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Author: Michael Brown

This article first appeared in the August 26, 2020 issue of Folio

U of A researchers develop tool to help build better prosthetic limbs

(Photo: Getty Images)

Neuroscientists look into the complex physical and mental co-ordination needed for seemingly simple movements.

Prosthetic users have to look longer at the object they are interacting with than their able-bodied counterparts, according to University of Alberta research that illustrates just one of the intricacies involved in devising the next generation of prosthetic limbs.

“There are prosthetic devices becoming available that are almost indistinguishable from real limbs, but the real problem is, if you think about how many different ways you can move your hand, each one of those would need a separate channel of information,” said Craig Chapman, a U of A movement neuroscientist in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation.

“They’ve engineered these beautiful hands, but it’s very difficult to control them.”

Chapman and his team, which includes Jacqueline Hebert, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry working to bring osseointegration surgery—the permanent anchorage of artificial limbs to the human skeleton—to the U of A, are interested in the kinds of movement decisions and the numerous computations we don’t think about when we reach out to do something as simple as grabbing a doorknob to open the door. 

To help dissect the processes behind each movement, Chapman mainly uses motion and eye tracking to gather data needed to understand what’s going on inside the brain.

“We thought, ‘Hey, if we return a sense of touch to people, maybe that’s the first thing that will be freed up—maybe they won’t necessarily move differently, but maybe their eyes will tell us a story about how much extra information they can process,’” said Chapman, who is also a member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute. “That’s really the hypothesis we’ve been chasing for about five years now.”

Chapman and his team devised a tool called Gaze and Movement Assessment, or GaMA, as a way to track both body and eye movements, and put it all into a meaningful three-dimensional space.

Users are fitted with a head-mounted eye tracker that fits like a pair of glasses. At the same time, motion capture markers are placed on the upper limb being tracked, as well as on any other body parts of interest, like the head or torso.

They are then asked to perform two simple tasks that mimic chores prosthetic limb users would encounter in the real world. One is grabbing a box of Kraft Dinner and then moving it to three different shelf positions. A second has subjects moving around a cup filled with beads.

“And while they sound like simple tasks, because they were designed with a clinician and occupational therapist, they challenge prosthetic users in unique ways,” said Chapman.

“Getting them to do the movement consistently is what allows us to look at averages and determine what part of a particular movement is so difficult.”

Measures of hand movement, angular joint kinematics and eye gaze were compared with those from a different sampling of non-disabled adults who had previously performed the same protocol with different technology.

The research showed that the prosthetic limb user will continue to look at the device and the object, whereas able-bodied individuals look ahead to where they’re going to put it down.

“Their eyes are free to go to the next place and start planning a successful movement,” he said.

Chapman said his studies show that participants will often overcompensate to complete the task. For example, users of a body-powered prosthetic—a cable-driven device that allows the user to open or close the device using different body motions—put extra strain on their shoulder and trunk because they have limited degrees of freedom at the wrist.

“They will adapt their body to finish the movement, but maybe they’re doing it in a way that might eventually cause some sort of fatigue injury.”

He added, “If they’ve been able to successfully navigate their world and do the things they want to do for everyday living, it’s possible that an advanced prosthetic limb will actually interfere with that, and you just don’t know.”

Chapman noted that the broader impact outside of prosthetic limbs for GaMA is that it could help fill knowledge gaps in any number of sensory motor impairments.

“If you imagine someone who’s developing a tremor because they have Parkinson’s, had a stroke or are aging, and is learning to recover their motor function … we think we can actually tap into some underlying mechanisms to find out what precisely it is that they’re having an impairment with.”

COVID-19 continues to spark growth for Edmonton education tech firm

Showbie looks to scale hybrid learning – raises $5 million in a Series A round led by Vancouver-based Rhino ventures.

There are not a lot of businesses right now that would say that the pandemic helped to shift the market in their favour, but that is exactly what has continued to happen for Edmonton region EdTech firm Showbie. Since the global shift to online classrooms it has become apparent that there is a real need for digital tools that improve student and teacher engagement for online learning. This shift has created massive potential in the EdTech space.

“The massive change in education due to COVID-19 and the global market reaction to use digital tools was a rallying cry for us that we had to help – with Rhino’s support, we will be able to make a positive impact on student success during this period and beyond,” said Colin Bramm, co-founder and CEO of Showbie.

Lucky for Colin and the Showbie team, they have the experience and connections to be global players.

“Central to every investment is our conviction that we are backing the winning team in a market that has a venture scale problem,” said Jay Rhind, partner at Rhino Ventures. “Colin and the Showbie team are pioneers of hybrid learning environments in a time when educators and students alike need its solution”.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic more than 3 million teachers in 136 countries found the Showbie products invaluable in their shift to online learning. Since then this Edmonton-based tech company continues to expand its reach.  

Over the summer Showbie has accomplished a number of other milestones worth mentioning including:

  • Hiring a new VP of Learning, Adul Chohan
  • Introducing the Showbie Pro Plus package
  • Launching video chat function, along with a number of other tools to its enhanced features

“We are always looking for ways to improve the tools that educators can use in the classroom,” says Colin. “We really consider the relationships that develop between a teacher and their students, which can be undermined on an online platform. Our product allows teachers to give rich feedback to their students and this leads to better engagement and communication.”

Colin Bramm, Showbie co-founder and CEO

According to Allan Gauld, who was working as an account executive with Apple in 2012, promoting Apple products to schools in Alberta when he first met Colin, the Showbie team have always been thinking one step ahead.

“In those early days, some people had a hard time understanding where the iPad would fit into a classroom and were even unsure if the product would be successful,” said Allan. “The ability of Colin to be forward thinking enough to recognize the potential that these technologies had for learners, to see where the gaps existed, and to create solutions to address these gaps really demonstrates how the Showbie team has always been forward-thinking.”

This forward-thinking continues to serve Showbie well as they look to continue to scale their business even further.

