Ami Pasricha has been thinking about the Internet Of Things (IOT) since very early in her career.
In fact, her very first project at university utilised this technology.
Ami spoke to Mel & Dom about her incredible work in this cutting edge area of IOT and describes some of the challenges facing this technology in the future.
I focus on that centre point between our customers, our technology and our a product
Growing up Ami liked to help people… so she wanted to become a doctor. He dad is a vet and she enjoyed biology, but towards the end of year 12 she hadn’t scored so well in her entrance exam so needed to look around for an alternative.
And her brother has just started engineering, which got her thinking….
I didn’t really have an idea of what engineering would involve
Extra discussions during the episode
Future: Consider the progress to date.. technology is going to continue to progress
Technology is growing so rapidly
Advice: Make the most of every opportunity
If you’re not sure, or you haven’t quite found what it is that you want to do, just try as many things as you can and use a process of elimination to do that
And it still fascinates me that these vehicles are in the air, not on the ground, flying for ages
His creations are disrupting our market and he’s leading the way in technology and engineering
Ami Pasricha completed her undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering from Monash University. Currently, she works in the Mobility, IoT and Cloud space at Telstra, working with emerging technology to develop new ways to connect people.
Previously, Ami has also had roles in Product Ownership and Customer Co-creation & Innovation and is passionate about generating new ideas and solutions.
Additionally, she has always been a strong advocate for promoting diversity and inclusion in engineering and STEM, and held the role of Robogals‘ global CEO for three years (2017-2019). As a recent engineering graduate herself, Ami looks forward to learning and contributing to new technology advancements.
Dominic De Gioia is the Director of a multi-discipline engineering firm, EWFW Consulting. He is a mechanical engineer with specialist experience in hydraulic engineering.
Melanie De Gioia is the Podcast Producer for Engineers Australia and the Director of Ramaley Media.
Together, Mel & Dom launched Engineering Heroes in 2018
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during the Podcast, Season 5 Episode 9
It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Ami Pasricha
Ami: [00:00:00] I kind of randomly picked engineering. I was pretty good at maths and I enjoyed it and my brother was studying engineering at the time. So I thought if he could do it, I could probably do it better.
[00:00:11] Dom: [00:00:11] nothing like sibling rivalry.
[00:00:13]Mel: [00:00:13] So you just arbitrarily picked engineering, you said, because you think your brother was doing it.
[00:00:20] Ami: [00:00:20] yeah, it was kind of random. But I guess I didn’t actually have much exposure. I didn’t really have an idea of what engineering would involve. But I went in and I kept an open mind. I had the opportunity to work on a lot of cool projects that were solving some real life problems. And in doing that, I actually came out the other end, loving my engineering degree.
[00:00:40] Mel: [00:00:40] Best decision you accidentally, ever made.
[00:00:43] Ami: [00:00:43] Yeah.
[00:00:44] Dom: [00:00:44] So, did you have any entities to sort of
[00:00:46] yeah look it was did your brother get drawn to it for a particular reason or
[00:00:51] Ami: [00:00:51] I think my brother’s always Had like the qualities of an engineer you know how you hear people saying that they always had this interest in wanting to take things apart and put them together, he was always that kind of person. He was building computers from a really young age So it was pretty clear that he was going to be an engineer for me though it was a complete 180 came out of nowhere
[00:01:13] Mel: [00:01:13] And and so you followed your brother even into the computing side of engineering
[00:01:18] Ami: [00:01:18] Yeah so same degree. I actually had a bit of an interest in biotechnology sort of with my medical interest and I thought electrical engineering is the closest where you get to study some of those subjects
[00:01:30]Mel: [00:01:30] Okay. So, when you’ve finished your university degree and you’ve come out the other end and you’re now loving being an engineer, Now that you’ve understood what it actually does and means, What was your first project that you worked on
[00:01:43]Ami: [00:01:43] So I actually want to talk about my first project whilst at uni Is that
[00:01:48] Mel: [00:01:48] Oh at uni Okay Yep Oh actually that’s not bad your first project at uni because that’s yeah Your first
[00:01:56] Mel: [00:01:56] Okay cool And was that for a company or Yeah go on Tell us about that
[00:01:59] Ami: [00:01:59] Yeah So it was actually during my first and second year of university. I came across a flyer advertising this global competition and the prize was a national geographic trip. So I was pretty interested to you know throw my hat in the ring.
