Data61’s Year in Review

By Data61 editorial team December 19th, 2019

As we come to a close on 2019, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on what an exciting year it’s been at CSIRO’s Data61. 

Our fourth year saw a flurry of activity, with a number of exciting milestones reached, including the launch of the Mixed Reality Lab in Melbourne, our largest D61+ LIVE to date, and the release of the Artificial Intelligence Ethics Framework and Roadmap, all of which showcased the incredible work our teams are doing to advance Australia’s digital economy. 

To celebrate the year gone past, we’ve created a rundown of some of our most impactful  research, commercial successes, launches and events of 2019.

| Key Research Reports

Artificial Intelligence Roadmap

The AI Roadmap, co-developed by Data61 and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, outlines the importance of action for Australia to capture the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), estimated to be worth AU$22.17 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

The report identifies strategies to help develop a national AI capability to boost the productivity of Australian industry, create jobs and economic growth, and improve the quality of life for current and future generations.

It also identifies three high-potential areas of AI specialisation for Australia, based on the opportunity to solve significant problems at home, export the solutions to the world and build on Australia’s existing strengths: Natural Resources and Environment; Health, Ageing and Disability; and Cities, Towns and Infrastructure.


Vietnam’s Future Digital Economy

The next wave of digital technologies has the potential to transform Vietnam into Asia’s next high-performing economy, and to bring up the living standards of all Vietnam’s citizens over the coming decades.

Data61 worked with the Ministry of Science and Technology’s team to produce the Future Digital Economy report, identifying seven megatrends affecting Vietnam’s future digital economy, in a collaboration between the Australian and Vietnamese Governments through the AU$10 million dollar Aus4Innovation program. 

These megatrends include the impact of emerging digital technologies, new export markets, the development of modern digital infrastructure, the push to smart cities, the rise of digital skills and services and changing consumer behaviours, and informed the development of four potential future scenarios which provided a blueprint for decision makers planning Vietnam’s future digital economy.



| Commercialisation

CSIRO’s ASPIRE marketplace goes national

Australia generates 67 million tonnes of waste annually, with this amount expected to increase as more countries introduce rubbish import restrictions. To help prevent an environmental crisis, online waste marketplace ASPIRE is matching businesses with potential remanufacturers, purchasers or recyclers to find new purposes for unwanted materials.

The ASPIRE marketplace combines CSIRO’s domain expertise in manufacturing with the deep technology capabilities of Data61.

Since 2015, ASPIRE (Advisory System for Processing, Innovation & Resource Exchange) has seen a strong uptake amongst businesses, state governments and local councils in Victoria, with Sydney, South East Queensland and South Australia soon to join the program. 

ASPIRE has saved businesses roughly $10,000 in supply chain and waste management costs, while diverting thousands of tonnes of rubbish from landfill. It has successfully matched companies like Aximill and USG Boral, with Aximill processing USG Boral’s plasterboard waste to develop a compostable and odour masking kitty litter. To get involved, visit


Emesent expands into Southeast Asia’s largest market

Emesent announced a partnership with Indonesia’s Halo Robotics, the country’s leading distributor of commercial drone technology, in August, brining autonomous drone technology to Southeast Asia’s largest market. 

Halo Robotics will deliver Emesent’s Hovermap as a complete LiDAR mapping solution for a range of industries, including infrastructure and mining.

Developed by former researchers from CSIRO’s Data61, Emesent’s world-leading Hovermap technology automates the collection of valuable data in underground areas too dangerous or difficult for people to survey or navigate, such as stopes or ore passes in mines.

Drones installed with Hovermap can be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps, and record gas readings, videos and images.


AI-powered spinout wins multiple awards

Accurait, Australia’s first artificial intelligence-powered lease management platform, received two commendations at the NSW iAwards in June, with the program billed to revolutionise the lease administration procedure.

Developed in partnership with LeaseInfo and CSIRO’s Data61 with support from the NSW Government, ‘Accurait‘ uses text classification tools, optical character recognition (OCR) and LeaseInfo’s own metadata to drastically reduce the document-intensive process of commercial lease abstraction by at least 30 minutes per lease.

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, LeaseInfo’s Founder and Accurait creator Simon Fonteyn believes the platform will redefine the way businesses manage leases and application of any form of standardised contract. “For head offices of franchised businesses and companies managing large portfolios, the savings in time and productivity are significant.”


