AppWrap: Australia’s $1.4b climate tech windfall

Published on the 27/06/2022 | Written by Newsdesk


iStart News - AppWrap tech news in brief

Keeping you up to date with A/NZ and world tech news…

AppWrap aims to help you keep up to date with an easy to read collection of news and snippets published by other leading tech media publications that we trust.

AppWrap June 2022

30.06 The plummeting cryptocurrency market has wiped millions of dollars in funds stolen by North Korean hackers, threatening a key source of funding for the country’s weapons program. An analyst says a crypto cache, worth tens of millions of dollars, from a 2021 heist lost 80-85 percent of its value in recent weeks and is now worth less than $10m, Reuters says. Earlier this year it was suggested North Korea’s Lazarus hacking group was behind a US$615 million cryptocurrency theft.

29.06 Australian climate tech companies raised $1.4 billion in capital in the last year according to a Climate Salad report. The funding was reported by 171 survey respondents – the majority of which are pre-seed or seed stage – with a similar amount expected to be raised in the coming year, InnovationAus reports. About half of the funding came from international investment.

29.06 Algorithms, digital transparency and increased collaboration will be top priorities for the Digital Platform Regulators Forum in the coming year. Created earlier this year and made up of representatives from the ACCC, OAIC, ACMA and the Australian eSafety Commissioner, the forum says transparency issues around digital platforms, the impact of their activities and how consumer data is being handled are particularly concerning for the forum.

29.06 Rocket Lab has successfully launched the first lunar mission from New Zealand with Nasa’s Capstone micro-satellite spacecraft testing a never before flown orbit of the moon. The launch this week is the first step in Nasa’s mission to send humans back to the moon, RNZ News notes. The launch came a day after Nasa launched a rocket from Australia – the agency’s first launch from a commercial spaceport outside the US. The sub-orbital rocket will enable astrophysics studies that can only be undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere, Nasa says.

24.06 Queensland government has proposed mandatory data breach reporting, requiring agencies to report data breaches to both affected individuals and the privacy commissioner. No Australian state has yet implemented a MDB notification scheme yet, though NSW has an exposure draft of planned legislation, ITNews reports.

23.06 Australians are more interested in flexible work times than in a four day working week according to new research. A report by Qualtrics found while Australians were open to a four-day week, they also had concerns about the potential trade-offs for themselves, customers and the business itself, Business Daily Media notes.

21.06 NSW’s budget has included a $703 million Future Economy Fund for R&D, commercialisation and business growth and relocation to the state, and a $262 million for an advanced manufacturing research facility digital, but there’s no increase for the Digital Restart Fund, for the first time since its 2019 launch, InnovationAus says. That fund will however receive another $126.7 million from its $2.1 billion fund.

21.06 Queensland’s integrated electronic medical record functionality rollout has garnered another $300 million in Budget funding. The Budget also includes $127 million to digitise Queensland Courts and the Civil and Administrative Tribunal and $30 million for Queensland Corrective Services, IT News reports.

21.06 Microsoft is retiring its ‘emotion reading’ facial analysis capabilities and restricting the use of its facial recognition operations in Azure Face API, Computer Vision and Video Indexer in the wake of rising concerns over such technologies and their validity. In a blog post, Microsoft conceded that there were ‘important questions about privacy’ in the case of emotion classification, which has been criticised by experts who say the technology is unscientific.

16.06 The University of Melbourne has launched two major investment funds, including a $15m pre-seed fund and a $100m startup fund. The University says the funds will play a critical role in supporting researchers to take more risks and accelerate the possibilities to take research discoveries from idea to market.

16.06 Meta, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Microsoft and other online platforms have agreed to tougher EU standards against disinformation. Thirty-four companies have signed on to the strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation which requires them to take action to counter fake accounts and deep fakes or face hefty fines of as much as six percent of their global turnover, Social Media Today reports.

15.06 A Choice investigation has found Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys are using facial recognition in retail stores, with most shoppers unaware of the use of the technology. Choice says it asked 25 leading Australian retailers whether they used the technology, with Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys appearing to be the only three capturing biometric data of customers.

09.06 Australasian cyber security services company CyberCX has snapped up Auckland’s Consegna and Sydney’s Tracer Cloud for an undisclosed sum. The deal will add more than 150 staff to CyberCX’s 1,000+ team, the company says.

