A three-year-old startup with global ambitions in the automotive management sector is getting research and development assistance that will prepare it for a 5G future, thanks to a federal-provincial program hosted in part in the Waterloo Region.

ENCQOR 5G (Evolution of Networked Services through a Corridor in Québec and Ontario for Research and Innovation) is a federal-provincial partnership, intending to create a corridor of 5G digital infrastructure from Quebec City through southern Ontario. Through 5G testbeds, funding and support, ENCQOR 5G supports SMEs, researchers and academics in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Waterloo.

One of the beneficiaries of this program is Audesse, a Waterloo Region-based startup that provides IoT devices that can be installed in private or public fleet vehicles.

Audesse’s tight-knit group of engineers and designers already have clients in the United Kingdom, China, the U.S. and Canada. And thanks to its participation in ENCQOR 5G, it has collaborated with University of Waterloo researchers, and the business advisers and growth coaches at Communitech.

CEO and co-founder Rhyse Maryniuk says Audesse is halfway into its 10-month partnership with ENCQOR 5G, but already sees the benefits to its premiere product, the FlexCase.

The FlexCase is a plug-and-play device that allows remote monitoring and control of Internet-enabled vehicles. For instance, if a fleet of trucks needed a software upgrade or there was a problem with any of the vehicles, they would normally have to be brought to a central location, or a technician would have to go out to the vehicles to make the upgrade. With the FlexCase, changes or fixes can be made from a central location, saving hours of travel, labour and downtime.

Maryniuk says that thanks to ENCQOR 5G, FlexCase has gone from a device that had to be customized for every customer, to “a globally capable cloud-supported IoT device.”

Rhyse says the ENCQOR 5G research funding of up to $50,000 for qualifying companies that can match those funds “has given us the opportunity to go ahead with our 5G upgrade.”

Already, “it’s already been hugely beneficial. Right now we are rolling out our first ENCQOR 5G beta tests with customers.” Up to now, the FlexCase has been shipped with regional 4G modems, and recently, “we shipped one (to a client in Manitoba) with the 5G modem on it. So we’re excited to see how that works in the field.”

But Audesse isn’t stopping there. Maryniuk says the company is in discussions with Communitech about the AVIN (Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network) for autonomous vehicles, and already has a FlexCase in the WATonoBus, the green autonomous shuttle bus now cruising around the University of Waterloo campus.

The kind of connections that ENCQOR 5G supports with small- to medium-sized enterprises, researchers and academics is one of the great advantages of the program, says Mauro Rossi, Director of Advanced Technology Platforms at Communitech.

“Right now, they are using the 4G telemetry only, but the opportunity is there to go to 5G and Rogers is looking at that as a potential use case for transit.” For Audesse, “going to 5G with the ENCQOR project they’re working on is making them ready for the next step,” Rossi said. 

That next step is likely to test the FlexCase in a simulated 5G environment on the ENCQOR 5G testbed before the end of the program. And Rossi believes there is a role for Audesse to play in AVIN. “You have multiple programs between ENCQOR, which is 5G, and AVIN, which is the automotive self-driving, so really the role as Communitech is to pull these things together and make it possible for these companies to succeed and grow.”

Maryniuk says that Audesse would not be in the position to go with a globally enabled internet device without the ENCQOR 5G program: “It was a very expensive investment to make before, and now we are looking at costs that are 1/50th of what we used to pay. It’s reduced our hardware cost, it’s reduced our connection costs. 

“In the end, the product is much better, much more scalable. It’s a global piece of technology that we can now take and send to any customer. The product just wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the ENCQOR program. It wouldn’t be built.”

Maryniuk advises startups to get in touch with Communitech. “Engage with them. They’re a great resource that enables you to get to places you wouldn’t have been able to get to otherwise. 

“When I first found out about this, I didn’t think that we were big enough or our application made sense, and once I started talking with the ENCQOR 5G team, I found out that there was actually a good fit, and I am grateful that we had the opportunity because it has had a huge positive impact.”