NationalMap turns five

Online map-based tool NationalMap celebrated its fifth anniversary of providing and collating spatial data from Australian government agencies to enable new insights, innovation and economic outcomes in June. 

Launched in 2014 and forecast to generate roughly $40 million in net benefits over the coming decade, NationalMap is one of the largest data collection platforms in Australia, gathering information on broadband coverage, locations of surface water, powerlines, health services, community demographics and more to create an interactive and comprehensive data library that is easily accessible to the public and commercial enterprises.

Since its launch, it has helped more than 543,700 users make the most of high-value government data across one million visits. The data catalogue has increased significantly since then, and now federates over 11,000 datasets directly from, state and local governments.

Find out more about NationalMap below: 

National Drought Map launched

Released in January, National Drought Map brings together population data and information on drought conditions via an online platform.

The underlying data display software NDM employs is known as the ‘TerriaJS‘ platform, and our Terria team’s work on the platform allows governments and other stakeholders to gain deeper insights into current drought conditions, where needs and sensitivities are and where more support is needed.

It also facilities coordination of response, and provides information on the spread of drought using the latest meteorological information. Take a closer look at National Drought Map here.


Introduction of Data Airlock to the AFP

The architecture of Data Airlock

Whilst it’s often considered better to have more data than less, in some cases this may not be the case – for instance, when the data can be harmful to one’s mental health. 

In order to protect members of the Australian Federal Police force who are tasked with identifying abhorrent content during investigations, Data61 and Monash University have developed Data Airlock, a platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to scan and analyse confronting images faster than previous methods, while also keeping analytics secure and restricted.

Data Airlock provides an isolated and secure environment that allows algorithms to be run against sensitive or abhorrent content, without the content being exposed. Interest has expanded to the Department of Home Affairs, NSW Police and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), with researchers from Data61 working to adapt the program to their specific needs. 

There are also plans to equip Data Airlock with cryptography and differential-privacy algorithms to improve its usability in fields such as healthcare. The tool also won the DNFC’s 2019 Breakthrough Innovation Award.


Mixed Reality Lab 

August saw the launch of the Mixed Reality Lab in Melbourne, enabling organisations to create ‘digital twins’ – computer generated copies of real-world objects that can be viewed via computer or augmented reality headset. 

The lab houses industrial and consumer optical cameras and sensing equipment to capture detailed information about a physical object and the space surrounding it, generating a virtual replica of the object in mere minutes. The digital twin can be compared to the original design of the product, allowing defects to be quickly, accurately and cost-effectively identified and rectified. 

This technology could improve product innovation and productivity by 25 per-cent by 2020, according to the International Data Corporation, and could be applied to healthcare, agriculture and mining, and can even be used to help analyse human movement, improving the performance of athletes and reducing workplace injuries. 

See how the Mixed Reality Lab works below:


Tracking infectious diseases around the world

As part of the Disease Network and Mobility (DiNeMo) project, our researchers developed a new tool  to understand how infectious diseases may spread throughout the globe, and how these movements can be predicted. 

The tool draws on travel data from the International Air Transportation Association and dengue incidence rates from the Global Health Data Exchange to derive new insights about the spreading dynamics of dengue, a mosquito-borne disease. This allows health authorities to identify the sources and spread of infections, while also predicting the potential future spread of disease.

The team recently applied the tool to combat the global spread of dengue, using computational modelling to identify the most at-risk air travel routes for passengers, an application that could prevent outbreaks. As a result, flights from Puerto Rico to Florida were identified as having the highest predicted volume of dengue-infected passengers traveling to a non-endemic region.

Check out how DiNeMo works here:

| Award-winning work, industry recognition and events

D61+ LIVE 2019

This year’s D61+LIVE event was our biggest and most exciting so far, with 70 international and local experts speaking, 46 exhibition booths, 12 panels, seven keynotes, five masterclasses, and a whopping 1,600 attendees.

Spanning two days in early October at Sydney’s Carriageworks, this year’s theme was Intelligence Amplified – the rise of artificial intelligence, and how collaboration and collective intelligence across the innovation ecosystem enables large-scale impact.

Everything from changing perspectives on robotics as a career choice, the influences a highly-connected world has on today’s business models, how researchers can commercialise their findings, and the immense potential of artificial intelligence in Australia was discussed and debated, while robotics demonstrations, mixed reality kung-fu, and fish FitBits were showcased to thousands of tech-savvy audience members

Check out the highlights footage below, as well as the photo galleries from Day 1 and Day 2:


Fifth Place in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge 

Data61’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group took part in the first of three rounds of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge in August, with a squad of five autonomous robots working together to map, navigate and search the simulated underground Tunnel Circuit, earning the team fifth place in the competition. 

