Amika Mobile's emergency alert technology allows evacuation information to be spread quickly and efficiently via cellphones, e-mail, land lines, overhead speakers and displays.
Earlier this month, the CRC - Canada's leading federal communications R&D lab - made use of Amika Mobile's technology after a major emergency on its campus at Shirleys Bay. It was the first chance to fully use the emergency alert system. It went flawlessly, and no one was hurt.
"It was a really good hard and fast display of what we've delivered there," said Amika Mobile CEO Sue Abu-Hakima.
The contract was made possible by the Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program, a $40-million pilot project launched by Public Works to speed up the time it takes to bring new products to market, and to help small companies get their foot into the government's door.
An entrepreneur for 12 years, Ms. Abu-Hakima owned and sold a previous company, Amika Now, but has never been able to secure a government client.
"It's not that we don't know how to do business," she says, "it's just that the government doesn't generally buy from small businesses. This (CICP) has gone a long way to help win that battle."
Amika Mobile applied to the first of four calls for proposals issued by CICP, and was one of 27 prequalified suppliers. From there, successful vendors were matched with appropriate government departments.
Following the closing of the second round, CICP identified 37 prequalified companies. Fourteen contracts have been awarded from the first two rounds, with new matches being made every week, says Shereen Benzvy Miller, Public Works's director general of the small and medium enterprises sector's acquisitions branch. Contracts awarded from round two have yet to be disclosed.
The technologies are selected after an independent review of proposals by the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program, followed by an evaluation of those rankings by an external selection committee.
As a pilot program that is learning as it goes, CICP underwent significant changes between rounds one and two, including the selection process for the external committee.
The first time around, Public Works sought out prominent serial entrepreneurs from across the country, including Dragons' Den's W. Brett Wilson. For round two, Public Works invited various business schools to select candidates, including entrepreneurs in residence.
"That actually worked beautifully," Ms. Miller says.
The third call for proposals was posted at the end of February on Merx, a procurement site commonly used by the federal government. Proposals will be accepted until April 22.
The program will be completed in March 2013, after which its future is uncertain. Discussions and evaluations regarding how to extend the program are in the works, Ms. Miller says, adding that she is "very optimistic."
Last fall, CICP paired local technology company SageData Solutions Inc. with Correctional Service Canada after prequalifying in round one. SageData has since successfully rolled out its INSPEC mobile inspection technology in eight CSC facilities across the country.
CSC identified an issue around food safety, as its paper-based food inspection system wasn't working. Using SageData's hand-held product, the participating CSC locations can now see who did the inspection and when it was done, as well as what the temperature reading of the food storage unit was. The contract, which expires this fall, will be reviewed at that point by CSC to determine whether it will be renewed or expanded.
The biggest benefit of SageData's partnership with CSC has been the ability to use a government department as a reference, says SageData president John Rivenell.
"When people ask, we can say we installed it in these prisons, I can show you the reports," he says. "The reality is, when you're selling something, the tone of voice and body language matter. I don't doubt I talk to these people better (now). I can stand there with a big smile on my face and say, ‘It's great. I know it works.'"
As well, local company AMITA Corp. is successfully carrying out its contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Edgewater Computer Systems is working with the Department of National Defence.
Contracts awarded to Ottawa companies after CICP's first round of proposals:
Company: AMITA Corp.
Technology: MedPost, a day-to-day health information sharing software allowing the medical community to manage major health events such as virus outbreaks.
Company: Edgewater Computer Systems Inc.
Technology: RTEdge Platform, a model-driven software toolset for mission-critical systems.
Area: Enabling technology
Company: Amika Mobile Corp.
Technology: Amika Mobility Server Emergency Alerting, a mass alert notification platform for venues such as airports,
campuses and arenas.
Area: Safety and security
Company: SageData Solutions Inc.
Technology: INSPEC, a mobile tool to effectively manage equipment repair or inspection.
Area: Enabling technology