It's a cliché, but the law really does lag behind the development of new technologies. Government agencies often see the need for change, and at least start the ball rolling. But the politicians don't seem to notice until things become, well, political. The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), an employers' lobby group that claims to represent the interests of "more than 60,000 businesses", highlighted a key example recently: Drones. "Drones are becoming more ubiquitous and play an important role as part of the industrial IoT ecosystem for observation, data gathering, and increasingly logistics," the Ai Group wrote in their submission [PDF] to the current consultation on developing a national Digital Economy Strategy.
Australian road traffic authorities can begin the roll out of intelligent transport systems (ITS) that enable vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-person, or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, thanks to new regulations introduced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on Thursday. The Radiocommunications (Intelligent Transport Systems) Class Licence 2017 regulations allow the 5.9 GHz band to be used for ITS in Australia, and will support the use of complying wireless technologies and devices. The new regulations also make the local guidelines consistent with the ITS arrangements in major vehicle markets such as the United States and European Union, ACMA explained. "ITS are expected to make roads smarter, safer, and cleaner through the use of communications technologies," ACMA acting chair James Cameron said. "The new Class Licence will facilitate the rollout of the latest transportation communications technology, putting Australia on par with other nations adopting ITS."
The New South Wales government has announced that it will be launching a new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Trusted Autonomous Systems to develop defence technologies and solutions in partnership with research institutions, universities, and businesses. The Australian government will be kicking in around AU$50 million over seven years from its AU$730 million Next Generation Technologies Fund to the CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems, the NSW Department of Industry announced. The University of Sydney (USyd), the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and the University of Technology Sydney are also contributing to the CRC's operations, with USyd robotics expert professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte having been on the expert panel to create the CRC. Defence technology companies with expertise in trusted autonomous systems will also be involved in the centre, according to NSW Defence Advocate Air Marshal John Harvey AM. "These include Ocius Technology, which has developed an unmanned marine vessel dubbed the'Bluebottle' that is powered by solar, wind, and wave energy, and that can be deployed at sea over months for wide area surveillance," Air Marshal Harvey explained. "Marrickville company Marathon Targets is also involved in the CRC.
Nor should it be a surprise that the official government response was to downplay the risk. "The Department of Health takes this matter very seriously," began the message that a departmental spokesperson sent ZDNet on Monday, echoing every corporate mea culpa ever. The department had referred the problems with this health dataset to the privacy commissioner a year ago, and now says that it has taken unspecified "further steps to protect and manage data". "The department has not been aware of anyone being identified," they finished, as if that somehow excuses them. After all, the dataset is out there in the wild, having presumably been downloaded at least once before being taken offline.
An Australian man was taken into custody Saturday for allegedly acting as an economic agent for North Korea and attempting to sell missile parts, military intelligence and coal on the black market. The Australian Federal Police arrested Chan Han Choi, 59, in Sydney and charged him with brokering sales of weapons of mass destruction, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is the first time a charge of this kind has been leveled against anyone in Australia. The sales would violate Australian and United Nations sanctions. "We believe this man participated in discussions about the sale of missile componentry from North Korea to other entities abroad as another attempt to try and raise revenue for the government in North Korea, again in breach of the sanctions," said Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan in a statement.
The South Australian government and the University of Adelaide will co-invest in a new machine learning "institute" to open next year. The institute will operate from the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site and eventually be home to 200 "creative thinkers, researchers and start-ups". The state government said it would invest $7.1 million towards establishing the institute "with $1.5 million prioritised for defence capability research projects". "The institute will dedicate a minimum of 18,000 research hours over the five-year agreement for projects which help the government to improve productivity, efficiency and service delivery for South Australians," it said. The defence work isn't explained aside from a stated aim to "build new AI-enabled defence capabilities".
Perth has been chosen to host a trial of electric-powered autonomous vehicles next year. Run by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) of Western Australia and the Western Australian government, the trial will test Navya's "Autonom" vehicles in "a closed and controlled environment" from April next year. Until then, the state government and the RAC will explore locations for the initial trial and a potential on-road public trial later on. Perth is one of three cities picked for trials of the new type of electric vehicle. The vehicles will be bookable through a smartphone app once rolled out, according to RAC WA, similar to ride-sharing services such as Uber.
The entry of Amazon into the Australian retail market will benefit consumers, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims has said. In a speech on Thursday, Sims said arguments from incumbent retailers that rely on Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act -- which deals with the misuse of market power and was recently revised due to recommendations from the Harper Review -- about Amazon undercutting competition with lower prices have been misguided. "Some of the loudest opponents of the Harper Section 46 changes have suggested that the arrival of Amazon, a new entrant to the Australian market, could be anti-competitive. To me, this shows how much of the recent debate about Section 46 was misplaced," Sims said. "In terms of misuse of market power, if you open a store in a new town and you set a common price point, you are going to lose money initially if you don't have scale.
Telstra CEO Andy Penn has said the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network it provided to Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company is working well for existing Telstra and Foxtel services. Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) lunch in Sydney on Tuesday, Penn said the issues causing NBN's HFC rollout pause announced on Monday cropped up during NBN's works. "What's critical is that NBN are putting the customer experience ahead of the rollout schedule, and that's fundamentally the most important thing because I think there has been some pain with the HFC technology," Penn began. "Can I say, to be clear, that is the same cable that currently provides internet services to Telstra's customers and also for Foxtel pay TV services, and for those services, it is absolutely fine, it's been a great experience. "It's in the process of NBN taking it and making whatever technology changes they are making to it where they've had some issues."
The world's largest lithium-ion battery being built in South Australia to store renewable energy is about to enter final testing. State Premier Jay Weatherill has said Elon Musk's Tesla has finished installing the battery powerpacks at Jamestown, in the state's mid-north, where they are linked to an adjacent wind farm. Weatherill said the 100-megawatt battery will now be energised and tested to ensure it meets all energy market and state government regulatory requirements, and will be up and running in time for the Southern Hemisphere's summer season. When first announced in July, the battery came with a guarantee from Musk that it would be working within 100 days of the grid interconnection agreement being signed, or it would be free for the South Australian government. The 100MW/129MWh battery is expected to provide backup and stability services through energy storage to the South Australian grid.