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Data and Digital

Goal: Data, technology and digital services enabling the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

The Data and Digital Group, partnering with other Bureau Groups, provides a platform to develop and deliver enterprise services and technologies underpinning the Bureau’s delivery to its customers.

The Group consolidates all information and communication technology (ICT) and observation technology, software development and digital and data management. It is instrumental in ensuring the Bureau’s effectiveness, innovation, security and sustainability in meeting customer needs through seamless delivery, from data collection to provisioning. The Group is critical for framing the future of the Bureau, delivering new architecture and capability, and ensuring the Bureau is secure.

For 2019–20, the Group consisted of seven Programs with the following responsibilities:

Planning and Architecture

Technology policies and standards

DDG planning uplift

Demand and pipeline management

Observing Systems and Operations

Operation of the observing network

Observations delivery

Maintenance and sustainment of the network


Data governance, advice and standards

Data management specialised services

Data requirements and quality

Managing data partnerships

Data services

Digital Channels and Customer Experience Design

Customer research and user experience design

User design and prototyping

Digital development

Customer analytics

Digital planning

Application Services

Delivery of ICT applications and platforms

Digital services

Testing and quality assurance

Service and Infrastructure Management

Reliable ICT operations

High-performance computing

ICT support services

Cyber Security

Cyber awareness

Assurance and governance

Cyber security operations

Throughout 2019–20, the Data and Digital Group focused on the delivery of four outcomes that support the delivery of the Bureau’s Strategy and purpose. The Group’s achievement in delivering each of these outcomes is discussed below.

Outcome 1: A globally benchmarked data and digital capability informed by deep customer insight and understanding.

Achieving the outcome

Progressing the Digital Roadmap

The Bureau continued to uplift its digital channels in line with its Digital Roadmap to ensure customers receive a positive experience through modern, intuitive, engaging and innovative digital channels. A highpoint for the year was the market launch of the next generation BOM Weather app (see highlight below) which was built through the Bureau's customer-centred design process. Through the Digital Roadmap the Bureau will continue to implement a world-class Digital Channels Operating model that will ensure we deliver superior and consistent experiences across our digital service and products.

Almost 100% uptime of the Bureau's internet services

Uplifting the Bureau's data capability

The Bureau undertook several major activities during 2019–20 to maintain trusted, reliable and responsive data as the foundation to everything it does, and to ensure it can respond effectively to the rapidly evolving data landscape.

In November, the Bureau established the Data Governance Office and launched Data 2022 and Beyond. The Data Governance Office is the central point for all the Bureau's data management guidance and advice, and Data 2022 and Beyond outlines the Bureau's vision, priorities and implementation roadmap to ensure support for the transformation in operations, products and services being driven by the Bureau’s Strategy 2017–2022.

In May, the Data Integrity Advisory and Assurance Committee, an external committee of independent experts, completed its annual review of the integrity of Bureau's data. The Committee had high praise for Data 2022 and Beyond and the Data Governance framework.

The five transformative themes of Data 2022 and Beyond
The five transformative themes of Data 2022 and Beyond

Quality and accreditation of the Bureau's observing systems

In November, the Bureau underwent its first surveillance audit following ISO 17025 accreditation for atmospheric pressure calibration in early 2018. The Bureau exited the audit successfully without findings, which also confirmed compliance to the latest release of the standard. The Bureau also continued its pursuit of ISO 17025 accreditation for temperature calibration, working closely with the accrediting body, the National Association of Testing Authorities, to provide additional information to support the application, with the aim to reach a successful conclusion in 2020–21.

The Bureau is developing and implementing a Quality Management System for the management and operation of its automatic weather station (AWS) observing network and the data it generates. In 2019–20, adoption and application of the quality management concepts, tools and practices was completed. Work will continue in 2020–21 across other operational areas towards achieving ISO 9001 certification.

Over 700 automatic weather stations in the Bureau's observing network (at 30 June)

Applying satellite imagery to bushfire management

After the devastating 2019–20 bushfires, the Australian Space Agency led the establishment of the Bushfire Earth Observation Taskforce to determine how satellite data could be better used for bushfire management for the next fire season and beyond. Several satellite and fire weather experts from the Bureau worked closely with the Australian Space Agency, Geoscience Australia, and CSIRO, as well as state emergency and fire agencies to develop recommendations and actions.

The Taskforce identified several opportunities to further improve this capability, including Australian involvement in satellite missions that would help assure Australia’s access to this critical data while also improving fire, vegetation, water and weather monitoring.

Highlights and significant events

Launching the new BOM Weather app

An update to the BOM Weather app (v3.0) was launched in June. More than three million people access the BOM Weather app every year, making it the Bureau's second most-used digital channel. The upgrade helped to ensure Bureau is keeping pace with the changing needs to customers and can reach even more members of the Australian community. New features of the app include:

  • better access to people with a vision impairment when used in conjunction with the 'accessibility' functions on mobile phones and tablets;
  • optimisation for small screens;
  • weather alerts automatically based on the user's location, even on the move;
  • upgraded dynamic pan and zoom radar that includes a user-location marker and the ability to navigate around Australia;
  • wind speeds in km/h and knots;
  • four-day sun protection information and UV; and
  • 'weather mood' background (for example, sunny or rainy) and night-time mode.

An example screen from the BOM Weather app

Tenth Asia-Oceania Meteorological Satellite Users' Conference

The tenth Asia-Oceania Meteorological Satellite Users’ Conference was hosted by the Bureau in Melbourne in December. The conference comprised three separate events:

  • a two-day training event focused on the application of satellite data for thunderstorms, tropical cyclones and nowcasting;
  • a three-day conference plenary attended by 132 participants from 28 countries plus the World Meteorological Organization (WMO); and
  • a joint meeting of the WMO Regional Associations two and five (RA-II and RA-V) focused on satellite data utilisation in the Asia-Oceania region, including discussion on further collaboration opportunities between the Bureau, the Korean Meteorological Agency and the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA).

The Bureau sponsored the attendance of nine participants from small island nations and developing countries, and a further seven were sponsored by JMA.

These events are important for maintaining strategic partnerships with satellite providers and satellite data users. More than 90 per cent of the observations assimilated into the Bureau's numerical weather prediction systems are from satellites, providing the foundation for all the services delivered by the Bureau, including services to defence, aviation, agriculture and the general public.

Conference delegates from day one of the three-day plenary.
Conference delegates from day one of the three-day plenary.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 1 include:

  • assessing the Bureau's future observations needs over the next 5 to 10 years; and
  • implementing the Bureau's Data Stewardship model and developing an enterprise approach to data analytics.

Outcome 2: Secure, stable, resilient, accessible and responsive services all day, every day.

Achieving the outcome

Uplifting the Bureau's Service Management

Implementation of the Bureau's Service Management Uplift initiative continued during the year. The Bureau recruited four subject matter experts to assist in enhancing technology incident and change management processes. These processes are essential in any technology environment, but become increasingly important where transformation is occurring. The uplift has been undertaken in collaboration with the ROBUST Program to ensure processes and procedures support the new operating environments and has resulted in improved handling of major incidents and the minimisation of impact or outage time.

Strengthening asset management planning

The Bureau strengthened its asset management capability through the development and publication of a Strategic Asset Management Plan and financial model, and preparation of supporting detailed asset management plans for each observing network. Detailed user requirements for an Enterprise Asset Management System to manage the Bureau's observing assets were established, and an approach to market was presented in August. The new system will replace many of the functions performed by the current database but will uplift capability in assignment and scheduling, recording and analysing asset performance, and reporting on performance.

Extending the life of the Bureau's critical systems

To enable the Bureau's critical systems to continue providing resilient and stable support for forecast systems and applications, the Category 1 Asset Life Extension Project (Cat1 Project) delivered 12 work packages, completing over 50 infrastructure, system and server upgrades and countless application configurations. The project provided the foundational capability for the Scalable and National Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE), enhancements to the Tsunami Decision Support Tool (DST) and significant Australian Integrated Forecast System (AIFS) infrastructure upgrades. These enhancements improve the intra-operability of the Bureau’s forecasting capability while ensuring the systems remain secure and data and service integrity is maintained.

Uplifting the measurement standards

The Standards and Metrology Laboratory Uplift Project was developed in response to a recommendation from a 2017 Automatic Weather Station Review to introduce environmental testing for the Bureau's AWS equipment as part of regular calibration work, and to seek accreditation to the ISO 17025 standard.

During the year, the Standards and Metrology Team successfully completed the design and build of a new electrical calibration capability that will allow the system to be commissioned in late 2020. The system supports calibration of analogue to digital conversion for measurement of voltage, current, resistance and frequency signals. The new system can test four AWSs simultaneously over a period of 24 hours.

The build of a new relative humidity calibration system is underway, with acceptance testing to begin early in 2020–21. The preliminary design of new pressure and rainfall calibration capabilities is also well advanced. Once complete, the Bureau will apply to the National Association of Testing Authorities to expand its ISO 17025 accreditation to include these fields.

Maintaining the Bureau's commitment to the National Environmental Information Infrastructure

The Bureau continued to lead the cross-government collaboration to deliver the National Environmental Information Infrastructure (NEII) and manage the platform. The NEII platform provides access to Environmental Web Data Services, Vocabularies and an Environmental Monitoring Sites Register, all of which improve the accessibility and reusability of environmental data for all Australians. During 2019–20, the NEII Team added over 21 web data services, increased its metadata catalogue by over 60 entries and logged 12 new environmental monitoring networks. Other improvements to the platform included the addition of an analytics dashboard, secure access for data contributors and additional statistical usage information. NEII was also showcased at the Group on Earth Observations Week Conference and the Data Integration Partnership for Australia presentation, both held in Canberra in November and December, respectively.

Highlights and significant events

Consolidation of the Central Computing Facility

The Bureau's oldest data centre, the Central Computing Facility (CCF), was fully decommissioned in June after almost 46 years of service. The CCF was first commissioned in the Bureau's former Melbourne Office in Lonsdale Street in 1974 and relocated to the Bureau's current Melbourne Office in Docklands in 2004. The decommissioning has enhanced the Bureau's resilience by retiring end-of-life equipment, removing vulnerable systems and migrating to modern architectures.

Over two years, the Bureau's data centre equipment was consolidated from three sites to two by retiring, migrating and transforming 189 IT assets dispersed across 46 systems. The work was undertaken by more than 120 project, applications, networking, platforms, data centre and procurement specialists, supported by system owners and business representatives to ensure negligible disruption to the Bureau's operations.

Systems affected include core parts of the Bureau's network that served offices and sites across Oceania, communication links to external partners, including to aviation, education and science sectors as well as to national meteorological services in Asia, the Pacific and Europe. The project also quadrupled the Bureau's link capacity to Singapore and improved services with Meteorological Service Singapore.

Nathan Mudge and Darren Spencer transferring the old racks for recycling.
Nathan Mudge and Darren Spencer transferring the old racks for recycling.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 2 include:

  • developing service improvement and sustainability plans for each observing network to meet service level commitments and manage risk;
  • preparing for a supercomputer replacement in 2021–22 with improved capacity, performance, service management and job scheduling; and
  • reviewing the Bureau's website content, including content decommissioning, to ensure customers have the most up-to-date, accurate and relevant information.

Outcome 3: Delivery of end-to-end solutions that optimise performance and efficiency in every process.

Achieving the outcome

Ensuring a sustainable weather watch on Willis Island

2019–20 saw the completion of the second phase of the Bureau's Willis Island Remediation Project. A team of 20 tradespeople descended on the island for a three-week period in May to undertake station works to ensure staff safety and enable more resilient and efficient observations collection in this cyclone-prone region. The team remodelled the meteorological office space, creating multi-purpose rooms, an amenities room and a dedicated first-aid room, and carried out refurbishments of the outside deck area. The team also installed high-quality bird screening to protect the space from wildlife and an air-conditioning system to help manage the damaging effects of high humidity, such as growth of mould on internal walls and surfaces.

Aerial photo showing the supply and accommodation vessels offshore and workers on Willis Island.
Aerial photo showing the supply and accommodation vessels offshore and workers on Willis Island.

Queensland's second Observing Operations Hub goes live in Brisbane

In August, the Bureau's Brisbane-based Observing Operations staff relocated from their Eagle Farm site to a new purpose-built facility in Virginia.

Staff moved an estimated 80 pallets of observation infrastructure, also bringing historic observations equipment uncovered during the packing process, that will go on display at the new hub.

The new hub has dedicated mechanical and electrical workshops, office and warehouse space, a conference room, video wall and high-quality amenities. It provides staff with improved infrastructure and capability to perform remote monitoring and more effectively and efficiently sustain the Bureau's observation network in southern Queensland.

Establishment of the hubs within the National Observing Operations Program is part of realising the Bureau's Observing Systems Strategy, with work underway for the final planned purpose-built facilities in Hobart, Perth and Sydney.

New automated meteorological balloon launching systems

New automated meteorological balloon launching systems (AMBLS) were installed at Woodstock (Townsville), Charleville, Geraldton, Esperance and Moree during the year. The new AMBLS hold 60 radiosondes compared to the previous 24 and provide the flexibility to increase the number of balloon flights, or launch adaptive flights, remotely from the Observing Operations Hub as required (see highlight below).

The AMBLS make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Bureau’s upper air observing program and will replace a combination of manual processes at staffed locations and ageing technology at operational upper air sites. The installations are part of a rollout schedule where a total of 24 AMBLS will be installed by 30 June 2022.

The new AMBLS at Moree.
The new AMBLS at Moree.

Providing ICT support during COVID-19

As the Bureau moved swiftly to a ‘work from home’ capability in March, the logistical effort to ensure appropriate ICT equipment, remote access capability and support was enormous. In excess of 1000 requests were handled in a matter of two weeks, with support teams providing help and assistance as the Bureau changed its standard work environment to remote use versus the Office 365 suite. Online meetings grew exponentially through the first couple of weeks, and secure connections for other applications required a rapid introduction of new technology, piloted and introduced in a matter of weeks rather than months.

Mid-term upgrade for the Australis supercomputer

High-performance computing (HPC) is the core enabler and principle capability underpinning all the Bureau’s operations, and a project to strengthen this capability through a scheduled mid-term upgrade has been a vital to meet the future demands of next generation numerical models that will provide improved detail and accuracy.

In April, the Bureau received Australis II, a 4.0 petaflop Cray XC50 and CS500 system that will deliver double the computing power and storage, and improved capability for more frequent running of enhanced prediction models. The upgrade is a significant milestone in achieving a more secure supercomputing platform for the Bureau's operations and future service delivery including through the Public Services Transformation Program.

The project successfully navigated the COVID-19 crisis which added complexity to the physical delivery, installation and commissioning of the machine. The system will be commissioned during 2020–21 and will take over production work from the existing Australis system.

99.9% uptime of the Bureau's supercomputer

Enhancing the radar network

Working in partnership with State Governments, the Bureau upgraded the existing Esperance radar in Western Australia and delivered a new radar at Rainbow in Victoria's Wimmera Southern Mallee region (see highlight below). The Esperance radar features Doppler wind and real-time rain information for the first time, enhancing the Bureau’s ability to monitor storm severity, fine-tune warnings during severe weather events and enable meteorologists to observe wind better than ever before.

In May, the Minister for Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, announced the site for the new Mildura radar. The current Mildura radar is the second oldest of the Bureau's more than 60 radars and has been operating from its present location at the town's airport since 1989. The new radar will be built roughly 45 kilometres west of Mildura, in Cullulleraine, and will deliver improved coverage and weather information to the surrounding regions.

Real-time radar data coverage was available for 98% of the year

Highlights and significant events

Sustainable improvements to rural radar coverage

At the end of March, the Bureau delivered a new radar at Rainbow to fill a gap in its observing network in western Victoria's Wimmera Southern Mallee region. A 20 kW solar photovoltaic system was also installed to help offset the radar's power costs and to reduce the Bureau's carbon footprint.

The state-of-the-art instrument can detect rain intensity, hail, bushfire plumes, and wind velocity, assisting with flood and severe weather warnings, emergency services management and general weather forecasting for the community.

Data available through the radar helps local growers to make informed choices about harvesting, tillage and the use of chemicals and fertilisers, enabling more effective crop-spraying and fertiliser application, avoiding wastage and reducing financial risk for farmers. The radar will also benefit the aviation, defence, construction, resources and energy, and tourism sectors more broadly.

Jointly funded by the Victorian and Federal Governments, the radar was delivered ahead of schedule and under budget, with support from the Wimmera Development Association. As part of the rollout, community engagement events were held with Bureau and Rainbow P-12 College used the opportunity for STEM education for its students.

The Rainbow radar, powered by a 20 kW solar photovoltaic power system.
The Rainbow radar, powered by a 20 kW solar photovoltaic power system.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 3 include:

  • constructing and commissioning radars in the Brewarrina and Hillston regions in western NSW and the Upper Burdekin region in northwest Queensland;
  • commissioning the Australis II supercomputer;
  • releasing a new web portal to receive and ingest priority water datasets; and
  • building and commissioning fit-for-purpose observing hub facilities in Hobart and Perth.

Outcome 4: Sustained operational excellence during and after the ROBUST transformation.

Achieving the outcome

AARNet membership boosts Bureau research

Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet) interconnects the Australian research and education sector though an ultra-high-speed network that was built to meet the needs of data-intensive research, like the Bureau's numerical weather prediction systems that provide daily forecasts, and climate change research.

During 2019–20, teams from across the Bureau worked with AARNet to access the National Computational Infrastructure's (NCI) supercomputer, which plays a vital role in the Bureau's research. The team also reviewed the security controls in place for accessing NCI to ensure they remained fit-for-purpose.

The AARNet membership will help to foster further collaboration with the research communities and facilitate the transport and sharing of large datasets and research.

Updated operating model

The Group updated its operating model during the year, moving from a functional to a service-based model better aligned with the outcomes of ROBUST, the Public Services Transformation Program and the Bureau's strategic focus. The service-based approach enhances the Group's capabilities in the Plan, Build and Run model that will drive better performance across its Programs.

Highlights and significant events

ROBUST delivers new AMBLS

The Brisbane hub team will be spending less time in the air, thanks to a new Automatic Meteorological Balloon Launching System (AMBLS) operating in outback Queensland. Previously, a team member would fly into Charleville every fortnight to load the weather balloons and radiosondes. The new AMBLS now provides the team with the flexibility to reload every seven to eight weeks. The technology is more advanced with increased reliability, remote support is more user-friendly and allows the Bureau's technical officers to work in a more efficient manner. The Bureau is now better able to deliver an improved operational service, especially during severe weather.

Brisbane's Upper Air Lead Warren Zhou monitoring the AMBLS balloon software; Charleville’s first scheduled sounding.
Brisbane's Upper Air Lead Warren Zhou monitoring the AMBLS balloon software; Charleville’s first scheduled sounding.

The Bureau's current fleet of meteorological balloon launching systems is ageing, and during the next few years the ROBUST Program will replace more that reach the end of their lives. The ROBUST installations are managed through an integrated schedule with the Observing Systems and Operations Program, contributing to a more sustainable observing network.

Uplifting cyber security in the Bureau

During 2019–20, the Cyber Security Program undertook a range of activities to drive security maturity uplift within the Bureau. The Cyber Security Roadmap 2025 was released to set the direction for improvements to the Bureau's cyber security capabilities along with the Cyber Security Delivery Plan 2023 to outline the key initiatives to implement the Bureau's cyber security strategy.

Cyber security governance processes were strengthened through the establishment of a Cyber Security Sub-Committee, reporting to the existing Security Business Risk and Resilience Committees, and a cyber security assurance function was established. Several cyber security policies were developed and released for staff consultation and mandatory online cyber security training courses were developed and piloted, with a full rollout planned for late 2020.

The Bureau undertook an assessment of its cyber security maturity against international best practice, the US National Science and Technology Institute Cyber Security Framework, with results showing an improvement in the maturity of the Bureau's cyber security risk management. Improvements were also made to the Bureau's security posture in line with the Australian Signals Directorate's Essential 8, including the rollout of multi-factor authentication, implementation of a next-generation email filtering platform, and improved privileged access management.

In November, the 'Stop.Think.Protect.Connect. Cyber Security' awareness campaign led several activities, including a cyber security simulation exercise with the Bureau's senior leaders and the release of the regular 'Cyber News Bites' newsletter, which provides news stories, tips, technical issues and advice.

A graphic from the 'Stop.Think.Protect.Connect' awareness campaign.
A graphic from the 'Stop.Think.Protect.Connect' awareness campaign.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 4 include:

  • hosting the next generation numerical prediction applications for environmental, weather and climate forecast services on the Australis system; and
  • uplifting the Bureau's digital channels, including the BETA launch of the new Bureau website.