09.06 The NSW Government’s M4 Smart Motorway Project has taken out the transport infrastructure award at IDC’s 2022 Smart City Asia/Pacific Awards. The project features in-road traffic sensors, and is designed to help drivers navigate the road by monitoring traffic volumes and providing variable speed and messaging signs, plus a quick-change light system, IDC says. It was the sole Australian winner in the awards.

08.06 US data centre operator Stack Infrastructure is entering the Australian market with plans for five local data centres by 2023. The data centres will be in Melbourne, Canberra and Perth. Work on the campus Melbourne campus is already underway and approval has been granted for Canberra and Perth, Stack says.

08.06 Nasa is heading downunder to launch three rockets from the Northern Territory. It’s the first Nasa launch in Australia since 1995, with the rockets being used to investigate heilophysics, astrophysics and planetary science phenomena which can only be seen in the southern hemisphere, ABC reports.

08.06 The ACMA is teaming up with New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs in an attempt to battle spam and scam messages. The newly signed memorandum of understanding furthers existing information sharing and strategic engagement to enhance compliance and enforcement outcomes, the ACMA says.

06-06 Westpac Australia has launched a new commercial data analytics offering using de-identified credit card data from more than six million daily transactions to provide insights to its largest clients to help in decision making. The self-serve DataX offering aims to enable customers ‘to optimise logistics, take advantage of market share opportunities or deliver to their growth strategy’, Westpac says.

02.06 Australians are being offered $40,000 to study cyber. Deloitte, the University of Wollongong, Swinburne University of Technology and TAFE NSW have joined forces to create the new three-year Cyber Academy program, which aims to fast track 1,200 cyber security careers. Students will earn an annual salary of $40,000 and work three days a week at Deloitte, a government department or industry partner while undertaking their study, InformationAge says.

01.06 New Zealand has won the battle of the upload speeds – and is proving better during busy hours –in the Trans-Tasman broadband Performance report. New Zealand’s Fibre 100 speeds squeaked in 0.1Mbps faster than Australia for downloads. On uploads NZ rated 22.3Mbps, while Australia could manage only 18.2Mbps, with more outages also recorded for Australia. The ACCC says NBN’s access charging model and approach to provisioning upload traffic ‘appear to be causing some busy hour and upload metrics to fall below New Zealand’s’. The report was released by the ACCC and New Zealand Commerce Commission.

01.06 Facebook’s number two, Sheryl Sandberg, is stepping down as COO of Meta after 14 years in the job. She will leave the position in Fall, though will remain on the board. Javier Olivan, currently Meta chief growth officer, will take on the COO role, Forbes reports.

AppWrap May 2022

26.05 New Zealand Rugby has signed SAP as its first ever major tech partner, with a multi-year ‘digital transformation’ deal. NZ Rugby says it will work with SAP to identify and implement innovative cloud solutions from SAP and connect data across key areas of the business to provide competitive advantage both on and off the field.

25.05 Google is collecting more personal data than any of the other tech giants, including Facebook. Analysis from AtlasVPN and security.org shows Google is collecting 39 data points, such as name, contact details, payment information films, photos, documents and spreadsheets you’ve stored and YouTube comments, on each user. That’s well ahead of second placed Twitter, which collects 24. Amazon follows with 23, with Facebook way back on just 14 data points. Apple came in on 12. “In general, they collect every little detail that they can,” AtlasVPN says. “There are a few exceptions, like your address, SSN, or driver’s license number, but besides that, not much else is left out of their databases.

25.05 Dyson is planning a major robotics centre as it seeks to create new domestic robots though the company isn’t revealing what forms those robots might take. The company’s announcement of the plans is accompanied by video and images of robot arms picking plates and detergent, along with a soft toy, and vacuuming an armchair. Don’t expect robotic helpers anytime soon, however, with Dyson saying it plans to bring the tech into our homes ‘by the end of the decade’.

24.05 Australia, the US, India and Japan are boosting their cooperation over cybersecurity and telecommunications standards and plan to convene industry partners to help unlock opportunities in critical and emerging technologies, following this week’s Quad conference. Strengthened information sharing on both cybersecurity and technical standards activities and coordinated cybersecurity standards for Quad governments’ procurement of software are among the initiatives set out. The four countries will also work together more closely on space initiatives, the White House says.

