Graduates from the Melbourne School of Engineering have won the Ericsson Innovation Challenge, a major international competition that aims to generate new software ideas to solve real-world problems.
Electrical engineering alumni Khale Lewis, Daniel Vandali and Brendan Myers represented Team Australia and New Zealand (ANZA), one of the nine teams shortlisted to pitch their ideas to a “shark-tank” panel of operators and product managers. Mr Myers pitched the idea at the Ericsson OSS/BSS (Operations and Business Support Systems) Summit in New York.
Mr Lewis and his team designed a solution that encouraged drivers to use toll roads, addressing the suboptimal use of large highways in between peak periods.
“Roads are traditionally designed to support peak demand. A popular highway, for example, might have four or more lanes for peak hour. This means expensive infrastructure is built to cope with short periods of high demand and congestion, yet remain under-utilised at all other times,” Mr Lewis explains.
“By using near real-time traffic flow data to calculate the utilisation of a given toll road, a dynamic discount can be calculated and promoted to road users.”
Their solution was designed by considering the co-dependent needs of drivers and toll road operators.
“Our solution would improve overall investment efficiency, encouraging more traffic to pass through with fewer lanes. And drivers would have a better user experience, as they would encounter reduced congestion on their journey,” Mr Lewis says.
“There is even scope to target offers to drivers based on their planned trip, such as discounted coffee. This presents new opportunities for interactions and benefits for drivers, alongside higher revenues for toll road operators.”
Mr Lewis developed this idea with his team over the course of five months, before presenting their final design in New York.
“A great lesson we learned is that ideas must be capable of evolving. The biggest challenge was distilling our idea into a powerful, succinct message that captured interest.”
Ericsson’s global innovation team will further develop the team’s design, investigating its appeal as an offering to Ericsson’s customers.
“At the heart of our proposed solution is an adaption of an actual Ericsson product that is used in the telecommunications industry, so our idea has the added benefit of building on an existing product to address a new market,” Mr Lewis says.
“The exceptional success of Khale, Daniel and Brendan is a great demonstration of entrepreneurial talent and innovation capacity of our graduates,” Professor Thas Nirmalathas, Director of the Melbourne Networked Society Institute (MNSI) and Academic Director of the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), says.