Canadian researchers, industry and government have joined forces to develop “intelligent” systems that even Thomas Edison would applaud (or so their proponents say).
Based on intelligent information and communications technology (iICT) – that simulates human perception, reasoning and behaviour – these smart systems will have multiple applications in areas ranging from water monitoring to satellite services and automobile manufacture.
In all these sectors, iICT systems are likely to simplify, speed up and streamline certain complex functions.
That, for instance, is the expected impact of an intelligent water monitoring system being developed by Toronto-based AUG Signals Ltd., a software vendor focusing on data mining techniques.
Proponents of intelligent systems often complain the technology has never been used extensively in water monitoring. But that’s a situation likely to change soon thanks to a new intelligent situation assessment unit under development at AUG Signals.
A company spokesperson notes that water monitoring is an onerous task involving municipal workers who manually take water samples and send them to labs where they are tested for possible contamination. “At times testing takes days and weeks, and in the end it is not even accurate,” said Gina Lorinda Yagos, business development manager, AUG Signals. She said the intelligent system her company is developing would perform the same task in far less time.
The assessment system will consist of computers placed at different locations connected to one central unit. It will use sensor and non-sensor information.
Xia Liu, project manager at AUG Signals said the environmental sensor will be a portable device inserted into the water system to check for contamination. Non-sensor information will be provided by the federal Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and collected through the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence – a PHAC network that fosters intelligence exchange, surveillance activities, and outbreak investigations.
“We are trying to find a way to digitize this data,” said Liu, adding that this task would be done internally by AUG, and other data management vendors would not be involved.
The intelligent system will identify trends in water-borne diseases. It will do this by analyzing archived water quality data. Liu said AUG Signals has data mining tools that have been used in other projects. “They will be used here as well.”
When the prototype is completed it will be sold internationally. George Lampropoulos, president and CEO, AUG Signals, said the intelligent system would enhance water monitoring in cities as well as remote areas, where contamination detection does not meet national standards. The intelligent system, he said, would also protect the city of Toronto against intended contamination, if (for example) terrorists tried to poison the water system.
There are smaller projects in the US and Germany which use simpler systems. We have taken a lead by starting this project on a much larger scale,” Lampropoulos said. “When the intelligent system is developed and will be used by municipalities it will save them money as they would not have to rely on laboratories or municipal workers who do the work manually.”
AUG Signals will be working with Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) – an agency of the federal Department of National Defence – to provide information to municipalities who will be the end users. Liu said the DRDC would ensure end users are not overwhelmed with information that they would access electronically on monitors.
Another variant of iICT technology is being used to enhance satellite services. The existing problem in this sector is that a number of terminals use the same satellite. In simple terms, a terminal would be the antenna, cable and modem used to watch television.
If one terminal is affected, say because of bad weather, it slows down and the bandwidth usage becomes inefficient; that, in turn, slows down all the other terminals.
The intelligent system will review algorithms from terminals’ past performance, as well as the current weather of the area, and devise strategies to deal with the breakdown problem. “When this is done there will be stronger signals between ground stations and satellites.
This will ensure that more people are able to use satellite services because the bandwidth usage will be efficient,” said Abdul Lakhani, senior specialist, broadband architecture, Telesat Canada.
Satellite communications firm Telesat is heading this project along with EOION Inc., an IP products provider. Both companies are based in Ottawa.
Telesat aims to launch the intelligent satellite system by June 2007. “It will be the intellectual property of Telesat and EION. We will market it worldwide. We hope to get buyers as, until now, no other country has used intelligent systems in satellite infrastructure,” Lakhani said.
Not-for-profit group Precarn Inc. in Ottawa is funding both projects. Precarn has contributed $4.9 million which is being divided among four other projects. These include development of a vision guided robotic system for auto parts, an advanced CT bone analysis system, a 3D scanning system for deformable manufactured parts, and an intelligent scheduling system for emergency response.