[00:02:12] Mel: [00:02:12] Like a holiday?
[00:02:14] Ami: [00:02:14] You will w I can educational trip but yeah like a holiday. And so, For this particular competition we had to come up with a solution to a food water or energy problem that we were facing in the world and my team wanted to tackle water issues. Like we focus more specifically in water sustainability and education. So our idea was called smart water it had two main components. The first was smart water meters that were attached at each tap in a house. And the second component was a mobile phone application that was able to track water usage at each of these locations through the internet, analyze the trends and then suggest improvements on how to save water in the household
[00:02:55]Mel: [00:02:55] And it was just scoping out that idea, Or did you actually have to put that in place like create that?
[00:03:01] Ami: [00:03:01] So we started off with scoping out the idea. We did a bit of ideation until we finalized the core components of our solution and then we started like looking into our target users and our use cases. Our go to market production plan essentially putting together a business case. And then at the same time we also developed a prototype at university, So I spent a lot of late nights doing that. Good memories! And so that was actually quite a bit of work that we did over three or four months putting all of that together . And when we submitted actually our team was selected for the world finals. We were one of five teams.. Yeah. We were one of five teams selected, And we were the only team from the Southern hemisphere that made it that far.
[00:03:43] Mel: [00:03:43] That a global Oh wow And did you say you were first year students
[00:03:49] Ami: [00:03:49] Yeah we had two first year students like first and second cause it went over both years and we had one who was a PhD student
[00:03:56] Mel: [00:03:56] Oh my goodness, That’s amazing. And to have gone so far and how did you end up what did you how did you go
[00:04:02] Ami: [00:04:02] So we were flown across to the Netherlands and we pitched our idea in front of hundreds of people from all across the world. It was extremely daunting but still one of the greatest experiences I had whilst at university. And sadly we didn’t win the competition. But this was actually the first time that I had been able to experience engineering in its real application and this was actually how I grew my interest in product development and IOT
[00:04:29] Dom: [00:04:29] Okay have you so you’ve kept on with that product itself? So you you still doing work within the water region with water savings
[00:04:37]Ami: [00:04:37] Not so much anymore. Towards the end of the competition we were talking to quite a few different people around ideas and technology and how we could implement this. But we sort of then put it to rest We had a good run and put it to rest after that
[00:04:52] Dom: [00:04:52] Just curiosity Do you remember what won?
[00:04:56] Ami: [00:04:56] Yeah So the idea that won was essentially using these massive sails to collect rain water and filter it through to be able to sustainably give access to water and you know third world
[00:05:11] Mel: [00:05:11] I’ve seen that I’ve seen that Okay That’s okay That’s some stiff
[00:05:18] Dom: [00:05:18] competition
[00:05:18] Mel: [00:05:18] there but honestly I would just be impressed with that trip to Europe to do the pitching as
[00:05:25] Dom: [00:05:25] Yeah Particularly you and your first second year student, pitching to hundreds of people. Like there are there are engineers who are well and truly into their careers who would be Absolutely mortified by the thought of having to get up and present to that many people. That’s a huge task
[00:05:41] Ami: [00:05:41] Yeah And I obviously got quite interested in that because I went on to do a few more competitions after that, which all went really well .So even with another company we ended up winning that competition, It was a different idea. And again with like my third idea was also another competition which we ended up doing really well and went to nationals with that. So that’s also one of the reasons why we kind of left the first idea because we were a bit busy with the next few competitions
[00:06:08] Mel: [00:06:08] Yeah
[00:06:08] Dom: [00:06:08] So after all those those competitions and having sort of performed on the global stage where are you working now?