As for Allan, he’s continued to keep an eye on what Colin and his team are doing as they’ve scaled their business and expanded their network to include a global community in the education space. 

“They’ve come a long way from where they started in 2012,” said Allan. “But I firmly believe that for Colin, the best is yet to come. He has the ability to build meaningful connections with people who share his vision and he’s successfully leveraged those relationships to build advocates for his product all over the globe.”

EdTech is an industry that has seen significant growth during the pandemic. According to a recent Crunchbase report, global venture funding for EdTech companies reached $4.1 billion between January and July 2020. That’s $1.5 billion more than was raised during the same period in 2019, and the highest amount raised in that time frame for the past five years.

You can read more about Showbie here.

TransPod signs deal with Alberta to develop hyperloop track connecting Edmonton, Calgary

Image credit: TransPod

Toronto-based AutoTech startup TransPod has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the provincial government of Alberta to support the development of a high-speed Hyperloop track connecting the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.

The proposed multi-billion-dollar project would be based on TransPod’s fossil-fuel-free and fully electric Hyperloop vehicle, which is currently being developed to carry passengers and cargo between cities at a speed of over 1,000 km/h.

The MOU with the Alberta government represents the first such agreement TransPod has signed with a public body. In 2019, the startup submitted a proposal asking for a letter of support from the UCP government that committed to a full line being built between the two Alberta cities if smaller tests were successful. The province’s previous NDP government had allocated 10 kilometres of land between Calgary and Edmonton for TransPod to build a test track.

CEO Sebastien Gendron said the startup estimates the total cost of the project to be between $6 and $10 billion.

Notably, the agreement does not involve any “financial commitments or endorsements” from the province. The MOU is focused around the Alberta government helping TransPod study the feasibility of its technology in the province; this includes sharing transportation data, working with TransPod to find suitable land that can accommodate a test track, and participating in discussions with potential investors.

“Alberta’s leadership mindset and partnership with TransPod firmly places it at the cutting edge of transportation innovation,” said Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO of TransPod. “Through this strategic agreement, that secures the province’s economic future without having to commit any taxpayer dollars, the government of Alberta is investing in improving growth and quality of life in the region.”

Rendering of a TransPod Hyperloop ‘pod’

Alberta’s Minister of Transportation Ric McIver told BetaKit that when TransPod reached out to the Alberta government he found the idea intriguing.

“The TransPod folks came to see me and basically said they’re interested in not just talking about a TransPod but actually building one,” said McIver. “It’s a new technology, and part of our government’s goal is to make a place where new technologies are welcome.”

According to the Alberta Innovation Corridor, a group made up of several Alberta innovation organizations, 90 percent of the province’s tech talent and companies are located in Calgary and Edmonton.​ Gendron called the innovation corridor between Calgary and Edmonton a good place for a hyperloop as the track would be located within one province between cities with similar geography.

Founded in 2015 in Toronto, TransPod is developing its own Hyperloop technology, which the startup claims can significantly reduce the cost of development, increase reliability, and improve the operational performance of a Hyperloop transit system. The Hyperloop would be powered by solar and electric energy. TransPod’s technology is hoped to reduce the need for short-haul flights, therefore reducing carbon emissions.

TransPod is not alone in its pursuit of making Hyperloop a reality, with the Canadian startup coming up against the likes of Virgin Hyperloop, which touts itself as “the only company in the world that has successfully tested hyperloop technology at scale.” Virgin Hyperloop has ongoing projects in the United States, Europe, Saudia Arabia, Dubai, and India.

After raising a $20 million CAD seed round in 2016, TransPod opened offices in Canada and France. In early 2019, the startup announced plans to build a three-kilometre track in France to research and test its technology. The test track is currently under construction, though Gendron told BetaKit the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays. Currently half of TransPod’s 15-person team works out of the test location in France. TransPod also has an R&D centre in Italy. Gendron told BetaKit that last year the European Union approved €30 million in subsidies for the startup, which it uses for R&D activities at its two European locations.

Since announcing the France track, the startup has also expressed interest in building tracks from Toronto to Windsor and Toronto to Montreal. TransPod has submitted proposals to the Government of Ontario and told BetaKit it is expecting to hear from the provincial body regarding the tracks. The startup also has proposals in other jurisdictions in Europe and the US. Gendron said he expects the MOU with Alberta to accelerate those decisions.

The concept of a Hyperloop transit system has been described by some as implausible, given the high costs of installation. Musk has estimated a California Hyperloop would cost $17 million USD per mile. Nicholas McLean, an engineer at the University of Queensland, argued the cost of the system would be roughly 10 times larger than Musk’s initial prediction.

Rendering of what a TransPod Hyperloop system could look like in Toronto

According to TransPod’s feasibility study on a potential track connecting Toronto and Windsor, Ont., released in April 2019, the cost to build a TransPod hyperloop line would be 50 percent less than the projected cost of a high-speed railway. Approximately 80 percent of the technology needed for a Hyperloop track already exists, Gendron said, noting that it is based on innovations in the aerospace and railway industries.

TransPod estimates the total cost of the Calgary, Edmonton project to be between $6 and $10 billion. Rather than relying on public money, TransPod plans to raise the financing for the project from large, institutional investors. Gendron said the startup has been in discussion with Canada’s major pension funds such as OMERS, and financial institutions such as SoftBank, on securing investment. TransPod is hoping to secure its first investment within 12 months.

“People sometimes have a hard time believing that something can work until it’s actually in front of their eyes,” Gendron said. The CEO called Alberta’s support a step in the right direction to convincing those who were skeptical of the technology.

Another step in that direction includes a newly formed joint committee created by a group of European countries in February of this year. The initiative, called JTC 20, is touted as the first collaboration of its sort and is tasked with creating international standards of a Hyperloop transportation system. TransPod was among four Hyperloop companies chosen to participate.

This MOU represents the first such agreement TransPod has signed with a public body.