23.05 Clearview AI has been fined more than £7.5 million by UK privacy watchdog the ICO, and ordered to delete the data of UK residents, scraped from the internet, from its systems. The Information Commissioners Office says the controversial facial recognition provider’s collection of personal data breached UK data protection laws. Earlier this year founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That said it was ‘heartbreaking’ that countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia – where he grew up – had ‘misinterpreted’ Clearview’s technology and intentions.

20.05 WhatsApp – aka Meta – is looking to squeeze new revenue from businesses, with the launch of its WhatsApp Cloud API worldwide and plans for a paid tier for it Business App. The on-prem version of the Business API – the company’s first revenue-generating enterprise product – has thousands of businesses using it, including big brands such as Vodafone, BMW, KLM and Royal Dutch Airlines, notes TechCrunch. Companies pay WhatsApp on a per-message basis and can use the platform to direct customer communications to other channels. The cloud version is aimed at smaller businesses.

20.05 Woolworths has taken an 80 percent, AU$243m, stake in online marketplace MyDeal as it seeks to expand its online retail presence. Woolworths says the deal ‘materially expands our marketplace capabilities, especially in general merchandise’, ZDNet notes.

19.05 Australian businesses will spend $3.6 billion on AI systems in 2025 according to IDC, with strong demands from organisations for streamlining of core business processes and maximising the power of organisational data. The spending growth represents a CAGR of 24.4 percent between 2020 and 2025.

18.05 Eftpos’ QR code payments platform has finally gone live, with two Subway stores, in Sydney and Brisbane, as launch partners. Further rollouts across other restaurants are expected over the coming months, ZDNet reports.

17.05 Australia AI software company Clear Dynamics has closed a $35 million funding round as it eyes global expansion, BusinessNewsAustralia says. The company, which is tapping into the Gartner vision of a composable future, automates coding to create modular systems that can be assembled and reassembled as needed.

11.05 The University of South Australia has invested $25,000 in a quadruped robot to help advance research. Quadrupeds are now commonly used for remote inspections by defence, space, mining and utility companies, and for search and rescue, but the university says it’s interested in taking the robot’s capabilities ‘much further’.

11.05 The long-touted myGov app is reportedly on track to launch later this year, nearly three years since its need was first flagged. InnovationAus says the app went into private beta testing in December. An ‘enhanced’ version of the myGov platform, which the smartphone app is expected to harness, is also in beta testing.

11.05 The ASX has confirmed the April 2023 launch timeframe for its blockchain-enabled Chess platform will not be met. The launch had already been delayed by more than a year and the ASX says the April 2023 go-live is also ‘no longer viable’ with delays to the delivery of application software meaning there isn’t time for users to complete by April. No updated timeframe was provided.

10.05 Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI has been banned from selling its software to most US companies. The ban comes as part of a legal agreement following action by civil rights advocates who accused the company of breach of law for allegedly using biometric dat without use, TechCrunch says.

09.05 Meta is adding NFTs to Instagram this week, and Facebook ‘in the near future’. The move, initially for a small group of US creators and collectors, will enable them to share the ‘digital collectables’ on Instagram, Engadet reports.

06.05 Oracle has been certified to host Australian protected-level public sector data under the federal government’s hosting certification which requires agencies to use certified data centres, cloud service and SaaS providers from July. ITnews reports that Oracle quietly joined the list of certified providers last week. AWS, AUCloud, Sliced Tech, Vault Cloud, Microsoft and Kyndrl have also received ‘certified strategic’ accreditation – the highest level of assurance under the framework.

04.05 Pac Capital has launched Australia’s first Web3 focused VC fund. The $50 million Pac Private 1 will invest in metaverse, blockchain, gaming, health, AI, ML and VR, ITNews reports.

03.05 The NSW Government has identified digital, materials and chemistry, biotechnology and energy as key tech areas of focus in its 20-year R&D Roadmap. The roadmap is designed to better target funds to fast-track new technology and commercialisation. The roadmap also includes 39 applications, including Fintech, quantum computing and process automation as areas where NSW has ‘competitive advantages’.

