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Author: Sheri Doyle

A winning pair

Solely Socks takes off on the right foot. 

Kyle and Danielle show off their collection of creative, high-quality socks

When Kyle Brown decided to start Solely Socks in 2014, his mission was simple: to create everyone’s favourite pair of socks.  

“I knew I wanted to start a business, but I wanted it to be something that was easily scalable and a lot of fun,” said Brown, who has a professional background in procurement.  

“I was at a conference and was not impressed with the socks I had on. I knew I needed to come up with a better idea and started the creative design process for Solely Socks the next day,” he said. 

Operated in Edmonton by Brown and his life and business partner, Danielle Panciroli, Solely Socks creates high-end, reinforced socks with arch support, a fitted cuff, and high-quality materials brought to life by leading knitting machines. The socks are packaged and shipped locally from Edmonton.  

All of Solely’s designs are Brown’s original creations, ranging from the artistic and sporty to creative Canadiana socks that feature the Rocky Mountains and northern lights. Brown even designed the display carousels for the socks, and used his photography skills to kickstart the brand’s online marketing efforts.  

The global sock market is no small affair — with over 50% of the world enjoying the comfort of socks in their everyday lives, luxury socks are a natural step in the growing men’s apparel market.  

Newsfeeds and social media feature photos of world leaders donning brightly designed, cheeky socks at events like the World Economic Forum, and retail networks expanding in developing economies reflect increases in disposable income for apparel. Socks have quickly shifted from everyday necessity to fashion statement. 

Women’s socks are also one of Solely’s specialties. Panciroli took note of the lack of options for women and worked to move more variety into the sales mix.  

Kyle and Danielle

“I’ve also always wanted to do children’s apparel,” says Panciroli. “We’re really open to all possibilities with the future of the business.”  

The local market in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region has been inviting for the duo, and their top-notch socks have landed in regional boutiques, shoes stores, pop-up shops, markets and ATB Financial’s showcases, to name a few.  They’ve also gifted their socks to Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies.  

Solely Socks has expanded its business online, shipping pairs worldwide and opening up wholesale opportunities. With new markets and a growing demand for designer socks, the sky is the limit and the team are open to partnering with local entrepreneurs to get their premium brand expanding further.  

Learn more about Solely Socks at solelysocks.com

972,223 and counting: Edmonton growing faster than Calgary, rest of province

Edmonton’s population is growing much faster than the rest of the province and the country, the latest census figures show.

The city’s official population reached 972,223 in April, census numbers released Thursday show.

The population increased by 72,776 people since the previous census in 2016 and reflects an average annual growth rate of 2.6 per cent, the city said in a news release.

The census, taken April 1, shows Edmonton’s population is young by Canadian standards with more than half of the population under 39.

“This is a positive sign for Edmonton — one that speaks highly and truly to the vibrancy of our city,” said Mayor Don Iveson on Thursday afternoon. 

“It also bodes very well to Edmonton’s ability to attract and attain new investment, as businesses value locations and communities with … young, engaged and educated labour forces, and that’s what we have here,” he said. 

Edmonton is on track for a population of more than one million people by the end of 2020 and more than two million within 30 years if current growth rates persist, the city said.

John Rose, the city’s chief economist, said the key drivers of growth are international migration, intra-provincial migration and inter-provincial migration. 

“Edmonton continues to be a very attractive place, not only to international migrants, but to other people in Canada and I expect that’s going to continue,” he said. 

“While we have been challenged by difficult economic conditions as a result of the downturn in energy prices, we continue to move forward,” Rose said. 

The city’s growth rate for 2019 is predicted to be 2.1 per cent, higher than Alberta at 1.9 per cent and Canada at 1.3 per cent.

Calgary’s 2019 census put that city at 1,285,711 people, an increase of 1.4 per cent over 2018.

The official census population captures only those residents who completed the census questionnaire, but using a mathematical formula similar to the one used by Statistics Canada for the federal census, the city put the unofficial population count at 992,812.

Edmonton Metro Region drives Canada’s first autonomous shuttle pilot

ELA operating on its route during a pilot project in Beaumont, Alberta.

Autonomous vehicles are hitting the streets — and the region’s City of Beaumont is ready to  take the wheel.  

Their recent pilot project introduced the region to ELA — an electric-powered, driverless shuttle that is Canada’s first-ever pilot of an autonomous shuttle in mixed use traffic.

Short for Electric Autonomous, ELA was the perfect fit for Beaumont to test on one of its busiest commercial streets. The small, square, pink and silver vehicle has some big features — it’s safe, fully accessible with a ramp, and can operate on fixed or on-demand routes on its own. 

Driving alongside regular traffic, the shuttle can transport up to 12 people at a time and operates in a dedicated lane and is covered with sensors that allow for quick stops.

Its driverless technology comes with collision avoidance systems that detect other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and obstacles. It is also equipped with multiple safety features for braking, entry and exit of the vehicle.

Autonomous vehicles are changing the way we do business and bringing more convenience to people across the globe. This industry’s development will be a driving force in the world of transportation and logistics, not only for citizens but also for businesses. 

