The vital importance of technology in helping people “age in place”

July 6th, 2021

As the Government of Canada’s Employment and Social Development web site wisely defines it in their Seniors Forum report:

“Aging in place means having the health and social supports and services you need to live safely and independently in your home or your community for as long as you wish and are able.”

The University Health Network takes up this concern – so heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic – in their recent article “Growing old at home: how tech is helping people ‘age in place’”. Here is an excerpt:

“Ron was able to make at-home caregiving [for his father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease] manageable, in part, because he put his computer science background to work. He implemented various technologies, from low-tech physical aids like poles and handgrips to keep his dad from falling, to higher-tech video cameras and GPS trackers that allowed him to keep an eye on his dad while he was away.

If other people had access to the same kind of technology that he did, then more seniors would likely stay at home after becoming ill, he believes. It’s an issue that’s become even more urgent in the face of COVID-19 as families do their best to keep loved ones away from viral spread in long-term care facilities, while simultaneously trying to have as little face-to-face contact as possible.”

The UHN article goes on to note that Ron went on to become an advisor to AGE-WELL, a technology and aging network that supports the development of technologies and services to help people age gracefully at home. Federally funded through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, working with researchers from across the country, AGE-WELL’s host institution is UHN, and its physical home is at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Researchers at KITE, the research arm of Toronto Rehab and a frequent collaborator with AGE-WELL, have long understood that remaining at home provides a better aging experience than a nursing home.

Dr. Geoff Fernie overlooks HomeLab, KITE’s home within a lab, where researchers test age-in-place technology.

Dr. Geoff Fernie overlooks HomeLab, KITE’s “home within a lab,” where researchers test age-in-place technology. (Photo credit: The KITE Research Institute at UHN​)

In my opinion, aging in place must most urgently be considered a highlight application, with important new social benefits being introduced during this current stage of the Digital Revolution. New technology developments will apply to smart homes, along with and feeding into connected communities and neighbourhoods. Health service organizations will connect directly to many of these initiatives.

Read more of the UHN article on aging in place technology endeavours here.

Post COVID-19 and Smart Cities

January 14th, 2021

The post COVID-19 evolution of Smart Cities will feature the addition of new dimensions, opportunities and priorities. Urban planners are already creating new physical models like the One Minute City in Sweden, the Fifteen Minute City in Paris, Nature Towns in Texas and the Superblock Community in Barcelona where nine-block areas at a time are being considered for new neighbourhood designs.

Meanwhile, social activists, city governments and real estate executives are exploring the possibilities of using excess business spaces for affordable housing while the Global Smart City business has become a trillion-dollar business, predicted to reach $3 trillion by 2025.

These new physical and social dimensions are all happening at a time of important technology transformation. Our broadband communications infrastructures continue to evolve with 5G communications in its early rollout stages while networks of Low Earth Orbiting Satellites are on the way. At the same time, autonomous transit shuttles, drone deliveries and many other new technologies and sensors are being introduced daily to support hundreds of new applications dealing with safety, security, enhanced productivity, sustainability and municipal operations.

Some cities and regions are creating new land sites just for testing new technologies and new systems, a strategy which often attracts new technology companies too. For example, the City of Ottawa, through Invest Ottawa has dedicated a very large piece of land for testing autonomous transit shuttles and other purposes. Ottawa will ultimately become a major centre for the evolution of autonomous vehicles.

autonomous transit shuttle

Photo credit: Invest Ottawa, via Ottawa Business Journal

COVID-19 has highlighted the broadband deficits in Canada and other countries, particularly in rural regions and low-income areas in cities. Fortunately, some new digital technologies are now available to quickly facilitate up to one gigabit of bandwidth on twisted pairs of copper wire or on coax cable. Fibre is not required for this important and low-cost bandwidth boost where older buildings do not have to be rewired, or fibered to receive higher bandwidths. Stay tuned!

Although the new ideas mentioned above are all very exciting, the creation of award-winning Smart Cities and Intelligent Communities will continue to feature proven processes and the identification of critical success factors. Effective municipal management and relevant Smart City governance will continue to be critical success factors for ensuring effective transformations with significant benefits from these new opportunities.

Considering Smart City transformations with 5G

May 25th, 2020

It was a privilege to be retained by LG Canada to participate in the announcement of their new LG V60 ThinQ 5G mobile phone. My role was to discuss the significant benefits of 5G as applied to Smart City transformations.

