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More than three-quarters of Australian businesses are excited about the opportunities AI presents to them. A lack of AI talent and skills are holding some projects back, but we’re already seeing remarkably innovative uses of AI by enterprises that have been in a position to take an early mover advantage. AI is also becoming embedded across industries and sectors, resulting in incredible innovation that is very specific to that sector.

Here are notable examples of Australian businesses using AI in innovative ways.

1. BHP

One of Australia’s most important manufacturing companies, BHP, has adopted AI solutions to optimise the loading and offloading process for iron ore on rail trucks and then loading onto ships for export.

This “machine vision technology,” is important, because unexpected surges in the volume of iron ore being loaded or unloaded can cause spillages and damage to the transport infrastructure. With the support of AI for monitoring loads, BHP is now operating more safely and had a 105,000 tonne production saving in just one area of its operations for the 2022-2023 financial year.

2. Telstra

Australia’s largest telecommunications company uses AI in customer service to improve product recommendations and help customers get to the outcomes they’re looking for more quickly.

Telstra also uses AI in its own networks and systems to help identify potential issues and flag cyber threats. As with any telco, Telstra is a particularly attractive target for cyber crime, so having the kind of real-time monitoring and response enabled by AI is particularly important.

3. Local council

AI has applications in the public sector, too. One local council (which remained anonymous) partnered with a local AI company to deploy surveillance tools that would monitor school zones for traffic infringements and compliance.

As a result of this deployment, the council was able to increase its school zone patrolling range and rate by 900%. Automation also supported the submission and follow-up for infringement claims and in being automated and driven by technology, there was no risk of bias. The end result has been better compliance enforcement and, more importantly, safer school zones for the children.

4. Treasury Wine Estates

As an agricultural business, Treasury Wine Estates is heavily impacted by weather and climate events. Vineyards are particularly susceptible to everything from frosts to smoke from bushfires; even if the plants are spared, the crop can have its flavours destroyed and the grapes become effectively unusable for wine making.

Treasury Wine uses climate data and an AI algorithm to make its own forecasts based on what will impact its crops. In addition to being able to prepare for frosts and fires, this AI system helps optimise water use by calculating the exact amount required on a vine-by-vine basis.

5. National parks management of Kakadu

One of the more complex national parks to manage in Australia is Kakadu in the Northern Territory. It is one of Australia’s largest national parks, and also one where conditions can be challenging to work in, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees, and humidity in excess of 60%.

To address this challenge, CSIRO worked with Microsoft and the Kakadu Rangers to develop a system for drones to take large numbers of photos rapidly and then a software solution to help analyse the data and monitor the ecosystems across the national park. This application of AI was directly linked to the restoration of a large colony of magpie geese to wetlands that had previously been choked by weeds.

6. Royal Perth Hospital

Royal Perth Hospital has embraced a solution called HIVE — Health in a Virtual Environment — to assist with ground staff by continually monitoring the condition of patients that need a close eye on them. The system keeps track of vitals, including heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels, and any anomalies are flagged immediately at the HIVE command centre, with staff able to instantly communicate with the nurses and doctors via audio-visual units.

This system ensures that patients have the best possible standard of care, while freeing staff up to move around and work efficiently, confident that critical patients are still being closely monitored.

7. Commonwealth Bank

CommBank has always been an enthusiastic adopter of technology, and it has taken a leadership position with AI applications and deployment. The bank is using AI to read, analyse and process customer documents more quickly, halving the time it takes to verify someone’s income to process a loan.

Internally, CBA is using generative AI to streamline internal processes, including coding. For example, the company has accepted nearly 80,000 lines of code that was recommended by GitHub Copilot, significantly increasing the speed with which the engineers can work.

8. Sydney Airport

Another valuable use of AI is to analyse data in real-time and use that to provide feedback. This is what Sydney Airport has done in collaboration with Google, after launching an AR-enhanced application that uses AI to scan tens of billions of images within the airport and understand where the user is at. From there, it can provide wayfinding assistance and help passengers locate gates, baggage claims, retail and food outlets, bathrooms and more.

In addition to saving passengers the need to find an information kiosk, the app is multi-lingual and designed to help overcome the language barriers in navigating the complexity of the enormously complex airport environments.

9. The National Pickleball League

If you haven’t heard of Pickleball yet, the chances are that you will in the near future. This is one of the fastest-growing sports worldwide — including in Australia — and part of what’s driving it is by embracing AI.

The National Pickleball League in Australia partnered with PlaySight, an AI-powered sports video and analysis company, to give NPL members the ability to record, livestream, analyse and share highlights and replays online. In addition to allowing for the automation of marketing content to support the sport, this platform is a useful analytics tool to improve the performance of players and the strength of competition in the league.

What Australian IT pros need to know

AI can be deeply embedded into the very processes that underpin every sector. Previously, professionals would use laptops, word processors, spreadsheets and sensors to collect and analyse data, but the technology was distinct from the work. With AI, there is the opportunity to embed technology within the work itself, and this is what the more forward-thinking and technically-ready organisations are embracing.

For IT professionals, it means the application of AI technology might be wildly different from one sector to the next. An IT professional working for a winery is going to have a totally different intended use of technology than one that is supporting Sydney Airport.

This, in turn, means IT professionals are going to need to develop a deep understanding of not just technology but also the sector and business they’re working within. As a result, we may see less movement across sectors from IT professionals looking for new work opportunities, and AI will be the catalyst for IT professionals to become even more deeply ingrained business enablers and leaders within their sectors.


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