CSIRO has been conducting information and communications technology research for more than 50 years but the official launch of the ICT Centre in Sydney yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to developing innovations for the industry.
Addressing a large gathering of researchers at the National Maritime Museum, CSIRO ICT Centre director Dr Alex Zelinsky, said it's not a launch, it's a first birthday.
"So we'll call it a birthday party," Zelinksy said. "CSIRO actually had the distinct honour of building one of the first computers in the world. It [CSIRAC, 1947] was the fifth in the world but some say if you look at the definition of what a computer is, it was the third." Zelinsky believes CSIRAC set up the relationship CSIRO has had with ICT which has now expanded with six basic research themes across autonomous systems, information agility, networked information, networks for the information economy (CeNTIE), and wireless technologies.
"We have the largest wireless research group in the country with about 50 researchers," he said. "In the radio physics department in 1989 they started thinking about wireless LANs and I was just trying to get my computer to talk to a printer! That gives an idea of how important it is to do forward thinking research. It's only now that these things are becoming common place."
The ICT Centre has eight sites spread around the country, just over 200 staff, and an annual budget of about $40 million.
"We have footprints in every major city and we'll probably be doing a little bit of balancing of the load in time to get things to a critical mass but to give you an idea we certainly have got a presence where we can interact with the institution," Zelinsky said. "Across that we are trying to apply this work across domains, like health. We are trying to find good application domains which could be the environment, mining, or transportation systems.
Zelinsky cited the virtual intensive care unit as an example of the ICT Centre's research being applied to industry.
"This is the idea of connecting up intensive care units between, say, the Nepean Hospital and Katoomba over a gigabit connection," he
said. "Specialists can virtually travel over the Blue Mountains and be able to treat patients as if they were there. When this system was first trialled, it was believed it would be used maybe once or twice a week. Now it's used once or twice a day and has become an integral part of the work of the hospitals."
The ICT Centre is now in discussions to commercialize this technology and roll it out across NSW and, ultimately, Australia.