The term engineering is derived from Latin meaning “cleverness” and “to contrive, devise.” From machinery fault detection that prevents shutdowns, and technology that’s reducing road fatalities and congestion, to a new and necessary approach to building construction, we certainly have some clever entrepreneurs to thank. Read on to hear how three local companies devised solutions out of problems.
Solutions and adaptations are engineered every day. Whether it’s something you’ve rigged up in your home to by-pass a problem, or something that has been developed to ease a societal pain, engineering propels society forward in many ways. We rely on countless innovators and companies to recognize problems and want to create solutions. There’s no denying that disruption and change can be daunting, particularly when it comes to new innovations, but when companies and municipalities are willing to adapt and adopt new technologies, we are able to continually advance and improve.
They say a stitch in time saves nine, but when it comes to the preventative systems developed by Oshawa-based Sarox, a stitch in time can save millions.
Established in 2018, Sarox has developed a Condition Monitoring Management System (CMMS) which predicts failure details on rotating machinery and provides the vital information that large industrial plants need to avoid unplanned shutdowns or long downtimes.
When it comes to existing technology in rotating machines (specifically induction motors) that are very common in industries such as oil and gas, steel and cement, mining and more, the technology is designed to be reactive rather than proactive. “They currently have some technology that detects the failure inside the machine and isolates the failure, but all of those technologies have been after the failure has grown enough to lead to damage or cause vibration, but they cannot predict the failure before the machine stops,” says Mojtaba Saeedi Nezhad, Sarox’s chief technology officer. “The innovation in our technology is that before the fault grows and leads to an unplanned shutdown, we detect it and report it to the operators so that they have time to do a planned shutdown or scheduled overhaul, or to bring a standby motor into service before stopping the faulty one for repair. Our technology offers huge benefits because typically an unplanned shutdown costs much more than the failed asset itself.”
With state-of-the-art AI technology, Sarox’s systems effectively monitor the health of machines by analyzing data and monitoring the machine’s behaviours for anomalies. “Once anomalies are detected, the system categorizes both internal and external problems to identify what has changed within the machine’s parameters to ascertain the root cause. These all happen through Motor Current Analysis rather than conventional Vibration Analysis,” says Sara Yousefi, Sarox’s CEO.
Initially designed as a portable device to be brought onsite for clients’ ad hoc concerns or scheduled tests, the Sarox team is putting the final touches on their new and improved continuous monitoring device called C-110T. After the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for remote capabilities, Yousefi says it prompted them to improve the features of the technology by adding some IoT features so that the previously portable device could now be installed within the machine or electrical switchgear. This new device continuously streams data and inspects the system without requiring someone to be physically present in the facility or doing additional wiring across the plant. This C-110T version will also have web-based capabilities to allow designated personnel to log in to the system and access the data remotely.
“With many accidents involving vulnerable road users (such as cyclists, pedestrians and individuals with accessibility challenges) Fortran, via FLUX, is actively creating solutions to allow all road users to safely navigate intersections.”
The re-vamp continues, and Saeedi explains two more features currently being implemented: “The first feature will predict the remaining life of the machine, based on the current state of the machine, and the second feature will compare the status of the machine, not only with its performance in the history, but also with the status of similar machines in the system. We already have the technology that can do that, and we tested the algorithm in industrial plants, so we are embedding this algorithm into the web-based version of our product.”
Sarox’s time-and-money-saving systems are garnering attention from near and far. Alongside existing customers keen to implement the continuous system, and new contracts with some large Canadian companies, Sarox is also currently fulfilling a contract with a plant in Italy (after being contacted by their innovation office in Silicon Valley). As they launch this new product and fulfill contracts with clients both old and new, Yousefi says, ”We are looking forward to focusing on funding to implement energy efficiency and failure probability for keeping plants running greener.”
FLUX is the “startup” division of Fortran Traffic Systems, concentrating on all things Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). We develop innovative solutions, designed to help reduce road fatalities and minimize congestion for municipalities. We also work closely with Spark Centre and OVIN’s Durham Regional Technology Development Site (Durham RTDS) to support the excellent initiatives that help highlight the strengths of the regional innovation partners as a whole.
The solutions we create help our client municipalities and road users on a daily basis. We offer a full complement of Advanced Traffic Management Systems (ATMS) that municipalities like Durham Region can use to manage their traffic operations. Besides offering the traditional ATMS functionalities, we also integrate advanced sensors to help optimize the overall traffic flow on roads.
Additionally, our award-winning “Glide” platform allows transit buses to stay on schedule by dynamically extending green signals. Glide also enables a new layer of safety and security by providing timely alerts to cyclists and pedestrians. And that is only the beginning of Glide. We can’t wait to share more details in the coming weeks and months.
All in all, thanks to our innovation partners in Durham Region, and our parent company, Fortran Traffic Systems, FLUX is a made-in-Ontario success story.
Fortran continues to be the leader in traffic-related hardware for 40-plus years. In the early 2010s, it became clear to us that the software side of traffic systems was ripe for innovation. In 2016, Fortran made significant R&D investments and created its FLUX division to bring ITS/software tools to municipalities, with an aim to solve real-world traffic problems through innovation.