02.05 Telemedicine has taken to space with Nasa ‘holoporting’ a medical team to the International Space Station. The technology allows high-quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed and transmitted live in real time, Nasa says. When combined with mixed reality displays such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, it enables users to see, hear and interact with remote participants ‘as if they are actually present in the same space’.

AppWrap April 2022

29.04 Amazon has declined to provide the ACCC with information on its search algorithms, Reuters says. The ACCC is investigating online marketplaces’ practices, including whether they give preference to in-house products. Amazon has denied doing so, but refused to provide details of its algorithm inputs when requested by the ACCC.

28.04 Labor has pledged to develop a $1.2 billion independent Advanced Strategic Research Agency to support cutting-edge research and technology if it wins the federal election. The existing Defence Innovation Hub would be transitioned into the agency under the proposal, InnovationAus says.

26.04 The Australian National University’s random number generator has launched on AWS Marketplace. ANU Quantum Numbers uses quantum technology to generate true random numbers, ANU says. Random numbers are in demand for a range of uses, from generating secure passwords to research simulations and simulating processes and events in computer games.

26.04 Microsoft has beaten earnings expectations across each of its key business segments in Q3 to record US$49.4 billion in revenue – up 17 percent year on year. The Intelligent cloud segment, which includes Azure public cloud, SQL Server, Windows Server and enterprise services was up 26 percent to $19.0 billion, CNBC says.

26.04 Elon Musk’s likely US$44 billion purchase of Twitter has pushed debate on free speech and disinformation up a notch with Musk proclaiming that Twitter is ‘the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated’, the BBC notes. He’s announced his plans to ‘unlock’ Twitter’s ‘tremendous potential’. Others however have expressed concern the lack of a strong platform moderation will spell disaster. Twitter shares will be delisted and taken private once the deal closes, giving Musk total control.

21.04 CSIRO and industry and university partners are investing $16.2 million for its Next Generation scholarship program to fund 165 students to work on ‘challenges’ including data-centric and machine-driven engineering, AI in mental health, smart manufacturing and sensing, digital privacy and cybersecurity, national quantum technology capabilities and enhancing industry operations through the metaverse. Students will be part of multi-disciplinary teams working across industry, research and the university sector. At least 480 scholarships are expected to be funded over the six year Next Generation Graduates program, CSIRO says.

21.04 The Australian Taxation Office plans to replace its current IBM z14 mainframe before tax time in July 2024. The organisation has gone to market for a replacement, which it says can be a ‘cloud-like’ service or a more traditional model, ZDNet reports.

19.04 Woolworths has migrated its SAP applications and platforms to Microsoft Azure in an eight-month project. The migration covered 20 SAP applications and platforms, including ERP and Cloud platform, Microsoft says.

14.04 A multimodal logistics hub in Tennant Creek and logistics and agribusiness hubs at Alice Springs and Katherine are part of the $440m in Northern Territory logistics hubs to be established under the federal government’s budget commitment, InnovationAus says.

14.04 Australian telecommunications services provider Uniti Group has agreed to a AU$3.6 billion takeover offer from Brookfield Asset Management, Morrison & Co and Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation. Uniti says value of the deal is testament to the strength of the business built over the three years since listing on the ASX.

12.04 Services Australia has opened tendering for an IaaS platform to host the federal government’s S/4 HANA ERP system, ITNews says. GovERP will replace the existing SAP-based ERP systems with a single platform across six shared services hubs.

11.04 Google Cloud is reportedly hiring overseas support employees after slashing its Australia-based support team. CRN says more than 200 support employees are being hired across India, Poland, Canada and Mexico.

10.04 Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to propose new features, including an ‘edit’ button, and highlight areas of concern around Twitter – including questioning if the platform is ‘dying’ – after being appointed to the company’s board last week, the Guardian says. Musk acquired a 9.2 percent stake in the company, becoming its largest shareholder, earlier this month.

07.04 Australian IT spend will grow 13.1 percent this year to hit AU$117.2 billion, but half that growth rate is being attributed to exchange rate changes, Gartner says. If a constant exchange rate is assumed, actual growth will be 6.9 percent. IT services – the largest category – will grow 12.2 percent to hit $41.5 billon, while software spend is the big mover with 21.4 percent growth to $29.2 billion. Worldwide spend is forecast to be US$4.4 trillion, CRN notes.