In March 2019, Transport Canada commissioned its own study into the Hyperloop to better understand the technical, operational, economic, safety, and regulatory aspects of the technology. The results of that study have yet to be released. Ryan Janzen, co-founder and CTO of TransPod said the startup’s goal is to position Canada at a similar level of leadership in high-speed transportation as was achieved in the space race.

The race towards Hyperloop appears to be on, with the US House of Representatives passing multiple provisions in July and directing a technical group to provide a clear regulatory framework for the safe deployment of Hyperloop within six months.

“We always said that Canada likes to be the first to be second, and we’re making a point that this is a wrong statement,” Grendon told BetaKit. “Canada can be first in new technology developments. We’ve done that in the past, and we can do it again.”

The timeline for development of the Alberta Hyperloop is set to be rolled out by TransPod in four phases. The first phase will be a two-year feasibility study from 2020 to 2022, with a research and development phase from 2020 to 2024. The construction of a test track would then begin between 2022 and 2027. TransPod told BetaKit it is hoping to begin the construction of a full intercity line between Edmonton and Calgary in 2025.

“I think with any new technology, there’s an element of making it up as you go along,” Minister McIver noted to BetaKit. “On the other hand, [we plan to] use the things that we’ve learned over the years through regulation on railroads, buses, and public transit… so there will be an element of using the knowledge we have from the technologies that are in place.”

Image source TransPod

Alberta’s plant-based food sector receives federal support


Parliamentary Secretary Terry Duguid announces more than $2.6 million to help Alberta businesses grow and create jobs

August 12, 2020 – Edmonton, AB – Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD)

Canada’s farmers and agri-food producers have been hit hard by COVID-19. The Government of Canada has taken significant action to help them through this difficult period, and is committed to giving them the tools they need to be part of our economic recovery and emerge stronger and more competitive than before. Innovation is essential to making this a reality, which is why the government is working closely with producers and organizations to help them create jobs and increase production.

Federal support to help agri-food companies develop new products, create jobs

Today, Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), announced more than $2.6 million in federal funding for the Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc, Alberta.

This investment will support the installation of equipment specifically focused on supporting companies to develop new plant-based foods and products. Plant-based foods represent a significant economic opportunity for western Canadian firms seeking to meet growing global and consumer demands for protein-rich foods that are healthy and environmentally sustainable. With Western Canada already producing high-protein pulse crops such as peas, lentils, and chickpeas, the goal of this initiative is to enable agri-food producers to turn these crops into higher value ingredients or finished products before exporting them to markets around the globe.

Operated by the Government of Alberta, the Food Processing Development Centre is a fully equipped pilot plant and product development facilityIt is staffed with experienced food scientists, engineers, and technologists who work with businesses to develop and fine-tune their products. Over the next four years, Government of Canada support will enable the Centre to assist approximately 100 small- and medium-sized companies, and potentially bring up to 30 new products to market.

“Agriculture is a critical piece in Alberta’s Recovery Plan which aims to attract more than $1.4 billion in value-added processing. This investment will enhance the Food Processing Development Centre, which is staffed with experienced food scientists, engineers and technologists who work with entrepreneurs to develop and fine-tune their products, ultimately strengthening and expanding the capability of Alberta’s food processors to meet the challenges of the marketplace. Alberta fully recognizes the value of the Centre and has invested more than $100 million since 1984. We welcome this funding from the federal government which will support Alberta’s plan to attract investment by focusing on sustainable growth and diversity in our crop and food production sectors, while creating stable jobs for Albertans at a time when they need it most.”
– Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

Hiring: Director of Research and Business Intelligence

Opportunity

Edmonton Global is seeking a Director of Research and Business Intelligence to join our team.

Purpose and Reporting Structure of the Role

The Director of Research and Business Intelligence is a member of the Investment and Trade team and reports directly to the Vice President, Investment and Trade with the key responsibility of producing research and reports that target, attract and facilitate new investment in the Edmonton Region. The Director of Research and Business Intelligence is expected to contribute ideas to the continuous improvement of team performance, technical systems, and business processes, supporting to further Edmonton Global’s mission to grow capital investment in the region.  

This keystone position supports several organizational initiatives, such as reporting, benchmarking, business plan implementation, marketing and promotion. 

This role description is intended primarily as an illustration of the type of deliverables expected and nature of work to be performed from the person in this position. The omission of specific duties does not exclude them if they are similar, related or logical assignments in support of Edmonton Global’s objectives. Specific qualifications, requirements and responsibilities of the role are listed below.

Responsibilities

  • Manage Edmonton Global’s inventory of data (regional data lake), including keeping data sets current and accurate as well as assisting with maintaining and improving internal systems used in this process. Examples of market data include commercial real estate, taxes, demographics, cost of living, business location costs, and workforce and labor statistics, including site selection tools and databases 
  • Support business development activities which include identifying prospective investors (lead generation), responding to investor inquiries, support investor aftercare activities, develop M&A strategies  
  • Lead in the development of performance metrics and KPI’s for regional analysis and Scorecard/benchmarking  
  • Serve as the main point of contact for general research requests from external stakeholders providing excellent customer service by responding in a timely and professional manner. Stakeholders include investors, Government partners and elected officials, community partners, and more 
  • In coordination with the business development director, serve as a champion of Edmonton Global’s CRM Systems, Site Selection tools and RFP Requests. Maintain high-level knowledge of these systems and support both staff and regional economic development partners with system training, reports and data entry as needed 
  • Identify, evaluate and potentially implement new research tools, vendors, or software and provide recommendations as needed 
  • Build and maintain relationships with, and knowledge of, research resources and community partners through participation in various economic development, business and investment/FDI and research forums 
  • Develop strategic plans to support regional advantages, programs and initiatives that will facilitate new capital investment, technology, job creation and business growth 
  • Lead a team of research analysts (2) 
  • Maintain regular contact with site selectors and other professional sales channels that will advance Edmonton Global’s objectives around investment attraction and trade 
  • Work with the Investment & Trade team to identify industry opportunities that may complement new investments and target potential investors based upon existing market conditions 
  • Identify regional, provincial or federal funding and incentive programs that support Edmonton Global’s objectives, especially related to research and market intelligence 
  • Develop information and databases to ensure that potential investors have significant and compelling data to support a decision to locate in the region 
  • Participate in the development of research, benchmarking and comparative site data to promote the value proposition for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region
  • Respond to requests for information and assistance with respect to programs and opportunities 
  • Maintain key relationships with the development, commercial real estate and site selection community to further the region’s recruitment objectives 
  • Coordinate with local, provincial and federal agencies to identify appropriate support for new venture and opportunities 

Qualifications

The successful candidate will be an adaptive and dynamic individual comfortable working in a fast-paced organization and embody Edmonton Global’s core values: integrity, collaborative, empowered, transformative, and invested.   

