Andrew Penn, who started as Telstra’s CEO in May, visited Silicon Valley last week and went to the factory of Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric car startup.
He takes regular trips to the US as part of a program to keep in touch with the latest trends in technology and was interested in the Internet of Things — connected devices in everything from vending machines to mining equipment, aircraft engines, agricultural sensors and cars.
“We talked about the future of connected electric vehicles and [Tesla’s] plans to build a battery manufacturing facility in Nevada in anticipation of increasing demand for their battery storage technology,” he told a lunch meeting of CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) in Sydney.
In Australia, Telstra provides the sim card connection for all Tesla model S electric cars.
“This allows the driver to stream music while driving, use the Tesla mobile app to turn on the car’s heating while getting out of bed on a cold morning and over-the-air software updates from Tesla to make the car better over time,” Penn says.
Penn used the CEDA address to outline his priorities for the business, including an announcement of accelerated investment in Telstra’s mobile network infrastructure, the same network which connects to the Tesla.
He also talked about cloud computing, moving computing to a data centre, and machine learning.
He referred to a CEDA report – Australia’s Future Workforce – to illustrate what these innovations mean.
According to the report, more than five million jobs, almost 40% of all Australian jobs that exist today, have a moderate-to-high likelihood of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years.
Penn says: “Machine learning is the biggest driver of this because of its implications for the service industry. In future, many traditional services type activities will be done by computers more quickly, more cheaply and more accurately.”
He sees the shifts in technology as profound and, far from being a death knell for the modern workforce, can bring enormous benefits to Australia.
“This is an extraordinary time,” Penn says. “Technology is taking us into a world of rapid change, constant innovation and competition. It is a time of enormous opportunity, not one to fear.
“While we may not know how this is going to play out. What we do know is that the ability to create, to innovate, and to stay focussed on our customers is going to be critical.”
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