​Telstra launches Telstra Labs innovation and IoT hub

Telstra has unveiled Telstra Labs, combining all of the telco's research capabilities under a single business, as well as launching an open IoT lab and announcing a Muru-D round in Melbourne.

Telstra has launched a new business to combine all of its innovation, technology development, and Internet of Things (IoT) research and development, which the telecommunications provider has labelled Telstra Labs.

Telstra also used the opportunity to launch the nation's first public open IoT lab, as well as a new Melbourne-based startup program under its accelerator arm Muru-D.

Telstra Labs will consist of the telco's innovation centres across the country, such as its Gurrowa Innovation Lab, which provides a co-creation space for Telstra and its associated enterprise customers, vendors, research institutes, and incubators to work on technological projects such as geolocation, robotics, and IoT via the Pivotal and Cloud Foundry Foundation-provided open-source platform-as-a-service software.

The new open IoT lab, situated in Telstra's Melbourne headquarters, will likewise provide a space for students, startups, and businesses to use controlled Cat-M1 and NB-IoT radio networks to create, test, and prototype their IoT solutions.

The lab will provide researchers with electronic testing equipment, hardware, and diagnostic tools in order to assist them in developing prototype IoT sensors, hardware, and technology.

"This is the first lab of its kind in Australia, and it means that anyone from university students, to a startup, to a multinational company can come here and work with some of the best equipment and minds in the business to bring their IoT solution to life," Telstra's new CTO Håkan Eriksson -- who was appointed to the role in December after Telstra's former CTO Vish Nandlall departed the company amid reports that he falsified his CV -- said on Tuesday.

"This lab will help foster a community focused on quality IoT product design, encouraging best-practice sharing of ideas, experience, research, and insights amongst engineers from startups through to global enterprises."

Eriksson said innovators will also want to use the lab in order to utilise Telstra's technology infrastructure, experts, community engagement, facilitators, and extensive 4G network, with plans to bring in a 5G test network during 2018.

"We will start doing trials 2018 with 5G, so it will be very natural to bring some of that into the lab," Eriksson told ZDNet.

Some of the partners of the open lab include Microsoft, which is working on a connected factory solution; and IBM, which is providing its artificial intelligence solution Watson.

Telstra's Innovation Challenge participants -- a hackathon kicking off this weekend -- will gain access to the lab on May 6 to May 13 specifically to construct and test agricultural IoT solutions.

In addition to assisting partners and others with their R&D, Eriksson told ZDNet that Telstra is also working on how any solutions can be implemented in the real world; for instance, working with regulators on the drone industry.

"The first thing, the easiest thing to solve, is the technology. The second thing is for people to start using it, and the third thing is the regulation, which is always a little bit lagging," Eriksson told ZDNet.

In this vein, Telstra will also be extending its autonomous vehicles partnership with the South Australian government and Cohda Wireless to conduct vehicle-to-everything connectivity trials in Adelaide in a couple of weeks.

In regards to whether Telstra will launch a second open IoT lab in Sydney, Eriksson said it will be a matter of seeing whether there's a necessity or an opportunity.

"We will start here and see how it develops. If it's something we need to expand on, we will see how we do that," he told ZDNet

Also announced on Tuesday was Muru-D's new startup accelerator program within Melbourne inside Telstra Labs' designated space, allowing startups to gain "access to the full capability that exists in this facility", Eriksson said.

"We are currently recruiting for an entrepreneur-in-residence who will act as the 'head coach' for the startups, and once this key role is filled we will be able to advise the specific program dates for the first Melbourne intake," the CTO added.

Telstra in March also announced that it would be launching two new cybersecurity centres in Melbourne and Sydney as well as a new suite of managed security services built on open source.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Telstra

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