These range from cloud-based project management suites and IP calling to cutting-edge AR solutions that connect workers in the field like never before.
New ways of connecting
Managing Telstra’s network involves the maintenance of a vast array of infrastructure spread around the country, from outback cell towers to data centres to millions of kilometres of fibre and copper – all requiring highly skilled technicians.
One of the most exciting projects Telstra has been working on is a trial using augmented reality headsets, similar to Microsoft HoloLens and Google Glass, to allow technical specialists located back at HQ to provide near real-time guidance to technicians in the field.
“I think it's about extending your existing workforce, by giving field workers and experts access to the latest information to augment each other,” says Gagan Singh, Strategic Tech Expert for Media & Content at Telstra.
When a technician encounters a complex task they don’t know how to tackle, the expert is able to see what the technician sees through the glasses and guide them through their work.
The guidance can involve both visual overlay and an audio feed, as well as involving elements of AR. For example, the expert is able to use an arrow or circle to point out specific interfaces on the equipment to the technician.
“We have seen massive decrease in the total duration of support sessions. In some cases, calls which were lasting for 40, 45 minutes, are now just being wrapped up in 20 minutes,” Singh says.
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The glasses can allow digitised inspections through the ability to record videos and take photographs, which can then be shared if necessary, making them a great tool to help train new staff through instructions that have already been created and broadcasted through to the user.
“We’ve been very encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received from the trial,” says Harshita Chopra, General Manager, Innovation and Automation at Telstra.
“In the enterprise space, there’re a lot of people who are currently trialling AR and we're probably looking at anywhere between three to five years before it becomes a part of our day to day work, like we use mobiles.”Harshita Chopra, General Manager at Telstra Operations
The technology has the potential to transform field work across a range of industries, including mining, transport, logistics, construction and utilities. While Telstra’s trial is focused on maintenance and repair, smart glasses also have the potential to impact compliance inspections, anti-counterfeiting efforts and much more.
Staying connected in the red centre
Of course, technology doesn’t have to be cutting-edge to have a transformational effect on the lives of those working in the field. As network availability has increased across Australia’s red centre, businesses which have traditionally relied on limited satellite connectivity are embracing the hallmarks of the modern workplace.
As a bush chaplain, Benjamin Quilliam’s work involves frequent travels around the remote centre of the Northern Territory.
Through his work at Frontier Services, he provides chaplaincy services to individuals and organisations that require support, religious services such as weddings and funerals, as well as lending a helping hand with whatever is going on when he is visiting.
Rich communications such as Wifi Calling and Zoom now feature in his toolbox, as well as cloud computing, which as a frequent traveller, Quilliam appreciates as a means to keep his case notes, business cards and contact directory safe.
Frontier Services’ bush chaplains use a cloud-based collaboration suite to share the stories they encounter and stay in touch with the rest of the team and their HQ in Sydney.
Of course, for those spots where connectivity is limited, the trusty satellite phone is a must for emergencies and ensuring he remains in contact with his family while on the road.
He says that reliable access to connective technology is particularly important in rural areas.
“It's actually just a safety thing. Like they're using it for getting the help they need when they need to, they're using it to get information about whether that could be dangerous,” he says. “There aren't the backups and layers of technology that we have in built up areas. For example, if someone's home phone goes dead, they can't walk to their neighbour’s house to use their phone.”