[00:06:15]Ami: [00:06:15] So funnily enough I work in product development and IOT
[00:06:18]So I work at Telstra at the moment I joined as a graduate in 2017. And I’ve had a number of roles in the past at Telstra but I spent most of my time working in IOT. So at the moment I’m working on a couple of different projects one of them is called Telstra dev, which is Telstra’s API and IOT marketplace for developers. My role predominantly involves launching new IOT products and solutions on the marketplace. Like IOT data sims and also industrial IOT solutions, Like our environmental monitoring sensors and devices
[00:06:52] Mel: [00:06:52] So is this like one constant competition now for you in that you’re constantly creating devices like what you did in those competitions
[00:07:02] Ami: [00:07:02] I wouldn’t call it a constant competition! I think it’s more of The journey is just constant growing and developing. So it’s interesting how I was first working and like I was thinking about IOT even before I knew what it was, and it’s interesting how that’s sort of where my career has also sort of led me. And I’ve been quite strong in that space and I’ve been really interested in that space
[00:07:25] Dom: [00:07:25] So just for people out there who aren’t familiar with IOT can you give us a bit of a rundown of what IOT is
[00:07:31]Ami: [00:07:31] Sure so IOT is the internet of things. It’s a network that consists of lots of things and devices that can collect and share data through the internet. These devices or these things, they can be anything they can be something in the environment like a plant, They can be something really small like an earring, or they could even be something bigger like a vehicle or a building. But by adding sensors to these objects and connecting them to the internet, we’re able to add a level of digital intelligence to these devices, which enable them to collect and transmit real-time data without requiring human manual intervention.
[00:08:09]The easiest way to understand IOT I think in my experience is by talking about an application of it. So think about this for a second. Imagine that you’ve had a busy morning you know you’ve slept in, you’re having a mad rush to get to work, And when you do get to work you realize that the heater was running all night, and you can’t remember if you switched it off. So with IOT what you can do was go to your phone and actually check the status of the heater and check if it’s switched on or off. And if it is left running then you can also switch it off from your mobile phone.
[00:08:44] Now ordinarily in this scenario you’d have to make your way back home to switch off the heater. And even if you just wanted to check if it was still running you still have to find your way back home, which is really inconvenient. With IOT You can remotely control the heater that’s at home while you’re still in the office and able to get on with your day.
[00:09:02]Mel: [00:09:02] I heard a presentation once at an innovation lecture and that the statement was that there are more cows on the internet now than there are people because they’ve kind of low jacked, or they’ve IOT cows so that they can track them and things like that. And it just like that sounds amazing but it also makes me think, so for that heater example to work, you actually need the heater to be on a network, to be on the internet in a sense. So yeah if you think of everything that needs it’s more than just people now on the internet There’s inanimate objects and cattle, livestock, plants I think you just mentioned plants are like they’re all crowding now on the internet So that’s a serious infrastructure situation going on as well
[00:09:49] Ami: [00:09:49] Yeah definitely, that’s that’s true. We have like in 2018 we had 23 billion devices connected to the internet, and that’s more than twice the population that we have on this planet! And the heater is just one example of a device that’s connected to the internet in a household or in a smart home. You can have so many more, You’ll have the television,, Yeah Your lights, your toaster, the oven, the security system
[00:10:17] Mel: [00:10:17] I know I mean and then plants now I’m just looking at a little plant that I’ve got here I was like yeah I could I could see why I would want to put that Yeah Tell me the water if it needs water
[00:10:27] Dom: [00:10:27] that’s sorry That’s when it set the conditions
[00:10:31] Mel: [00:10:31] Really I’m very bad at gardening, So if I plant came with a bit of a IOT situation in it, I would actually Yeah I’d get an alert It’s like feed me I need water I am ready to be picked. You That kind of I can imagine that Is is that kind of what you’re talking about when you’re saying plants or
[00:10:50] Ami: [00:10:50] Yeah So I was like that’s I guess one application as well. And if you wanted to go further you could have like a self watering plant even, that sort of what is itself when it’s when it’s a thirsty
[00:11:01] Mel: [00:11:01] I’m thirsty I’m going to water myself This is a plant talking Yeah Okay
[00:11:05]Ami: [00:11:05] I think there’s quite a bit of scope and there’s a lot of work that’s happening in agritech as well from an enterprise Perspective. And this is particularly common like you know for farmers who want to grow their crops in optimal conditions. They can actually get these devices and get sensors attached to them and put those devices in the soil where their crops are growing, and they can monitor attributes like temperature, moisture, humidity, sunlight exposure and so many other things as well.