07.04 NetApp is acquiring Canberra-based Instaclustr for an undisclosed amount. Instaclustr is a database-as-a-service provider, and the deal will enable Netapp to provide its customers with an easier way of installing open-source databases and help it grow beyond its on-premise storage roots, TechTarget says.

07.04 A Senate Select Committee has slammed the CovidSafe app, calling for funding of the app to stop. ZDNet reports the committee’s report says the app is ‘not fit for its intended purpose, has cost millions of dollars and offered limited public value’.

01.04 Microsoft has launched a new startup founders hub in Australia and New Zealand offering over US$300,000 of benefits and credits, including free access to technology, tools and resources and connections to mentors. Microsoft says the hub, available to all A/NZ startups, is designed for early-stage startups, to lower barriers of business creation and be a catalyst for entrepreneurship and innovation.

AppWrap March 2022

31.03 The Federal government is investing $44 million in four industry-run AI centres in a bid to drive research commercialisation. ITNews says each of the four centres will nominate a focus area, aligned with government digital growth or manufacturing priorities, in specific applications of AI.

30.03 US sanctions on Russia’s Kaspersky Lab are in limbo with the Biden administration divided over whether to impose sanctions, amid concerns the Kremlin could use the cybersecurity giant as a surveillance tool. The WSJ says some officials have also flagged any sanctions could increase the risk of triggering a cyberattack against the West by Moscow, potentially using Kaspersky software to do so.

29.03 Air purifying headphones anyone? Yes, Dyson is apparently making its first foray into wearable tech with an interesting looking offering (think headphones with a mini horse nose bag) combining a noise-cancelling headphone and a personal air filter – worn over the nose and mouth – in one. As CNet reports, it looks like something you’d see in a dystopian sci-fi movie. And if it had been announced three days later we would have said ‘April fools!’.

28.03 The ASX’s blockchain-based Chess platform, already delayed by more than a year, is expected to face further delays. The ASX, which just last month was confident of an April 2023 launch, this week announced a ‘strong likelihood of delay’, ZDNet reports.

28.03 Singtel subsidiary NCS has made its fourth Australian investment in 15 months, snapping up local digital consultancy firm ARQ Group for $290 million. ARQ’s clients include government agencies, Qantas, NAB and Australia Post, Business News Australia reports.

24.03 ANZ Bank has minted its first stablecoin – the first Australian-bank issued stablecoin, tied to the Australian dollar. The bank says the A$DC is ‘a first and important step in enabling our customers to find a safe and secure gateway to the digital economy’. Don’t be rushing to purchase the digital currency however. The 30 million of A$DC was delivered as part of a trial. The stablecoin isn’t available for retail investors and will be targeted, initially at least, at institutional clients.

24.03 The ACSC is urging Australian businesses to nab their .au domain name before it becomes available to the general public, leaving businesses open to fraudulent cyber activity. Organisations holding a .au name in another namespace have until 20 September to apply for its .au direct match after then it becomes available to the general public. The Australian Cyber Security Centre is warning that opportunistic cybercriminals could register a .au domain name in an attempt to impersonate a business.

24.03 Europe is putting the squeeze on the dominance of big online platforms with proposed legislation to curtail their power. The Digital Markets Act will blacklist certain practices and force large platforms such as Facebook Messenger, iMessage and WhatsApp to open up and interoperate with smaller messaging platforms if requested, says the European Parliament.

22.03 Eighty-six percent of Australian executives say their organisations are already dependent on AI to function effectively according to an Accenture report. The report also notes that just 22 percent of Australian consumers trust how organisations are implementing AI, Technology Decisions says

21.03 The Australian government plans to establish a market licence regime for crypto exchanges, saying the scheme is a way of regulating ‘trust’ between crypto investors and exchanges, ZDNet says. The introduction of the policies comes ahead of the federal government, expected to take place in the next couple of months.

17.03 Three NSW council elections have been voided thanks to issues with NSW’s digital voting system, reports InnovationAus. The iVote system crashed during council elections, leaving people locked out and unable to vote. The system has now been dumped indefinitely and new elections will be held in the three councils.

17.03 The NSW government has slashed more than $1 billion from its ERP sourcing agreement with SAP, ITNews says. The revision is due to consolation of licenses and sees spend plummet from $1.65 billion to $475 million over the 15 years.

