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I was disappointed by the outcome of the Smart City Canada challenge. The $50 Million prize went to Montreal for a transportation consolidation app, which is not forward-thinking. How does the government justify $50 million, of taxpayer dollars, for innovation on a plan that is not innovative? I don’t think they can.

Today, an app to consolidate transportation can be white-labeled from the United Kingdom, Germany,  or elsewhere. Better yet, talk to Amsterdam, which is on the fourth version of their app.

There were some very clever innovative ideas on the west coast, however not one prize was awarded to a West Canadian Municipality. The results might be political, but it’s not for me to say if they are or not. All I am saying is, a $50 million Innovation Fund should be for innovation, not for something Montreal can go out and buy for a fraction of the award.

Western Canada in the Smart City Canada Initiative

When the City of Calgary did not make the shortlist for the Smart City Canada Initiative, they decided to continue with their plan and raised $100 million for Smart City innovation. Mayor Naheed Nenshi is doing a wonderful job, he is a talented, forward-thinking, far-reaching, leader. I believe Calgary will continue to fund innovative ideas for their city well into the future

Vancouver and Surrey, were not big enough on their own, in terms of population, to enter the $50 million award category so, they joined forces to compete for the larger prize. The only commonality between these two cities is that they are located on the west coast. Their populations are different. Their security issues are different. Their transportation problems are different. By trying to join into one cluster, I think they confused their bid and ended up with something half-baked and not solid or clear.

Some of the other places, like Richmond, which were looking at first response solutions, at a lower award level, were clever in their thinking. Their bid focused on the first response in terms of what happens if there is an earthquake or tsunami? What are they going to do as a city? They were clever and I hope the money will be found to deliver on their ideas because they will be quite useful.

Canada has better Smart City Innovative Ideas

The Smart City Canada Initiative prize money isn’t enough. What does $50 million get you as a buyer? It buys you a house, it doesn’t buy you a Smart City. The prize is only a kickstarter, I just think you need to kickstart the right things and not something that is already available in the marketplace. A consolidated transportation app should be funded by the government and transportation companies. However, it shouldn’t be part of public innovative prize money when it doesn’t innovate anything.

Canada doesn’t need to reinvent the shiny, shiny, by itself. I think it should find a more collegial environment where it can work with others to leapfrog over what has already been tested. They need to look at what Dubai is doing, what Amsterdam is doing, and what London is doing to see what worked and what didn’t work. By working with countries that are further ahead, Canadian cities will find white label solutions, which will get them to market quicker and at a fraction of the cost. Spend tax money on really clever and innovative ideas no one else has tried before. There are plenty of innovative ideas here in BC.

Water needs fixing. Hydro needs fixing. Mining needs fixing. Forestry needs fixing. Forest fires need fixing. There are plenty of places around the world that need these solutions. Why don’t we focus on the big stuff affecting large portions of Canada by creating innovative and clever solutions, which can then be exported for revenue?

Find a technological solution for forest fires, then sell it to California, Australia, to any country with forest fires, which are becoming a problem all over the world. I know of a company located here, in British Columbia, that has an innovative solution for tracking first responders during a forest fire. Wildfire Fighting staff and support staff can download the application onto their mobile phones, so the Emergency Response Centre staff will know exactly where everyone is. If the power lines or telecommunication lines go down or the people are in a remote area without cell service, the app instantaneously switches the connection over to the satellite to keep GPS track of all the first responders to the nearest foot and can also SMS them via satellite.

This way, the Emergency Response Centre knows where all the First Responders are instead of having to waste resources calling them. Currently, during a forest fire emergency, one RCMP officer will be deployed to the Emergency Response Centre to continually call all the RCMP officers to track them. It is frustrating because the officers can’t always answer their phones, lines go down, and there is no cell reception in the most rural of areas.

Regularly, they’d call only to discover the RCMP officer’s shift ended the day before and they were at home, resulting in more inefficiency during an emergency situation. The BC company has the technology to know exactly where each RCMP officer is, regardless if there is cell service or not, which would free up resources and ensure efficiency.

Who can get money?

Can this company get money? Can he get Federal money? Can he get Provincial money? Can he get University money? No, he can’t. What will he do? He will probably pack up and go to Seattle, Korea, or the United Kingdom to get what he needs, or perhaps the Chinese will invest in the company. This is not the way to grow a healthy industry.

It’s groundbreaking. It’s innovative. It’s Canadian, and it’s here in BC. This is where funding needs to go.

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