Telstra CEO Andy Penn delivers the company's full year results at their HQ in Melbourne. Picture: Aaron Franci
Telstra CEO Andy Penn delivers the company's full year results at their HQ in Melbourne. Picture: Aaron Franci

Telstra unveils entirely new product line

THE future of mobile technology promises to connect us like never before and give you more data than you know what to do with.

But there's a big question for companies like Telstra who will be delivering it: What's the business case?

It's not like we're going to start paying twice as much for more data and faster speeds. So how do telcos like Telstra make a buck?

A big part of the answer is the much hyped but fledgling world known as the internet of Things (IoT) that basically involves a vast network of connected devices and is predicted to take off when 5G rolls around in the coming years.

It's been described as the next industrial revolution and is tipped to be worth tens of billions of dollars to the Australian economy in the coming decade.

But to get there part of the challenge for network providers is developing products that consumers will want to pay for - and today Telstra unveiled one of its first attempts for the consumer market.

In the coming months, the telco will launch three new tracking and monitoring products designed to allow Telstra customers to monitor the location of their valuable belongings such as their wallet, pet, toolbox or car.

In conjunction with Telstra's 24x7 app, users can attach a small device to their treasured possessions and get updates about their last known location, monitor movement or get alerts when they enter or exit a particular geographic zone.

The three devices escalate in size, price and network capability.

There is a lightweight Bluetooth tag for things like keys and purses, a rechargeable Wi-Fi tag ideal for your pet's collar or your laptop bag. And early next year, the company will introduce a premium LTE tag designed for high-value assets such as vehicles and machinery.

"Our 4G network can connect anything to anything," said Channa Seneviratne, Telstra's Executive Director Network & Infrastructure Engineering.

While there are similar products already on the market, Telstra is keen to leverage the immense scale of its network to provide a raft of tracking and monitoring solutions for consumers and small businesses.

"These are actually harnessing three types of access technology: Bluetooth, our Wi-Fi access network and thirdly the Cat M1 IoT network" that Telstra recently launched, Mr Seneviratne said.

The Bluetooth device sends out a ping every three seconds.
The Bluetooth device sends out a ping every three seconds.

The first product is a simple Bluetooth tag that can give users a last known location. It will rely on Telstra mobile customers who opt into the Bluetooth locator community on the company's app to anonymously recognise pings from the gadget to triangulate its position.

The battery will last about a year and is very cheaply replaced. Like similar "find your keys" products, the device will ring if you call it.

The more capable Wi-Fi enabled device is something you might put on your dog. It offers a much more comprehensive tracking system and will harness Telstra's fleet of vehicles and more than one million Wi-Fi hot spots around the country to track the gadget's location.

The battery will last about four to six weeks (depending on how much the device moves) and is rechargeable.

The third is much the same but is backed by the company's mobile network so can deliver real time tracking. It also comes with a more secure attachment mechanism that is more difficult to remove.

The gadgets won't exactly be pinpoint, however, with Telstra saying they provide accuracy to about a 30 metre radius.

Telstra is also working with industry and business to develop product tracking systems for supply chains.
Telstra is also working with industry and business to develop product tracking systems for supply chains.

 

You can set up the device to get alerts when your pet enters or exits a particular area.
You can set up the device to get alerts when your pet enters or exits a particular area.

Telstra won't say yet how much these products will cost but they will launch later this year as a subscription-based service available to postpaid mobile customers.

They're designed to give customers greater peace of mind when it comes to their prized possessions and Telstra hopes it can fill gaps in the location tracking market.

In the emerging world of IoT, it represents the first step in customers connecting their favourite things to Telstra's network.

Telstra is also working with industry and business to develop product tracking systems for supply chains.

"We do believe the category is ready to scale," Michele Garra, Telstra's Head of Innovation & Strategy told journalists in Sydney.

In a statement, she said: "We've already deployed the most advanced IoT technology on our mobile network, we're now focused on harnessing IoT technology to introduce services that make customers' connected lives easier."