A Timeline of Australia's Most Innovative Inventions
The Feature Film: If you thought the first full-length movie was made in Hollywood, think again. Defined by length, the first dramatic feature film was 70 minutes long and made in the suburbs of Melbourne in 1906. Filmed on approximately 1,200 meters of reel, the entertaining The Story of the Kelly Gang traces the life of legendary Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.
Vegemite: Australians have been happily spreading the salty, slightly bitter paste on sandwiches, crumpets, crackers and toast since 1923. Made from yeast extract, this dark brown substance was invented by Dr. Cyril Callister and then launched into stardom by the food entrepreneur Fred Walker. Despite its raging popularity Down Under, the rest of the world has yet to embrace Vegemite quite like Aussies have.
Speedo Swimwear: Could you even imagine Speedo coming from anywhere other than Australia? In 1928, Scottish immigrant Alexander MacRae introduced the classic, figure-hugging “Racerback” swimsuit in response to the growing beach culture in Bondi Beach. His innovative design permitted greater freedom of movement, which allowed wearers to swim faster. Today, Speedo’s continued design technology makes it a highly valued brand for competitive swimming. And, it wouldn’t be appropriate if we neglected to mention Speedo’s legendary men’s swimwear briefs—both celebrated and ridiculed the world over.
Aircraft Safety Devices: In 1958, Dr. David Warren in Melbourne invented the first black box flight memory recorder, which recorded the pilot’s voice and a few instrument readings. The black boxes are now mandatory on all aircrafts, and are essential to discovering why plane crashes occur. In 1965, Jack Grant of Qantas invented the inflatable aircraft escape slide, which is now standard safety equipment on most passenger airliners in the world.
Cochlear Implant: In 1967, a PhD student at the University of Sydney investigated whether a single or multiple-channel electrode cochlear implant would be possible for the management of a profound hearing loss. Eleven years later, Graeme Clark successfully tested what is now known as the cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to the deaf. As of April 2009, approximately 188,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants.
Dual Flush Toilet: Ok, ok so we didn’t come up with the toilet, or even the flush system, but water-conscious inventor Bruce Thompson did have the brains to come up with a dual flush cistern with two buttons—one for full-flush and one for half-flush. Although the first generation dual-flush toilet caught on after its creation in 1980, a redesign in 1993 cut water usage in half when used properly. It has been proven to save up to 67 percent of water usage in most homes.
Internet WiFi or Wireless LAN IEEE 802.11: Modern day WiFi originated Down Under in 1996 as the brainchild of CSIRO’s very own Dr. John O’Sullivan. Using a system known as multipathing, Dr. O’Sullivan led a team that made wireless LAN fast and reliable for computer networking. The patented 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n Wi-Fi standards are now used in virtually all wireless enabled laptops and phones.
As of May 2010, CSIRO has earned over $250 million in royalties and settlements arising from the use of this patent as part of the 802.11 standards with as much as a billion dollars expected after further lawsuits against other parties, enabling them to finance further innovation projects in Australia.
Hyshot Scramjet Engine: Considerable advancements have been made in the development of hypersonic technology, especially in the arena of scramjet engines. The first group to demonstrate a hypersonic scramjet working in an atmospheric test was a project by a joint British and Australian team in 2002. Five years later, the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization successfully boosted a test vehicle to hypersonic speeds using rocket engines.
Google Maps: In 2003, Danish brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen and Australians Noel Gordon and Stephen Ma co-founded Where 2 Technologies, a mapping-related start-up in Sydney. They developed a C++ program designed to be separately downloaded by users, then later pitched it to Google as a purely Web-based product. The geniuses at Google were sold. In October 2004, Google acquired Where 2 Technologies, and created the popular, free, browser-based software, Google Maps. All four founders now work for the Google engineering office in its Sydney location.
Why Alibaba Cloud is doubling down in Southeast Asia
Alibaba has announced expansion of its cloud business within Southeast Asia, with the introduction of a digital upskilling programme for locals alongside acceleration of its data centre openings.
This doubling down of its cloud business in Southeast Asia comes as the company faces stiff competition at home in China from rivals including Pinduoduo Inc and Tencent and seeks to up its game in a region considered to be the fastest-growing in cloud adoption to compete with leading global cloud providers AWS, Google and Microsoft.
Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and second biggest revenue driver after its core e-commerce business, finally turned profitable for the first time in the December 2020 following 11 years of operation, thanks largely to the pandemic which has spurred businesses and consumers to get online.
Southeast Asia growing demand for cloud
In 2020, there was a noticeable increase in interest towards cloud in SE Asia, with the population embracing digital transformation during the pandemic and SMEs across the region showing increased demand for cloud computing.
Such demand has led to the expectation that Southeast Asia is now the fastest-growing adopter of cloud computing with the cloud market expected to reach US$40.32bn in Southeast Asia by 2025 according to IDC.
And there are plenty of players vying for a slice of the cloud pie. While AWS, the cloud arm of Amazon, is the leading player in Southeast Asia (and across all of APAC apart from China), Microsoft and Google are the next two most dominant players in Southeast Asia with Alibaba coming in fourth.
“There is no doubt that during the past year we have seen the acceleration of digital transformation efforts across all industries,” explains Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia. “Asia now accounts for 60% of the world’s growth and is leading the global recovery with the digitalization of business models and economies. Cloud will continue to be a core foundation empowering the realization of Asia’s ambitions, enabling co-innovation across industries, government and community, to drive inclusive societal progress.”
Alibaba’s commitment to Southeast Asia
At its annual Alibaba Cloud Summit, the Chinese company announced Project AsiaForward, an initiative designed to upskill local developers, small-to-medium-sized companies and connect businesses with venture capital. Alibaba said it would set aside US$1bn over the next three years to develop digital skills in the region, with the aim of helping to develop 100,000 developers and to help grow 100,000 tech startups.
But that’s not all. The company, which recently opened its third data centre in Indonesia, serving customers with offerings across database, security, network, machine learning and data analytics services, also announced it would unveil its first data centre in the Philippines by the end of 2021.
Furthermore, that it would establish its first international innovation centre, located in Malaysia, offering a one-stop shop platform for Malaysian SMEs, startups and developers to innovate in emerging technologies.
“We are seeing a strong demand for cloud-native technologies in emerging verticals across the region, from e-commerce and logistics platforms to FinTech and online entertainment. As the leading cloud service provider and trusted partner in APAC, we are committed to bettering the region’s cloud ecosystem and enhancing its digital infrastructure,” says Jeff Zhang, President, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.
What other cloud providers are pledging in the region
This pledge by Alibaba to upskill both individuals and businesses follows Microsoft’s announcement in April that it was planning to upskill Malaysia’s population and would invest US$1bn over the next five years to build a new data centre centre in Malaysia.
This is the latest in a long line of pledges to the region by the US tech giant, which is fast accelerating the growth of its cloud datacenter footprint in Asia, expanding form seven 11 markets, and recently adding three new markets across Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. Back in February, it announced plans to establish its first datacenter region in Indonesia and to skill an additional 3 million Indonesians to achieve its goal of empowering over 24 million Indonesians by the end of 2021.
And recent research by IDC shows that Microsoft’s most recent datacenter expansions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan alone are set to generate more than US$21bn in new revenues and will create 100,000 new jobs in the next four years.
Also last month, Tencent announced it has launched internet data centres in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo to add to its second availability zone opened in Korea last year and plans to add an internet data center in Indonesia, and Google has also been pushing into the enterprise space in Southeast Asia for several years now.
Expanding data centers allows cloud providers to boost their capacity in certain countries or regions.