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Technology & innovation in the Edmonton region – it’s an opportunity right now

For companies looking to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovative technologies into their business operations, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region represents a distinct advantage. The region combines a university that is ranked 3rd globally for AI research, large datasets from established industries such as energy and health sciences, and a thriving research and development (R&D) ecosystem.

AI and innovative technologies are some of the biggest drivers of value for businesses in today’s economy. In fact, some estimates predict that AI could add as much as $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. AI and technology adoption provide the tools to make businesses safer, more efficient, more productive and increase their competitiveness. Companies that are becoming early adopters of emerging technologies, like AI, machine learning (ML) and automation are expanding and increasing their market share, while others who are unable to shift their business models are struggling for survival.

The University of Alberta has a 20-year legacy of research in artificial intelligence and machine learning – an impressive track record that continues to attract talent into the region. In research heavy fields such as AI and ML, talent attracts talent. Often, decisions about where researchers choose to work and/or study has a lot to do with who they will be working with. Richard Sutton was one of the early global AI pioneers to locate to the Edmonton region to continue his work in reinforcement learning and since then we’ve attracted dozens of other big names in the AI field, like Patrick Polarski, and Michael Bowling.

Richard Sutton is considered the father of reinforcement learning

Not only are we attracting talent, industry is following suit with Google Brain, DeepMind, Toyota, Volkswagen and IBM investing in the region looking to chase the talent that exists here.

Local company AltaML is capitalizing on the opportunity by finding ways to apply the regional expertise to business. They’ve built successful partnerships with companies in some of the Edmonton region’s strongest industries – including healthcare, energy and construction.

“We should be world leaders in health and AI, in oil and gas and AI,” says Cory Janssen, co-CEO of AltaML. “Hopefully what we have here is a cluster out of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the next big boom will come out of that.”

The Edmonton region is also home to the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), part of the Pan-Canadian AI strategy.  Amii is linking theory to practice, by building partnerships with businesses, governments, and NGO’s to support them in adopting AI tools into their operations. Imperial Oil partnered with Amii to collaborate on the development of Imperial’s in-house machine learning capabilities, which will enable a range of applied artificial intelligence (AI) projects. Through these projects, Imperial will work to develop more effective ways to recover oil and gas resources, reduce environmental impacts and improve the safety of its workforce.

“At Imperial, we are taking action to be a leader in advancing digital and AI technology across the value chain,” said John Whelan, Imperial’s senior vice-president, upstream. “Amii is not only a leader in the AI space globally, but based locally in Alberta. We believe the institute is a perfect partner to help us showcase Alberta’s leadership in technology and digital solutions for responsibly-produced oil and gas.”

Government supports are also in place for businesses in the energy sector looking to access this expertise. The province of Alberta is supporting Amii with a $5 million grant to develop AI capabilities in the energy sector aimed at emission reduction technologies.

RJ MacLean is another great example of an Edmonton region company that is turning to innovative technologies to transform the energy sector using robotics to do some of the industry’s dirtiest – and most dangerous – work.

RJ MacLean’s innovative solutions for tank cleaning make the process safer and more efficient

Storage tank cleaning is an essential process in the oil sector and is required to be performed in any facility where oil is stored. Traditionally, this process involves removing as much of the product or sludge within the tank as possible, then people climb into the tanks to finish the job by hand. Despite rigorous safety precautions, this is some of the most dangerous work being done in an industry that is often viewed as resistant to change.

RJ MacLean’s robotics technology makes the process easier, safer, more environmentally friendly and more efficient and its being adopted by some of the biggest multinationals in the energy sector.

“The Edmonton region is very focused on research and development,” says Kiely. “It’s very innovative here. There are not a lot of communities that are as focused on putting their heads down and challenging the status quo the way Edmonton is doing. There’s a collective willingness for innovation that translates into a global scale.”

AI and innovative technologies also hold enormous potential for the life sciences sector.

One University of Alberta spinoff is using the regional expertise and access to data to scale rapidly. DrugBank is a University of Alberta spinoff that has created a vast database related to pharmaceutical drugs, selling their information to more than 130 clients around the world. Commercial users can purchase a license in to use the data and gain access to additional datasets. DrugBank Scientific Drug Information is available to pharmaceutical companies and helps them use artificial intelligence, bioinformatics and data science to discover new drugs and find new applications for existing drugs.

