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Nadim Jamal

Director of Insights & Smart Cities, TELUS

Kurtis McBride

Kurtis McBridge

Co-Founder & CEO, Miovision

The COVID-19 pandemic had an unparalleled impact on Canadian society and business, but it has also highlighted the importance of investing in digital infrastructure and connectivity. Building smart cities is an example of how this investment can boost the economy and leave a legacy for future generations.

Governments across Canada haven’t been shy about committing billions of dollars to stimulus funding, and there’s a strong argument to be made that investing in municipal infrastructure — through innovation, data analytics, and connected technology — will help build the foundation for long-term economic growth instead of just the short-term lift that often results from government stimulus funding. This strategy makes sense given the growing concentration of the Canadian population in cities and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the corresponding growth of the digital economy.

A smarter approach to infrastructure stimulus

In times of economic crisis, the playbook for government is to do what it has always done — stimulate the economy by funding shovel-ready projects such as roads, bridges, and other fixed infrastructure projects.

“The difference this time is that so much of our economy today relies on technology and digitization, which are intangible assets,” says Kurtis McBride, Co-Founder and CEO of Miovision. “It’s incumbent on government to not only consider traditional stimulus infrastructure, but to also look at technology infrastructure and digital procurement opportunities. This will lead to longer-term economic development that will benefit Canadians, while also leading to a value-add that’s exportable.”

Miovision’s dedication to innovation and solving some of our most pressing urban challenges has made it a leading authority in helping cities to realize their smart city goals. The company uses computer vision, artificial intelligence, and advanced modelling to help cities modernize their approach to traffic management.

McBride adds that with the rise of the consumer internet, data has increased in value over the past few decades. He points to some of the companies with the highest market capitalization, such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, which are almost entirely data-driven. The convergence of the digital and physical worlds is powering the next wave of data concentration, leading to the growth of smart cities and communities. We’re already seeing this in road and intersection management and fleet vehicle optimization, but there are more opportunities that we can unlock if there’s a strategy at the national level on how best to leverage our data assets. The prize is a better quality of life, more efficient communities, and reduced environmental impact.

Technology powers the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed (perhaps forever) our traditional view of the workplace and the way businesses operate. “If you asked the average customer of ours a year ago if someone could manage city intersections from their living room, they’d all laugh,” says McBride. “But the world has changed and what we’ve seen over the past six months is that the cities that employed cloud-based technology have been able to keep running with staff working in remote environments. The ones that hadn’t invested in technology have struggled.”

So much of the global economy is driven by intangible digital assets. To capitalize on the benefits of data and technology, the private and public sectors in Canada need to be intentional and strategic about coming together to develop a plan for developing smart communities across the country.

The difference this time is that so much of our economy today relies on technology and digitization, which are intangible assets. It’s incumbent on government to not only consider traditional stimulus infrastructure, but to also look at technology infrastructure and digital procurement opportunities.

Kurtis McBride, CEO of Miovision

To achieve this, McBride says that open data architecture, which cultivates innovation, will benefit our cities more than any other technology. He adds that given the high value that data has in today’s digital world, it can be self-sustaining, with data assets generating revenue that can then be reinvested in innovative technologies.

“The evolution of smart cities will be as profound as the internet was, but no single company can take us through this transformation,” says McBride. “Open data will encourage cross-vendor collaboration and partnerships with the public and private sectors and academia.”

Accelerating smart cities through collaboration

“Collaboration will be critical in the post-COVID recovery, because by working together we can achieve synergies and drive efficiencies that will help cities solve some of their most challenging problems,” says Nadim Jamal, Director of Insights and Smart Cities at TELUS. “We partnered with Miovision because we’re both passionate about data-driven decisions and data assets that can be used on a global scale. It shares our vision of smart and connected cities.”

TELUS is committed to growing the Canadian technology economy and is always seeking opportunities to invest and partner with innovative Canadian companies to leverage leading technologies. The partnership between Miovision and TELUS is a perfect example of the type of collaboration required in today’s technology-driven environment. Either company operating on its own simply would not be able to achieve what they can do together. Now, cities across the world will be able to measure, manage, and optimize traffic congestion with the help of Miovision’s expertise, combined with the power of TELUS’ dedicated IoT network.

Jamal believes Canadian companies are in a great position to leverage data and technology to make meaningful change and to create safer, healthier, and more sustainable communities. “Technology is coming to us regardless. We have an opportunity to develop and adopt Canadian tech solutions that will support smart cities and businesses,” he says. “It’s better if the solutions come from Canadian companies, where there are robust standards in data privacy and security, than importing technology that may not have been developed with the same standards.”

COVID-19 could be the catalyst to accelerate the move to the digital economy — a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reorient and change the paradigm.

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