The following skills, experiences and aptitudes will also be required. 

Education and Experience 

  • A graduate degree (Masters, MBA or equivalent) in business, economics or finance or related field  
  • A professional Degree or certification such as CFA or CAP is desirable
  • 5 to 10 years of professional experience in economic development, investment attraction, business, finance or economics research 
  • Knowledge of the use of foresight tools for advanced strategic planning would be a strong advantage 
  • Proficiency with computer skills in Microsoft Word, Excel & Power Point in a Windows environment 
  • Proficiency and knowledge of business management and opportunity analysis 
  • Knowledge of Municipal, Provincial and Federal Acts, Regulations and Standards related to Planning and Economic Development, investment and trade  
  • Experience working effectively and discreetly with all levels of staff, board members, shareholders, partners and the public

Skills and Knowledge

  • Possess a positive attitude, be a team player, self-motivated with an entrepreneurial drive and adaptable to change 
  • Leadership Skills demonstrating forward-looking leadership style while providing guidance and support to staff. A mentor and positive role model combined with a practical, collaborative and common-sense approach and expertise in issues management. 
  • Strong interpersonal skills combined with demonstrated project/time management, organizational, analytical, research communication (written, oral), report writing, negotiation, administrative, problem-solving, public relations and public speaking 
  • Ability to provide exceptional customer service to both internal and external stakeholders while maintaining a high level of professionalism 
  • Ability to think and act strategically in a political and community service environment, and to foster and contribute to a positive, productive work environment 
  • Ability to learn various software applications/platforms and gain technical skills as needed 
  • Outstanding analytical skills with the ability to develop analytical models related to economic development and investment attraction 
  • Multi-task oriented, with the ability to prioritize a robust workload and meet multiple deadlines 
  • Excellent organizational and proofing skills with strong attention to detail, including report writing 
  • Excellent communication skills in English, additional languages are an asset 
  • A future-oriented perspective with an international scope 

Requirements of the Position

  • A valid driver’s license in good standing  
  • A valid passport as travel regionally, nationally and internationally may be required 

Compensations

Will be competitive and based on skills and experience. 

Application Process

Please email us at aborman@edmontonglobal.ca noting “Application: Director of Research and Business Intelligence” in the subject line, with your cover letter and resume attached by Wednesday, August 26 at Noon.   

We thank all applicants for their interest, but only short-listed applicants will be contacted. If you have questions about the process or the position, please contact our Office Manager at aborman@edmontonglobal.ca.  

Edmonton Global is an equal opportunity employer and we value the diversity of people and communities. We are committed to an environment that is inclusive and barrier free. If you require accommodation during the hiring process, please inform us in advance to arrange reasonable and appropriate accommodations. 

FunnelAI Announces Global Expansion and AI Business Development Strategy Through a Partnership with Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute

FunnelAI

The industry’s leading real-time artificial intelligence (AI) semantic search platform provider, FunnelAI, located in Texas, USA, has partnered with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), in Edmonton, Canada to expedite FunnelAI’s high-tech innovation and growth to fuel their complex AI solutions for global expansion.

AUSTIN, Texas (PRWEB) August 06, 2020

FunnelAI, the industry’s first real-time B2B SaaS artificial intelligence (AI) based semantic search platform announced a new collaboration with Amii, a global leader in AI research and development. This strategic partnership will expedite FunnelAI’s innovative and unique AI platform development through guidance and support from Amii’s leading-edge research and development capabilities in the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP).

This partnership was a strategic initiative for FunnelAI, championed by one of the co-founders, Suja Kamma, who is a Canadian and an alumni of University of Alberta. Her experience in healthcare and strategy, and her experience understanding, developing, and implementing AI business tools was critical for FunnelAI in solidifying such a strategic partnership. This collaboration expedites FunnelAI’s global expansion to Canada and other countries.

“I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Amii, a leader in machine learning, to build a thriving global business with a machine learning ecosystem. Our AI platform will initially benefit the automotive industry, both dealerships and OEMs, with strategic plans to expand in to other industries,” said Sri Kamma, co-founder and CEO of FunnelAI.

The COVID-19 pandemic, has shown a need for automated and intelligent, yet simple solutions. FunnelAI, supported by Amii, will work to accelerate the development of state-of-the-art technologies for the automotive industry and will later expand to real estate, financial sectors, and other industries.

“Our partnership with Amii will be pivotal to FunnelAI’s growth, productivity, and technological advancement,” stated Srujana Bobba, CTO of FunnelAI. “Together, we will create new, revolutionary business solutions.”

Amii supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning and translates scientific advancement into industry adoption. Amii grows AI capabilities through advancing leading-edge research, delivering exceptional educational offerings and providing business advice – all with the goal of building in-house AI capabilities. As part of the FunnelAI partnership, Amii is supporting talent recruitment and development. FunnelAI has expanded its technical team in the Edmonton-region, with plans for continued growth under Amii’s mentorship.

