For the past two days I’ve been stuck in bed sick with a horrendous cough. By the end of day two I’m over it. I contemplate the 5 minute drive down the road to the doctor’s surgery, but the thought of sitting in a room full of other sick people with god-knows-what bugs floating around kind of creeps me out.
If only just like last’s week’s restaurant reservation booked online or that Skype call with my friend overseas, I could just schedule an online tele-consultation with my doctor without leaving the comfort of my own bed. I admit it might seem like a Gen Y problem but why isn’t a visit to the doctor easier in this day and age? Surely the idea of a video-conference with my GP to assess my signs and symptoms is better than trusting Google and coming up with my own self diagnosis right? It might just be a common cold or perhaps something more serious, but within a few minutes at least I’d know whether I really needed to take that trip to a germ invested waiting room for some antibiotics.
But, what if I lived in a remote community in Western Australia where my 5 min drive to the doctors could actually be 4 or even 6 hours drive. Now that’s a long way to go for a consultation! I’d have to take a whole day off work just to visit a doctor and in the end they may tell me I’m fine after all and I would’ve wasted a whole day driving in the car. And what if my flu was something more serious such as an eye disease like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.
As we face the pressure of rising costs and demands on our health system due to an ageing population and an increase in chronic disease, we need to think differently about how we deliver health services says Dr Sarah Dods, Leader of Health Services for CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship.
“We are currently spending 20 cents in every tax dollar on health and that is forecast to increase to 40 cents in every dollar by 2043. At that stage health will consume our entire state government budgets if we don’t change the way that we do things.”
Telehealth services offer us an opportunity to do old things in new ways and new things in ways we never thought of. They can help us to responsibly improve productivity, improve access to health services so that escalating health issues can be addressed earlier, and offer better quality of care to patients.
Telehealth services made possible by the arrival of fast broadband services across Australia can deliver many health services especially into remote communities, reducing the need for travel; providing timely access to services and specialists; improving the ability to identify developing conditions and provide a means to educate and train and support remote healthcare workers.
They can also reduce the burden on our health system by keeping hospital ‘frequent flyers’ such as chronic disease sufferers or the elderly, which accounted for over 70% of Australia’s $103.6bn health expenditure during 2007-2008, to manage their conditions from home.
Video-based teleconsultations are now available to patients in some locations, but this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what broadband can deliver.
At CSIRO we are on the way to help making the next generation of telehealth services a reality.As part of the NBN enabled Telehealth Pilots Program administered by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) funded by the Department of Broadband and Communications and the Digital Economy, CSIRO has been awarded two large grants to help conduct important clinical trials needed to inform the wide scale roll out and integration of telehealth services for Australia. The trials will run for 12 months and involve over 1100 patients across the two studies in rural health clinics, hospitals, local health care districts, nursing homes and patients in their own homes across Australia.
“We are very excited to be at the helm of these projects bringing together the best minds across CSIRO from health services research, computer science, mathematics, statistics and social science, to work with our partners on Australia’s largest telehealth study” said Dr Dods
“Our team is also looking forward to working on our NBN-enabled Indigenous Tele-Eye Care project testing our Remote-I system over satellite broadband service. We will show how this telehealth service can be rolled out to multiple rural and remote areas and help address the difficulties these indigenous communities face in accessing specialist eye care services”.
To find out more about our NBN telehealth research trials.
Today our latest robots come to life. The stars of our Museum Robot project, B1 and B2, will use telepresence technology to roam the galleries of the National Museum of Australia. Using high speed broadband, the robots will allow remote visitors to control their own view of museum exhibits while interacting with a museum educator.
“The Museum Robot is a fantastic initiative and a perfect example of some of the applications made possible by the NBN. This kind of rich and interactive experience, nationally accessible, depends on the type of synchronous communication made possible by high speed broadband,” Senator Conroy said.
The robot has a motorised base with wheels, a touch-screen display, and a ‘head’ that is a 360 degree panoramic camera. It also houses several on-board computers and Wi-Fi antennas. The robot accompanies an educator around the Museum, applying its navigational and sensing capabilities to plan its route and avoid obstacles and pedestrians.
The trial is being conducted at the National Museum’s Landmarks Gallery, which features national treasures such as Phar Lap’s heart and the Holden Prototype No 1, the original Holden motor car. During the trial, the robot will be accessible via schools and libraries with an NBN connection.