Josh Felker, Founder of BoxOne Ventures, says they invested in DrugBank because, “computational and machine learning advances are transforming the pharmaceutical and health industries. The success of these approaches is highly dependent on the scope and quality of their reference data. DrugBank has developed the world’s most detailed, comprehensive and accurate resource for drug and molecular data. They are increasingly becoming a key input into major advances in data-driven medicine.”

Learn more about the opportunities in AI and innovative technologies in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

AltaML named Fast 50 company to watch

AltaML has received a Deloitte Fast 50, Companies-to-Watch award. The award spotlights emerging companies that exhibit strong growth and show potential to be a future candidate of the Technology Fast 50 award. It includes new companies headquartered in Canada that are demonstrating superior technology, effective management experience and common traits of Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award winners.  

The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 program is Canada’s pre-eminent technology awards program. 

“We’re extremely proud to recognize this year’s Companies-to-Watch winners, not only to celebrate their early-stage growth in these uncertain times, but also their staggering potential moving forward,” said Erica Pretorius, partner and national leader for the Technology Fast 50 program at Deloitte Canada. “These outstanding companies demonstrate tremendous courage, the ability to take calculated risks, and notable skills to exploit opportunities. They are key to the future success of the technology sector.” 

Headquartered in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, AltaML helps business leaders understand how applied artificial intelligence can redefine competitive advantage and develop powerful software applications that create efficiencies, mitigate risk and drive revenue. Their goal is to impact 1 billion decisions by 2030. 

AltaML has grown rapidly and has expanded from their headquarters in the Edmonton region to include offices in both Calgary and Toronto. Their Co-CEOs, Nicole Janssen and Cory Janssen, credit a long-term view to relationships with industry partners and a commitment to delivering exponential value through applied AI with the company’s early-stage success.  

“The opportunity for AI is now, so we knew we had to grow fast,” say Cory and Nicole. “To scale our AI experimentation and to mitigate technical risk we built a platform that allows us to work across industries with a vast range of structured and unstructured data. From Edmonton we expanded to Calgary to consolidate regional strengths in AI talent and corporate offices, and from there we grew to Toronto as a first step toward becoming a national company.” 

AltaML is working with businesses from a variety of sectors to help solve business problems including healthcare, financial services, energy and agriculture. 

“AI is a key strength that exists in the Edmonton Metropolitan Regions,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “It’s a horizontal enabler that can have a huge impact on all industries and any organization that has a large amount of data. These tools can even be applied to traditional sectors to improve business functions and expand traditional business models.”  

AltaML has completed over 50 projects with over 30 companies. Announced partnerships include PCL Construction, AIMCo, DynaLife, Williams Engineering, Kleinfelder, ProtXX, Food-X, as well as Suncor, ATB Financial, Spartan Controls and TransAlta, the four founding industry partners of the AltaML Applied AI Lab. 

As AltaML continues to grow, Co-CEO Cory is adamant that the Edmonton region is still the right place for them to be headquartered due in large part, to the talent pool that exists here.  

“Edmonton is the absolute best place in the world to start an AI company,” said Cory. “This might actually be the only place in the world that has a surplus of data scientists.” 

Pegasus Imagery – Setting the standard for drone technology

Cole Rosentreter, founder and CEO, Pegasus Imagery

Pegasus Imagery, an Edmonton-based data and drone company, continues to work hard to bridge the gap between military and consumer applications for drone technology. Their recent move to the Edmonton region’s Villeneuve Airport in Sturgeon County was based on a strategic decision to support the firm’s overall goal of supporting the regulation of drone technology operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in Canada.

“The Villeneuve airport is a phenomenal space for us,” says Cole Rosentreter, Pegasus founder and CEO. “It’s bright and it’s modern – so far we are loving it here. But more than that, we’ve been warmly welcomed by the general aviation community here. Because the regulations don’t yet exist in terms of how manned and unmanned aircraft should operate in relation to each other, there is a tendency for some to be risk averse. But what we’ve found here, is that the team at Villeneuve is open to new ways of doing things, which allows us to take more risks in terms of what we are trying to do. This location works as a ‘sandbox’ for us where we are able to test new ways of how we can operate in a controlled airspace.”

