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Grant Smith - Head of Technologies
Grant Smith Head of Technologies

A chance opportunity to undergo an apprenticeship in the burgeoning field of wireless communications has led Grant Smith to being at the forefront of creating technologies that we use every day.

Now Head of Technologies at Prospecta Utilities, Grant said he didn’t consider himself academically inclined, leaving school at the age of 15 to work as a roof tiler’s apprentice.

“School wasn’t for me,” he said. “It just didn’t suit my learning style, which I now know to be a visual style of learning.

“But I’ve always been entrepreneurial and ran my own roofing business for a few years. Then we had the recession of the late ’80s and early ’90s which wasn’t a good time in the building trade, so I started a second apprenticeship, and I loved it.”

This one was in radio and signals and marked the beginning of a fascinating career that has taken Grant around the world, including many years in Sweden to the headquarters of Ericsson, the pioneers of Bluetooth, as well as the leaders in radio and mobile phone communications.

“The apprenticeship was run by Ericsson, and it was more a signalman’s apprenticeship that one might find in the navy,” said Grant. “It took place over four years and combined practical work as well as classroom learning.

“Back in 1994, we were working with D-AMPS (Digital Advanced Mobile Phone System) that was little better than walky-talkies. It was a very insecure system, if you knew the frequency you could listen in.

“This became 2G, the first digital wireless communications system and we were working on it in Sweden between 1999 and 2000. At this stage the network only supported voice, but we developed technology that would allow packets of data to be sent. That became GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), and it had transfer speeds of 384kB/sec.

“Then I moved to the software side of the business and that involved adding new nodes to the growing wireless network.”

Grant’s career with Ericsson saw him move to Singapore to introduce the 3G network across South East Asia. Here, he also worked with large organisations before moving across to the (IoT) Internet of Things software division as Head of Operations where the group was charged with visualising and developing technologies using Internet delivery.

For seven years Grant split his time between Melbourne and Stockholm.

In 2018, looking to spend more time with his young family, Grant accepted the role of General Manager Digital Strategy for Energy Queensland to develop the organisation’s digital and wireless communications strategy.

“That’s where I met Mark Langdon (now CEO of Prospecta Utilities),” said Grant. “We were both very interested in seeing practical applications for wireless technology and Internet integration which we felt was being underutilised by business.”

A few years later Mark, now heading up Prospecta Utilities, approached Grant with the opportunity to do just that.

Grant joined Prospecta Utilities in March 2023.

“Everyone is talking about 5G and its capabilities as though it is brand-new unproven technology when it has been around for many years,” he said. “In fact, 6G is coming just around the corner.

“There are so many ways 5G and the Internet of Things can be used to make life better for people and to improve efficiencies in business, but few want to be first to try something which is ‘unproven’

“But one of our first clients captured the vision.”

One of Prospecta Utilities’ first projects was the installation of a Virtual Power Plant, an Australian-first for land lease communities, also known as over-50s lifestyle resorts. AI-powered software manages power collected by rooftop solar panels into a battery storage bank, returning on-demand electricity to homeowners and resort facilities while providing added load capacity back into the grid.

The success of the pilot program means the VPP solution is now being rolled out nationwide.

Another innovation is an Enterprise Network Solution for a housing estate under development at Pimpama on the northern Gold Coast in Queensland.

This project will provide comprehensive and secure mobile and wireless data for the use of homeowners and construction teams with the further benefit of vehicle and staff telemetry to ensure safety on site.

“This will be one of the first networks of this type in the world, employing technology from Australia, Israel and Sweden,” said Grant.

“This is an exciting area of technology – particularly in Australia where 90 percent of the country does not have adequate coverage,” he said.

“And the opportunities are even greater in the United States where their focus is cyber security. Many state and local governments are planning on building their own networks to protect vital infrastructure and military facilities from hackers.

“The fact that Prospecta Utilities is able to offer practical and scalable solutions to these challenges is hugely exciting and this is only the beginning.”

To find out more about what Prospecta Utilities can do for your business, call 1800 318 504.