In addition to the ELA project, the region is also home to innovative organizations dedicated to the growing autonomous vehicle sector. 

The University of Alberta’s Centre for Smart Transportation is developing connected vehicle technology, allowing vehicles to “speak” with each other and with other road technology such as stop lights, for example. 

The Advanced Systems for Transportation Consortium (AST) from ACAMP— a tech-focused development centre — is a place for autonomous vehicle testing and development, promoting Alberta’s autonomous systems sector through research and networking with Alberta businesses and multinational automotive companies.

These initiatives highlight the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s focus new tech evolution, welcoming industries to apply new technologies to local planning. 

No small potatoes: How The Little Potato Company is growing a healthier future

In 1996, Angela Santiago and her father, Jacob van der Schaaf, ⁠decided it was time to test out a big idea for little potatoes. 

Angela’s father, a Dutch immigrant, was looking for little Creamer potatoes in a market overflowing with large russets and yukon golds. A little potato with creamy insides was nowhere to be found, so they got to work cultivating small, nutritious, flavourful spuds that cook in no time. 

Angela Santiago with her prized crop. 

Since humble beginnings of testing the market and washing batches of potatoes in a bathtub, the growth of The Little Potato Company has been anything but little. By 2000, Angela and Jacob bought their first plant with modified equipment to handle the specialized needs of Creamer potatoes. Within 4 years they had expanded production in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

Angela is currently the CEO, while Jacob is involved in Tuberosum Technologies ― a potato research and breeding company ― that brings the company proprietary potato varietals that they own the rights to. 

This regional success story is no small potatoes. The Little Potato Company is showing how dedication and family created the perfect recipe for a growing market.

Sparking a global conversation

Edmonton Global CEO, Malcolm Bruce
Edmonton Global CEO, Malcolm Bruce speaking at launch, June 20, 2019

On June 20, 2019, the team at Edmonton Global set out to start a conversation. The region’s 15 mayors, including Spruce Grove’s Mayor, and the Chair of Edmonton Global’s Shareholders, Stuart Houston, were front and centre at the launch on June 20.

“We invited the region’s mayors, city councillors, business leaders, academics, economic development teams and others to the Shaw Theatre to talk about a new regional narrative we’ve been creating,” said Mayor Houston. “It’s vitally important that everyone going out into the world representing our region, and especially those connecting with foreign investors, speak with a harmonized voice about what’s happening here and why the opportunities here are so attractive.”

In 2017, the 15 municipalities that make up the Edmonton Metropolitan Region came together to create Edmonton Global. With a regional GDP of $105 billion, and a goal of increasing that by 3-4% each year, the region is prime for global attention and investment.

“Today, we’re sharing a major step forward for all of us, the launch of the Edmonton Metropolitan Regional Narrative,” said CEO Malcolm Bruce. “This is the song sheet we will collectively use to align and harmonize our voices when we go out into the world representing our community.”

How does Edmonton Global and its partners start? By selling the region’s strengths. And there’s a lot to brag about.

The youngest and second fastest-growing metro region in Canada, this region is one of the most educated in the world, with over 100,000 students enrolled in university and college and growing.

It’s home to one of the top 5 Artificial Intelligence (AI) research centres in the world, ground-breaking medical advances, and emerging industries like agri-tech, cleantech, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology and alternative energy. The University of Alberta continues to put the Edmonton Metropolitan Region on a global stage with new research and inventions in almost every field imaginable.

“In the past, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region has never had a focused and collaborative approach to raising our profile around the world,” added Houston. “Today, we’re changing that. We’re getting aggressive. We’re targeting investment across a number of key sectors where we have great strengths and believe we can win.” The sectors Edmonton Global is focusing on are agriculture and food, energy and clean tech, health and life sciences, and manufacturing and advanced manufacturing. “One of the things that powers each of these sectors is artificial intelligence,” continued Houston. “The strengths in AI and machine learning born from the U of A and now being adopted in other industries, we’ve a unique story to tell. From Spruce Grove’s standpoint, we need to make sure we’re in this as well and are actively supporting local businesses to stay, expand, be attractive to outside investment, and increase trade with the world. We’re really well positioned to take advantage of what’s being done across the region, but we can’t sit back.” Every mayor and council in attendance from across the region expressed as similar stance as Houston. “We’ve got to be aggressive and look for ways to be more competitive, make it easier for businesses to invest and grow.”

To compete on an international stage, Edmonton Global stresses the importance of supporting a national message as well.

“As a country, Canada is putting a higher priority on attracting investment. And while the organization, Invest in Canada and a set of new federal policy and programs are still quite new, last year Canada hit a 3-year high of over $51 billion in foreign direct investment,” said Bruce.

Free trade agreements and the right infrastructure give the Edmonton Metropolitan Region access to the rest of the world, whether it’s by air, rail, highways, or a 373,000km pipeline network. The region has the largest airport in Canada by area and rail connections to 170 countries via the Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert—the deepest port in North America and the closest port to Asia.