Pegasus is also working closely with Transport Canada to establish a regulatory environment for BVLOS for the industry.

“Selfishly, this is a great advantage for us,” says Cole. “Being a first mover in this space will allow us to help deliver real-world data to Transport Canada as they create new regulations for how this industry will be governed. It was interesting, when we first approached Transport Canada, they weren’t that interested. There was a hesitancy to even consider BVLOS operations for drone technology. But when we showed them how the technology we had developed worked, they were excited about the possibility. They saw that we had developed a solution to the problem that had made them hesitant to even consider the expansion of this technology.”

That technology is A3S, or Autonomous Airspace Awareness System, that actively detects and tracks other aircraft in the area, both manned and unmanned, and autonomously executes the safest course of action to avoid collisions. This technology also has the added benefit of improving the scalability of the products that Pegasus is developing.

“Essentially, we can go from having one pilot on the ground, operating one unmanned aircraft, to one pilot operating 20 units,” says Cole.

Cole is bullish in his belief in the potential that drone technology can bring to the aerospace and aviation industry and points to the size of the industry and the massive amount of opportunity that exists. Big companies like Suncor and Trans Mountain are looking for the data they need to improve their business functions and Pegasus is providing the solution.

“Pegasus is hitting the mark when it comes to overcoming the technology barrier and doing it at a scale that makes economic sense,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. Malcolm had a long and distinguished career in the military prior to shifting to the private sector. “Pegasus isn’t just bridging the gap between military and commercial aerial vehicles; they are creating a new market. And their technology and approach is helping establish the national standard. Pegasus provides data at the scale that satellites or manned aircraft are able to accomplish but they’re doing it cheaper, better and faster.”

Pegasus to participate in Boeing Canada LaunchPad Program

Pegasus continues to push forward with the commercial applications they’ve developed and have recently been chosen to participate in the Boeing LaunchPad program – a partnership between Boeing Canada and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. It’s similar to an accelerator program and is aimed at businesses operating in the aviation and aerospace industry that are demonstrating innovation in their field.

“This is a great opportunity for Pegasus,” says Cole. “It’s really a win-win situation. Boeing is looking at expanding its reach into new markets and is looking for new technology partners to improve their competitiveness. By partnering with companies like us, when they go to the Government of Canada, wanting to sell their products and Canada asks, ‘What’s the benefit for us?’ What we’re hoping is that somewhere in their answer is Pegasus.” 

The program will give Cole and his team access to senior Boeing executives and prospective investors and partners, opening up the potential of licensing and selling their technology to Boeing or working on a joint venture. Boeing has selected 10 companies from across Canada to take part in this pilot program and Pegasus is the only hardware and software technology – most are working in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space.

Pegasus selected as Cycle II semifinalist for NASA Itech

Pegasus has also been selected as one of 20 companies worldwide as a Cycle II semi-finalist for NASA Itech. An honour which Cole refers to as “humbling.”

“Most people, when they think of NASA automatically think of space. But the first A in NASA actually stands for aeronautics,” Cole points out. “For the last 6 years NASA has been the lead agency in the United States doing research and development around what the new future of aerospace management looks like. With the influx of millions of drones, commercial flights, and rocket launches – how are we going to manage that? What we’re doing at Villeneuve is very similar to what NASA is doing… they’re just at a much larger scale.”

Cole says that new technology they are developing at Pegasus holds great potential for launch applications as well – evidence that Pegasus continues to be an industry leader when it comes to being forward thinking in providing the solutions that a wide variety of industries are looking for.

“People have had 20 years to be underwhelmed by drone technology,” says Cole. “We are changing that.”

Join Edmonton Global at World Summit AI

World Summit AI is the world’s leading and largest AI summit bringing together the global AI ecosystem of industry, technology, startups, investors and science. Many of the world’s biggest AI and tech companies participate as speakers, covering the trending topics that are top of mind in the AI world.

This year Edmonton Global has partnered with Invest in Canada and the Trade Commissioner in the Netherlands and will be launching a taking over the Canadian booth on October 22, 2020 from 7:00 to 9:00am (MST) to share some of the exciting things that are happening in the AI ecosystem in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Forward thinking initiatives, like the Pan Canadian AI strategy have built an ecosystem around artificial intelligence and machine learning that is world class and the region has attracted some of the worlds brightest minds in AI including Richard Sutton, Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski.