“Now more than ever, our partners need advice to build their internal AI capabilities. Our collaboration with FunnelAI focuses on creating the best possible environment to move their plans for AI product development forward at a rapid pace,” says Cam Linke, CEO of Amii. “Working closely with FunnelAI, our team of project managers, scientists and educators will provide business guidance and scientific mentorship to help define and validate machine learning opportunities, mentor and guide internships, and support FunnelAI in attracting and developing its technical team. I look forward to seeing the incredible opportunities our partnership affords our region and AI ecosystem in the months to come. “

FunnelAI’s real-time AI platform solutions include:

  • Products that harness the power of digital communications to bring not only the information, but the intent, of digital conversations from over 3,000 social platforms and forums in real-time. Providing businesses with opportunities to engage with qualified consumers that have expressed a high purchase intent.
  • Products that understand a consumer’s life cycle events and then provide businesses the information and ability to proactively engage in real-time based on specific life events to ensure the right communication at the right time. This level of engagement and connection will build relationships and increase retention.
  • Products that provide analytics and market intelligence for automotive dealerships, businesses, and OEMs; including market dynamics, brand awareness, competition placement, product feedback, online reputation, and prospective and current customer profile management and analysis.

About FunnelAI:
FunnelAI is a Texas-based B2B Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform provider offering the industry’s first and most intelligent real-time semantic search, discovery, and engagement platform. Its mission is to increase growth opportunities and provide market intelligence for businesses by pushing the boundaries of technology using big and open data for next-generation conversational marketing and sales solutions. FunnelAI’s true AI-based, deep learning, and machine-language technology maximizes business processes by identifying consumers and personalized-content that allows businesses to engage with consumers with high-purchase intentions in real-time; and to understand the intent of social communications to ensure businesses can be proactive in repeated engagement. FunnelAI’s Natural Language Processing Technology won the Innovator of the Year award by globally renowned AI Tech World in 2019. To learn more, please visit https://www.funnelai.com

About Amii:
One of Canada’s three centers of AI excellence as part of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Amii (the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) is an Alberta-based non-profit institute that supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning and translates scientific advancement into industry adoption. Amii grows AI capabilities through advancing leading-edge research, delivering exceptional educational offerings and providing business advice – all with the goal of building in-house AI capabilities. For more information, visit https://www.amii.ca.

Trademarks: FunnelAI™, Aingine™ and Ottolytics™ are the registered trademarks of FunnelAI, Inc.

FunnelAI Media Contact:
Esme Araiza
press@funnelai.com

Granify – Powering the world’s biggest brands

Jeff Lawrence, CEO, Granify

Edmonton region e-commerce giant uses big data to predict the future

More than 3 billion shopper sessions and $10 billion in sales were optimized by the Granify platform in the last year alone. The numbers are staggering and Jeff Lawrence, founder and CEO of Granify, has proven the value that data and behavioural science can bring to e-commerce. 

Granify is an e-commerce optimization platform based in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region that uses data science to predict consumer behaviour and increase purchases. Their software looks at over 500 data points every second, compares that to the behavior of billions of shoppers and translates that data into information that can predict the future. 

“All shoppers visiting an e-commerce website have an agenda,” says Jeff. “Whether it’s to make a purchase or to explore options, everyone comes with a desired outcome. Granify uses digital clues such as scroll speed, products and images viewed, mouse movements and even hesitations to anticipate consumer behaviour and respond accordingly. The amount of information — and the value we derive for our clients from that information —  is incredible.”

The Granify technology, or what Jeff refers to as the “Granify Brain”, can predict a customer’s likeliness to buy, give insight into the reasons for their hesitation and can then address these concerns and help move the customer along the journey to making a final purchase decision.

Granify’s origin story

A self-proclaimed “data geek”, Jeff came up with the vision behind Granify in 2006.

“I’ve been fascinated by data for at least 20 years”, says Jeff. “Early on, I saw the potential for using massive amounts of data to predict and even influence behaviours in consumers. Nobody was really using the vast amount of data that was being collected. I believed that there was a way to use that data to personalize the customer experience.”

At that time the technology did not yet exist to support his vision but in 2011, while Jeff was studying at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, he saw what other organizations were starting to do with big data innovations and knew the time had come to explore his vision. Others told him that what he was envisioning couldn’t be done but Jeff refused to believe them and continued to move forward.

In 2012, Jeff returned to Edmonton to build his team and the first version of Granify was released on the Shopify platform. 

“Originally, I thought about founding this company in Silicon Valley,” says Jeff. “It made a lot of sense. Certainly, no region comes close to matching the amount of technical talent that exists there. But as I spoke to other tech entrepreneurs who were working in that region, I saw a lot of challenges too. There was frustration surrounding the ability to retain talent. There was a high degree of turnover in a lot of those organizations.”

Going where the talent is and building something new

Talent is the lifeblood of any organization and the ability to both attract and retain talent can make the difference in any company’s long-term success. Jeff knew that the University of Alberta had one of the best data science programs in North America, so he decided to go where the talent was.

“I also saw the opportunity to help build something new in the Edmonton region”, says Jeff. “At that time, the tech industry was just starting to emerge, and rather than pile on to what was already happening in Silicon Valley, I was attracted to the idea of being part of building something from the ground up. As a father of two young children, I also saw the benefits of raising a family in the Edmonton region and helping to create a lasting impact in this industry which could continue to yield benefits for the next generation.”

Jeff has seen the region’s attractiveness translate into employee retention in real life.

“We’ve recruited talent from as far as India and South Africa and since relocating, these team members have fallen in love with the Edmonton region,” says Jeff. “The welcoming nature of our region, along with the safety and prosperity that exists here, make it a very attractive place to live.” 

Some members of the Granify team

Jeff’s decision to bet on the Edmonton region for Granify’s success has certainly paid off. Granify has been named one of Alberta’s 25 most innovative companies, Top Digital Startup and Best E-Commerce Solution. They’ve been featured in Inc magazine, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Cool Companies, Reuters, and many other publications. 

Jeff has a lot to brag about when it comes to Granify – they provide hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental sales to their clients – but Jeff talks about more intangible things when discussing Granify’s success. 

