As Canada evolves so do new challenges and potential threats. Thankfully, evolution also presents opportunity for innovation and these startups have created solutions to rise to these new challenges.
As civilization and society evolves, so do the threats and challenges we face both at home and on the job. Advancements in how we live and work have provided myriad benefits, but they have also made threats to our safety more complex than ever. Pollution and climate change has increased the number and severity of natural disasters worldwide. Developments in industrial manufacturing and transportation lead to workplace mishaps and traffic hazards. Our interaction with, and even dependence on, technology has opened us up to security threats that we would have never imagined more than 30 years ago.
However with the evolution of new threats and challenges also comes innovation and prolific solutions — helping us to see progress much more for the benefits than the risks — and innovators right here in Ontario are changing the way we respond.
LONGAN VISION – Hamilton, Ontario
When we think about firefighting, we automatically imagine flames. And while of course dousing the fire quickly and efficiently is the major challenge, there are many more variables to contend with — like communication and visibility. Dense smoke can greatly impair visibility for firefighters, making it difficult to locate flames or victims not visible to the naked eye, as well as making complex terrain more difficult to navigate. Communication — vital for first responders who need to make split-second decisions — can also be challenging if limited radio communication is the only option.
Unlike previous generations, however, today’s firefighters have the benefit of technology, like handheld thermal imaging cameras. But there is an inherent flaw right in the name of the technology — handheld. Firefighters often need all hands on deck, in the literal sense, and having to operate a device by hand when you need to respond quickly to a sudden issue doesn’t go all the way to addressing the visibility issue. That’s why Longan Vision, a startup based at McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton, Ontario, is taking this technology a step further.
Combining head-up display technology with thermal imaging, FVS enables firefighters to see through dense smoke with thermal imaging but without having to operate it by hand.
Launched in 2018 by McMaster University Mechanical Engineering students Mingpo (Enzo) Jia, Alex Shortt, and Yizhou (Leno) Zhao, Computer Engineering student Liuyin (Martin) Shi, and Software Engineering student Chang (Ash) Liu, Longan Vision has created the Fusion Vision System (FVS), an augmented reality smart visor that provides hands-free visibility for firefighters.
Combining head-up display technology with thermal imaging, FVS enables firefighters to see through dense smoke with thermal imaging but without having to operate it by hand. With the added bonus of multiple sensors, signal transmission tools, and augmented reality technology, FVS also provides real-time sharing of information, image processing, environment, and health status updates, and indoor localization information — all on one user interface attached onto a firefighter’s helmet.
With expressed interest from several Ontario fire departments — as well as fire departments overseas — Longan Vision is currently preparing for its first test pilot. It may only be a matter of time before this advanced technology will be a fixture on helmets of firefighters around the world.
Neothane is sealing the gaps left behind by traditional tools and making industries involved with industrial materials and chemicals
NEOTHANE – Toronto, Ontario
With industrial manufacturing, construction and the transportation of industrial materials and chemicals, the potential for spills, leaks or breaches also becomes more prominent. To contain spills and repair or prevent ruptures and breaks, responders traditionally use tools like wooden pegs, putty, ratcheting bladder systems and more, but these tools often prove to be cumbersome and slow.
Neothane Inc., founded by Elliott Chewins, a former firefighter with 25 years of experience as a HAZMAT Technician, in addition to being an Acting District Captain with the City of Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service, has developed an innovative tool to contain spills and breaches quicker and more safely than current solutions, reducing exposure to hazardous materials for first responders, animals, marine life and the environment.
Neothane’s Magnaseal is a unique, magnetic sheet that stops leaks and breaches in seconds for a wide variety of sectors, from rail systems, trucking, marine systems and refineries, to manufacturing and storage facilities, clean up or restoration companies and the military. A single-person application, the Magnaseal Leak Patch’s flexible design allows it to contour to a breached vessel, and the strength of its magnets pulls the patch tight to create an anchored seal around most types of deformities, staunching the flow of dangerous material until a hazardous materials response team arrives on scene. Launching soon, Neothane is also applying its Magnaseal concept to the anchors that attach booms to ships during the clean-up of offshore spills.
With its innovative Magnaseal solutions, Neothane is sealing the gaps left behind by traditional tools and making industries involved with industrial materials and chemicals — and those who work within them — safer.
