Defence and Data61 win IT awards with secure solution for air-gapped networks

By Stephen Easton

September 1, 2017

Data61 and Defence Science and Technology group have been jointly recognised at a national IT industry awards night for designing a convenient way to easily switch between multiple computers while keeping them separated on secure isolated networks.

The neat solution is a box labelled Cross Domain Desktop Compositor (pictured) that routs keyboard and mouse control signals to one of several machines on air-gapped networks, maintaining their isolation through the hardware and software, and does the same in reverse with data from the monitors.

The project won two iAwards at the Australian Information Industry Association’s yearly knees-up, for the best “infrastructure and platforms innovation” and the best research and development project of the year.

The award for the best entry from the public sector went to the NSW Trauma App, developed by the NSW Institute of Trauma and Injury Management. Aimed at clinicians in the state’s hospitals and ambulance service, the app’s popularity speaks of its value. There’s been thousands of downloads and 75% of users open it at least once a week, according to survey results. 79% said it “contributed to positive patient outcomes” and 66% felt it had a positive impact on relationships with patients.

The NSW Trauma App.

A public sector merit award went to the University of Tasmania’s Research Data Management Portal which supports collaborative studies.

Data61 also picked up a merit award in the research and development category for some of its work on vision processing, part of a long-term project that ultimately aims to develop bionic eye implants.

The goal of the visual processing research is “efficient encoding of high-resolution images into a set of stimulation signals on a retinal implant” which is a key component in bionic eyes. In Data61’s trial beginning in 2012, images from a head-mounted camera were converted into signals to directly stimulate the optic nerve via retinal implants in three patients.

Since the Data61 research began several years ago, when the CSIRO’s new appendage was known as NICTA, we asked for an update.

According to Data61’s senior principal researcher on computer vision, Nick Barnes, the team has lately “investigated new ways to find the structure of the environment from images and depth-images” in partnership with the Australian National University’s Research School of Engineering.

“These methods incorporate basic geometric features of the appearance of objects to find obstacles and wall boundaries, as well as protruding edges of walls,” Barnes told The Mandarin, and he says results of this research will be presented next month at the 2017 International Conference on Computer Vision in Italy.

It all sounds pretty cyberpunk, but genuine artificial vision plugging into the brain is still science fiction. At this stage the implants deliver bright flashes called phosphenes that slightly improve the vision of people who have lost their sight through diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. This was poetically described as “looking at the night sky where you have millions of twinkly lights that almost look like chaos” by one trial participant.

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