17.03 Microsoft is facing new antitrust complaint with French data centre provider OVHcloud among several cloud services providers filing a complaint with the European Commission, the Register says. Microsoft is also the subject of a complaint filed last year by NextCloud around Microsoft’s bundling of OneDrive and other services with Windows. The new complaint alleges Microsoft is undermining fair competition and limiting consumer choice in the cloud computing services market.

17.03 Australian Android users may soon need to provide proof of age when attempting to watch ‘mature’ content on YouTube or download content on Google Play. The ‘age assurance’ step comes in response to government regulations requiring platforms to take reasonable steps to confirm a users age when accessing content deemed inappropriate for those under 18. Users will be asked to complete ‘a brief check’ to verify age, and in some instances my be required to provide a ‘valid ID’ or credit card to verify age, 9to5Google says.

15.03 Australian tech companies are missing out on high-quality people because they are failing to explain the opportunities that exist within the sector, with the sector urged to make itself more appealing to a diverse cross-section of society, AFR says. Delegates at the ACS Reimagination Thought Leaders’ Summit were told that while recruitment will remain a significant challenge, by thinking outside the box and casting the net more widely the talent can be found.

10.03 The New Media Bargaining Code has seen Google and Facebook pay Australian media companies around AU$200 million in the past year, with ’at least’ 50 new journalist roles in underserved parts of the market created. The regulation, which requires platforms including Google and Facebook to pay local media for content, came into effect a year ago, but a report from the Judith Neilson Institute says the system remains an ‘opaque mess’ with some companies unable to negotiate easily with big tech companies, Financial Times reports.

10.03 Queensland University of Technology and Cisco have partnered up in a AU$3 million partnership to push development in retail and logistics through industry and university research collaboration. InnovationAus says the deal will include funding for a Chair in Trusted Retail and Logistics Innovation to develop a research program, and the development of an innovation hub, due to be operational by July.

10.03 TikTok is close to finalising a deal with Oracle to store data from US users on Oracle servers in order to appease US national security concerns, Reuters says. An earlier deal, begun after then-President Trum tried to ban TikTok and force parent ByteDance to sell the US business, fell apart.

09.03 Google is buying security intelligence company Mandiant in a US$5.4 billion deal. The company acquired cybersecurity specialist Siemplify in January for a reported $500 million, with TechCrunch noting it is building a strong security business.

07.03 Commercialisation of research could provide a AU$17.6 billion economic boost for Australia according to Science and Technology Australia analysis. The STA says only half of the recently announced $1.6 billion Economic Accelerator’s projects would need to succeed in order to produce that result, Research Professional News reports.

07.03 The Australian Electoral Commission has launched a disinformation register listing prominent pieces of disinformation regarding Australia’s federal election process. The searchable database includes information about the platform it was spread on, timing and factual information about the matter. “The message here is simple: The AEC will not tolerate the spread of mis- or disinformation about our electoral system, no matter the source,” Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers says.

04.03 Airservices Australia is looking to build a digital twin of Australia’s airspace to improve network planning and reduce airport delays. ITNews says an RFI has been issued.

03.03 Accenture has scored itself an extra $62 million in federal government work in the past year, receiving $371.5 million in contracts, InnovationAus says. The money comes from some 104 contracts in the 2020-21 financial year.

03.03 Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has told platforms including Meta, Google and TikTok to immediately remove Russian state media posts from their platforms locally over concerns about the volume of content promoting violence, extremism and disinformation in relation to the invasion of Ukraine. SMH says Apple and Snapchat were also told to remove the Kremlin-backed RT and Sputnik media outlets. RT and Sputnik were also banned by Google and the EU this week.

AppWrap February 2022

28.02 The ACCC is proposing major reforms to address concerns about the dominance of digital platforms. A discussion paper includes proposed new rules to prevent anti-competitive behaviour, including a ban on self-preferencing conduct and obligations to treat competitors fairly or in a non-discriminatory manner, ZDNet reports.

21.02 Services Australia says proposed Privacy Act changes could require ‘wholesale’ IT changes to critical whole-of-government IT systems. Services Australia, which is responsible for Centrelink and Medicare is calling for ‘sufficient lead time to enable changes to systems, infrastructure and processes’, with ‘significant concern’ about both the time accost to make changes required under proposal 2. IT News reports Services Now says proposed changes and the broadening of the personal information definition would also ‘likely impact on the ability to conduct research projects and customer journey analytics activities’.

