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NSW Government Smart Sensing Network co-led by University of Sydney

25 August 2016
Light-based technologies could underpin super-smart phones that can sense pollution and analyse blood.

A NSW Government Smart Sensing Network has been announced, co-led by the University of Sydney's Professor Benjamin Eggleton. Professor Eggleton, a flagship head at the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, is working on photonic-chip technology that it is hoped will one day be compatible with smartphones and revolutionise communications and healthcare. 

Photonic chip animation

Artist's impression explainer with Professor Eggleton voiceover.

Professor Benjamin Eggleton outside the Sydney Nanoscience Hub's cleanroom.

The NSW Government announced this week it will invest $700,000 in smart-sensor technologies to help address significant challenges – from the environmental impacts of mining and gas extraction to improving quality of life for our aging population.

The NSW Smart Sensing Network will be headed by Professor Benjamin Eggleton, from the University of Sydney’s School of Physics and head of the photonics flagship at the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST), and the University of New South Wales’s Professor Justin Gooding. Dr Susan Pond, company director and Adjunct Professor of the University of Sydney, will chair the Network’s Steering Committee. 

The two universities have contributed $125,000 each to establishing the NSSN – bringing total investment in the Network to $950,000.

Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, Anthony Roberts, said history demonstrated that even seemingly insurmountable problems can be solved, and one of the best ways to do it was by bringing the sharpest minds together and allowing them to collaborate.

“New South Wales is home to some exceptional scientists and engineers – and Professor Benjamin Eggleton and Professor Justin Gooding are two of our very best," he said.

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, said the establishment of the Network was a good example of the State Government using universities as problem solvers.

“By capitalising on the very strong problem-solving abilities of our universities and research organisations we will realise big improvements to our way of life – and that inevitably includes reaping economic wins,” she said.

The Network’s initial flagship projects will include:

  • low-cost, compact optical sensor technologies that can be built into smartphones or other devices to monitor a person’s key vital signs, potentially revolutionising healthcare and aged care
  • robust monitors that detect native animals, such as koalas, in their natural habitat – and use data-processing to identify and track species. Such technologies have the potential to transform conservation of native wildlife but could also be used in e-farming. This project would draw on the expertise of Professor Salah Sukkarieh in the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, using data analytics and intelligent systems to develop facial recognition monitors for koalas for deployment in NSW.
Professor Eggleton is the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence, CUDOS, headquartered at the University of Sydney with photonics laboratories in the new AINST facility, the $150m Sydney Nanoscience Hub, which was officially opened this year.

Vivienne Reiner

Media and PR Adviser (Science, Veterinary Science, Agriculture)
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