We also recognized early on the potential of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) when it comes to saving lives. But for these vehicles to truly live up to the expectations, they require interactions with the traffic lights in real time. To help ensure our client sites continue to provide safe passages to all travellers while equipping them with the tools necessary to interface with this new wave of CAV technologies, we have strategically invested in bringing V2X/I2V/V2I (vehicle-to-everything/infrastructure-to-vehicle/vehicle-to-infrastructure) functionalities directly into our ATMS platform. These tools allow our client municipalities to increase the intelligence of their infrastructure, while also elevating their ability to support Vision Zero initiatives while supporting multi-modal solutions.
Finally, we are grateful that our efforts in building these innovative V2X/I2V/V2I technologies didn’t go unnoticed. In addition to being appreciated by our esteemed clients, we also received the Smart 50 Award in 2020 for the Most Transformative Mobility project, and the issuance of a patent for our CAV and Glide platforms.
We take pride in our products contributing to traffic operations and road safety. But with more than 1,700 traffic fatalities in Canada and 1.3 million across the globe every year, there is more that needs to be done. With many accidents involving vulnerable road users (such as cyclists, pedestrians and individuals with accessibility challenges) Fortran, via FLUX, is actively creating solutions to allow all road users to safely navigate intersections. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Durham Region, developing hardware and software solutions to help achieve the Region’s Vision Zero targets for road safety. As providers of traffic systems for the Region, we want to do all that we can to help the Region be a Vision Zero leader in Ontario and across the country.
Lastly, studies have shown that 15 percent of harmful emissions are a result of inefficient traffic and congestion. We believe that solutions designed to keep traffic moving are paramount to achieving Canada’s Net Zero targets. The FLUX platform contributes to the reduction in lost economic productivity caused by increasing congestion while reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gas vehicular emissions.
Our ATMS platform is currently used to manage 600-plus intersections across Durham and Waterloo. Fortran has also gained considerable experience working together with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), a key innovation partner, to successfully test our CAV and Virtual Road Side Unit (vRSU) solutions in contracted demonstrations and pilots in 2021. We are also actively working in pedestrian detection in Area X.O using our Glide platform.
The promise of Fortran’s next-generation solutions was recently endorsed in a letter of support we received from Transport Canada in May 2022. That letter acknowledges our work to address some of the challenging scenarios of multimodal mobility, with a nod to the potential of these solutions to dramatically increase safety and effectiveness in the public realm as new modes of mobility continue to increase over time.
The pandemic was tough, but it gave us time to strengthen our product portfolio. We are now accelerating the commercialization of our product roadmap and working with our innovation partners in Ontario, with exploration of expanding across Canada.
Canadians are currently dealing with an affordable housing crisis, and according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), 3.5 million more homes need to be built by 2030 in order to reach affordability. There’s also no question that Canada’s population is in the midst of an unprecedented shift, with the number of seniors over 85 expected to triple over the next 25 years. These stats are sobering and affecting the population in countless ways. It is clear innovative approaches are required to tackle the challenges posed and ensure the well-being of not only our aging population, but society as a whole.
Enter PACE Building Technologies (previously Envision Integrated), an Oshawa-based company that is tackling the need for health and long-term care facilities and affordable housing head-on with their revolutionary PACE (Pre-Engineered Accelerated Construction Envelope) building technologies.
In many ways the construction industry remains set in its ways. Whether it’s concrete being poured onsite, or large pieces of wood or steel being brought in and cut to size, a majority of the work and customization still takes place onsite. This conventional approach is costly and typically more prone to discrepancies and delays, whether caused by weather, planning errors or simply construction traffic caused by cement trucks.
PACE developed a more efficient way to engineer and build with two key differentiators: First, is their patented structural technology that is built using standard columns and slabs (think giant LEGO pieces) that consist of floor, ceiling and wall panels that can be assembled in sections using a standard crane. Because all components are made in a factory environment and designed using CAD-related software, it allows for a fast-tracked and more efficient construction schedule.
The second component is their collaborative project management approach and ability to digitize the development process. By incorporating a suite of virtual design management tools, clients are able to get a head start on the layout process and visualize the finished product with assistance from 3D modelling.
Their approach means predictable costs, improved quality, enhanced hazard resistance (fire, water, seismic) for safer and more reliable building structures, and flexible systems that can be used in many layout configurations. These key benefits translate to material costs being more than 30 percent less than traditional cast-in-place concrete structures, and more than 50 percent reduction in both construction assembly time and site support equipment.
As president Garry Rutledge explains, “PACE will have a major impact on how buildings are built because it changes both the process by which engineering and construction is performed, using a Virtual Development Workbench with an Integrated Project Development (IPD) process, as well as adding the ability to manufacture more of the building offsite, including our patent Integrated Modular Structural (IMS) system. The component-based PACE process and offsite construction methodology will both reduce construction cycle time schedules as well as improve the quality of the final buildings.” As the only company in North America utilizing the post tensioned component-based IMS system, PACE is poised to make a difference in the speed of construction, quality and utilization of the digitized environment in the industry when it is needed most.
Currently offering three configurations, PACE can handle a wide range of project types, from single-dwelling homes or duplexes and town home complexes and retirement facilities, to multi-storey developments up to 22 stories with their standard designs.
PACE Building Technologies is keenly aware that time is of the essence and have partnered up with Magnum General Contracting in the Durham Region to initiate the PACE platform. Looking forward to a busy year ahead, Rutledge says, “We are also investigating a number of initial buildings for our IMS system in both residential and institutional settings to establish this structural technology in North America.”