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Digitialize Conference – driving Australia’s digital future

Digitialize, an annual conference organised by Siemens, was held at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) this year, with the theme being ‘unlocking the potential’ and featured a line-up of global and local industry experts.

The four topics of the day were Workforce of the Future, Industry 4.0, Intelligent Infrastructure and Australia’s Energy Transition.

Chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia, Jeff Connolly, kicked-off the day with a lively discussion about what Industry 4.0 is. He spoke of the potential that Industry 4.0 will provide for localised manufacturing.

“Years ago, the main concern for manufacturing was the cost of labour, so you looked for the cheapest place to manufacture. With Industry 4.0, companies will be able to produce products at the point where they will be consumed, significantly reducing transport and logistics costs,” Connolly said.

Sporting a pair of customised sneakers, Connolly said he was not just wearing them for show, but offered up a practical example of where industry was heading. “Industry 4.0 will allow for personalisation and customisation,” he said. “Products like my customised sneakers can be produced at the same cost as 1,000 batch products. This is a very exciting prospect for Australia.”

Digitising energy
For Audrey Zibelman, CEO at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) the energy sector is at the forefront of innovation. “We used to move forward in decades in this industry, change was slow. But now, it’s months,” Zibelman said.

This shift to a fast-paced forward-thinking industry presents a number of opportunities.
“There is a lot that can be done in this space, we have an ageing power system and we need to be more intelligent to use the system more effectively,” said Zibelman.

One way in which Australia is leading the way in the energy sector is with the adoption of renewable energy. According to Zibelman, every aspect of the power system in Australia is leading ample capability around solar and wind.

“We are growing in rooftop solar and we are surpassing Germany per capita in our uptake of solar energy. We are adding the equivalent of a generator a month,” she said.

Zibelman believes that solar and digitalisation offer a new way to think about the energy system. “We have an opportunity here to be more efficient and cost effective.” Parts of Australia are operating at 70 per cent renewables, but Zibelman asked; what happens when there are drops in the wind and droughts? This is where implementing digital technology can help.

“We need intelligence throughout the system, we’re an island and we should take advantage of that. But, we need visibility across every aspect of the system,” she said.
The advantages of digital transformation are numerous. There are benefits around predictive maintenance that Zibelman says has a particular advantage for an industry that operates on a supply and demand model.

The adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have an impact on Australia’s ability to utilise renewable resources. “We need to forecast and predict demand, but now that we use weather, we can use AI to predict weather systems and changing weather patterns. Using AI will be critical and we are working with CSIRO to develop this capability,” she said.

Zibelman added that as Australia begins to harness digitisation, it will become a world leader in renewable energy.  “The industry is changing, and we can’t stop it. We need to develop in a way that’s best for the consumer. We can’t afford to be inefficient and we can use data and technology to be more efficient.”

Consumers will need to play an important role in the digital transformation of the energy sector, according to Zibelman. “We need consumers who are adaptors of tech, we need people who are interested in smart thermometers, we need more efficient users and we as an industry need to make that transition as simple as possible.”

For Zibelman, adopting a digital network allows the sector to have multiple sources of truth which she says will present consumers with a fairer and more efficient energy offering.

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