Wireless patent wins boost CSIRO coffers

Licensing fee settlement of $205 million turns a budgeted $34.2m defecit into a $122.0m surplus

The Parkes telescope around the time of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969: image CSIRO

The Parkes telescope around the time of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969: image CSIRO

Revenue from wireless LAN settlements have boosted the financial fortunes of the Commonwealth Science Information and Research Organisation (CSIRO) to the tune of $205 million in the year to June 2009.

According to the organisation’s annual report the WLAN settlement helped turn a budgeted deficit of $34.2 million over the same period into a surplus of $122.0 million. Total external revenue was $634.8 million exceeding the budget of $420.6 million by $214.2 million.

According to chief executive Megan Clark, the organisation’s performance had in large part been driven by its Information and Communication Sciences and Technology Group which combines the disciplines of ICT, mathematics and radio astronomy.

“A most significant achievement through this Group… has been the successful licensing of our wireless local area network (WLAN) technology to manufacturers of wirelessly-enabled devices. This technology is now used in almost every WLAN enabled device sold throughout the world,” Clark wrote in her chief executive report. “This year we reached a record 161 active licenses for our technologies and discoveries.”

In April the organisation settled out of court a claim that 14 companies, including HP, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Netgear, Toshiba, 3Com, Nintendo, D-Link and Buffalo Technologies, had infringed a US patent held by the CSIRO over its IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g Wi-Fi products.

The CSIRO is currently pursuing similar claims against Sony, Acer and Lenovo, a CSIRO spokesperson confirmed.

Clark added that the CSIRO had also performed strongly in the face of significant challenges, delivering substantial scientific impact and a strong financial result in the current climate, as well as transitioning to a new chief executive following Geoff Garrett’s departure after two terms as chief executive in January this year.

“CSIRO astronomers at the Australia Telescope Compact Array have revealed the face of an enormous galaxy called Centaurus A, which emits a radio glow covering an area 200 times bigger than the full moon,” she wrote.

“We also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the role of teams at Tidbinbilla Tracking Station in Canberra and Parkes Observatory in relaying images of this moment.

On top of these achievements other ICT-related highlights during the financial year included the commercialisation of CSIRO’s smart sensor network technology – CSIRO FLECK with Australian company The Powercom Group, which now manufactures CSIRO’s patented smart wireless sensor network technology.

FLECK sensor nodes gather environmental data independently, then cooperate to wirelessly send the data to a database. The technology is currently being used to monitor the quality of Brisbane’s drinking water.

In November 2008 analysis technology jointly developed by CSIRO and Boeing had been licensed to Australian company Semantic Sciences to develop software for protecting Australia’s security with a whole-of-situation analysis capability. The software enables counter-terrorism agencies to analyse, cross-link and query large datasets.

The Australian e-Health Research Centre (AEHRC), a joint venture between the CSIRO and the Queensland Government, which went national in July 2008 after securing $20 million in funds from the Federal and Queensland governments, has since expanded establishing nodes in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.

In March 2009 the CSIRO launched with the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications the Australia-China Research Centre for Wireless Communications. The centre aims to put both countries at the forefront of research into future wireless communications technologies.

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