JCU and Optus – partners for a digital north

Optus Business and James Cook University are launching a $7.7million partnership today, focused on advancing digital technology across a range of industries and training a workforce for a diversified and digitised northern Australian economy.

The seven-year alliance unites Optus’ next-generation narrow-band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network and industry prowess with JCU’s expertise in IoT engineering and related disciplines, and their application to sectors including agriculture, remote health, environmental management and protection, aquaculture and mining.

The partnership will appoint a Research Chair in Digital Innovation and IoT, along with establishing a joint research fund that will support digital innovation and research, delivering new or improved technologies that are commercially viable and have a sustainable, social impact.

“JCU is determined that northern Australia should not just benefit from the rapid evolution and adoption of digital technology, but that our region and its industries should also take a leadership role in the next phase of the digital revolution,” JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said.

“This partnership between Optus and JCU will foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. Together we aim to do nothing less than co-create digital innovation in a range of business domains and work together to train a new generation of graduates fit for a digital economy.”

Professor Marcus Lane, Deputy Vice Chancellor Tropical Environments and Societies, said JCU’s first IoT graduates, from Australia’s first fully-focussed IoT degree, would graduate later this month (March 25) and were already working across the region.

“As businesses and communities strive to diversify and expand northern Australia’s economy, the connectivity provided by IoT technology is key to overcoming the hurdle of distance from market,” Professor Lane said.

“With real-time data provided by IoT systems, producers can increase yield and efficiency, better manage the variability of environmental factors, and add value to the region’s output.

“This partnership represents a significant step towards a diversified, digitised and more resilient northern Australian economy.”

The agreement includes the annual funding of the Optus IoT scholarship program to support JCU students in IoT and related fields of study, and offers recipients the opportunity to visit Optus Regional IoT Centres of Excellence.

The partnership will see Optus accelerate the deployment of its NB-IoT network in Cairns and Townsville, including across JCU’s $30M Cairns Ideas Lab (currently under construction) and Townsville’s planned $90M Technology Innovation Complex.

Optus Business Vice President Product Innovation, Deon Liebenberg, said Australia must fully realise the application of IoT to help digitally transform our economy.

“We’re excited to team up with JCU to bring IoT into students’ daily lives and develop Australia’s leadership in smart devices and smart precincts,” Mr Liebenberg said.

“Optus’ and JCU’s investment will facilitate an IoT solutions group that brings together Optus’ NB-IoT network and JCU’s IoT Research Centre for academic research which delivers new business innovations that create real-world, positive outcomes.”

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