18.02 A team of researchers from Australia, New Zealand and India has taken facial recognition to the next level, using smiles, frowns, even clenched jaws to manipulate objects in a VR setting, without the use of a handheld controller or touchpad. It’s hoped the ‘world first’ study, will not only provide a novel way to use VR, but will enable people with disabilities to interact hands free in VR, the University of South Australia says.

17.02 AWS is adding Local Zones in Auckland, Perth and Brisbane. TVNZ will be a foundation customer for the Auckland Local Zone – ‘a new type of cloud infrastructure that brings computer storage, database and other select services close to customers’, providing ‘single-digit millisecond performance’. The Local Zone comes on top of a $7.5 billion investment in a new infrastructure region in Auckland, expected to open in 2024, AWS says.

16.02 All major social media platforms have assured the Australian Electoral Commission that they will allocate more resources for monitoring election disinformation and misinformation for the upcoming Australian federal election, ZDNet says. The AEC says it’s seeing an increase in election conspiracy theories locally.

14.02 Australian deep-tech startup incubator Cicada Innovations, with NSW Government support, has launched a National Space Industry Hub in Sydney. The accelerator program will support world-class research, innovation, collaboration and commercialisation in the sector and host emerging space tech ventures. The Hub will ‘closely collaborate’ with the NSW Space Research Network, SamrtSat Cooperative Research Centre, Space Industry Association of Australia, University of Technology Sydney Tech Lab, University of New South Wales, ANU InSpace and the University of Sydney, Investable Universe says.

11.02 The Australian government is investing an additional AU$6.7 million in Stem initiatives for women and girls. The Superstars of Stem program and Stem Ambassador and Future You will all receive funding, ZDNet says.

10.02 The US Justice Department has seized more than US$3.6 billion of Bitcoin allegedly stolen during the Bitfinex virtual currency exchange hack in 2016. A husband and wife team has bee arrested for conspiracy to launder US$4.5 billion in stolen cryptocurrency. The seizure is the Department of Justice’s largest financial seizure ever, the DoJ says.

10.02 The remainder of the proposed critical infrastructure security reforms have been introduced to parliament. The Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure Protection) Bill 2022 includes measures such as enhanced security obligations for infrastructure deemed to be on national significance and would require operators of certain assets to ‘adopt, maintain and comply with’ an all-hazards critical infrastructure risk management program, ITNews says.

07.02 Facebook – now Meta – has lost an appeal against a Cambridge Analytica data lawsuit launched by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The Federal Court’s dismissal of Facebook’s appeal means the OAIC case alleging Meta has breached the privacy of more than 300,000 Australians caught in the Cambridge Analytica scandal can now go ahead, ZDNet says.

02.02 MYOB has started the year off with two acquisitions, snapping up business operations software specialist Tall Emu and document management software developer Nimbus Portal Solutions. The company says it sees opportunities in combining the end-to-end management tools with its existing financial management capabilities.

02.02 Google parent Alphabet’s profit soared 36 percent, with quarterly sales up 32 percent to US$75.3 billion as its digital advertising raked in the dollars – some US$61.2 billion in ad revenue to be specific. The results were ahead of analyst expectations for the quarter, ABC News notes.

01.02 Citrix and Tibco are to merge in a US$16.5 billion deal, creating what Tibco says will be one of the world’s largest software providers with 400,000 customers including 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and 100 million users in 100 countries. The all-cash deal sees affiliates of Vista Equity Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital purchasing Citrix, whose future has been under scrutiny in recent years, becoming private.

01.02 Aussie-born automated CX platform provider Cyara has secured a record US$350 million (AU$485 million) in funding from California’s K1 Investment Management. The company had previously been looking at a public listing on the ASX. That IPO has now been deferred StartupDaily says.

01.02 Facebook’s Diem digital payments dreams are over with the company announcing it has sold Diem’s assets to small US bank Silvergate Capital for US$182 million. Diem’s chief executive says it had become clear following dialogue with regulators that the project ‘could not move ahead’ and selling was the best option, the Financial Times says. Silvergate plans to launch a stablecoin by the end of this year using the Diem assets and its own IP.

