Op-ed: Ottawa is building a world-class Internet of Things ecosystem

Ottawa-IoT

The Internet of Things is an extension of the internet that interconnects things with the people and computers already there. It’s a new paradigm increasingly underpinning our economic activity and way of life.

Ottawa is right in the thick of things, fast becoming a world-class centre for IoT.

It’s no secret that Ottawa is a long-established technology hub with one of the highest concentrations of talent in North America. Stemming from narrower legacy sectors such as telecommunications, the region has evolved into a highly diversified ICT economy – a fact that meshes well with the breadth of the IoT space. This gives Ottawa what it takes to be a world-class centre with tentacles firmly placed in all IoT dimensions and a full complement of ecosystem actors.

In the case of a regional IoT ecosystem, there are primarily three dimensions: architecture, verticals and domains.

IoT inforgraphic

Architecture

Despite the popular notion of IoT as interconnected sensors, or fridges talking to stoves and generating lots of data, the IoT space is much broader, with multiple dimensions and far-reaching effects and consequences.

Such physical devices or things are just a small part of the IoT architecture that must also transmit, store and manage the data, as well as have the capacity to interpret and act on that data. Ottawa is home to many companies delivering this IoT architecture, whether it’s end devices, software components, the network, cloud infrastructure or applications.

With too many to mention all, they include the likes of ORBCOMM, Nanometrics, eSight, Wind River, Solace and others providing IoT devices and related software components; Ericsson, Nokia, DragonWave-X, and ThinkRF with plays in the network; and Microsoft, IBM and Hitachi with cloud and analytics offers.

Verticals

However, like a hammer, an IoT architecture is only a means to an end, and not the end itself. It’s just one dimension of the IoT space, with the real value determined by how it’s used and applied.

IoT application or solutions verticals such as autonomous vehicles, smart cities, health, precision agriculture and others constitute another important IoT dimension.

The National Capital Region is a fast-growing cluster of innovation for autonomous vehicle software with the establishment of autonomous vehicle innovation centres from Ford and Blackberry QNX. The region has already demonstrated Canada’s first use of live DSRC on city streets within the Kanata North Technology Park and is in the process of establishing a permanent four-season autonomous vehicle test area in the region.

Precision agriculture is rife with IoT and gaining momentum for Ottawa. The combination of the already-present federal research in agriculture, the Central Experimental Farm and the city’s own recognition of precision agriculture as an economic development tool is an important addition to the IoT ecosystem.

Domains

Though the architecture and verticals comprise the means and values of IoT, they are enabled by innovations in a plethora of disciplines, which in return drive impact and transformation in other domains of human and societal endeavours.

Together, these domains form the third important dimension of the IoT space. Artificial intelligence, blockchain and cybersecurity are just some of the enabling domains.

Ottawa is rich in the various domains of knowledge and expertise needed to deliver IoT architectures and vertical solutions. Among them is long-held general software and hardware technology development expertise within many product-specific companies. In addition, there are design service providers with growing portfolios of IoT designs under their belt – among them are Syntronic R&D Canada, Sanmina, Design 1ST, Fidus Systems, and FLEX.

Specialized sets of technologies applicable throughout the IoT architecture and verticals, such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity are also well represented by companies such as Lixar, Hitachi, IBM, Microsoft, Irdeto, Trend Micro and TwelveDot, among others.

A wide cast of players

Societal impacts are another domain of consideration for IoT. Ottawa is privileged to be the seat of federal government departments such as Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Transport Canada, which are key for developing policies to mitigate unwanted negative IoT impacts or side effects – in addition to promoting IoT adoption and innovation.

Non-government organizations such as the Canadian arm of the Internet Society and CIRA, which are opinionated about consumer aspects of IoT such as cybersecurity, also call Ottawa home.

Adding to the above mix are University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College and La Cité, with research and programs in many domains of knowledge touched by IoT, both in tech and social sciences realms.

The crucial domain of cultivating and promoting IoT-based business and economic growth is addressed by public and private organizations such as Invest Ottawa, OCE, CENGN, L-SPARK, the Kanata North Business Association and others. These are key for ensuring that nascent IoT enterprises meet real market needs, have a path to capital and attract external investment into Ottawa.

An IoT ecosystem would not be complete without actors from a variety other disciplines such as Momentum Business Law to help address the IoT privacy legal challenge and design-in privacy from the start, or Spring2 Innovation to facilitate innovation of IoT solutions and policies using Design Thinking.

Lastly, the important role of facilitating mutual awareness among ecosystem members and providing opportunities to learn from each other, interact and connect is provided by IoT613 – such as its annual Internet of Things Conference.

Join the Sphere

Ottawa is a world-class centre for the Internet of Things, with ecosystem members across all key dimensions needed to deliver economically effective and socially inclusive IoT – architecture, verticals, and related domains of knowledge and endeavour. 

If you are an actor in the IoT space in Ottawa – industry, academia, government, professional or NGO – then step into the sphere. Contact us at IoT613 and let us know who you are or join the conversation on Twitter #iot613 or LinkedIn IoT613.

Walter Knitl is the principal consultant at Praxiem and co-founder of IoT613. He co-organized the IoT613 conference, and frequently speaks about IoT.