Telstra launches external research program

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Telstra launches external research program

First dibs on new technology.

Telstra today launched an "external research and development program" that offered technical assistance, network access and facilities to five selected innovators.

The innovators were selected from 220 submissions on the basis of their benefit to the Australian industry, business and consumers.

They included: mobile mental health diagnostics; low-cost tags to track items online; an intelligent microphone; a rehabilitation system to be delivered via videolink; and "untappable" quantum cryptography technology.

Matthew Henderson was the CEO and co-founder of Taggle Systems, which planned to use Telstra's mobile towers to test its low-cost online tracking technology.

For the venture-backed company that comprised 20 employees, Telstra's support was "not about cash", but an opportunity that could make or break the technology.

"There's a difference between doing something well, and doing something with the resources of Telstra behind you," he told iTnews, highlighting the benefits of Taggle's newfound access to Telstra's million-dollar software and systems.

At the end of the 12-month program, Henderson said he would be discussing future opportunities with Telstra. He also expected energy companies and Google to be interested in Taggle.

"We'd love for Telstra to be interested in us in the long haul, and make us an offer," he said.

Telstra also planned to support Gold Coast start-up Dev/Audio, which was developing the 'Microcone' device for use in group teleconferencing.

Dev/Audio founder Iain McCowan told iTnews that the program was a "valuable boost" to the product, which had recently entered the commercialisation stage.

"In Australia, there are Government grants and so on, but in terms of connecting with the industry, I think this [Telstra program] is quite unique," he said.

McCowan said Telstra's new partners had "no strong obligation" to continue working with Telstra once the 12-month collaboration had ended; however, the contract required that Telstra be offered the "option of being part of commercialisation".

Other program participants were: Telemedcare, which would receive video conferencing and broadband services; Quintessence Labs, which would test its encryptor on a segment of Telstra's network; and Neural Diagnostics, which would utilise Telstra's telemetry systems and the Next G network for its mental health technology.

Telstra expected the program to allow it to build stronger ties to the Australian R&D community in areas, and identify and support research activities with potential to benefit the company.

According to the company's CTO, Hugh Bradlow, the submissions that it had received since the program was introduced last August indicated that "technology innovation is alive and well across Australia."

"While very divergent in nature, all the projects demonstrate how telecommunications networks can assist with the delivery of services in an innovative way," he said of the five selected projects.

"With Telstra's assistance, the aim is to see the projects realise their full potential and be brought to market in the near term," he said.

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