Smart cities

Fresh off a CDN$15-million raise in May, Miovision, the Waterloo Region traffic tech company headed by Kurtis McBride, generated some international buzz last month when it announced its part in creating what’s being billed as “the world’s smartest intersection” in Detroit.

The intersection (actually, five intersections along a busy corridor in the heart of the Motor City) is a system of sensors and connected traffic signals with remote monitoring capability that aims to improve safety and traffic functionality. It’s powered by Miovision’s TrafficLink product, which is being deployed in more than 40 per cent of intersections in Detroit.

Miovision wasn’t the only local company involved in a smart city initiative in June. Closer to home, eleven-x and FoxNet teamed up with the City of Stratford in a smart parking pilot project, which they discussed during a lunchtime symposium at the Communitech Data Hub, home of ODX, Canada’s Open Data Exchange. ODX provided part of the funding for the project, which now makes real-time parking data available to Stratford residents and tourists.

Smart cities are powered by smart people: News emerged that the President of Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Richard Florizone, will leave the university in 2019 to join the new Quantum Valley Ideas Lab in Waterloo. Florizone holds a PhD in physics from MIT.

Speaking of personnel changes at universities, University of Waterloo announced that Tom Jenkins, Chair of the Board at OpenText, has come to the end of his three-year term as chancellor and has stepped down, ceding the role to Dominic Barton, global managing partner of McKinsey & Company.

And while we’re talking about leadership and knowledge, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the stir created by Knowledgehook, the Waterloo Region educational software company and Communitech Rev alumnus, which announced that Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox, had agreed to join its board of directors, as described in a story in The Waterloo Region Record.

Talking money

Fast-growing Waterloo Region startup ApplyBoard, which helps international students navigate the sometimes tricky visa and school application process, announced a US$13-million Series A raise, led by Silicon Valley-based Artiman Ventures.

That announcement trailed one made by Waterloo’s P&P Optica, which makes food scanning equipment. P&P closed a CDN$3.1-million round to accelerate deployment of its smart imaging system.

And Dozr, which provides a platform for heavy equipment rentals, closed a round of CDN$1.3 million, led by FairVentures Inc., the same company that provided $2.5 million of equity funding to DOZR in September of 2016. As part of the new raise, former Sandvine co-founder and CEO Dave Caputo will join the Dozr board.

Speaking of Dozr, co-founder and COO Erin Stephenson won the Woman Entrepreneur Award at the 2018 Ontario Startup Canada Awards, held in Sault Ste. Marie.

Meanwhile Waterloo’s FleetCarma, maker of solutions designed to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles, was acquired by Oakville’s Geotab, whose IoT platform helps improve management of commercial vehicle fleets.

Hub happenings

Two companies opened up labs in the burgeoning Communitech corporate innovation space. Toronto-based Interac, the electronic payment company, has tasked new Lab Director Tricia Gruetzmacher with keeping tabs on emerging trends and developing payment solutions. Just days after Interac’s launch, Wawanesa Insurance opened its innovation outpost, which will be led by David Arbuthnot. And Wawanesa unveiled some news on the same day, taking the wraps off a partnership with local startup ProNavigator, which will help Wawanesa’s customers access insurance quotes through interactive voice technology.

Personnel from another of Communitech’s corporate innovation space tenants, the Royal Canadian Air Force, were pleased to host a discussion mid-month led by Eric Fournier of the Department of National Defence, who dropped by Communitech and explained how local tech companies can access funds related to a new $1.6-billion federal program called IDEaS, that seeks to attract innovative solutions for the Canadian military and security establishment.

Tech for good

Reverberations from True North, Communitech’s ground-breaking tech-for-good conference which took place in late May, continued to be felt through the ensuing month.

BetaKit, the online news portal that covers Canadian startup and tech news, rolled out a number of stories and multimedia pieces in the wake of the event, including a podcast curated by BetaKit editor-in-chief Douglas Soltys, who spoke with Chairman Mom and Pando founder Sarah Lacy, one of True North’s keynote speakers, about problems in Silicon Valley.

Marcel O’Gorman, a professor of English at the University of Waterloo, a founding director of the Critical Media Lab and one of the people who took part during True North in the writing of the Tech for Good Declaration, penned a poignant opinion piece in The Record about tech companies being ethical and inclusive, “and thinking beyond the profits and efficiencies that drive innovation.”

In the same vein, Communitech News followed up with a story about a conference session that focused on the roles that tech companies and their employees play in shaping their communities. Panelist Catherine Bracy, Executive Director and co-founder of the Bay Area’s TechEquity Collaborative, delivered a quote that stood out: “I’m confident not another single line of code needs to be written in order to meet the needs that you’re facing,” she said.

With Pride Month under way, Joy Smith and Gord Tanner dropped by the Tannery to talk about their new initiative,, which has launched a series of meetups that aim to “carve out safer spaces” for tech workers who identify as LGBTQ+.

And Terry Pender of The Record wrote about how local software and app developer Zeitspace is helping Kitchener’s Shore Centre (formerly Planned Parenthood) expand its new app nationwide. The app helps pregnant women access community and medical resources. Shore Centre took part in Communitech’s Fierce Founders program during which it generated connections that ultimately led to the app’s creation.

In other news

    • APrivacy, the Waterloo- and Hong Kong-based digital security company, rolled out a secure chatbot allowing banks and insurance companies to communicate with their customers on WhatsApp.
    • Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs, which makes unmanned aerial vehicles, announced a partnership with drone service provider Hazon Solutions of Virginia Beach, VA.
    • Applied Brain Research, based in Waterloo, was named a 2018 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, one of 61 companies to receive the honour and the only Canadian one to do so.

– This edition of the Tech Roundup compiled by Craig Daniels
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