Developing industry solutions

Bendigo’s Technology Innovation Laboratory is translating research and practice into multi-disciplinary projects that make a difference to our daily lives

Bendigo’s Technology Innovation Laboratory is translating research and practice into multi-disciplinary projects that make a difference to our daily lives.

The laboratory is driven by the latest technologies, developing innovative solutions to problems facing agriculture, health, Industry 4.0 and smart cities.

It also hosts undergraduate and postgraduate final-year projects, and research conducted by Higher Degree by Research candidates.

Associate Professor Simon Egerton, Deputy Head of the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, says that the Innovation Laboratory is “based around a ‘Think It. Do It.’ philosophy.”

“It is about empowering the rapid prototyping and translation of research ideas into solutions that address an identified industry or community need,” he says.

The laboratory consists of three technology platforms:

Internet of Things

Egerton’s research explores new and innovative wireless technologies, protocols, and applications that fall under the banner of Internet of Things.

“Internet of Things, or IoT, is a giant network of devices that collect and share information,” explains Egerton. “Sensors gather data from their environment, and that data is then sent across a network to the cloud, where it is processed by software and turned into useful information.”

Egerton and his team have established an extensive long range IoT network spanning the City of Greater Bendigo. “It continues to grow and is enabling new protocol developments and innovative large-scale application case studies in a unique, living laboratory environment,” he says.

In another project, seven Master of Internet of Things students have created prototype water-monitoring sensors, which are being trialed at strategic points along Bendigo creek. The prototype sensors are designed to measure water turbidity, temperature, height, salinity and ph.

“In time, additional sensors will be added to measure a greater range of water quality parameters, enabling real-time monitoring of the health of the creek and thus giving greater intelligence as to where to intervene within the catchment,” says Liam Sibly, the City of Greater Bendigo’s Acting Manager of Climate Change and Environment.

“These projects demonstrate how open-source technology can democratise the design and prototyping process,” explains Egerton. “Our students have integrated the latest off-the-shelf sensor and process technology made available in our lab to create a viable prototype to meet the project’s needs.”

Social robotics

The laboratory’s Social Robotics Platform supports research in human-robot interaction for telehealth, healthcare, wellbeing and education.

“Robots will be part of our everyday futures, including servicing our farms, looking after our health, and extending services into remote and rural areas,” says Egerton.

“Robots of the future need to be able to interpret a person’s action and respond appropriately, whether it is simple mechanical tasks or complex interactions such as providing medical assistance.”

Egerton and his team are currently working on a project on occupational stress management that uses a combination of social robotics and smart phone technology to help deliver stress support services.

“It employs an artificial intelligence to measure a person’s stress coping ability throughout a virtual conversation,” he says. “We plan to integrate peer support services into the system and complement traditional management services to help alleviate stress.”

Rapid prototyping

The rapid prototyping platform enables hands-on innovation through open-source hardware, software, design and manufacturing. By facilitating the creation of new IoT and robotics tools and hardware designs, it supports the IoT Infrastructure Platform and the Social Robotics Platform.

“Rapid prototyping is the process of quickly making a functional version of the desired product, allowing evaluation of the design and performance of the prototype in the early stages,” says Egerton.

The team’s Clever Weather project is an example of this technology, using rapidly prototyped self-sustaining, low-power, and weather sensing pods that monitor environmental heat, humidity and rainfall.

“The project created a commercially viable product with almost 100 sensors deployed throughout the City of Greater Bendigo,” says Egerton.

“The sensors have enabled us to observe  the microclimates within Greater Bendigo, which gives us insights into the ‘hot pockets’ of urban Bendigo. This data will allow us to plan for priority areas to mitigate urban heat impact,” explains Sibly.

In another project, the team rapidly prototyped a solution to retrofit hand sanitisers into smart hand sanitisers, enabling them to remotely monitor their usage and trigger refill alerts.

“In collaboration with the University Department of Rural Health and Department of Psychology and Counselling, and the Department of Psychology in Copenhagen, we explored hand sanitiser usage and messaging impact,” says Egerton. “Solutions are currently running in the City of Greater Bendigo, La Trobe’s Bendigo campus, and Copenhagen University. We are investigating messaging that improves hand sanitisation rates, which is very topical in these COVID times.”

“Ultimately, our Technology Innovation Lab enables us to bring our research and ideas to life, translate them into real world applications and create tangible impact for the benefit of others.”

Find out more about the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology on the website.