These strengths are being leveraged by both local industry and international firms as the region continues to gain recognition around the globe. Led by investments from Google DeepMind and Google Brain, Microsoft, and Apple and anchored by the University of Alberta – ranked 3rd in the world for AI research, the Edmonton region continues to grow and expand its AI expertise. The region is attracting a lot of attention with large multinationals like Toyota, Volkswagen, and IBM looking to chase the talent that exists here.  

“More and more the world is waking up to the fact that AI has the ability to transform business – to improve business operations, increase efficiencies and accelerate scalability” says Edmonton Global’s Amanpreet Bhatti, who will be the host of Canada’s booth. “We’re bringing together academic and industry leaders to showcase the incredible talent and expertise that exists here and provide a platform to showcase our region to the world.”

Amanpreet Bhatti, Business Development Associate, Edmonton Global

At the summit, Edmonton Global will be joined by a number of leaders and researchers from the Alberta Machine Intelligence (Amii), part of the Pan Canadian AI Strategy, to talk about how their organization can partner with industry to assist with adoption of AI tools. They’ll share some of the interesting things that they are working on and provide an overview of the AI ecosystem in Edmonton.

We’ll also be hosting local business leaders from AltaML, whose business model is focused helping businesses to integrate AI into their operations, as well as Williams Engineering, who has benefitted from building such a partnership with AltaML. You’ll hear how businesses working in traditional sectors are successfully leveraging the strength of AI to expand their business model into the tech space.

We’ll also be sharing perspectives from a global data analytics firm, Ixonn, which has recently chosen the Edmonton region as the location for their North American headquarters and central hub for their research and development and you’ll hear why Google DeepMind chose the Edmonton region as the location for its first international research lab.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you that this event is not to be missed, visitors to our takeover of the Canada booth will have the opportunity to test their poker skills against an actual AI with Amii’s Deepstack demonstration.

We’re looking forward to connecting with you virtually and sharing with you some of the opportunities that exist for your business in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

You can access discounted tickets to World Summit AI here.

Showcasing Alberta’s AI advantage

Alberta’s government is supporting artificial intelligence and machine learning, with $9 million in funding for the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii).

The funding includes $4 million from Alberta Innovates and $5 million through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) system, and will allow Amii to continue its world-class research and accelerated commercialization of new technologies. Amii will also help Alberta companies use artificial intelligence and machine learning to find and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and agriculture sectors.

Through the government’s Investment and Growth Strategy, developing Alberta’s technology sector has been identified as a top priority as it will make way for investment and innovation in other industries, including agriculture, aviation, health sciences and energy.

“Alberta is already a world leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning, which creates a strong foundation for our province moving forward. Rest assured your government is here to make sure that Alberta attracts high-growth technology and innovation companies that will diversify our economy and create jobs for today and for the future.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation

“The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute at the University of Alberta is in the top five in the world for artificial intelligence research facilities, and works with technology leaders like Google, IBM and Microsoft. Our investment demonstrates that Alberta’s government recognizes the important role that Amii and the University of Alberta plays in creating a stronger economy.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

“For Alberta to reach its full economic potential, we need a strong technology sector with players like Amii, who are at the heart of the artificial intelligence expertise in Alberta. Alberta’s government is taking action to ensure that we are a destination of choice for more innovators and inventors like Amii, where they can develop their ideas into companies and create good-paying jobs.”

Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta

Alberta’s government and Alberta Innovates have been longtime supporters of Amii and its world-class work, such as their recent work with OKAKI, a Calgary-based health technology company working to predict and prevent opioid overdoses.  

Thanks to its innovative and leading-edge approach, Amii has also been able to attract research funding through the private sector, Western Economic Diversification, and $25 million over five years from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  

“Amii exists in large part thanks to crucial investments made by the Government of Alberta, CIFAR and Alberta Innovates – and our partnership with the University of Alberta. With renewed funding, we’re able to continue our trajectory of long-established excellence in AI and machine learning and leverage scientific advancement to speed industry adoption, job creation and innovation for Alberta’s most forward-thinking organizations.”