Lifestyle and low tax rates are another plus. The region has arts and culture, food, nature and short commute times. It’s also less than a day’s drive from the Rocky Mountains.

What’s next? The Edmonton Global team has expertise in strategy and innovation, business development, research and market intelligence to help businesses looking to invest here.

Houston’s final thoughts, “It’s about sharing a common message: The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is young, educated, and growing. It’s time for us to be unapologetically aggressive and proactive about who we are as a community. We’ve got the song sheet. Now it’s time to find a common voice.”

Wild Blue Yonder: How Latium’s tech boosts safety and efficiency in heavy industry

While Canada’s heavy industry was busy employing thousands and keeping Canada’s economic engine moving, there was one thing the sector still needed: the next generation of technologies to keep up with its unique fleet and safety needs.

Enter Latium: a group of companies with a tech division providing tools to industry that help them see beyond just equipment by using real-time data to solve problems like safety, downtime, inventory, rework and energy consumption, to name a few.

Located in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, Latium has become the go-to solutions provider for multi-billion dollar companies like Suncor, Enbridge, and the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Their solution is called Yonder: a platform that pulls data from wireless sensors deployed across a job site, analyses and decodes it, and sends it to a user interface where it organizes the data for easy client viewing. This gives companies a birds-eye view of their fleet operations by tracking and monitoring driver behaviour, idle time, energy consumption, and potential vandalism, as examples.

Yonder,  a technology that pulls data from wireless sensors for heavy industry

Latium’s technology is part of what is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (lIoT): a network of intelligent computers and devices that collect and share huge amounts of data. Accessing this data in one user-friendly space takes the guesswork out of identifying issues so businesses can get working on fixes. Latium has been a trailblazer in this space, creating solutions that didn’t exist before for heavy industry.  

“We weren’t happy with what the market was providing so we started developing our own technologies. We needed certain data and functionality for our clients, and 10 years ago we began developing technologies, starting with the challenge of driver behaviour to reduce fatalities and accidents. We then created a brand new concept, growing the model,” said Lori Pecorilli, co-founder and president of Latium.

By combining technology with 24/7 monitoring and reporting and using big data, accident data and information on driver use, companies using Latium’s technology were able to eliminate driver fatalities and the need for workers to enter hazardous areas to retrieve data. Yonder is also rugged— built to withstand harsh Canadian winters and remote worksites. It also works with multi-communications platforms like WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, radio, satellite and more — important features for assets in huge mining and industrial operations.

With Latium’s help, Suncor — a major player in Canada’s oilsands — was able to improve the performance of their shovels by 30%, a huge win for productivity. The sensors can be used to monitor equipment and assets on remote and non-remote job sites in any industry, turning job sites into “smart sites.”

Lori Pecorilli, co-founder and president of Latium

Latium credits the Edmonton Metropolitan Region with creating the right ecosystem for innovation and the development of fast-paced tech solutions.

“We have an advantage working in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region because we are trained by the fast-paced energy sector,” says Pecorilli. “Businesses here know how to move and pivot quickly. On the tech side, we benefit from a lot of local, government-based support and are able to hire some great skillsets, either from universities or other diverse demographics.”

What’s next for Latium? The company has set its sights on international markets, including West Africa, South Africa, Mexico and the Silicon Valley.

Alberta Innovates, IRAP, EDC (Economic Development Canada), the Alberta Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Business Development Canada (BDC) and the University of Alberta have all collaborated with Latium, showing that regional partnerships also play a role in helping support investment and the creation of emerging technologies in the region.

Learn more about Latium’s innovative technologies here: https://www.thelatiumgroup.com/

Robotic Arms: Amii and BLINC team up to improve quality of life after limb loss

Transformation starts with learning. That’s a slogan tied to the idea of innovation, and what better place to embody this idea than the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii).

Founded in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region in 2002, one of Amii’s focuses is health care. They fund a plethora of health-related research, including the development of improved prosthetic limbs, the creation of new tools to diagnose tuberculosis, and the use of patient data to improve diabetes treatment.

Through these and other projects, the institute uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve the lives of people the world over.

Amii’s collaboration with the University of Alberta-based Bionic Limbs for Improved Natural Control (BLINC) Lab on the Adaptive Prosthetics Program uses real-time machine learning methods for assistive rehabilitation and intelligent artificial limbs.

Another centre of innovation, BLINC Lab brings together researchers and clinicians to advance prosthetic care through robotics and machine learning.

HANDi Hand, a creation from BLINC Lab and Amii

Working directly with patients and clinicians, the program developed technologies including the Bento Arm and the HANDi Hand — 2 types of intelligent artificial limbs that use machine learning to help patients regain their full range of motion and ability.

Asking patients to test the technology is critical so real-world tasks can be analyzed to provide relevant solutions outside of a lab.

The work of Amii and BLINC Lab are game-changers for people looking to regain human motion after experiencing limb loss. A forward-thinking and influential organization, they collaborate with other sectors to produce innovations in the health space and beyond.

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