B.C. new media centre opens with lofty goals

While it may be 25,000 square feet of innovation, organizers of a new British Columbia IT research centre say their hope is that more than just sheer size will help attract talent.

The New Media Innovation Centre (NewMIC), a collaboration between industry, academia and government that focuses on research, development and commercialization of new media technology, opened its doors last month in Vancouver. Dave Chowdhury, NewMIC director of research partnerships, explained that NewMIC operates as something of a consortium.

“What you have is a group of multinational companies, called sustaining members, who are looking at the Internet as a primary focus or an enabling focus for the business that we do,” he said. “In addition, we have about 16 smaller companies who are trying to leverage their own research with the research that is being done at NewMIC from the larger companies. What we have here is an environment where we can undertake research that will lead to the development of new technology and new products.”

Ultimately, Chowdhury said, NewMIC’s mandate is rooted in economic development. Through the development of new technology and new products, new businesses are bound to develop, which will encourage entrepreneurship.

The sustaining members involved in NewMIC span most of the new media industry, including representatives from the networking branches, such as Nortel Networks Inc. and Telus Corp., which, Chowdhury pointed out, have particular interests in the development of the facility.

“One of the things that one realizes about the current Internet is that the system operates on a best-efforts basis so sometimes you make your connections quickly and the information moves quickly and other times you seem to be frozen in time,” he said. “If we are going to see anything of a business proposition from these networks, what they have to offer is some kind of a quality of service that is assured. Whatever it is, you have to be sure that the media is received in a continuous stream.”

Bob Dubberley, the administrator of Telus BC new media and broadcast fund, was one of the first at his company to see – and like – NewMIC’s potential.

“Telus is involved because, well, this is a public-private partnership and there are several other major corporations involved,” he said from his Vancouver office. “It brings companies together, in a generalized sort of forum, to share ideas.”

He was particularly impressed with the level of government involvement and innovations involving education and entertainment.

“It brings us close to that sphere,” he said. “It gives Telus access to new developments and innovations in new media that we might not otherwise see.”

In addition, Telus will get in on the ground floor and have input into innovations that could benefit users.

The centre, which includes a $2-million virtual reality lab, will nurture this kind of innovative thought, Chowdhury added. That thought could be the catalyst to solving some of the industry’s longest-standing problems.

“Do you create a network that goes purely on a peak-load basis or do you create one that knows enough about where the traffic is that it can move your content across different nodes around the world, if need be,” he said. “It turns out that if you are dealing with quality of service with applications that involve some interactivity, how much of a delay should I be willing to expect?”