Innovations that change our thinking

From its Brisbane R&D centre, TechnologyOne is a leader in the sort of software innovation that is changing how companies function.

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Australians have been behind a string of technological inventions that have helped change the world. Wi-fi, Google Maps, and the black box flight recorder are just three Australian inventions that have improved life around the world.

Yet Australia is not widely seen as a technological hub - even though experts say our hi-tech sector often outpaces that in the United States and Britain.

The good news: the digital economy is likely to be a big source of future growth for the local industry, and bring Australia's tech innovators the wider recognition they deserve.

Silicon Valley was once the dream destination for tech start-ups, but the pioneering company TechnologyOne has chosen to set up its research and development team in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. It claims its technology research and development operation there is the biggest in Australia.

Stuart MacDonald, TechnologyOne's chief operating officer, has a theory about why Australia is not widely seen as an innovation nation: it's because Australians tend to be quiet achievers.

TechnologyOne, which has 14 offices in six countries and is one of Australia’s top 200 ASX-listed companies, hopes to change that. It is promoting more tech innovation through its inventions and outstanding contribution to research and development.

Last year, the company ploughed $46 million of revenue back into its research and development centre.

“We have paved the way for a technology ecosystem where we can collaborate with other tech companies in this country,” MacDonald says.

“We are developing new technology every day in Brisbane."

"Our full SaaS ERP software, developed there, allows companies to manage their data and run their business more efficiently."

MacDonald says TechnologyOne is committed to inventing technologies and making the most of mobile and the cloud.

With the advent of the digital revolution, companies no longer need to spend huge amounts on buying new systems. Instead, MacDonald says, they can take the SaaS technology as "a turnkey" and pay only an annual fee for the software.

“It is a massive change in the marketplace,” MacDonald says.

For instance, TechnologyOne provides enterprise software as a service  for a leading Australian infrastructure company, allowing it to run all its operations in the cloud.

“They don’t own any IT assets, they don’t own any servers or databases," MacDonald says. "We provide the complete solution. They don’t need to buy licences or increase the workload of IT employees to operate it.

“That dramatically changes the way companies function.”

And companies can start using the technology very quickly. Often the software solution can be up and running in months, MacDonald says.

“We can have it operating on a traditional desktop computer, iPhone, Android or tablet, because of our ability to leverage technology in the cloud."

It's as easy as hitting a website link, he says: “The users can be on a train, on their iPhone, getting access to important information. Or they could be in the middle of Sydney on an iPad and looking at a graphical representation of a road and see the maintenance that's needed on it.

"Data is a powerful commodity and ensuring it is secure and only accessible to those it should be, is of prime importance.

"That is the power of this technology.”

The company's R&D centre is working with Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and machine learning to develop products that make life simpler.

TechnologyOne is a partner with Microsoft working on applications leveraging the new "mixed reality" technology known as the Microsoft HoloLens. The wearable technology allows the user to "occupy" an environment that blends people, places and objects from both the physical and digital worlds.

“We are working on this in our labs,” MacDonald says.

This sort of Augmented Reality is likely to have many applications for asset-intensive businesses that rely on visual representations, he adds. The technology could be used by planners, technicians and even maintenance providers when they physically visit a site.

“When you are driving down a road, you would see the road, and then the technology would start to layer information on top of that road, showing where the pipes might be under the road, where the manholes are.

“In a fast-moving world, asset-intensive businesses want to enable the maintenance technician in the middle of a field to be able to know exactly what they need to do, when, why, and how."

TechnologyOne sees a world where this technology is widely available and used by people in a natural, intuitive way.

Learn more about TechnologyOne's work with asset-intensive business at www.technologyonecorp.com/assets

Originally published in The Australian Financial Review on 17 May 2017

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