Cam Linke, CEO, Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute

“Today’s funding announcement for Amii will unlock tremendous opportunity across our province. Alberta is a global powerhouse in energy, agriculture, life sciences, and manufacturing – we’re also home to the University of Alberta, ranked third in the world for AI research. That combination makes us unique – globally! As a direct result of the province’s funding, Amii will not only drive results for existing businesses, it will be incredibly powerful in attracting the international investment community. This is outstanding news.”

Malcolm Bruce, CEO, Edmonton Global

“These investments in Amii will be key to ensuring Alberta is poised for success. We have incredible potential to diversify the economy, create jobs and strengthen our communities by building on our world-class artificial intelligence and machine learning expertise.”

Janet M. Riopel, president and CEO, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce

The Investment and Growth Strategy is part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan – an ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs, now. By building schools, roads, and other core infrastructure, we are benefiting our communities by putting Albertans back to work. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for economic growth. Alberta came together to save lives by flattening the COVID-19 curve and now we must do the same to save livelihoods, grow back our businesses, and thrive as a province.

Quick facts

  • Amii is an Alberta-based non-profit institute that supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and is one of Canada’s three centres of AI excellence.
  • Amii’s mission is to make artificial intelligence and machine learning the primary drivers of economic growth for Alberta – through great research, advisement and education.
  • Alberta’s government is developing sector-specific strategies for diversification that will build off the province’s existing technology and innovation strengths. These include:
    • Agriculture and forestry
    • Aviation, aerospace, and logistics
    • Culture and creative industries
    • Energy
    • Financial services and fintech
    • Technology and innovation
    • Tourism

Williams Engineering – Using the power of machine learning to optimize business functions

As we move towards economic recovery, the need for businesses to adopt new technologies to improve efficiencies and support long term growth is becoming more and more critical. Increasingly we are seeing a real shift towards understanding how innovation and technology are key to supporting growth across all industries here in the Edmonton Metropolitan region and across the globe. The Edmonton region’s strengths in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have the capacity to capitalize on the opportunities that have emerged as a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams Engineering Canada (WEC), an engineering consultancy firm had begun investing in machine learning software even before the pandemic hit. Through a partnership with AltaML, another Edmonton-based company that is focused on applied artificial intelligence, the two organisations are building machine learning applications in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. 

“We’re passionate about designing sustainable infrastructure that contributes positively to the communities that we’re a part of. ML algorithms, when applied to large amounts of data generated by buildings and business processes, will create economic opportunity and transform the AEC industry,” said Naseem Bashir, President and CEO of Williams Engineering Canada when the announcement was made in December 2019. “Being the first to partner with AltaML to develop AI and ML solutions for the AEC industry is exciting and beneficial not only our organization, but for every organization responsible for designing and building infrastructure across Canada. Machine learning and data analytics will augment our people’s ability to understand and predict the behavior of complex systems, enabling new and innovative solutions to emerge. The ability to leverage data enables companies like WEC to make improved decisions and produce greater efficiencies that lead to creating more sustainable infrastructure for the cities and communities where we all live, work and play.”

Adopting these tools are generating a real-world return on investment (ROI) for Williams Engineering where improving efficiencies is helping to make them more globally competitive.

“Typically, one of the most time-consuming parts of what WEC does is the proposal phase,” says Naseem. “We have 180 employees who write between 2,500 and 2,700 proposal a year – this takes a lot of time. An ML tool has the capacity to pull a tonne of data together, learn from it and help our engineers make better and faster decisions – leading to better work and the ability to bid on even more projects.”

It is these sorts of efficiencies that will have the ability to set them apart from their global competitors.

“Disruption breeds opportunity,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “ML & AI have the ability to support businesses in all sectors to become more efficient and productive. Globally, we’re seeing companies that invest in digital approaches, AI & ML, automation, etc. expand and gain market share. Our region is really well positioned to be at the leading edge of this because of companies like AltaML, the huge number of AI graduates from our universities, and the awareness of our business community that we’re at a real turning point in the global economy. Now is the time to take our regional strengths – like our well-developed expertise and talent in AI and ML- and use those to our advantage.”

