trobe University is in a very ideal position knowing that we are setting up a test bed up here which will bring in a lot of companies and that will engage with our researchers and students to develop the next generation of IPv6 applications

Matt Smith:

One thing that I've noticed about all the projects that the centre for technology infusion concentrates on is that they all seem to be about betterment. Improving things about improving the environment, about saving lives, in the case of the rail crossing. Is this an ethics stand point?

Jack Singh:

I think it's a very important point you've raised. We are mostly focusing on intelligent platform technology, that's our research focus. How they can be used as an enabler in environment, energy, transportation, defence, space or health care and ICT as a whole. So these are the big ticket items for any government or any university. How do you make an impact in the community? How do you transfer the knowledge from the academia into the community?

So we see that the areas that we're looking into are very high profile, high impact based areas but these are all the technology that is making it happen. And so what we are trying to tell the community that yes, technology is there, that is making it happen but you don't have to worry about the technology, it has to be seamless. It has to make the change in your life. It's better living, its better well being.

Matt Smith:

That's all the time we've got for the La Trobe University podcast today. If you have any questions, comments or feedback about this podcast or any other then please drop us a line at podcast@latrobe.edu.au. Professor Jack Singh, thank you for your time.

Jack Singh:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

No results found. Try searching again:

Search for ...

Find an expert

Search our experts database.