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How PwC is using IT to transform professional services

Byron Connolly | May 4, 2017
The Big Four accounting giant is throwing out the legacy and using innovative technology to solve important economic and business problems.


A pool of innovation

This week, PwC launched what it describes as an 'Innovation Pool', a room behind a curtain in the reception area at the Sydney office, which houses technologies related to one of PwC's top agenda items: food technology. A similar innovation space has also been created in the Melbourne office.

In February, PwC expanded its investment in the Australian food and agriculture sectors by establishing a Food and Agribusiness Advisory Team and a new food safety assurance offering. The team, led by Greg Quinn, Ben Craw and Tim Lee, is focused on helping Australian farmers, investors and agribusiness clients get the most out of their investments.

According to Clune, PwC is changing its thinking with a focus on innovation and solving important problems. The room demonstrates the technology partnership PwC has built with industry bodies, universities and other organisations to achieve its goals. Organisations like the CSIRO's Data #61 and the University of Sydney are key partners.

"There is some legacy around how we are perceived versus what we are doing in the market. We now have a platform to showcase talent, capability and expertise in several areas. Being in an industry that has potential for disruption, thinking about new business models and innovating becomes such an important part of how we move forward," Clune said.

The initial topic being covered the Sydney innovation room is 'Food Trust' or tracking the authenticity of food.

"Fifty per cent of the meat that is tagged 'made or sourced from Australia' in China is fake. The story here is about how technology starts to trace origins of food ... you can use technologies like blockchain that can actually trace the whole journey from start to finish," said Clune.

Visitors can use the app to download and save to their devices stories relating to the different phases of food authenticity, she said.

An agricultural drone built by an engineer at the University of Sydney is on display inside the innovation room. The drone detects and poisons weeds in crop fields. Downstairs, a small unmanned submarine, developed by a researcher at the Queensland University of Technology, is capable is destroying one crown-of-thorns starfish every 20 seconds. This multiple-armed sea creatures are killing coral along Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.

An agricultural drone used to poison weeds
An agricultural drone used to poison weeds.

An unmanned submarine used to destroy crown-of-thorns starfish that plague The Great Barrier Reef
An unmanned submarine used to destroy crown-of-thorns starfish that plague The Great Barrier Reef

PwC is also creating augmented reality software, integrated as part of plastic stakes in crop fields which will provide users with information about the authenticity of food that is being grown, said Clune.


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