To learn more about the Edmonton region’s strengths in AI and ML, and how businesses are using these tools to optimize business functions register for our upcoming webinar – Accessing the world’s top AI & ML talent

Invest in Canada report studies the Edmonton region’s strength in AI

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region was featured in a recent report – Betting on Red and White: International Investment in Canadian AI. The report is based on a study commissioned by Invest in Canada aimed at examining the opportunities for Canada to utilize our current strengths in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to attract foreign direct investment. As one of the 3 AI hubs in Canada, Edmonton is becoming increasingly well-known for its strength in AI research and talent.

The study conducted interviews with twenty international companies from 8 different countries across 7 sectors to learn more about their experience with implementing AI and Machine Learning (ML) into their organizations and their understanding of the perceived assets that exist in Canada.

The study found that the majority of interviewees already view Canada positively as a destination for AI talent due to 4 key factors:

  1. Skilled Canadian AI Talent a Key Pull Factor
  • In Edmonton, the University of Alberta is rated as one of the top 5 AI research institutions in the world, attracting top talent and research leaders from across the globe to the region.
  • Edmonton is also home to the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii). Amii partners with startups, SMEs and enterprise companies to support their needs as they move towards AI/ML adoption in their work, providing expertise and hands-on support

2. Capacity to Attract Skilled International Talent is Compelling

  • The welcoming culture and liberal immigration system that exist in Canada make it easy to attract international talent to the region.
  • The Global Skills Strategy means that a company’s international employees can obtain work permits often in less than 2 weeks
  • The expertise that already exists in the Edmonton metro region is attracting international students and researchers who are looking to work with some of the most brilliant minds in AI

3. Regional Hub Development

  • As part of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Edmonton is one of 3 regional AI hubs that have been established, along with Montreal and Toronto
  • The expertise that exists in the Edmonton region has bolstered its reputation in AI expertise and has already attracted corporate investment from businesses like Google, Amazon, Toyoto, IBM, Volkwagen, and Microsoft

4. Leadership on Ethical AI

  • In 2019 the University of Alberta hosted the AI, Ethics and Society International Conference aimed at developing excellence in AI and ethics. This event brought together researchers in history, ethics, policy, business, governance and science of big data, and AI with stakeholders from business and government. International partners like the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) and ICIE (International Center for Information Ethics) bring an international track record of developing insights and standards for industry, academia and society
  • Amii’s Summer Institute brings together experts, grad students and researchers from multiple backgrounds to explore the societal, governmental, and ethical implications of AI. A combination of lectures, panels, and participatory problem-solving, this comprehensive interdisciplinary event aims to build understanding and action around these issues.

AI is a transformative technology that has the ability to impact all industry sectors. As businesses accelerate the adoption of these tools, their importance and value couldn’t be more clear. While the study mentioned that participants did not see a lot in terms of barriers to AI adoption, they did note that there was some concern around the lack of expertise or talent. However, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region has that in spades. Indeed, this region has all the key ingredients to make it an attractive location for foreign direct investment opportunities in AI.

You can read the full report here.

To learn more about AI in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region check out this webinar.

Songistry – using artificial intelligence to rock the music industry

“We’re solving some incredible problems within the global music industry,” says Curtis Serna, CEO of Songistry, “and we’re thrilled to be doing it right here in the Edmonton region.”

Songistry is using the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to unlock value across the entertainment industry. It’s run by the innovative minds of CEO Curtis Serna, two-time nominee for Entrepreneur of the Year in Canada and Justin Gray, Founder and Chief Creative Officer. Justin is a Canadian born producer and songwriter who has worked with top tier artists, Avril Lavigne, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, and international artists including J-Pop Super Stars Superjunior, Chinese Mega Star Chris Lee and most recently enjoyed twelve, #1 hits in China including a hit with TF Boys’ Roy Wang. Justin brings a combination of music credibility and a personal understanding of the challenges faced by artists and the entertainment industry related to digital copyright, publishing, and royalties.

In 2019, approximately 46 million music creators and corporations lost out on the opportunity to collect royalties due to a lack of copyright information (often referred to as “metadata”), resulting in a 2.5-billion-dollar loss (USD). Songistry’s premier product, MDIIO (Music Data Intelligence In/Out), solves this problem and more. MDIIO is a music asset/copyright management tool and marketplace that leverages the latest developments in AI to protect the work of music creatives worldwide. By using copyright and other metadata details, MDIIO helps artists and music corporations protect their hard work, assets, and livelihoods. MDIIO is driven to provide Canadian artists a scientific, competitive advantage in getting their music discovered and licensed in TV/ film and advertising.

