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Telstra launches network for smart devices and connected cows

The new technology is all about connecting small smart home devices without chewing up data or battery. And making sure you never lose your livestock again.

Wifi icon and Bangkok city with network connection concept, Bangkok smart city and wireless communication network, abstract image visual, internet of things.

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In a world where everything is connected and communicating, how will our networks cope? More importantly, where are my cows?

Telstra has the answer to all these questions (yes, all of them) with the switch-on of new network technology that it hopes will drive adoption of smart home devices. And apparently it's going to be perfect for internet-connected livestock (not even joking).

The telco today announced it has activated Cat M1 technology across its 4GX network. Also known as NarrowBand IoT, Cat M1 allows multiple devices to connect to a network without chewing up bandwidth, meaning it's ideal for things that don't use much data but need to maintain a long battery life. Your mobile phone? That needs a powerful network focused on data and speed. Your connected fridge? Not so much.

But just as a 4G network can only be used by 4G-capable phones, IoT devices will need to be built to work on Telstra's new Cat M1 network. So it's less about connecting existing smart coffee machines and lightbulbs, and more about creating the technology that new devices can piggy back off as part of a new smart home ecosystem.

And what does those devices look like?

According to Telstra's group managing director of networks Mike Wright, the opportunities are "almost unlimited" (and sometimes unconventional).

"When 3G and 4G came, you either had a phone or you could plug a dongle into your PC and the internet was at your hands," said Wright. "The interesting thing about a lot of these [new network] use cases is the products that will sit on top of the technology are quite varied.

"Whether it's a water meter or a power meter, it might be a personal tag to locate your luggage, it might be something to track a cow. We'll see a lot of different industries grow on top of the technology platform."

So while we've been hearing about connected street lights, smart road signs and water tanks that talk to your water meter for some time, we now have a network designed to send the little packets of data generated by these Internet of Things things. 

Wright says we can expect the first certified devices to start being released "in a couple of months."

Finally, you can track your luggage til the cows come home (and then you can keep track of the cows, too).