Tasmania’s ‘big data’ project is building sustainable economies

Can big data power sustainable economies? Tasmanian researcher Sense-T thinks so, and is using a high-tech sensor network to prove it.

By 2050, there will be nine billion people on the planet. This means we need to find better ways to manage our resources today.

A somewhat scary and urgent mission – but it is this vision that pushes this think-tank to live at the cutting edge of big data innovation. Essentially, Sense-T is an economy-wide digital mapping resource bringing historical, spatial and real-time data from across Tasmania into one library, allowing businesses, governments and communities to create synergies and efficiencies that were previously unrealised. Take a look at the video to get the whole picture.

Sense-T is a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and the Tasmanian and Federal Governments, and already operates its network of electronic sensors distributed across a variety of commercial enterprises across beef and dairy; viticulture; aquaculture; water resources; and pathways to market (logistics services). Electronic sensors measuring soil moisture, temperature, water pollution, supply chain efficiency – even an oyster’s heart-beat – wirelessly transmit data to a cloud system, where it is synthesized through complex modelling and analysis, then re-shared in an aggregated form across multiple enterprises.

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Since its inception in 2014, Sense-T has gone from strength to strength; it is creating economic benefits for farmers; leading technical innovation in Australia and is being extolled internationally as an example of Australia’s ability to contribute to global sustainability efforts. It’s early success has even led to yesterday’s announcement that the project will receive a whopping $13 million in funding to expand across health, tourism, new financial markets, and infrastructure, freight and logistics.

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This is a fascinating project that will, as the animation above notes, ‘help people improve efficiency and productivity, and to develop new approaches to economic, environmental and social sustainability’.

Assuming this test project is completed successfully in December 2016, it will be scaled up to take on our national economy. Further afield, and if not at a federal level, Sense-T‘s ideas could have applications within local governments internationally, and affect industry-wide economies of scale. It already seems to be working across agriculture; it could absolutely work across healthcare, fiscal and social policy development and resources industries. The applications are endless!