In summary, the arrival of 5G creates amazing new opportunities for Smart City transformation. Broadband speeds are up to 200 times faster than today’s 4G and typical latency delays can be reduced by a factor of 2,000. As a result, autonomous traffic and vehicle signaling become practical with 5G, as do remote surgeries and hundreds of other new opportunities. I’ll be going into more details on this in subsequent posts, here and on my LinkedIn page.

The V60 ThinQ 5G phone has impressive digital and analog audio capabilities along with a unique headphone jack. Its dual screens come in a case and work as one large screen or two separate screens. Video displays include LG’s impressive OLED technology. The phone will output or record 8K footage and the cameras take 8K videos now, even though public networks are still at 4K. Many other interesting features are described by LG in stores, on the web, and in their marketing materials.

The LG V60 ThinQ 5G Phone

LG V60 ThinQ 5G Phone

Learn more here about the LG V60 ThinQ 5G Phone.

After initially posting this on my LinkedIn page, friends and colleagues posted kind and creative feedback on my comments about the importance of 5G for the evolution of new Smart Future City applications. As we move through this decade, 6G will evolve. Hence the importance of future-proofing new 5G applications! For the past 25 years we have been helping our clients to future proof their Smart City designs while they prepared for the future.

Take a look at the comments and add your own to the discussion here.

Now is the time to boost Canadian tech firms and infrastructure with rapid emergency aid

April 29th, 2020

“If no action is taken action now, the Canadian technology sector infrastructure built up over decades risks being crippled as creative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the country disappear, said Paul LaBarge, chairman of CATA and a founding partner of LaBarge Weinstein LLP, in the open letter from April 7.”

Logo for Canadian Advanced Technology AllianceAnd so the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) raises the call as it notes that the federal government confirmed late last week that it has restarted the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) funding program in order to mitigate some of the economic strain facing Canadian businesses during COVID-19. Read the complete story here, via itbusiness.ca.

Heartily agreeing, I reposted this call to action with my own remarks on LinkedIn:

“Fifty two years ago initial public stock offerings were issued by a few small companies in ITC and other advanced technologies in Ottawa and Toronto. The companies and their clusters grew and after facing many challenges and roadblocks for ten years we created CATA to provide some collective support. I was privileged to participate in these two clusters as President of the first Canadian owned computer systems manufacturer. Its head office and software group was in Toronto with engineering and manufacturing in Ottawa.

From those small clusters many large clusters have evolved across Canada and as of last year the Greater Toronto Area was creating advanced technology jobs faster than all other major centres in North America!! Nationally our impact on GDP growth has been very significant!”

In turn, that LinkedIn post has garnered lots of reactions and comments – take a look here. Your comments and reactions are most welcome!

Lend your voice to the call for this vital and urgently needed support. CATA has started a petition, accompanied by the apt hashtag #DaysNotWeeks, as in: Save Canada’s future economy. Funding for science & research businesses in #DaysNotWeeks.

Working to improve rural and remote mobile communications in Canada and globally

March 9th, 2020

Another important step to improve rural and remote mobile communications in Canada and around the world was announced last week when Vodaphone, Samsung NEXT and others invested $110 million to close a Series B financing in AST & Science, supporting their ongoing creation of Space Mobile. We’re pleased to be assisting them in Canada.

Learn more about this significant milestone here:

Forbes magazine

This Satellite Startup Raised $110 Million To Make Your Cellphone Work Everywhere
March 3, 2020
Forbes

“Anyone who’s been on a long hiking trip or had a car break down on a road trip knows that the phone connectivity you take for granted in your daily life can quickly disappear. Despite advances in technology, how far a voice or data signal can travel is still limited to how far away you are from a cellphone tower.” Read more …

CATA Alliance calls for new national economic strategy for supporting technology business growth

January 29th, 2020

Logo for Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance

Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance) was originally created in 1978 to support development of fledgling Canadian owned small high tech companies. Thanks to CATA and many others over the next forty years, we created across Canada some of the world’s most impressive clusters of high tech start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Now, we must continue our support for our ongoing fountain of new firms while creating a new national ecosystem to support the growth of medium and large advanced technology firms. The benefit? Stability, global competitiveness, domestic opportunities and prosperity!

CATA CEO Suzanne Grant shares her thoughts in this recent piece, “Canada’s National Economic Strategy Requires Input from All Voices” (via TheFutureEconomy.ca).

CERBA panel focuses on growing interest in urban digital transformation

December 11th, 2019

Bill Hutchison chairs CERBA panelOn Tuesday, December 3, 2019, for the fourth year in a row, I was pleased to moderate a panel of Canadian construction and development companies as they described their products, services and experiences to trade officials and business executives from Russia and Eurasian countries.