[00:11:34] Mel: [00:11:34] So is this your job? Is this what you you’re creating and you know this variety of applications that we’re talking about, or do you focus in on one certain category in your role?
[00:11:46]Ami: [00:11:46] I’m essentially someone who brings together a lot of these different technologies,. And Bundles it up as a solution So I’d like to think my role is kind of similar to the role of a product manager, where you’ve got certain teams who work on building the technology and you’ve got certain teams that work on building the platform and what I do is I focus on that center point between our customers, our technology and our a product
[00:12:11]Mel: [00:12:11] Yeah
[00:12:13] Dom: [00:12:13] are you finding that, From all this technology and all the new applications are you also finding that there’s a massive amount of data that comes from that, that then can be used to optimize things in the future? So I know we keep going back to the plants, but so for example just in regards to agriculture, that they can utilize this IOT technology to then work out what happened this year and then what’s potentially going to happen next year and what they can do so that they’re minimizing the amount of time that it’s taking them to harvest or minimizing the amount of fertilizer they require or water they require? Is that something that sort of is is coming as a bit of a spinoff of IOT
[00:12:51] Ami: [00:12:51] Yeah absolutely. So I guess what you’ve just described is called data driven insights and that’s what a lot of businesses these days are Implementing and basing a lot of their operations on. So it’s really valuable for businesses to operate as efficiently as they can and also service their customers as best as they can, by using data driven insights
[00:13:11]Particularly IOT offers a lot of value one of them we’ve sort of spoken about, being able to respond to an event that’s happening in real time. But another great application of IOT is also in the data that you’re collecting over a long period of time and the ability to be able to analyze that and draw out trends that really help you understand I guess the future better and perform your services better.HOT TOPIC [00:13:35] so there are a lot of different use cases and applications of IOT And I mentioned before that in 2018 we had 23 billion devices connected to the internet. And by 2025 we’re projecting over 80 billion devices connected to the internet. So that’s a lot of growth but in order to get there there’s still some challenges that we need to overcome in order to get there. So one of the biggest challenges with IOT, I’d say, is around security. There’s a lot of data that’s being collected and that’s being shared, So it’s really important that this data is encrypted and the network connection as well is secure, because you don’t want you know some foreign cyber attacker to penetrate and you know take over control of the device or even access sensitive information. So it’s hard to design a solution That’s a hundred percent fail-proof from a cybersecurity perspective, but we can take measures to avoid this in the way that we implement our technology by using things like data encryption, by using strong controls for authentication and authorization, And ensuring that access is managed properly. And also regularly auditing by using artificial intelligence, just to make sure we’re secure And we’re also improving our security.
[00:15:05]Mel: [00:15:05] In your area are there people going around going We need to move to quantum computing? Are there people out there going you know the current services can’t handle … what did you say? 83 billion devices on the network. Is there somebody out there or are there people out there going this is not only is this too much this the current system can’t hold it or is that not even being talked about yet
[00:15:29] Ami: [00:15:29] That that’s a hundred percent being talked about, and that’s been talked about for years. So another huge challenge with IOT is just being able to manage the sheer volume of data that’s being shared and produced and stored. And it also costs a lot for businesses to get that infrastructure up and running and also to make sure it’s secure. So as a way to manage this better, a lot of companies are now reverting to cloud technology on a subscription basis and that sort of enables them to quickly scale up and scale down their storage needs based on how much they are actually using. And the good thing about it is that they don’t actually have to manage the infrastructure themselves, They usually would go to Google cloud platform or AWS or a Microsoft Azure, And do you use their cloud platform
[00:16:15]Dom: [00:16:15] Are we getting to a point where we’re creating a lot of data that’s superfluous as well that we’re holding onto for for no good reason? There is so much storage but We’re collecting information that we don’t necessarily need?