“It all comes down to the people.” says Jeff. “And the Edmonton region has some of the best people. They truly are our competitive advantage. Everyone on our team is intelligent, hardworking, they care about the work they are doing, and they collaborate and work together to build something truly amazing. And above all that, they’re genuinely awesome humans. 

In the last 5 years or so, I’ve seen a real purposeful push in the region, to build community within the tech sector. I have a good network of support from other tech leaders working in this region. Sometimes we’re competing for talent, but at the end of the day, if I’m struggling with something, I can reach out to this network, I can meet another CEO for coffee, and we can support each other.”

$58 MILLION ANNOUNCED FOR NATURAL GAS INNOVATIONS WORTH $155 MILLION

ERA supports 20 projects that create jobs, attract investment, and reduce emissions

Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to better measure and locate methane emissions, and prototyping new approaches to convert natural gas to hydrogen, are two of 20 technology innovations that will receive funding from the Government of Alberta through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA).

Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon, and Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity, Dale Nally, announced the finalists of the Natural Gas Challenge with ERA CEO, Steve MacDonald, on Tuesday, July  21, 2020, at the opening of the Maximizing Funding Potential Workshop, presented by ERA and Alberta Innovates.

ERA is committing $58.4 million for 20 projects worth $155 million. Funding for ERA’s challenges comes from the carbon price paid by Large Final Emitters in Alberta through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund.

“Today’s announcement by the Government of Alberta supports investment attraction, job creation, and economic growth. Some projects  will have an immediate impact by improving the performance of the natural gas sector’s existing operations and others are accelerating transformative opportunities, like hydrogen production, that can change the face of the industry.”

Steve MacDonald, CEO, ERA

The Natural Gas Challenge was launched in October 2019 and was open to projects involving technologies at the pilot, demonstration, or first-of-kind commercial deployment stages. ERA’s selection committee reviewed 117 submissions and of these, twenty projects were selected based on their potential to unlock innovation across Alberta’s natural gas value chain, from production to the end consumer.

Projects announced include:

UPSTREAM

MultiSensor Canada Inc.

Methane Imaging Solution for Continuous Leak Detection and Quantification for Tank Emissions and Facility Monitoring
Total project value: $3,200,000 | ERA commitment: $1,600,000
Permanent installation and demonstration of an infrared camera at 100 well sites to provide continuous leak detection and quantification for tank emissions and facility monitoring.

Qube Technologies

Emissions Reductions Through Artificial Intelligence
Total project value: $16,200,000 | ERA commitment: $4,000,000
Deployment of an industrial device designed to collect large quantities of data to use artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to better quantify, locate, and classify emissions.

University of Calgary

UCalgary-Canadian Natural Fugitive Emissions Pilot Study: Field-Scale Deployment and Acceleration of Made-In-Alberta Technology for Fugitive Emissions Detection and Reduction
Total project value: $3,200,000 | ERA commitment: $1,600,000
Full-scale, field pilot of a new vehicle-based technology designed for equipment-level emissions screening to support effective regulatory leak detection and repair.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited

Canadian Natural Fugitive Emissions Study Using Aerial Detection Technology
Total project value: $1,900,000 | ERA commitment: $927,000
Pilot project of both aerial screening technology and ground-based detection at conventional oil and gas facilities to validate technology performance and inform a broader Alternative Fugitive Emissions Management Program (FEMP).

Challenger Technical Services

Multi Component Downhole Injection System
Total project value: $2,600,000 | ERA commitment: $1,000,000
Development, testing, and validation of a multicomponent downhole injection system that uses epoxy resins to rapidly seal leaking oil and gas wells and eliminate surface casing vent flow.

Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC)

Affordable Zero-Emission Fail-Safe Electric Dump Valve Actuator (EDVA) Phase 2
Total project value: $2,200,000| ERA commitment: $550,000
Applied research, prototype design and development, and field pilot testing of an electrically-driven valve actuator that is more compact, powerful, and lower maintenance than alternative pneumatic options.

Kinitics Automation Limited

Kinitics Valve Actuator for Gas Producers
Total project value: $1,100,000 | ERA commitment: $552,000
Testing a novel electric actuator at 15 well sites in Alberta to validate the technology as a cost effective, technically viable alternative to eliminate venting from established pneumatic devices.

Westgen Technologies Inc.

Unlocking EPOD Economic Zero Bleed Pneumatic Instrument Air Retrofit Solution
Total project value: $4,000,000 | ERA commitment: $1,300,000
Demonstration of a solar-hybrid power generation system for remote well sites to provide reliable electricity to prevent gas venting from pneumatic devices in a cost-effective manner.

Modern Wellbore Solutions

Demonstration of a Full-Scale Multilateral Junction Assembly
Total project value: $12,100,000 | ERA commitment: $3,500,000
Full-scale deployment of a multilateral junction tool assembly that will allow natural gas operators to drill, complete, and operate multibranched wells for unconventional reservoirs. The technology reduces emissions by enabling lateral junctions rather than requiring separate wells.

Tourmaline Oil Corp.

Natural Gas Mobile Unit for Drilling Rig Power Generation
Total project value: $7,989,000 | ERA commitment: $3,200,000
Pilot demonstration of a plug and play, mobile power generation system for drilling rigs that uses smart energy to automatically start and stop generators to match the power demand of the rig.

DOWNSTREAM AND VALUE-ADDED

ATCO Gas and Pipelines Ltd.

Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending
Total project value: $5,700,000 | ERA commitment: $2,800,000
Pilot project to test hydrogen blending in ATCO’s Fort Saskatchewan natural gas distribution system. The project will source and test equipment and determine applicability of existing codes, standards, and legislation.

Ekona Power Inc.

Development and Field Testing of a Tri-Generation Pyrolysis (TGP) System for Low-cost, Clean Hydrogen Production
Total project value: $13,800,000 | ERA commitment: $5,000,000
Prototyping a new approach to converting natural gas to hydrogen and a solid carbon by-product representing a new pathway to produce zero-emissions hydrogen, electricity, and other products by decarbonizing natural gas.