Have you ever sat in a hospital emergency department? Imagine a busy waiting area filled with people waiting to be treated, sick children and the elderly, broken bones and patients wheeled in on ambulance trolleys needing urgent surgery. How do we make sure that everyone can be seen and treated within four hours and that there is a hospital bed ready and waiting for those that need it?
For the majority of Australian patients visiting a public hospital, the average waiting time in an emergency department is around 8 hours and 28 minutes but in some cases can be as high as 15 hrs or more. 
As our population is ages, becomes chronically ill and the cost of healthcare approaches 40c in our Australian tax dollar over the next 30 years, we are faced with the urgent challenge of improving the efficiency and delivery of our healthcare services.
Overcrowding in hospitals is one of the biggest challenges facing our healthcare system and has been labelled an ‘international crisis’ , which can have a significant impact on the quality of patient care and experience.
To address this issue, National Emergency Access Targets (NEAT for short) introduced by the Federal Government in 2011, will require public hospitals to ensure that 90% of all patients arriving at emergency departments are seen and either admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours by 2015.
This week is Australian Healthcare Week and Dr Sarah Dods, Research Leader for Health Services in our Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, is launching a whitepaper called ‘Evidence based strategies for meeting hospital emergency targets’ at the Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology conference in Sydney.
Dr Dods will be discussing how our patient flow modelling tools can help hospitals understand what they can do to cut emergency waiting times to meet these new emergency targets and improve hospital efficiency.
This could include; analysis of bed configuration, patient flow, the effect of overcrowding, predicting which patients might be readmitted and when there may be an influx of patients due to a strong flu season, for example. All of these areas of analysis can provide a whole-of-system approach to hospital operations to help hospitals meet emergency targets.
One example of this that is already assisting hospitals is our Patient Admission Prediction Tool (PAPT), where we have been working to reduce hospital waiting times and identify bottlenecks in Queensland hospitals by predicting how many patients will turn up in emergency departments and when.
Contrary to the belief that emergency patient volumes are unpredictable, the number of admissions per day can be predicted with remarkable accuracy. PAPT uses historical data to provide an accurate prediction of not only the expected patient load but their medical urgency and specialty, and how many will be admitted and discharged.
The system allows hospital management to accurately forecast service demands for inpatient and emergency department beds well in advance, enabling hospitals to manage beds and schedule elective surgeries for quieter times. The software also allows on-the-ground staff to see how many patients are likely to arrive in the hour, the rest of the day, into next week or even holidays with varying dates such as Easter.
Check out PAPT in action in this story on Channel Ten news.
Transcript available here
To find out more, visit the health services webpage or read the new whitepaper Evidence driven strategies for meeting hospital performance targets.
By Daniel Chamberlain
For anyone who has recently visited an emergency room, you probably weren’t shocked to hear that 90 per cent of patients are left waiting longer than four hours before being treated following the release of the National Health Performance Authority’s report into hospital performance. However, you may be surprised to know that Australia has one of the highest per capita spending on healthcare around the world.
With many in the industry labeling this as one of the most significant issues facing our nation, we are tackling these challenges head-on in a number of our research areas. For example, we have been trialing a new software package to help hospital staff predict demand on their services. The Patient Admission Prediction Tool (PAPT) allows on-the-ground staff to see what their patient load will be like in the next hour, the rest of the day, into next week, or even on holidays with varying dates, such as the busy Christmas period.
We recently took the opportunity to speak with internationally renowned expert in the use of technology in healthcare, Prof. Richard Kitney from the Imperial College in London about these issues and how further ICT research can be used to address them.
What do Newcastle FC, the Hockeyroos, Melbourne Storm, Sydney Swans and the gold medal-winning British Rowing team have in common?
They could soon be using our technology to track their athletes.
As part of our new Digital Productivity and Services Flagship we have signed an agreement with Melbourne-based company Catapult Sports who currently lead the world in GPS athlete tracking devices.
Our wireless technology will soon be integrated into Catapult’s existing athlete tracking devices, giving coaches the ability to monitor their athletes more accurately in indoor and GPS poor environments.
Athlete tracking systems are valuable for many aspects of sports including game tactics, comparing athlete performance, fitness analysis and perfecting athlete movement.