[00:16:28]Ami: [00:16:28] I think there is, yes. There’s always that possibility of collecting information and data that we don’t need, but we don’t know what we don’t need until we collect it. So there’s a lot of smart I guess intelligence and algorithms around being able to process data and actually store the data that’s important for your particular need and then throw away the rest. A lot of businesses when they design their IOT solutions they also look at data retention policies. Some of these are governed by law, You know you have to retain certain data over a certain number of years. And some of these that just based on their needs and their requirements and what their customers want as well. So there’s a lot of flexibility in that area, but a hundred percent we would be collecting data that we don’t necessarily need. And that’s where really good algorithms and data processing comes in
[00:17:15] Mel: [00:17:15] So you’ve mentioned we’ve about three challenges there that we’ve spoken about. Are there any other thoughts or challenges out there that you can share with us
[00:17:25]Ami: [00:17:25] Yep I think one fairly big challenge that we have in the IOT sector is that the technology is quite fragmented. There are thousands of devices from different brands and different vendors And each of these are designed to work on proprietary software or proprietary systems. And They all have their own like you know separate applications, their own gateways and their own tools. So it can be quite a negative customer experience to want to buy something like one solution that sort of fits everything, but then having to buy multiple solutions and resetting systems and Going through all of that sort of mess. So that’s why it’s really important that as we develop IOT solutions and technology, we’re also considering using open standards and we’re also looking at how we can unify communication and usability of all devices
[00:18:15] Mel: [00:18:15] That is such a good point. Because I can’t tell you how many times our household is a Samsung and Apple household and they don’t mix very well. We’ve had to come up with us They do not play well together. And you know doing nowadays you have to have family calendars and you know just the way that they communicate to each other, it’s just it’s Really a sub optimal experience from a customer perspective that we can’t message your each other. There are improvements nowadays Like you’ve got WhatsApp but we’ve got to have a third party calendar to help manage our calendars and things like that. It’s just and I can imagine if you putting cows onto the system and then you want to put you know The the crops as well down the street like that they had two different networks Like they could not maybe not talk to each other So it’s yeah I can sort of see that that need for open source
[00:19:06] Ami: [00:19:06] So open source is actually something that we’ve used quite a bit in our prototyping at least and Like the good thing with open source is that anyone can contribute to it, but where I guess the pitfall of that is is the fact that you have all these different people contributing to open source. So open source isn’t the standard, you have a lot of different variations of what could be one standard. That’s sort of an issue that comes about with open source. There’s still a lot of growth and development in this area, And it’s good to you know have like a concept of open source around, So at least while we are building it where as compatible as we can be across as many devices and vendors and platforms
[00:19:46]Dom: [00:19:46] So while IOT is here now, what are you thoughts on the future of engineering What do you think is the next thing that’s coming?