Standing Wave Reformers Inc.

A New Wave in Hydrogen Production
Total project value: $8,200,000 | ERA commitment: $3,000,000
Design optimization, system integration, pilot demonstration, techno-economic analysis, and advancement of commercial deployment plans for a technology system to decarbonize natural gas.

ATCO Gas and Pipelines Ltd.

ATCO and Future Fuel RNG
Total project value: $15,900,000 | ERA commitment: $7,900,000
First-of-its-kind commercial demonstration to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) to be sold and used within the province in Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fleet vehicles and commercial applications.

Sustainitech Inc.

Co-Locating Natural Gas and Indoor Agriculture for Alberta’s Future
Total project value: $17,862,298 | ERA commitment: $5,000,000
Design, construction, and operation for a first-of-kind commercial deployment of a modular farming system that combines automation, hydroponics, adsorption cooling, and advanced lighting to grow crops.

Enersion Inc.

Greenest Natural Gas-Powered Quad-generation with a 41% GHG Reduction
Total project value: $3,800,000 | ERA commitment: $1,800,000
Technology that uses natural gas to generate electricity, cooling, and heating in an integrated package for multiple applications, including industrial, agricultural, commercial, and residential sectors.

Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc.

Demonstration of Thermally Driven Heat Pumps for Residential Heating Applications
Total project value: $1,972,510 | ERA commitment: $986,250
Design and prototyping of technology that uses natural gas to drive a heat pump cycle. Unlike electrically-driven heat pumps, the technology is ideal for cold climates.

Anax Power

Turboexpander Project
Total project value: $6,200,000 | ERA commitment: $2,400,000
Installation and operation of technology that provides clean, distributed electricity from the pressure and flow of natural gas without combustion.

Innovative Fuel Systems

Advanced Dual-Fuel System Commercial Demonstration
Total project value: $2,800,000 | ERA commitment: $1,200,000
Commercial validation of technology that allows heavy duty truck engines to displace up to 50 per cent of their diesel with cleaner burning natural gas.

Clover Bar Landfill

Converting Landfill Gas to Renewable Natural Gas
Total project value: $25,000,000 | ERA commitment: $10,000,000
The project will explore opportunities to upgrade landfill gas (LFG) at Clover Bar Landfill and inject it into Alberta’s natural gas system as renewable natural gas (RNG). Stakeholders in the Clover Bar Landfill, the City of Edmonton and Capital Power, are exploring these possible opportunities.

If successful, these technology innovations will lead to cumulative GHG reductions of almost one million tonnes of CO2e by 2030—equivalent to the GHG emissions from 750,000 passenger vehicles driven for one year. It is anticipated these projects will also deliver approximately 760  new jobs.

Projects were selected through ERA’s competitive review process. A team of experts in science, engineering, business development, commercialization, financing, and greenhouse gas quantification conducted an independent, rigorous, transparent review overseen by a Fairness Monitor.

All recipients are required to produce a final outcomes report that will be shared publicly for the broader benefit of Alberta. All projects involve field piloting, demonstration, or commercial deployment of technology within the province.

“ERA funding is critical to the transformative jump from pilot to market-ready innovation.  SWR is unique in that it is a novel application based on well-understood, existing components.  This allows us to move quickly from lab to market entry in Canada.  With ERA’s funding and partners, together, we can make a substantial near-term difference in global decarbonization.” 

Kathleen O’Neil, CEO, Standing Wave Reformers, Inc. 

“We’re very pleased to have the support of ERA in the final steps of commercial validation of our technology. Working with ERA and Westcan will help us showcase our technology’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the heavy-duty trucking industry, while also allowing the industry to significantly cut fuel costs.”

Leland Oberst, President and Chief Executive Officer, Innovative Fuel Systems

“Working with our industry partners, Kinitics plans to demonstrate the company’s shape memory alloy-based electric actuators as a viable alternative to methane-venting pneumatic actuators at production well sites. ERA’s contribution will allow us to raise awareness of the technology in the industry, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and potentially eliminate methane-venting devices entirely in Western Canada.”

Dean Pick, President, Kinitics Automation

“Our primary product, EPOD, has proven itself as a great solution for new well sites. However, we believe the real opportunity for Alberta lies in addressing its thousands of existing well sites. Funding from ERA will enable us to demonstrate an economically attractive instrument air retrofit solution. We believe this has potential to create a step change in the environmental performance of our industry.”

Connor O’Shea, President, Westgen Technologies Inc.

“At MultiSensor, we have been developing a cost-effective methane monitoring Internet of Things solution since 2016. ERA’s Natural Gas Challenge funding is material for us to commercially demonstrate our cloud-connected cameras in the field at scale. Our automated remote monitoring solution will enable Alberta’s oil and gas industry to focus leak detection and reduction efforts on where it delivers the biggest reductions—identifying, quantifying, and repairing leaks and vents as they occur.”

Stefan Bokaemper, President, MultiSensor Canada, Inc.

“ERA funding is a stepping-stone to translate our vehicle-based emissions screening system into a scalable commercial solution that helps industry lower and monitor methane emissions more efficiently and cost-effectively. We will undertake a full-scale field pilot over two years with our industry partner using a fleet of vehicles to survey thousands of facilities, while collecting additional emissions measurements from public roads across most operating areas of Alberta.”

Dr. Chris Hugenholtz, Associate Professor & Parex Innovation Fellow, University of Calgary

“The funding provided by ERA is key to commercialization of the LMT EDVA, a technology project that will not only enable cleaner oil and gas production to achieve Canada’s methane emissions reduction targets, it may also help revive our struggling oil and gas and cleantech sectors.”

Soheil Asgarpour, President, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC)

“We are actively exploring innovative technologies that can improve the efficiency and sustainability of our operations. The funding received from ERA will enable us to implement a natural gas mobile power generation unit, contributing to Tourmaline’s diesel displacement initiative and reducing fuel costs and GHG emissions.”

Earl McKinnon, Vice President, Operations, Tourmaline Oil Corp.

