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Mark Scantlebury, Chairperson, Alberta IoT

Many regions in the world are trying to replicate the success of Silicon Valley. 

In Alberta, all levels of government have programs and funding in place to help entrepreneurs take risk, develop new technology, and get it to market.

The universities and colleges in the province are focused on training world- class talent, research, and technology transfer into industry. Everyone wants the same thing, but there needs to be a spark that makes everything come together.

The spark has to be provided by entrepreneurs.

They have to take the risk to create the technology that turns into a business, but also believe in a culture of collaboration. This is the key ingredient that allows them to take help in the form of mentorship, capital, partnerships and more to grow into world-class companies. Without collaboration, we will continue to create small companies that work in isolation. These organizations either stagnate or get bought by larger companies in other jurisdictions and get relocated.

In 2017, a local Calgary Industrial Technology Advisor for the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), Dr. Moïse Ndoh, noticed that many of his clients were small companies working on the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, the key to the 4th Industrial Revolution. He recommended that these companies should collaborate on technology, marketing, education, and liaising with other organizations, and to create the Alberta IoT association.

So why Alberta and why now? To answer, we have to look back over the last couple of decades.

In the early 2000s Calgary had a thriving telecommunications industry anchored by Nortel. This attracted the likes of Panasonic and Intel, and provided the people and the ecosystem to help create start-ups like Wi-LAN, Cell-Loc, and NovAtel. At the same time in Edmonton, the University of Alberta was investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence (AI), bringing in some of the world’s top talent such as Richard Sutton, the godfather of Reinforcement Learning.

The telecom industry in Calgary dissipated with the bankruptcy of Nortel, but the people remained. Many of these individuals shifted to oil and gas, creating a hotbed for industrial monitoring and control technology. Edmonton meanwhile positioned itself as an AI leader with the creation of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), the opening of a Deep Mind office, and a plethora of AI start-ups.  With the slow down of oil and gas in the province, many companies shifted to IoT technology which combines monitoring and control, telecommunications, and cloud software to deliver internet connected systems that can incorporate complimentary technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Albertans are known for the ingenuity and determination that was required to settle the West, much like their counterparts in the U.S. that ended up becoming Silicon Valley. This culture mixed with all the other ingredients that exist in Alberta today will turn us into the world-wide centre of excellence for IoT technology. 

Alberta IoT was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit in December 2017 by eight founding members: Aurora Wireless Networks, Core Data, Extreme Telematics, mcThings, MR Control Systems, Trakopolis, SensorUp, and Symroc. Each volunteered their time and resources to design the framework, build up the association, collaborate, and position Alberta IoT to grow.

Since opening up to new members last summer, Alberta IoT has grown to over 25 members, attracted two sponsors, and started collaborating with numerous organizations and all levels of government. The official launch event, featuring all levels of government and local entrepreneurs, is taking place February 26, 2019.

Visit Alberta IoT to learn more, join the association, and purchase tickets to the launch event.

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