[00:19:55] Ami: [00:19:55] Oh the future of engineering is so exciting! Technology is growing so rapidly even if I think about my first experience you know growing up, we had dial up internet that was super slow
[00:20:08] though It’s definitely come a long way you know. We’ve exited 2G. We’ve seen 3g, 4g and now the fifth generation of internet and that’s actually providing internet speed That’s the fastest we’ve ever experienced. So 5g I think is going to be a key enabler for the future of technology and how we interact with technology. And it’s bringing about this whole new era of technology integration across virtual reality, augmented reality, gaming, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and so many more applications that we can’t even imagine at the moment
[00:20:42]Mel: [00:20:42] I’m wondering if 5g can actually handle it all that because that 5g has been coming for a while I feel like there should be a 6g That covers all that virtual reality and augmented reality that you were mentioning that yeah So it’s a really incredible future when you think of it that way
[00:20:58] Dom: [00:20:58] Is it getting faster? Is it getting more exponential in regards to the technology changes? Like they’ll know that it’s been a massive shift when you have a look at sort of from sixties in the seventies through to now but is this the curve just vertical now in regards to the changes that are coming through and the technology that’s evolving
[00:21:15]Ami: [00:21:15] It definitely feels like that. I think it again if I go back to my dial-up days, there’s a huge difference in what we’re experiencing today. And I’ve been fortunate to you know experience some 5g enabled virtual reality Whilst at work, and it’s been a completely different experience. Even using our current infrastructure, like before the launch of 5g. Even Between gaming competitions that people do professionally,, like celebrities who play games internationally, on a virtual platform. Even like the lag between that, between two people playing a game, is significant enough to make a difference using existing technology. And 5g Ideally when it comes out in virtual reality, is going to you know overcome that sort of challenge as well
[00:22:02]Mel: [00:22:02] what would you say to people just starting out in technology
[00:22:05] Ami: [00:22:05] I would say to make the most of every opportunity that you come across, and get as much hands-on experience as you can. So even within engineering, while you’re studying, there’s so many different majors that you can go into. And when you start working there’s still so many different fields that you can go into. And if you’re not sure, or you haven’t quite found what it is that you want to do, just try as many things as you can and use a process of elimination to do that. That’s essentially how I discovered my passion for IOT and product development
[00:22:34] Mel: [00:22:34] Yeah I love the journey that you’ve had from your clueless beginnings and then your competition that just really, it was a springboard for you to where you are now. So it’s yeah it’s amazing The the journey you’ve had so far.
[00:22:48]Dom: [00:22:48] So just to wrap up being an engineer, is there a piece of engineering that impresses you?
[00:22:54] Ami: [00:22:54] Oh, many pieces of engineering that are impressive. It’s hard to pick just one. But I still can’t get over airplanes. I just find them incredibly fascinating. The fact that they’re these massive planes in the air that are carrying hundreds of people over like a pretty long period of time.
[00:23:12]That’s just incredible. And to think of a time when people used to travel via ship over, like, so many months to get to a different country. And now we can do that in a matter of hours, you know, that’s a huge improvement. And it still fascinates me that these vehicles are in the air, not on the ground, flying for ages
[00:23:34] Mel: [00:23:34] I mean, I don’t understand how they stay up. I really don’t. I mean, I know I should, but just the physics of it, it’s like these big, heavy things, they shouldn’t go up, but they stay up and they really do. And they. Yeah, I find them amazing as well..
[00:23:46] Dom: [00:23:46] We can organize an aeronautical engineer who can sort of explain
[00:23:49] Mel: [00:23:49] so many people we will try it and there’s a reason I flunked out of physics. So is there an engineer that you’ve admired?
[00:23:56]Ami: [00:23:56] there are a few but someone I really admire is Elon Musk. I think he’s a relentless visionary from PayPal to SpaceX and Tesla. His creations are disrupting our market and he’s leading the way in technology and engineering. Some of the work that he’s doing is incredible. Space X was founded to help reduce the cost of space transportation, and also enable colonization of Mars, like an entirely different planet.
[00:24:22]That’s quite incredible. And. A lot of what he designs through space X, their reusable rockets, and now even NASA has taken an interest in that. And they’re, co-developing spacecrafts together.
[00:24:34]Mel: [00:24:34] I do think that when in a hundred, 200 years time, people will look back and go that’s the Elon-era. Like we’ve had the Einstein-era and it’s like, I have a feeling that that’s. The way it’s going. So
[00:24:47] thank you so much for chatting to us today. It’s been a really a great eye-opener.
[00:24:52] Dom: [00:24:52] Yeah, it’s been great speaking with you.
[00:24:53] Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:24:54]Ami: [00:24:54] Thank you for having me. It’s been great.
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