Optus-James Cook University partnership will advance digital technology

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The seven-year alliance will promote the advancement of digital technology across a range of industries in Australia.

By U2B Staff 

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The adoption of digital technology across business sectors is not a matter of if, but when. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to digitally transform the economy, with businesses ripe for disruption.

IoT refers to devices that are connected to the internet, and that collect and share data. These connected devices can provide companies with real-time information that can be crucial to enhancing just about every aspect of business operations.

According to market intelligence firm IDC (International Data Corporation), via IoTHUB, Australia is one of the highest per capita spenders on the IOT in the Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan.

Over in Australia, an initiative by telecommunications company Optus Business and James Cook University (JCU) has flourished into a AUS$7.7 million partnership that focuses on advancing digital technology across a range of industries and training a workforce for a diversified and digitised northern Australian economy.

In a media release, the Queensland-based university said their 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.

A fruitful business-university collaboration? 

digital technology
Digital technology will become increasingly important in every aspect of life.

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,” said JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding.

“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.”


Meanwhile, 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 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 [the] market,” said Professor Lane.

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

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

Developing talent in IoT

The strategic alliance also includes the annual funding of the Optus IoT scholarship programme 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 AUS$30 million Cairns Ideas Lab, which is currently under construction, and Townsville’s planned AUS$90 million Technology Innovation Complex.


Further extolling on the importance of the application of IoT to help digitally transform the economy is Optus Business Vice President Product Innovation, Deon Liebenberg.

“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,” said Mr Liebenberg.

“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.”