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The nation’s first cross-disciplinary research institute dedicated to maximizing the community benefits of broadband technologies has been announced by Premier John Brumby.

The Victorian Government will provide $2 million for the new Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES). The Institute will be based at the University of Melbourne to foster innovation across a wide range of disciplines including Medicine, Engineering, Education, Social Sciences, Economics, Business and the Environmental Sciences.

Professor Rod Tucker, Director of the IBES, says the Institute will source skills and resources of leading University researchers and 10 major industry leaders. Together they will develop and test new products and services which will benefit society, in areas such as e-health, e-education, e-commerce, and environmental monitoring.
 
The IBES has attracted the support of leading global and local companies to join its research program. They include Cisco, Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Telstra, Ericsson, NEC Australia, Optus, Allied Telesis, Pacific Broadband Networks, and Haliplex. The research will also be enhanced by the support of Bell Labs and NICTA, Australia’s national research centre of excellence in Information and Communication Technology.

Professor Tucker says the IBES will serve as a national and international focus for research and innovation across the full spectrum of social, business and technological activities associated with and influenced by the new Australian National Broadband Network.

 “The strong support of industry coupled with the support and commitment of the State Government of Victoria, positions IBES to play a key role in the development of an Australian industry that is ready for the true broadband revolution," he says.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis says the IBES will be a unique facility that will allow new ideas and applications to be tested in a real broadband environment that will maximize the contribution the Australian Broadband Network will make to Australia’s economic and social progress.

 

Why is it easier to follow directions when they are explained through a series of landmarks instead of street names? According to the research by the University of Melbourne’s Geomatics Department and Whereis.com, when your mate says “turn right at the post office” he is actually tapping into your spatial cognitive recognition to give you a better understanding of how to get where you’re going.  

Armed with this knowledge, and equipped with what is said to be a world first landmark selection system, whereis.com has incorporated a range of Australian landmarks into its map directions, finally providing users with real-life navigational context for their chosen routes.

Commercial Manager of whereis.com Fred Curtis says the addition of this tool will help the whereis.com mapping site remain at the forefront of Australian mapping by improving the experience people have when requesting directions on the site.

“We continue to find new ways to build upon the already market-leading Whereis.com user experience. Current trends in technology all point to increased functionality alongside ease of use, so that’s the direction we’re heading,” he says.

Dr Matt Duckham, Senior Lecturer in Geographic Information Science at the Department of Geomatics says what makes this addition to whereis.com different from existing navigation systems is that it identifies the most suitable landmarks based on cognitive principles.

“Deciding which landmarks are most useful is really based on the uniqueness of the landmark, and this can be determined by three main things; the landmarks meaning, its visual salience and where the landmark is located, relative to the decision point on the route,” he says.

“While computers can work out how far it is to the next interaction, humans find it much easier to use instructions that refer to places with meaning and that we can easily identify.”

“It really is an exciting time for researchers in this field. The unique partnership between our researchers and Whereis.com has opened the doors for a new generation of systems that provide mapping data and navigation instructions based on your location. As far as we know, nowhere else in the world is this kind of user experience available that delivers detailed landmark and geometry information to consumers”.

Mr Curtis concluded that, “being an Australian mapping company, it was important our whereis.com team worked with local experts to investigate the potential of incorporating the new landmark feature to our site. Melbourne University’s geomatics team certainly fit the bill.”


 

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have had a tremendous effect on the reporting of Iranian elections, according to Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer.

Associate Professor Volkmer says YouTube and Twitter have allowed a global audience access to footage and reports from Iranian citizens which would have been gagged by the Government, and says these first hand accounts have made the Iranian people less like ‘the other’ to a western audience.

“Basically ‘the other’ - which used to be the Iranian population - has become us. In this footage streets look the same as ours, people use mobile phones like we do, and they even look like we do,” she says.

“What Twitter does is give us immediate accounts of what people in Tehran are doing. It allows them to organise themselves and organise demonstrations. From Australia we can read the same message as if we are there, its more authentic and lively.”

“Personal interaction is having political impact and we haven’t had that before. We have only had media outlets covering global affairs such as CNN, NBC and SBS, but never this kind of personal interaction and this creates empathy.”

Associate Professor Volkmer says the impact of social media on the Iranian elections shows journalism is changing.

“In the old days we basically went overseas and delivered a message from the Australian perspective back to Australia, but this has dramatically changed because all of a sudden it seems we are one concerned community.”

Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer is the Deputy Director of the Media and Communications Program at the University of Melbourne.

The internet came to Australia 20 year ago today, with a fragile link from Hawaii pinging across the seas to Robert Elz - now a fellow of the Melbourne School of Engineering in the Department of Computer Sciences and Software Engineering.

The subject line of what was probably the first message into Australia was straight to the point - ‘Link Up’, it said.  The message was sent by Torben Nielsen, who had been funded by NASA to set up internet links with countries throughout the pacific. Director of e-Research at the University, Professor Leon Sterling, says Melbourne University was chosen as the site for the nation’s first connection because they were leading Australia with UNIX technologies.

It was quite a rollicking journey for Australia’s first ping because there wasn’t a cable laid, the message traveled over a cable from Melbourne to Sydney, then via satellite to the west coast of the US and then back through another cable to Hawaii.

According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures there are 7.1 million internet subscribers in Australia and Professor Sterling says the internet has had a huge impact on the world as it’s grown. 

 “It has changed the way we find things, through Google. It has changed the way we think about knowledge, through Wikipedia. It has changed the way we access and share music. It has changed the way we communicate, with email and Skype and it has changed the way we socialise, with Facebook,” he says.

“As witnessed during the past week, the internet has also changed the way revolutions can happen as witnessed in Iran.”

The first clinical test of an Australian bionic eye is likely to take place within two years and be commercialised within five according to University of Melbourne researchers, thanks to a $50 million funding boost from the Federal Government.

University of Melbourne researchers have leapt the lab to marketplace divide, by selling the world’s first Single Photon Source to Germany. Single Photon Sources are the key to advances in Quantum Communications which will provide unprecedented Ultra-high Security for information transfer.

Surfing the net at work for pleasure actually increases our concentration levels and helps make a more productive workforce, according to a new University of Melbourne study.

RESTORING human vision, reducing carbon emissions, fitter gamers and fire regeneration for grapevines will be addressed by four University of Melbourne researchers named as winners of this year’s Australian Fulbright Scholarship.

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