The organizer of this event was the Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association (CERBA). CERBA has a long history of supporting Canada’s growing bilateral trade and collaboration with Eurasian and Russian organizations, although Russian business has slowed recently. Great opportunities are burgeoning in other Eurasian countries and there is a growing interest in “urban digital transformation” aka #smartcities, #intelligentcommunities, #resilientcities, #sustainablecities and #digitaletransformation.

Healthy global cities have neighbourhoods attuned to all ages … including kids!

October 29th, 2019

Imagine allowing our kids the freedom to play and move around outdoors the way we did years ago …

Marianne Lefever describes the developments and opportunities from using 5G communications and community design to “bring back our kids’ past freedoms”. Research has shown the long term physical and mental health benefits from increased outdoor exercise and exploration at a young age. Take a look at Lefever’s article “What if 5G could boost children’s development?” here.

lefever-pic

Paying tribute to John Reid, a technology leader always looking ahead and supporting broader issues

July 8th, 2019

With great sadness, I want to offer my tribute to John Reid, Canadian technology leader and influencer, not to mention a valued colleague and friend. John was in his 32nd year as the driving force behind the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance) when he passed away on June 24th at the age of 69.

John Reid (Photo courtesy of CATAAlliance)

John Reid (Photo courtesy of CATAAlliance)

One of John’s great contributions when he joined CATA was his early support for initiatives designed to create respect and support for our small but evolving evolving high tech industry, and for the application of information technology and communications throughout our society.

Not long before John joined CATA, our Canadian Government’s Minister of Industry told me he supported the growing base of advanced technology companies but most politicians believed we were “just a few Ottawa folks trying to feather their nest” …! Those comments summarized our challenge through the seventies and the eighties.

I was CATA Board Chair at the time. To enhance our respectability, we then created the CATA National Advisory Council (CNAC), comprised of eminent Persons who were neither running high tech firms nor members of CATA. They were University presidents, business presidents … of Inco and others who used technology and eagerly became CNAC members.

Upon joining CATA as CEO, John became a big supporter of CNAC and he played a large role through the council to create Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s National Advisory Board for Science and Technology (NABST), chaired by the Prime Minister. NABST policies led to support for major new Canadian science and technology initiatives, including CANARIE Inc., the National Centres of Excellence and others. A number of CNAC members also became NABST members.

To further build support for IT systems applications and the industry, John supported the creation of The Canadian Information Productivity Awards (CIPA) in 1994 and it later became a CATA initiative. Over the next twelve years, CIPA added a lot of public credibility for ITC and the industry.

The respect and size established for CATA and the industry during John’s first sixteen CEO years allowed him to successfully focus his leadership and support over his next and last sixteen years on broader social issues like women’s roles and influence, safety and security, Smarter Cities through I-Canada and CATA’s broad positioning in the world of social media, all of which are well described by tributes from Dr Cindy Gordon and others.

We will all miss John, his humour, his leadership and his great contribution to Canada.

Many are praising John and his contributions to Canadian technology, including Sir Terence Matthews:

Sir Terence Matthews remembers John Reid from Alice Debroy on Vimeo.

The CBC reflects here on John’s accomplishments, and CATA has gathered more tributes here.

Responding to Don Tapscott’s call for a “new social contract we all have to build for the digital era”

September 26th, 2018

On Monday September 24th, Don Tapscott delivered some important and prescient remarks to The Walrus Talks Connections. He spoke of the need for a “new social contract we all have to build for the digital era”. A few days earlier this month the World Economic Forum (WEF) issued a report titled “Agile Cities: Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” There is an interesting dichotomy between these two public presentations, mirroring what’s going on in general around the world.

tapscott-walrus-talks

Don is one of the world’s leading observers, thinkers and writers chronicling and participating in the world’s ongoing digital revolution. He is focused on the issues of trust and democracy in our societies, arguing that the present evolution of our new digital society with its uneven distribution of wealth and knowledge has elements similar to feudal days. Don argues we need to come together nationally to create a new digital democracy and replace the faltering one we created for the industrial age.

Meanwhile, the WEF report referencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and introducing “Agile Cities”, provides another descriptor to compete with and perhaps complement “Smart, Intelligent Resilient, Sustainable, Investable, Innovative” and many others. They are all part of today’s urban digital transformation which is attracting billions of investment dollars and began around the time when I and other colleagues pioneered the creation of Smart Toronto ’94, twenty-four years ago. However, we must now prioritize and respond positively to Don’s call for action on the urgent need to study and create new national social contracts supporting a new digital democracy to replace our faltering industrial age ecosystems with their evolving feudal qualities.