CENTRE FOR CYBERSECURITY INNOVATION – Oshawa, Ontario
We’re in a time of incredible digital change, which makes for exciting advancements we can feel in our daily lives. But just as technology makes our lives easier, it also leaves us vulnerable to cybercrime, which has the potential for terrifying fallout. The biggest and scariest challenge facing our online security today is what’s called Zero Day exploits, which happens when a hacker, through in-depth reconnaissance, finds a gap in an online application, or finds a way into an application without the developer knowing that flaw even existed. Companies can anticipate and prepare themselves for fishing campaigns, ransomware, malware and more, but by the time a company has discovered a Zero Day attack, it’s already too late.
Thankfully there are organizations like the Centre for Cybersecurity Innovation, an applied research facility at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario, that support companies in developing prototypes that anticipate and combat cyberattacks, including Zero Day vulnerabilities and exploits, and in additional technological fields of access management, incident response, threat intelligence and secure development ops.
As a cost-efficient means to conduct research and develop processes and applications in the cybersecurity space, companies enlist the Centre for Cybersecurity Innovation to create workplans and then hire skilled students under the facility to develop those prototypes. Processes and applications include digital cybersecurity games, a creative way to digitize cyber awareness training through virtual gaming.
The Centre for Cybersecurity also works towards developing new modelling techniques like threat intelligence feeds, a formalized way of obtaining data from multiple online sources and combining AI, math, social sciences and economics, to gather insights and predict the eventuality of a vulnerability in cybersecurity or the potential for an attack.
Technology may offer smarter solutions, but cyber criminals are getting smarter too. And with the help of research facilities like the Centre for Cybersecurity Innovation, new ways to detect and prevent attacks are keeping Canadians a little safer online.
OOMBO TECHNOLOGIES- Oshawa, Ontario
Many of us have seen flares used for distress signalling, often on the roadside. Flares are used by emergency responders to contain dangerous incidents by cautioning approaching motorists of an accident. But what you may not know is that flares have a limited burn time of 30 minutes. This means flares are often required to be reset during hours-long incidents. Flammable flares also produce excessive amounts of carcinogenic fumes and smoke, which can asphyxiate the user or cause skin and eye irritation, and the weak structural integrity of flammable flares renders them susceptible to chemical leaks if exposed to moist or damp environments. They are even prone to spontaneous combustion if stored at high temperatures. Add the hazardous waste that flammable flares can leave behind, posing risk to wildlife that comes in contact with it, and you have so many reasons why the flares that have been used for years needed an upgrade.
Enter Oombo Technologies Inc. Founded by Mark Rizk in 2017, Oombo recognizes the challenges that accompany the original flammable flares and offers an innovative solution for today’s emergency responders, the military and more — an electronic road flare called the EB300.
Oombo recognizes the challenges that accompany the original flammable flares and offers an innovative solution for today’s emergency responders.
The EB300 is a baton-shaped, electronic road flare with a simple twist user interface. It mimics the functionality of a traditional flammable flare but with capabilities that go beyond its predecessor. The EB300 is powered by ultra-bright LEDs that are placed at the highest point of the device, where there is the highest visibility, rather than close to the ground where visibility is limited. While traditional flammable flares last for only 30 minutes, the EB300 has a battery life of 10 hours, and the durable aluminum and ABS plastic body that houses the electronics makes the device waterproof and shockproof.
With a flat base that can be swapped out with a ground stake for use in fields, or with a cone to be mounted on a large pylon, the EB300 provides emergency responders with more versatility than ever before. And while flammable flares are one-time use devices, the EB300 can be used repeatedly; it’s just a matter of replacing or upgrading some of its parts when they’ve become worn.
As tall as a standard pylon, as reflective as a warning triangle and as bright as a flammable flare but without the risk of combustion and far more efficient when time is of the essence, Oombo’s EB300 has caught the attention of many emergency response departments. This interest has ignited beta tests with local emergency response divisions later this summer.
Canada is continuously evolving — we’re becoming faster, more efficient, more economical, and technologically advanced every day. Does this mean we’re opening ourselves up to more potential danger? The short answer is yes. But the good news is that innovations to protect our wellbeing are marching on just as quickly as advancements in other sectors — and it’s this keeping up that is keeping Canadians safe.