NextBC celebrates local tech companies and innovations at Science World

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      The British Columbia government seems hellbent on staking the province’s future on natural resource development. Like liquefied natural gas (LNG) and fracking are the unequivocal answer to all our problems. 

      Meanwhile, on Thursday night (May 15), a gathering of B.C.’s vibrant technology industries, world leaders in their fields, filled Science World with ideas and projects that will generate more revenue than any gas field. 

      NextBC was further proof that B.C. is at the forefront of the knowledge economy despite the priorities of the provincial government. Twenty-five of the province’s most innovative companies displayed and demonstrated their technology innovations and solutions in the Eureka Gallery. 

      Howard Donaldson, president of DigiBC, which produced the event, said that the 25 were “companies who are working on breakthrough technology”. They included small and large organizations that were both new and established, and represented a number of different sectors. 

      Among them, Internet applications including Hootsuite’s social media management tools, the dating website Plenty of Fish, identity verification from Trulioo (get it? “truly you”), and Payfirma and PayWith e-commerce solutions. 

      Recon was on hand with its Jet heads-up display, which is like Google Glass but mounted to Oakley-type sunglasses, and designed for “high intensity environments” like cycling, skiing, and snowboarding.

      Also in the showcase were power and energy technologies like Elix Wireless’s charging and medical solutions and the surgical nurse training simulation app from Conquer Mobile

      Electronic Arts Canada was on hand showing the technology that went into the development of it’s mixed martial arts video game, EA Sports UFC, arriving on the PS4 and Xbox One in June. 

      Other entertainment technologies included CineCoup and Gener8, a company founded by former EA and Radical Entertainment exec Rory Armes and featuring the talents of former Radical studio head Tim Bennison and executive Danielle Rockel. Rockel explained that Gener8 has developed proprietary technology to convert 2-D films into 3-D, and has worked on the likes of 300: Rise of an Empire and Iron Man 3. Gener8 will also be converting The Grandmaster, written and directed by Wong Kar-wai and released in 2013, about the life of the man who trained Bruce Lee.

      And leading the category of “that happens in B.C.?” was Burnaby’s D-Wave, which is a foremost quantum computer researcher and manufacturer. While conventional computers store data in bits, which are represented by zeroes and ones, quantum computers use “qubits” which can “exist in a state of zero and one simultaneously”. D-Wave quantum computing systems are being used by the likes of NASA and Google. 

      Later in the evening was a presentation of awards to companies deemed to have the most outstanding innovation. In his opening remarks, Donaldson said that a “do it at all cost attitude is central to innovation”. 

      “I congratulate the companies for stepping outside the status quo,” he added. 

      The five finalists for most innovative tech company were Avigilon, Captherm, D-Wave, General Fusion, and Urthecast. Representatives from the five companies were subjected to a series of questions from a judging panel to determine the gold, silver, and bronze winners. 

      Avigilon develops high-definition security video provider. Captherm has a new cooling technology that is superior to other cooling solutions. General Fusion hopes to prove its technology in the next two years, and claims to be only eight years away from commercialization of fusion reactor power plants. Urthecast is able to provide Earth images at a low cost, and is only months away from delivering high-definition images of the planet from space to our televisions and computers. 

      Awards went to:

      • Audience choice award: Fusion Pipe Software Solutions (cybersecurity services)
      • Bronze award: Avigilon
      • Silver award: D-Wave Systems
      • Gold award: General Fusion

      In addressing the crowd during the awards, Andrew Wilkinson, minister of technology, innovation, and citizen’s services, admitted that the tech industry’s GDP is bigger than all the province’s resource industries combined.

      But then, in a keynote address, Andrew Harries, founder of Sierra Wireless and now a venture capitalist, talked about seeing a sign that read, “Yes to clean jobs, no to pipelines” and said that he was fully supportive of the idea, but that the tech sector would have to significantly “up its game” if it planned to replace the revenues generated by resource extraction. 

      It still seems short-sighted of Premier Christy Clark to be reticent in publicly acknowledging the importance of the tech sector to B.C. And to gamble all our futures on something as tenuous as LNG.