“Challenger is an Alberta-based service company with a solution for oil and gas wells that leak carbon emissions into the atmosphere.  At Challenger, we are grateful to have a home province that not only welcomes innovation, but actively supports it. ERA’s funding will be critical in bringing our technology to market and allow us to advance rollout to other jurisdictions seeking to control fugitive GHG emissions.”

Colton Hoffman, President, Challenger Technical Service

To help streamline the application process, ERA collaborated with the Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF)to leverage funding opportunities beyond ERA’s scope through NGIF’s $3 million Cleantech Competition. NGIF announced its semi-finalists on June 23, 2020. Three of ERA’s Natural Gas Challenge winners—Kinitics Automation, Westgen Technologies Inc., and Challenger Technical Services—were announced as shortlisted for NGIF’s funding competition.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Emissions Reduction Alberta
Kevin Duncan
403.431.2859 | kduncan@eralberta.ca

ABOUT EMISSIONS REDUCTION ALBERTA (ERA):
For more than 10 years, ERA has been investing the revenues from the carbon price paid by large final emitters to accelerate the development and adoption of innovative clean technology solutions. Since ERA was established in 2009, they have committed $534 million toward 161 projects worth $4 billion that are helping to reduce GHGs, create competitive industries and are leading to new business opportunities in Alberta. These projects are estimated to deliver cumulative reductions of 32.9 million tonnes of CO₂e by 2030.

Fort Saskatchewan chosen for new ATCO project

FORT SASKATCHEWAN, ALBERTA, (Tuesday, July 21, 2020) – Fort Saskatchewan is pleased to be chosen as the site of ATCO hydrogen blending project, which received $2.8 million in funding from Emission Reductions Alberta’s Natural Gas Challenge.

This first-of-its-kind project in Alberta will enable ATCO to inject up to five percent hydrogen by volume into sections of the residential natural gas distribution network in the City, lowering the carbon intensity of the gas stream for customers.

“This project will not only create jobs, but a roadmap for hydrogen in Alberta, using low-cost, responsibly produced natural gas while leveraging the province’s existing investment in carbon capture technology,” said George Lidgett, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Utilities. “Our vision is to enable Western Canada’s world-class natural gas industry to grow in tandem with Alberta’s hydrogen economy, including supplying eventual exports to global markets where demand is steadily growing.”

ATCO’s project will use hydrogen derived from domestically-produced natural gas, with the intent to eventually leverage Alberta’s existing carbon capture and sequestration infrastructure to store emissions associated with the production process. Engaging with customers and the community of Fort Saskatchewan will be an integral focus of the project. ATCO will work diligently to create an awareness about the safety of hydrogen, environmental benefits and the considerable economic potential. 

“The City is pleased to be the site of ATCO’s proposed hydrogen blending project.” Said Mayor Gale Katchur.  “This project demonstrates Fort Saskatchewan’s commitment to sustainability and reducing emissions, while supporting our local economy.  We look forward to working with ATCO”.

“Affordably decarbonizing the production of heat is vital to achieve our long-term emissions and energy goals, particularly in our cold Canadian climate, and hydrogen can play a powerful role,” said Siegfried Kiefer, President & Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Utilities, an ATCO company. “This project is an important first step for Alberta, which has all the ingredients needed to be a leader in the hydrogen economy—including the ability to produce near zero-emissions hydrogen at a lower cost than virtually any other jurisdiction in the world.”

Blending hydrogen into the natural gas grid is being safely trialed in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and France, with concentrations reaching up 30 to per cent by volume. 

The Fort Saskatchewan Blending Project is expected to get underway in September, with construction beginning the first quarter of 2021. 

Fort Saskatchewan is a vibrant economic and cultural hub located just 15 minutes northeast of Edmonton on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Home to more than 26,900 people, the City of Fort Saskatchewan proudly manages state of the art recreation, culture and historic amenities including 75 km of outdoor trails, a performing arts theatre and fitness centre within the Dow Centennial Centre and the 1875 NWMP Fort Representation.

Media contact:
Mark Morrissey 

Director, Economic Development
City of Fort Saskatchewan

Tel: 780.992.6231 / Email: mmorrissey@fortsask.caWeb: fortsask.ca / Facebook: CityFortSask / Twitter: @CityFortSask

Talent in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region

Edmonton Global has launched their latest video highlighting another regional asset of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region –  Talent.

A changing global landscape highlights the importance of talent

“The world is fundamentally changing and so are the practices of growing companies.” said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “In the past, companies have been able to pull people to them. Now companies are the ones on the move and they are going where the talent is. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region produces an incredible amount and diversity of talented people and we’re increasingly attracting people to move here for academic research, to start or expand companies, and to be part of the new economy we’re building.”

Recent changes to the United States Visa programs an opportunity for Canada

Recent changes to the United States Visa programs are making it more difficult for companies to bring in foreign talent. “We need to be on the radar of companies looking to access North American markets and setting up teams,” commented Malcolm. “We need to raise our profile and do more to show off what’s happening here.” The new Talent video and our previous series on the sectors driving the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s economy are part of building awareness of the region among companies from around the world who are looking to expand. “We want companies to know – if you’re looking to access talent and a community that is open, welcoming, and inclusive, look north to Canada and the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.”

The proposed changes to the United States Visa programs may also make it challenging for international students to continue studying at US universities and colleges. “This presents a significant opportunity for Canada, both for attracting international investment and international students,” commented Malcolm. “Globally recognized top institutions like the University of Alberta can play a key role in attracting some of the world’s best young minds to Canada. And with programs at both the Provincial and National level to fast track citizenship, our goal is to keep them here.” 

You can afford to build a life here

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s high quality of life, diverse economy, high average salaries, and low cost of living make it very attractive to young people and young families. It’s the second youngest region in Canada and has been ranked as the best community in Canada for youth and youth work in Youthful Cities 2019 Urban Work Index (https://www.youthfulcities.com/urban-work-index).

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