Four Great Australian Technological Achievements

Australia has a reputation as ‘the lucky country’. And this is thanks to the abundance of natural resources we have. Our mining and resources boom has put Australia on the map and taken us forward economically as a nation.

But mining (and sport) isn’t the only thing Australians are good at. When it comes to having some of the best and brightest minds in the world, well, we’ve certainly got our fair share.

Some of the most world-changing technological advancement happened right here at home. Here we’ve highlighted four of Australia’s Greatest Technological Achievements.

Aussie Tech Achievement #1:

You’re Connected Thanks to This Accidental Invention

Not many people realise that a government organisation gave the world one of the most widely used technological inventions.

In 1992 and 1996 the CSIRO patented the technology that created Wi-Fi in its current form. Researcher John O’Sullivan is the man credited with this invention. He came across the mathematics of modern day Wi-Fi thanks to a failed experiment he was performing on atoms and black holes at the time.

Just about every mobile device in the world has Wi-Fi in it. Your smartphone, tablet, TV and even your fridge is likely to have Wi-Fi. (On a not-so-high-tech based point, it was an Australian invention that pioneered the mechanical refrigeration process too.)

The CSIRO’s invention has helped to define the mobile world we live in today. It’s also partially kept the CSIRO funded. A court ruling in 2009 and 2012 entitled the CSIRO to unpaid Wi-Fi royalties from giant tech companies like HP and Dell. The total awarded was over $470 million.

The CSIRO will now continue to receive royalties estimated to be worth over a billion dollars. Thanks to their invention the world is able to connect like never before. Their simple, accidental discovery has literally shaped the future of the world.

Aussie Tech Achievement #2:

The Home Grown App That Helps You Find Your Way

With the rise of applications came the rise of many application developers. The ‘App Economy’ has led to many amazing, helpful apps, and made a few millionaires along the way.

In 2003, two Danish-born brothers that had immigrated to Sydney were working on an application at their business, Where 2 Technologies. The application was a downloadable app from app stores. They were confident that it would be reasonably successful as long as they could get it to market.

In trying to launch their app, Where 2 Technologies needed some venture capital to get it off the ground and out to the public. They pitched their idea to a number of companies. One of the companies they pitched was Google.

At the Google pitch they sold the idea as a web-based application rather than a downloadable one. The product they pitched was mapping technology that allowed a user to not only see a map and get directions, but also to find things they liked or needed nearby.

Google liked it…a lot. In 2004 Google bought Where 2 Technologies for an undisclosed amount (you’d think it’d be in the hundreds of millions). Subsequently Google Maps was born and the way we navigate around the world changed forever. 

Aussie Tech Achievement #3:

Pioneering Biotech from a Frustrated Plastic Surgeon

In 1992 a man arrived at Royal Perth Hospital with 90% burns to his body. He was lucky that his treating surgeon was Dr. Fiona Wood.

Dr. Wood had been working on a development in skin repair techniques for a number of years. She was frustrated that skin grafts took so long to create. Science knew that if burns victims could be treated faster they had a better chance of survival.

So she worked away at faster methods of treatment. This led to the discovery that skin cultures created in less than 10 days healed wounds better than skin cultures which typically took 21 days.

Dr. Wood and her colleague Marie Stoner invented a pioneering technique of ‘spraying’ skin cells onto skin wounds. This let the wounds heal faster and more efficiently than any other type of skin repair treatment. Spray-on-skin was born.

The man in 1992 treated by Dr. Wood and her spray on skin survived. And he wasn’t the only one.

Years of using the spray on skin technique came to public attention in October 2002 when the Bali Bombings occurred.

The Royal Perth Hospital and Dr. Wood treated 28 patients from the bombings. Most of them had over 92% burns to their bodies. Using spray-on-skin, they had saved the lives of those 28 people.

Without the use of the spray-on-skin technique, it’s likely the 28 would have died. Her invention was literally saving lives, and continues to do so today.

Aussie Tech Achievement #4:

The Research That’s Brought Sight and Sound to The World

The next Australian technology success is one of the best inventions of all time. It gives to people something priceless. Without it they would be missing something that in inherently human to have…the sense of sound and hearing.

Of course this great tech achievement is the Bionic Ear. Also known as the Cochlear Implant. It was at the University of Melbourne in the late 70’s and early 80’s where a team of researchers changed the world.

Professor Graeme Clark in 1978 gave Rod Saunders the first cochlear implant. The company Cochlear Ltd to this day holds about 70% of the market share of the world’s bionic hearing devices.

Professor Clark describes the attitude of the scientific community prior to his discovery. ‘99% of the scientific community said it was not possible. I was seen as somewhere between a dreamer and a clown.

But this didn’t stop him. And the belief that nothing was impossible led to this world changing invention. The lives of millions of people have changed thanks to this invention. To see for yourself just YouTube search ‘Cochlear Activation’ and see the impact it has on people that previously have never heard sound.

A Small Nation With Giant Achievements

Australia has a population of just 23 million. But Australia has some of the world’s best and brightest minds. The examples above illustrate just some of the great technological achievements from the land down under.

These four examples are all world changing advancements in technology, but as you can see they cover a whole range of industries. It’s not just computers that technology covers, but importantly medicine and manufacturing also.

There is more research happening now in Australia than ever before. A lot of this is in the field of biotech.

Aussies are starting to get a name as pioneers of great tech advancement in medicine. And as these advancements start to come to market and there will be chances to capitalise on these.

It’s an exciting time to be alive as technology advances the world. And it’s just as exciting to know that many great new technologies are more than likely to come from our own backyard.

Sam Volkering
Technology Analyst

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Sam Volkering is an Editor for Money Morning and is small-cap, cryptocurrency and technology expert.

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