Data61 was one of 11 teams selected worldwide and the only Australian entity to participate in the three-year DARPA Subterranean Challenge. The challenge, funded by the US’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, aims to explore new approaches to rapidly explore underground environments, to help first responders perform rescue or recovery in dangerous conditions.

The team will be participating in the next round of challenges in 2020, starting with the underground Urban Circuit in February 2020 and the Cave Circuit in August 2020. The Final Event, which will offer courses incorporating diverse challenges from all three past environments, is to take place in August 2021. 


Three Merit Awards for Bushfire Evacuation Modelling Platform 

From left to right, Dr Vincent Lemiale (Data61), Dr Dhirendra Singh (RMIT), Dr Mahesh Prakash (Data61), Mr Rajesh Subramanian (Data61).

The Bushfire Evacuation Modelling platform, created by Data61 in collaboration with the Victorian Government and RMIT, was awarded three Merit Awards at the 2019 VIC State iAwards in May, including Research and Development Project of the Year, Infrastructure and Platforms Innovation of the Year, and Community Service Markets categories.

Described as a decision support system for bushfire evacuation, the platform assists emergency management organisations to assess evacuation and risk mitigation options for bushfires at a local, regional and state level. It allows local authorities and emergency services to explore a multitude of situations in a limited amount of time, compared to existing methods which focus on validating decisions already made by an organisation.

The platform addresses a significant gap in evacuation planning and danger reduction, using artificial intelligence to limit manual data gathering, which can be timely and can limit the number of scenarios that ultimately influence final decision making.


Data61 recognised as a global blueprint for digital and open innovation by OECD

In April, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recognised Data61 in a country case study as a global blueprint for digital and open innovation, highlighting our capabilities, ambitions and network model. 

The case study is part of OECD’s Digital and Open Innovation project, which analyses how digital transformation is affecting innovation across the economy and identifies the most appropriate instruments to foster vibrant innovation ecosystems. 

Dominique Guellec, Head of the Science and Technology Policy Division at the OECD, acknowledged Data61 as “a good example of a research and innovation centre – it promotes multidisciplinary teams combining strong data and field-specific expertise, which are much needed in the digital age,” in the case study, which can be downloaded here.

Robotics Innovation Centre 

Launched in March of this year, the Robotics Innovation Centre is a purpose-built facility enabling world-leading robotics research across industries of strategic importance to Australia and the world. 

Based in Brisbane, the centre houses the biggest motion capture system in Australia, a 13 metre x 5 metre pool for aquatic robot testing, and a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and legged robots. 

It is a unique research facility for Australia that aims to empower greater collaboration across the robotics research sector, governments, industry and academia.

Take a closer look at this world-class facility here


Trustworthy Systems wins ACM SIGOPS Hall of Fame award

Data61’s Trustworthy Systems team won the ACM SIGHOPHS (Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Operating Systems) Hall of Fame Award this November for their seL4 project. 

This prestigious award recognises the most influential Operating Systems papers that were published at least decadem, with applicants’ work providing the basis for a large amount of future research in provably correct systems.

The seL4 project is the first of its kind to provide a machine-checked proof of correctness and security properties of a high-performance microkernel (the near-minimum amount of software that provides the mechanisms needed to implement an operating system). 

The team used a unique approach that fused formal and operating system techniques, resulting in a general purpose operating system kernel (the core of a computer’s operating system) that performs as well as a state-of-the-art microkernel, and whose behavior can be precisely predicted for any input.


| What’s next for Data61 in 2020?

We achieved a great deal in 2019, thanks to the hard work of our researchers and the support of our partners and collaborators. We’re excited to kick off 2020, continuing to solve Australia’s greatest data-driven challenges. 

We’ll be working with our partners across government, industry and academia to improve data management, analysis, and decision making. We’re working with government to apply AI and machine learning for better service delivery in areas like transport, infrastructure and the environment. Our work in developing privacy-preserving data sharing technologies, cybersecurity, digital twins, robots, and advanced data analytics will support Australian industry in creating new and better products, services, jobs and export opportunities. 

As we enter a new year, we look forward to working with our teams and partners to drive more impactful, insightful and interesting projects for the betterment of Australia’s future.