The tracking devices are hidden in a pocket at the back of a lightweight garment worn under the athlete’s clothing. They collect vital data during a match or training session such as velocity, heart rate, distance and acceleration and feed this into a system where coaches can see the results in real time.
Catapult Sports already have some of the world’s best sports teams using their devices, including almost all English Premier League teams, NRL, AFL, American football and basketball and international hockey, rowing and sailing teams. You can check out the full list here.
Even 2012 Brownlow medal winner and Essendon captain Jobe Watson is using the technology.
The technology called WASP (Wireless Ad-hoc System for Positioning) uses wireless signals rather than GPS and satellites for tracking.
Originally developed for the mining industry to track people and machinery moving around in underground mines to improve safety, WASP is designed to track people or objects indoors where you can’t get a GPS signal or in areas where there is signal interference.
Whilst GPS has been the best way to track people and objects for many years, you may have noticed that in some situations it just doesn’t work.
Have you ever been driving in the city, when your TomTom gets confused and sends you down in the wrong street? This happens because the GPS signal is reflected off the tall buildings delaying the signal reaching the satellite.
The same happens indoors in velodromes or even in open air stadiums. This error can put the accuracy of the GPS off by a few meters which isn’t helpful for sports applications.
Now we’ve solved the challenge of tracking athletes in any environment, we’re looking forward to box seat tickets for the staff (unlikely, but worth a try).
What an achievement, seeing a little piece of our technology helping international sports teams to improve their performance and game strategy whether on the field, track or court.
Learn more about the WASP technology on our website.
Sure, the trampoline was a shock, and the pogo-stick was hours (well, seconds) of bouncing fun, but the gift you always wanted was a remote-controlled plane, wasn’t it? You’d see other kids with them and wonder what was wrong with your own family, and resolve to drop better hints next year (that day with your dad at the airport clutching your Nintendo console pretending to manoeuvre Qantas beasts was clearly too subtle).
There’s a chance the people we’re about to speak of suffered the same trauma.
Starting on Monday, six international search and rescue teams and 14 high school teams will compete in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Challenge. The annual hunt in Kingaroy, Queensland, pits teams’ home-made robotic aircraft against each other in a challenge to locate Outback Joe.
And if you’re worried about poor old Outback Joe out there for days in the elements, don’t. He’s a mannequin. But the world can’t afford to lose good mannequins, particularly in the harsh Australian outback.
Teams search for Outback Joe by flying their robotic aircraft through the 6km search zone with the aim of the competition to drop a package containing 500ml of lifesaving water to him.
The first team to get the water to Joe wins $50,000. Not so silly now, is it? Many teams have come close (in the past six years), but there’s been no robotic cigar.
With the technology to safely fly robotic aircraft in Australian skies expected to be developed by the end of 2014, competition will be fierce in this event that is run by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) – a joint venture between CSIRO and Queensland University of Technology. They’re leading Australian research into the development of the robotic flying craft.
“With two international search and rescue teams from Canada and the Netherlands competing, Australian researchers will be afforded the opportunity to view some of the latest international technology in action,” said ARCAA Deputy Director and CSIRO’s Dr Jonathan Roberts.
More details at: http://www.uavoutbackchallenge.com.au/
Twitter: @uavchallenge and @outback_joe
If you were to list the most famous sci-fi quotes of all time, ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ from Star Trek would be up there with the best. While teleporting people from one world to the other may still be fantasy, CSIRO is making steps in that direction.
We have developed a new system which beams a pair of virtual hands from one spot to another. It may sound a bit wacky, but there is some serious science behind the technology.
Known as ReMoTe, the system is designed for people in industry, who need technical help fixing or working with equipment, but may be hundreds of miles away from the person who can help them. By putting on the ReMoTe helmet, two people can share vision, sound, and even hand movements.
The system was originally designed for the mining industry, but the mind boggles as to where someone might find a use for it one day.
The CSIRO team that invented a faster system for wireless local area networking – which later became the foundation of Wi-Fi in its most popular form today – has won a European Inventor Award 2012.
Inventors Dr John O’Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr Graham Daniels and Mr John Deane were named as the winners of the ‘Non-European countries’ category of the annual awards for the patented WLAN technology at an awards ceremony in Copenhagen overnight.
