Canada is already a key player on the global stage when it comes to technology and innovation. Large financial institutions and think tanks from TD Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada to MNP, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) all say that Canada has led the world in science and technology for decades. Investments in technology abound as both the private sector and government look to capitalize on Canada’s latest gold rush – Big Data.
As we wrote previously, Big Data holds the potential to transform the country’s economy in areas from ecommerce and industry to healthcare and environmental sustainability. The key to unlocking Big Data’s potential is in the capabilities of the fiber-optic networks serving government and businesses in Canada, the seamless access to hyperscale data centers and an abundance of cost-effective, renewable energy to highlight this message further. We look at three ways in which emerging technologies are set to transform innovation and growth, creating a better future for Canadians.
1. Advancing Commerce, Research & Innovation through Artificial Intelligence (AI) & the Internet of Things (IoT)
Here's a fun fact - Artificial Intelligence (AI) got its start because of Canadians. Back when AI and Deep Learning were considered mere science fiction, three computer scientists at Toronto’s Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) refused to give up on their research involving neural networks and deep learning. Thanks to them, consumers now enjoy deep learning functionality embedded in apps like Google Photos and Facebook Moments.
All this started back in the 1990s. Since 2018, Canada has been funding its Global Innovation Clusters, one of which specifically concentrates on AI research and innovation. Scale AI, the supercluster focused on leveraging AI to build intelligent supply chains across numerous verticals (e.g. retail, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure, information and communications technology), has received total funding of up to $355 million from the federal government. In fact, in its 2022 Budget, the country pledged $750 million through 2028 to all Global Innovation Clusters, which means more money will soon be given to Scale AI. Importantly, however, it’s not just the government investing in AI.
From e-commerce to health tech, the private sector is investing heavily into AI and the IoT. For example, Deloitte’s North America Technology Fast 500™ Winners list features Toronto-based Snapcommerce. Ranked 5th overall, they’re also Canada’s fastest growing company in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50™ awards. Snapcommerce uses AI to help consumers save money when they use their phones to buy products.
Another example of this is Markham-based engineering firm, Peytec. They are using AI-powered software to enable integrated IoT sensors that can provide real-time analytics and alerts. According to Invest Ontario, companies like Toyota and Sheridan Nurseries are using these sensors to monitor a multitude of vital aspects from vehicle painting to greenhouse temperatures.
On the healthcare side, biotech companies like Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics are increasingly leveraging AI to discover and to develop therapeutic antibodies. In fact, AbCellera’s innovations landed them a deal with Moderna to discover antibodies for mRNA medicines. In many ways, AI is going to positively impact our lives for years to come.
2. Boosting Manufacturing & Sustainability with AI, Robotics & Machine Learning (ML)
Canada’s manufacturing sector accounts for roughly 11% of Canada’s GDP and employs 1.7 million Canadians. Traditionally, Ontario has been Canada’s manufacturing powerhouse, accounting for 47% of Canadian manufacturing sales and producing 59% of all vehicles in this country. The 2008 recession cost Ontario almost 250,000 manufacturing jobs. Yet, between 2010 and 2019, factory output as measured by GDP rose 16% in the province. With 1 in 10 Ontarians working in the manufacturing industry, technology and innovation have provided the sector with a way out of the gloomy days of the recession. Now, 50% of factory jobs created in the province since 2010 are in advanced manufacturing.
Through the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, the federal government has invested $250 million in next generation manufacturing capabilities around advanced robotics, Machine Learning (ML) and 3D printing. The results are paying off - The International Federation of Robotics’ 2020 World Robotics report found that the country has above average industrial robot density – 165 units per 10,000 employees to the average of 113 units.
From BC’s lumber and ship repair industries to Quebec’s aerospace sector, robotics, AI and ML have applications beyond manufacturing. Environmental sustainability is a key component of building a better future for Canadians. Alberta’s oil and gas industry, for example, is beginning to benefit from AI, ML and analytics to develop more effective ways to recover resources, to reduce environmental impacts, improve safety and to reduce the need to travel onsite. In Canada’s agricultural fields, robotic harvesters can leverage these technologies to help farmers pick crops at the optimal time, reducing farming costs and improving food safety and disease protection. Fleet managers also benefit from the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of ML. For example, Preteckt, a Hamilton-based company, has developed ML-powered software for predictive maintenance that can help keep trucks on the road so supply chains run smoothly. No matter where you look, emerging technologies are reshaping Canada and creating new opportunities for economic growth.
3. Advancing Mobility and Media through AI
Canada is also at the forefront of emerging cellular technologies that will open the door to new ground-breaking digital opportunities for businesses and consumers. Currently, the Canadian (and international) telecommunications industry is heavily focused on widespread deployments of 5G networks, which will provide faster speeds, lower latency, and better bandwidth than the current 4G ones. According to Accenture, Canada’s wireless carriers are set to spend around $26 billion on 5G network deployment, in addition to the billions that have already been spent at spectrum auctions for the airwaves. The government is also continuing to support 5G deployment across Canada, recently announcing a decision to re-purpose the 3800 MHz spectrum band to support 5G services.
Yet, even as widespread 5G network deployments continue, Canadian businesses and academic institutions are already working on a pathway to the next generation of mobile networks – 6G. Where 5G has opened the door to innovative applications involving the IoT, virtual and augmented reality, 6G could bring futuristic smart factories, holographic communications and even the Internet of Senses (i.e. experiencing the four senses through airwaves) into fruition. According to Melike Erol-Kantarci, the Canada Research Chair (Tier-2) in AI-Enabled Next-Generation Wireless Networks at the University of Ottawa, AI will be key to 6G development, as it will provide a level of efficiency and autonomous decision making to bring hardware and software together in a way that is beyond current capabilities.
Canada is already at the forefront of bringing 6G from theory to reality. In January 2022, VMware, a U.S.-based multi-cloud provider, Mitacs, a Canadian non-profit research agency, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers announced that they will be establishing an applied 6G Research and Innovation lab in Montreal. In concert with the Open Grid alliance, this facility will help reimagine and build the networks that will eventually bring 6G to Canada and to the world. This will not only help engineers deliver a standard with speeds that are 100 times faster than that of 5G, but will create a fundamental re-architecting of the networks that we depend on. This could lead to a more connected world, an end to the digital divide and the creation of a more diverse economy. Although 6G will not see commercial deployment for at least another 10 years, Canada already has a vital role to play in advancing the technological evolution that will not only transform this country’s economy, but that of the world.
What Does This Mean for Canadians?
To sum it all up, technology is revamping how Canadians will live and do business. Exciting discoveries have real-world applications, and what was once considered science fiction is now reality. As a leader in technology, Canada is still only scratching the surface of what could be possible. The use of new technologies will lead to exponential growth in the amount of data that could be transported over Canada’s fiber-optic networks. Applications that rely on AI and ML are also latency-dependent and require ultra-high-speed networks in order to work as promised, in real time.
Canada’s networks will need an upgrade, and 400G is the next step. This technology offers the high speeds and capacity that Canada’s Big Data future will need. Bell Canada has already announced that they have deployed 400G service across major spans of Bell's 10,500 mile fiber infrastructure, the length of which could wrap around the world 7 times. This will meet the fast-growing demand for transport of massive amounts of data and content to the cloud. We are also 800G ready, which will help us meet this need moving forward as demand grows. As they embrace the digital future, businesses and governments in Canada will need enhanced fiber-optic networks and we’re working to deliver. Are you ready?
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