Tuesday, 10 April 2018 10:14

University of Technology Sydney launches world-first IoT innovation lab

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The University of Technology Sydney is the first academic institution to work with SAS and Cisco in a global Internet of Things partnership, creating a new research and teaching facility, the UTS-SAS-Cisco IoT Innovation Lab. The lab is already pursuing two significant projects which it claims will change the world.

The lab was announced today at the SAS Global Forum 2018. Dr Gengfa Fang, director of UTS-SAS-Cisco IoT Innovation Lab, Faculty of Engineering and IT, took some time from his schedule to speak to iTWire.

“It’s taken a lot of effort and collaboration to get to this point, but we’re very excited by the future,” Fang said, explaining he first saw SAS at CeBIT 2016 and was impressed by the people and the technologies, while SAS was also interested in the IoT work UTS was doing.

“A lot of people approach SAS and ask for collaborations, but UTS has a history of collaboration with Cisco, so SAS said let’s get Cisco on board too and make it a more exciting and bigger joint IoT innovation lab. We didn’t start off with the idea of an innovation lab but Cisco thought big and recognised UTS was an excellent location for them to be in the Sydney area. UTS has always been keen to collaborate with big industry players and already has achievements in the IoT space.”

Cisco has previously worked with UTS on two Centres of Research Excellence with $15 million in government grants, on food agility — using IoT to enhance the supply chain — and on using IoT for transportation in a project titled I-Move. Cisco agreed to contribute to the lab with $2.4 million of IoT technology and the SAS licensing agreement followed shortly providing full SAS licensing.

With both infrastructure and data analytics on-board UTS had the ingredients to make its lab really unique. “We believe streaming data analytics is the key for IoT,” Fang said. “It has to be real-time, making decisions in real-time. IoT isn’t about downloading gigabytes of historical data and then processing it and reporting; IoT is all about real-time decision making.”

Dr Fang explained the innovation lab uses an IoT platform called Edge-to-Enterprise. This involves a data centre which has historical data and creates models using its computational power and storage, then updates the models on the edge of the IoT network so it can make real-time decisions. "It's very exciting," Dr Fang says.

Currently, the innovation lab is working on two applications, both in pilot projects together with SAS and Cisco.

The first is microgrids and how to apply IoT to monitor how much power will be generated by thousands of microgrids and to predict how much energy will be generated tomorrow or next week or other future periods. This information means the amount of powered required by older generators becomes a known quantity, instead of over-generating or under-generating energy and either having waste or an insufficiency. There are many other applications, Dr Fang explains, such as pricing impacts, collaborative sharing of energy and more.

The second is a smart building project, which is part of the UTS IoT innovation lab itself. The building has 3000 sensors to monitor air quality, power consumption, people movement, weather and other things. The real-time data allows UTS to understand how power has been consumed and the current state of the air quality. “For example, we can clearly see during lunchtime the dust level of some common places becomes high. We can clean-on-demand instead of a schedule because we can tell by the dust level if the carpet has to be cleaned,” he says. “We believe IoT and data are the future of smart buildings.”

Dr Fang says the innovation lab has high ambitions. “We want to make this place the hub of IoT in Australia, and make it a well-known innovation centre globally as well.

“The IoT Innovation Lab will be an exciting local and global IoT hub, where IoT innovation will deliver positive technological impacts on the environment, society, people, governments and industries. The volume of data already being generated will only increase but its value to society can only be fully realised if we are able to use it productively."

Professor Michael Blumenstein, UTS' Associate Dean (Research Strategy and Management), Faculty of Engineering and IT, said, “We are excited to work with SAS and Cisco on this world-first partnership, which will foster collaboration between top UTS FEIT researchers in the area of IoT and harness the power of industry platforms to deliver disruptive solutions for real-world problems."

David Bowie, SAS vice-president for Australia and New Zealand, said, “SAS has a long history of support for the education sector and we are delighted to be involved with UTS in this exciting initiative. The value of edge data is at its greatest when analysed in transit, and this is what our trailblazing global partnership with Cisco makes possible.”

“Cisco is investing, together with the University sector, to accelerate short-term innovation and help develop Australia’s capability in solving large complex industry problems,” said Reg Johnson, General Manager, Education, Cisco Australia & New Zealand. “This exciting project with UTS is a leading-edge research and innovation initiative that is looking to make the energy sector more sustainable by creating a ‘Real-time Internet of Things (IoT) Energy Brokerage.’ The initiative is the first global deployment utilising the Cisco and SAS Edge-To-Enterprise IoT Analytics Platform, which is underpinned by the Cisco Kinetic IoT Data Fabric.”

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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