The technology, which has given us the freedom to work wirelessly in our homes and offices, is now estimated to be in more than three billion devices worldwide and expected to be in more than five billion devices worldwide by the time the CSIRO patent expires at the end of 2013.
This is the first time an Australian team has won the award since it was launched in 2006.
“We’re thrilled for the team to receive this international recognition for an invention that has had such a significant global impact,” said Nigel Poole, CSIRO’s Acting Group Executive for Information Sciences.
“It’s a technology that has changed how we work and how we live. The rapid expansion of indoor wireless communications is in part possible because of the WLAN technology invented by scientists at CSIRO in Australia.”
The EIA is presented in five categories: Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-European countries and Lifetime Achievement. Fifteen finalists were selected across all categories from almost 200 inventors and teams who were originally nominated, by an international jury comprising leading personalities from industry, science, politics and media.
About the European Inventor Award (EIA)
Launched in 2006, the European Inventor Award is presented annually by the European Patent Office, in co-operation with the European Commission and the country which holds the EU Council Presidency at the time of the award ceremony, which this year is Denmark. The award honours inventive individuals and teams whose pioneering work provides answers to the challenges of our age and thereby contributes to progress and prosperity. Nomination proposals are submitted by the public and by patent examiners at the EPO and Europe’s national patent offices. The finalists and, subsequently, the winners are chosen from among the nominees by a high-profile international jury, which includes prominent personalities from politics, business, media, science, academia and research.
MEDIA: Lou Morrissey. Ph: +61 2 4960 6140. E: email@example.com
Perfect Match’s Dexter would have to be up there with the favourites. You know, the 1980s robot that, long before eHarmony and RSVP, used to glide across the TV studio and ‘scientifically’ compute the compatibility of awkward contestants looking for love by responding to suggestive questions about which vegetable is most like them.
If only the contestants had their own robot – let’s say it was called Sense – to consult on life’s big questions, such as ‘Should I humiliate myself on national TV for a chance at a 3-star holiday on the Gold Coast with a complete stranger’, or ‘Do I really need this much hairspray?’, or ‘Is tie-dye going to last the fashion test of time?’ But, I digress.
There was something about Dexter that made him likeable – the intellect, the little blue hat, the computerised voice. He was a smidge sexy. Indeed, robots are a little bit cool.
So, you’re probably not surprised that here at CSIRO, where (ahem) cool is the currency, we thought we’d get amongst it. Well, to be honest, we’ve been working in robotics for decades now… but this is particularly clever.
We’re working on a robot for the National Museum of Australia. The idea is that it’ll roam the floors of their Landmarks: People and Places Across Australia Gallery (where Phar Lap’s heart and the prototype Holden are on show) and, using broadband technology, kids in remote and regional areas will be able to link in via the robot to see what’s at the gallery and learn more about the exhibits.
Dr Jonathan Roberts from the CSIRO ICT Centre, who had the idea for the project, probably explains it better…
“The robot will navigate itself around the museum alongside the educator while the remote students will use a special 360-degree field-of-view camera to look around and explore the collection,” Jonathan said.
During the trial, the robot will be accessible by schools and libraries with an NBN connection.
“It’s a pretty nice example of some of the applications that are possible from high-speed broadband technologies,” Jonathan added.
The tele-presence and robotics technology is now being developed by CSIRO, with the first prototype of the robot expected to start ‘walking’ the gallery floors from mid-year. We’ll be sure to show you a sneak peak once it’s made. Students will have access to the system from around October.
And, though they’re too young to remember match-making Dexter, we think the students will find a special place in their hearts for this new piece of robot technology.
Find out more HERE
By Sarah Wood
This week is the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s maiden voyage and her sinking.
While there will be endless documentaries on our television, new books (one even written by one of our own CSIRO staff member and best selling Titanic author Daniel Klistorner) and the release of James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ in 3D, something about Titanic just captures people.
It had me thinking about one of our most successful CSIRO YouTube videos You’re on the Titanic when it sinks
At one point this video had over 900,000 views before we moved it over to our official CSIRO channel in 2009. It now has over 486,000 giving it a total of around 1.3 million views, which when you think about it is pretty impressive really.
While the video might seem pretty primitive compared to James Cameron’s Hollywood blockbuster (hey we weren’t working with the same budget) back in 2005 it demonstrated how we’d taken science out of the lab and placed it in the hands of animators.