Justin was first inspired to create the platform when he realized how vulnerable songwriters were to being taken advantage of.

“A system that hasn’t traditionally supported songwriters is ripe for disruption,” said Justin. “Having worked in music for 20 plus years, I was really saddened to see songwriters and creators getting the short end of the stick. Especially with the onset of digital music streaming. Songwriters were the slowest to adapt and therefore the most vulnerable. I wanted to make sure that songwriters were provided a platform that not only fostered their creativity and organized their assets, but also democratized monetization of their hard work.”

Justin Gray, Founder and Chief Creative Officer

When Justin was introduced to Curtis, who initially came on as an investor it quickly became evident that Curtis had the commercialization expertise that Songistry needed to help bring MDIIO to life and to help protect the interest of songwriters.

Curtis Serna, CEO

MDIIO is now being featured in Global Affairs Canada’s Spring 2020 Software and Technologies Dealbook. The Dealbook is “a tool formulated to increase exposure to some of Canada’s most promising technology companies,” says Chief Trade Commissioner of Canada, Aillish Campbell. MDIIO fits the bill and their placement in the Dealbook has helped Songistry increase its profile to international audiences. In the first day the Dealbook was launched, Songistry was approached by two venture capital groups from Silicon Valley, that are interested in leading the investment into the Edmonton-based company.

The MDIIO platform allows creatives, from songwriters to artists, to musicians, bands, DJ’s and composers, to upload their music, apply metadata to their copyright, and then register the song with SOCAN, Canada’s performance rights organization that collects royalties for members. SOCAN is comprised of 170,000 members, 86% of which are unaffiliated independent artists and songwriters. MDIIO represents and helps protect these artists and their copyrights, while getting their work in front of companies such as Netflix, Hallmark, and Sony to name just a few studio networks. MDIIO works as a marketplace where these companies can come to license music for various projects – allowing more artists to monetize their work and gain exposure by leveraging science as their competitive advantage.

MDIIO has multiple features specifically designed to help spotlight the work of indie creators while simultaneously helping music supervisors find new music for their tv/ film or advertising projects. These licensors that use MDIIO have access to features such as mood track analysis, and dynamic emotional analysis (visualizing the emotion of the song on a second by second basis), as well as several additional A.I. features in development – all designed to allow licensors to find that perfect song that evokes the right emotions and story alignment without the complexity and the higher price points often associated with more well-known songs. For example, a mainstream Bruno Mars song can be licensed on average for $500,000. MDIIO’s recommendation/ search engine can identify songs that sound similar to Bruno Mars for a fraction of the cost, making the value proposition very attractive to licensors and network studios.

Creators who use MDIIO don’t have to compromise between gaining exposure and a paycheck. MDIIO receives a 20% commission on licensing transactions facilitated through the MDIIO platform, which is far less than agents who charge 50 to 75% in commission.

With so many innovative features and incentives, it is no surprise that there are more than 3,600+ creators from 19 different countries using MDIIO, representing 15,000 songs being hosted on the platform today. Not all users are indie creators; in fact, some of these users include high profile songwriters that have collaborated with the world’s biggest artists such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Shawn Mendes, and Madonna (to name a few).

As MDIIO continues to grow on the home stage, Songistry is simultaneously striving to expand the platform farther into Asia, where Justin Gray continues to leverage his extensive success and relationships. Songistry has already begun preliminary conversations with labels, publishers, and management companies in Greater China and Asia.

“China is an important emerging market for us,” says Justin. “As copyright protection becomes more critical and major players such as Tencent and Youkou move into royalty-based payment systems, the necessity to track all of the pertinent and important data associated with copyright is more important than ever. Over the next 5 years, royalties and copyrights via China alone will amount to billions and billions of dollars. Someone needs to help provide the infrastructure and ability to shepherd these revenues and create new business models. Songistry/MDIIO is technologically prepared to do exactly that.”

“Despite the impacts of COVID, we continue to grow,” says Curtis, “but no amount of success will ever change the fact that we are an Alberta corporation with access to tremendous support and resources. Edmonton provides us the competitive advantage we would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”

You can read more about what the Songistry team is up to here.

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


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

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.”

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