AppWrap January 2022

31.01 Telstra Purple, Telstra’s managed and professional services offshoot, has bolstered its IoT and infrastructure capabilities with the acquisitions of Alliance Automation and Aqura Technologies. The Aqura acquisition alone has a AU$30 million price tag. Aqura, which has more than 90 staff around Australia, provides technology and telecommunications infrastructure solutions, while Alliance Automation, with 250 staff, is one of Australia’s largest independent providers of IoT industrial automation solutions and control systems. Telstra Purple says the deals strengthen its presence in the mining, energy, oil and gas, utilities and defence projects.

23.01 A robot cleaner made a bid for freedom, escaping from a UK Travelodge and roaming free for a day before being found by a human cleaner under a hedge. The automated device failed to stop at the front door, with staff posting the story of the robot’s great escape on social media asking for it to be returned if located, BBC says. Its freedom was short lived and it’s now back at work.

19.01 A Los Angeles startup, founded by three former SpaceX engineers, is aiming to create electric self-powered train cars, which it says are more energy-efficient than trucking, CNBC says. Parallel Systems says the autonomous battery-electric rail vehicles could help alleviate supply chain issues by providing low cost and regular movement of freight in and out of ports.

19.01 Tonga is likely to be without internet connectivity for at least two weeks following the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption on Saturday. The nearest cable-laying vessel required to repair the damaged submarine cable, is 4,700km away in Papua New Guinea and expected to take several days to reach Tonga, The Verge notes. Telco Digicel said on Wednesday it has restored international calling capability for the nation.
[Supplementary update 24.01 – what will it take to fix Tonga’s cable? (BBC)]

18.01 France’s IDEMIA has won nearly $180 million in contracts from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to replace Australia’s fingerprints matching database. The three contracts include $57 million to keep the legacy system running over the next three years while the system is replaced with an off-the-shelf IDEMIA offering, NextGen, which will be customised for Australian use. The deals followed a ‘limited’ tender, InnovationAus says.

18.01 Online voting is on hold in NSW until ‘extensive reconfiguration and testing’ of the iVote system is undertaken. Electoral commissioner John Schmidt says the system won’t be used until issues seen during the local elections last month, when the system failed for a period, are resolved, ZDnet reports.

18.01 The United States government is reportedly reviewing Alibaba’s cloud business to determine whether it poses a risk to national security, according to Reuters. The news outlet cites three people briefed on the matter and says how US clients’ data is stored and whether the Chinese government can gain access to it are key focuses. The Office of Intelligence and Security, set up by the Trump administration and welding powers to ban or restrict transactions between US firms and internet, telco and tech companies from ‘foreign adversary’ nations, is managing the investigation.

16.01 The first round of the NSW government’s $1.5 million Bushfire Technology Pilots Program has opened, offering grants of up to $100,000 for Australian companies to trial bushfire technology in the field. The program is part of the $28 million Bushfire Response R&D Mission designed to support bushfire research commercialisation and was recommended by the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, InnovationAus says.

14.10 NAB has been on the M&A and investment trail. Its NAB Ventures arm has invested in agritech startup Genora, with the bank also snapping up digital health claiming tech business LanternPay in a deal with InLoop. Geora, which provides a SaaS blockchain platform linking traceability data with financing solutions using no-code digital tools, secured funding from NAB Ventures, Tenacious Ventures and Flying Fox Ventures in a $1.5 million seed round. “Agribusiness customers have demonstrated they’re extremely innovative in their use of technology and we think Geora’s data capabilities will further help farmers and agri-supply chains prove their sustainability credentials,” NAB says.

13.01 Australian fintech Airwallex has officially launched in Singapore, offering a suite of global payments services including global account issuance, domestic and cross-border money transfer and multi-currency wallets and online payments acceptance. The company, which recently raised US$300 million increasing its valuation to US$5.5 billion, has plans to scale its solutions across South-east Asia, notes The Business Times.

12.01 NSW is requiring positive rapid antigen test results to be logged in its Service NSW mobile app – with fines of $1,000 for those that test positive and don’t record it on an app. NSW is the first state to launch in-app reporting of RATs, InnovationAus reports.

For 2021 news from around the web refer to the 2021 archive.

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