The software developed by CSIRO to model the water and the martini, uses chaos theory and other mathematical algorithms in a technique called Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH). This method models millions of tiny water particles in a fluid – similar to the way 100s and 1000s seem to flow if you poured them out of a jar.
CSIRO scientists were using the SPH technique to model the fluid and particle processes in big industrial machines when they realised that the software they created could help animators realistically represent fluids in movies.
When animators create water and waves for big budget films like Titanic or Pirates of the Caribbean, the process can take months and hours of meticulous tweaking of wire meshes -the structure over which animators tell the water to flow.
But CSIRO’s methods were much faster and extremely accurate enabling animators to easily and economically create special effects such as bubbles, eddies, spray, smoke and even fire!
So CSIRO created a plug-in for MAYA, the software of choice for high-end 3D animators to allow them access to this technology.
To create this Titanic video our fluid modelling scientists worked with production company Complete Post to test out the plug-in. They also had other leading film companies test the software such Animal Logic and Weta Digital in New Zealand who worked on animations for Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes and TinTin.
While we’ve moved on from Titanic, we’re now modelling other disasters such as tsunamis, dam breaks, floods, mudslides and storm surges and our methods have certainly come a long way!
“In recent years, the huge increase in computer power and speed, along with advances in algorithm development, have allowed mathematical modellers like us to make big strides in our research,” says Mahesh Prakash of CSIRO’s computational modelling team.
Faster and more powerful supercomputers are making it possible to model millions even billions of particles making our videos look far more cinematic! We also have a full time graphics artist on staff that makes our fluid modelling videos look amazing and we’ve even gone 3D to display our videos in all their glory!
If you’ll be in Sydney for the CeBIT IT trade fair from 22-24 May come see our latest videos in 3D on the CSIRO stand.
Check out some of our more recent videos here:
Modelling Dam breaks and Tsunamis and other geophysical events
Australian and Korean radio telescopes have been linked together for the first time, forming a system acting as a gigantic telescope more than 8000 kilometres across and with 100 times the resolving power of the Hubble Space Telescope.
“This is another step in Australia’s ongoing collaboration with Asia in the field of radio astronomy,” said CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science Chief, Dr Philip Diamond.
Australia has been making similar linkups with Japan and China for many years, and now is also doing initial tests with telescopes in India.
We know the world is getting faster and we want things NOW, but this is ridiculous.
In 2006 a team of CSIRO scientists announced they had achieved over six gigabits per second transmission rate over a point-to-point wireless connection.
Now the team, led by Dr Jay Guo, have hit the 10 gigabits per second mark.
For the people who know about “software-defined radio (SDR) techniques in the microwave bands” and other such technical talk, this is big stuff.
Apparently multi-gigabit links operate at speeds that are way beyond what most of us are used to. At six gigabits you could have the entire works of Shakespeare sent to you in under seven thousandths of a second. A full DVD movie? Six seconds.
The team hasn’t told news@csiro how much quicker it would be at 10 gigabits – but it’s a fair guess it would be lightening fast.
One of the main uses for this baby is to create high-speed links over tens of kilometres where it is very expensive to lay optical fibre, such as areas with sparse populations or difficult terrain. Rural Australia, for instance.
“Our technology offers the means to achieve multi-gigabit-per-second links with high flexibility at low cost. It will also be valuable for creating links to meet short-term needs, such as emergencies,” Director of CSIRO’s ICT Centre Dr Ian Oppermann said.
“The 10 Gbit/s symmetric data rate is a major advance on what is available in the market.”
Right – time for some technical talk: CSIRO’s point-to-point technology employs software-defined radio (SDR) techniques in the microwave bands. Thanks to CSIRO-patented advances, the technology operates in a wide contiguous spectral band or across a number of discontinuous spectral bands, with extremely high spectral efficiency, even in the presence of near-neighbour channels from other users, over a range of up to 50km. When combined with higher-layer data compression techniques, it will deliver even higher client data rates.
A bit more: The rapid growth of broadband and media-rich mobile applications has created high demand for multi-gigabit-per-second microwave backhaul systems, connecting wireless base stations back into the core of the telecommunications network.
So what does that mean for you and me? It provides a cost-effective means to deliver broadband services to rural and remote regions.
And now a picture of a circut thingy that looks important: