../Morning Post
Posted November 3, 2009
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Innovation

$2.1 Million in Funding Announced to Accelerate Commercialization of First-of-their-Kind Technologies

Ottawa – Small to medium-sized companies involved in the development of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) were given a boost November 2, 2009 with the announcement of $2.1 million in funding to accelerate the commercialization of first-of-their-kind technologies.

The funding was announced by Ottawa-based Precarn Incorporated at an event for business, academic and government representatives about the importance of investment in the new digital economy to strengthen Canada’s economic competitiveness.

“The Government of Canada is committed to building a robust digital economy. As we move forward, we will be looking at how we can best regain Canada's leadership role, and how we can best work with business and stakeholders,” said Parliamentary Secretary Mike Lake, speaking on behalf of Minister of Industry Tony Clement. “That means fully realizing the potential of ICT and its role in Canada's overall R&D effort to create jobs, improve the quality of life for Canadians and strengthen our economy for future generations.”

The funding is being invested by Precarn and its partners in 14 projects across the country in a wide range of sectors. All of the projects feature two critical elements: intelligent systems that solve problems in non-ICT industries and a successful R&D partnering model.

These 14 projects solve problems in a diverse set of industries ranging from an intelligent controller for energy efficient building automation and a miniature star tracker for satellite use, to educational software to boost the brain development of children and an intelligent platform that makes online shopping easier.

Each project is required to follow the Precarn Partnering Model which involves the partnership among a technology company, a customer and an academic research partner, “a model that has proven to effectively accelerate technology commercialization, reduce risk and share the cost of R&D,” said Henri Rothschild, President and CEO of Precarn.

By fostering R&D collaboration among end users, developers and researchers, Precarn supports the federal government’s innovation strategy by accelerating commercialization of Canada’s vast R&D output to the marketplace and developing a strong technology entrepreneurial talent pool. Precarn’s approach of bringing together partners from across the country, and its focus on identifying non-traditional markets and cross-sector applications, is helping Canada to successfully build a true ‘digital economy’.

“Studies show that small and medium-sized companies need investment support to successfully and expeditiously bring their projects from the bench to the marketplace,” Rothschild explained. “Studies also show that the Precarn model of collaboration is a key success factor of ICT commercialization, producing more than $5 of net benefits for every dollar invested, and contributing to Canada’s economic strength, both on a domestic and global scale.”

The 14 companies receiving funding have assembled collaborative teams involving at least 17 end user companies as first customers, validating the need for the technologies, and 14 academic research partners, employing the top Canadian minds in their respective fields of research.

Details of the projects follow:

MedRunner Secure Electronic Health Prescriptions: This project will develop a secure electronic solution for generating computer-based healthcare prescriptions. As a replacement to traditional paper-based prescriptions, which have the potential to cause adverse drug reactions due to handwriting errors, the MedRunner solution will interface to electronic medical records, drug information systems and provincial electronic health records to ensure that all clinicians are dealing with the same, accurate information. Using proprietary technology on desktops and mobile platforms such as smartphones, the application will work as a web service. It is intended to eliminate handwriting errors, improve pharmacy workflow, reduce prescription abuse and fraud, save physicians an average of 22 minutes per day, and eliminate preventable deaths. It will adhere to Canada Health Infoway’s pan-Canadian interoperability standards. Led by MedRunner Health Solutions Inc. of Saint John, NB, the project partners include X-Wave (Toronto, ON), University of New Brunswick (Saint John, NB) and several national pharmacy chains.

Underwater Laser Scanner: This project will build on technology used in existing underwater laser scanners in order to develop a new version that can easily be integrated with smaller underwater inspection vehicles. There is a critical need for robotic tools to inspect and maintain aging underground water and waste water infrastructures in order to ensure public safety. Current techniques are limited and cannot detect fine defects such as the size of cracks or displaced joints. The new scanner will be capable of measuring fine details and will be used with companion software that enables end-users to obtain dimensions of the scanned environments, ultimately producing precise three-dimensional models. Led by 2G Robotics Inc. of Waterloo, ON, the project partners include ASI Group (St. Catharines, ON) and University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON).

UiRemote – Universal Remote Accessory for iPhones/iPods: The goal of this project is to build a sleek universal remote accessory for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch that will provide users with access to touchscreen, gesturing and content interactions with TV-Guide and other media rich content. The new remote user interface will enable an iPhone or iPod to operate as a universal remote, offering several advanced features not available on today’s top-end universal remotes, including WiFi capability and Internet access. The accessory is expected to be available by mid-2010 and will retail for less than $60 (U.S.). Led by Dreamcube Technologies Inc. of Toronto, ON, the project partners include Rogers Communication (Toronto, ON) and University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON).

Educational Software Game for Brain Development: The objective of this project is to enhance the learning skills of young children by developing cost-effective, web-based “brain training” software that is designed to improve multiple cognitive skills after four weeks of use. Specifically, the project will develop a computer module that captures brain activity and sends the results to a behavioural database so that the educational software can be modified according to a specific child’s learning abilities, helping professionals to guide and monitor their progression. The final product will be an interactive, web-based program. Led by MusIQkids Corp. of Toronto, ON, the project partners include University of Toronto (Toronto, ON), York University (Toronto, ON) and Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital (Toronto, ON).

SonicGuage Smart Real-Time Sensory System: This project will demonstrate how an ultrasonic smart sensor system – SonicGuage – can be used to achieve operational efficiencies and process improvements in the synthetic rubber manufacturing industry. SonicGuage is used to accurately classify the chemical fingerprint of a substance (solid, liquid or gas), non-invasively through a pipeline, in order to determine quality. The sensor technology will accurately characterize the composition of synthetic rubber slurry used in the manufacturing process, and then analyze process control data in real-time in order to identify and implement process improvements, ultimately leading to decreased costs, reduced waste, and increased capacity, throughput and profitability. The end result is smarter, more efficient factories. Led by NIMTech Inc. of Toronto, ON, the end-user partner is Lanxess Inc. (Sarnia, ON).

Discovery Browser: Making On-line Shopping Easier: For many consumers, on-line shopping can be confusing, frustrating, and even overwhelming. This project aims to change that by developing an intelligent, on-line platform – the Discovery Browser – that will make on-line shopping a more straightforward, information and enjoyable experience. The technology in Discovery Browser enables users to search for products in three ways: search by keyword, filter by specifications, and browse by similarity. Product descriptions generated for the platform will be written in easy-to-understand terms, and will include intended uses for the products. Shopper’s preferences will also be collected and integrated into the platform in order to personalize a search. After an evaluation period, the product will be available for licensing to retailers. Led by Optemo Technologies Inc. of Vancouver, BC, the project partners include Best Buy Canada (Burnaby, BC), and University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC).

PostRank Pro-Media Publisher Registry: This project will develop and maintain a comprehensive database of on-line publishers, the topics they cover, their social profile and the real-time social engagement with each piece of content they produce. The resulting PostRank Pro-Media Registry will automatically assemble and dynamically maintain publisher information using only the URL of their blog or site. By analyzing the page associated with the URL, it will extract hints about the authors’ presence on various social networks, fetch those profiles and combine relevant information to create a comprehensive view of their publishing history. The registry will serve as a valuable tool to help Public Relations, Marketing and Communications firms, as well as corporate entities, to sift through huge volumes of on-line content in order to find individual publishers in specific topic areas, and to more accurately assess their audience influence. Led by PostRank Inc. of Waterloo, ON, the project partners include Sequentia Environics (Toronto, ON) and University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON).

Intelligent System for the Control and Management of LEDs: This project will develop a scalable, high-speed, two-way visual optical communication (VOC) system that uses embedded light emitting diodes (LEDs) to monitor, manage and control light sources, whether in the home, office or public environment. The resulting VOC engine will control and interface with a wide variety of sensors for numerous application scenarios, such as power and energy saving. Led by SIGPRO Wireless Inc. of Ottawa, ON, the project partners include Advanced Asset Tracking Systems Inc. (Cambridge, ON), and University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON).

Intelligent Controller for Energy Efficient Building Automation: This project aims to transform the building automation industry – the use of a computerized intelligent network of electronic devices to monitor and control the mechanical and lighting systems of a building – by reducing the costs normally associated with the installation and integration of building controllers. Specifically, the project will add intelligent capabilities to the existing CAN2GO building controller, making it possible to program individual room controllers through a universally accessible web interface as well as to interpret and act on automation programs both globally (by the remote system integrator) or locally (by the user or building manager). The product enhancements will reduce the need for specialized labour, and will provide system integrators with unlimited wireless access to building controllers through the Zigbee and EnOcean wireless protocols. The overall goal is to promote and enable intelligent, sustainable “green” buildings by creating a broad range of interoperable, self-powered wireless control systems. Led by SCL Elements of Montreal, QC, the project partners include Regulvar Inc. (Montreal, QC) and McGill University (Montreal, QC).

Remote Asset Monitoring with Intelligent Agents: This project will develop intelligent remote asset and environmental monitoring agents that enhance the accuracy of information collected at remote sites, providing better diagnostic output, and increasing the efficiency and control of remote client assets or equipment, such as remote sensors used in the oil fields. The goal is to develop a web-accessible, generic platform that is portable and recyclable, using UML and object-oriented programming techniques. The intelligent platform can be used for specialized autonomous control at remote sites, as well as for trending analysis, data mining or rule-based analysis of information gathered from multiple locations. Advances in cellular internet communication have opened large geographic areas to wireless networking, creating the potential to gather vast amounts of information from the field that can be difficult to manage. Placing generic intelligent agents at remotes sites and on corresponding application servers will provide an affordable means to capture and summarize specific knowledge that can then be used to issue pre-emptive warnings or suggest corrective actions for the remote assets based on historical and real-time system data. Led by Xtel International Ltd. of Acheson, AB, the project partners include HSE Integrated Ltd. (Sylvan Lake, AB), Ocean Controls Ltd. (St. Albert, AB) and University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB).

Miniature Satellite Star Tracker: The goal of this project is to develop an extremely small star tracker for use by small satellites. Existing miniature star trackers are available only from the U.S. and their export is restricted. By providing a Canadian source, the project will support upcoming Canadian satellite missions and will also be able to market worldwide under less restrictive Canadian export regulations. Miniature star trackers provide precise orientation information to small satellites which would otherwise need to rely on less accurate sun sensors and magnetometers. The product design will incorporate handheld mobile electronics – including image sensors, processors and memory – that could be found in a digital camera or cell phone. Led by Sinclair Interplanetary of Toronto, ON, the project partners include the Space Avionics and Instrumentation Lab at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON) and the Space Flight Laboratory at University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (Toronto, ON).

Mobile Memo Logger (mLogger): This project will increase the efficiency, accuracy and completeness of data collected in the field by developing an automated mobile memo collection system. Intended for mobile professionals, the mLogger system will consist of a smart phone, client application and secure web portal, allowing users to quickly and easily collect and access multimedia memos from anywhere using a browser. Client applications will target the three most popular Blackberry devices from RIM. The web services developed will enable secure two-way communication and synchronization between the client application and the on-line portal. The goal is to replace ad-hoc combinations of paper and electronic notes that are difficult to cross reference. Once the mLogger service is rolled out on the base Blackberry devices, it will be launched for additional smart phone devices. Led by Trusterra Technologies Inc. of Vancouver, BC, the project partners include Bellstar Hotels and Resorts (Surrey, BC), Motion Metrics International (Vancouver, BC), Colony Networks (Vancouver, BC) and University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC).

Vision-Guided Robotic Drug Manufacturing: This project involves the installation, testing and analysis of a robotic system capable of preparing drug and vaccine dosages for human injection, ultimately providing a safer and more economical drug manufacturing process. Designed to exceed Health Canada and FDA requirements for human-use injection products, the system is a vision-guided, isolated robotic workcell that can withstand sterilization conditions while protecting operators and the environment from the potency of the drugs its handles. The automation system will be tested in a real-world environment to demonstrate its ruggedness and reliability. Once proven, the ability to operate a robotic system in a sterile pharmaceutical environment will solve a key limitation for global manufacturers, and will present an opportunity for a quantum leap forward in the quality and efficiency of drug manufacturing. Led by VanRx Pharmasystems Inc. of Burnaby, BC, the project partner is Saskatchewan Research Council (Saskatoon, SK).

Assistive Lawful Interception System with Speaker Recognition: This project aims to provide a voice recognition software development kit that can be integrated into lawful interception platforms, giving law enforcement agencies and those in the criminal intelligence community a means to identify persons of interest when intercepting telephone or cell phone conversations. Audio samples taken from persons of interest – speaking in any language and using any device – will be enrolled into a database. When the voice of an unknown speaker is provided to the identification system, it will search for a match in the database, flag it and return the identity of the speaker using voice biometric identification. The system is intended to lower costs while improving the ability to perform ongoing investigations efficiently. Led by Perceive Solutions Inc. of Montreal, QC, the project partners include Positron Telecommunications Systems Inc. (Montreal, QC), and CRIM (Montreal, QC).

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