Canadian govt and industry partner in intelligent initiative

Canadian researchers, industry and government have joined forcesto develop “intelligent” systems that even Thomas Edison wouldapplaud (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 areasranging from water monitoring to satellite services and automobilemanufacture.

In all these sectors, iICT systems are likely to simplify, speedup and streamline certain complex functions.

That, for instance, is the expected impact of an intelligentwater monitoring system being developed by Toronto-based AUGSignals Ltd., a software vendor focusing on data miningtechniques.

Proponents of intelligent systems often complain the technologyhas never been used extensively in water monitoring. But that’s asituation likely to change soon thanks to a new intelligentsituation assessment unit under development at AUG Signals.

A company spokesperson notes that water monitoring is an oneroustask involving municipal workers who manually take water samplesand send them to labs where they are tested for possiblecontamination. “At times testing takes days and weeks, and in theend it is not even accurate,” said Gina Lorinda Yagos, businessdevelopment manager, AUG Signals. She said the intelligent systemher company is developing would perform the same task in far lesstime.

The assessment system will consist of computers placed atdifferent locations connected to one central unit. It will usesensor and non-sensor information.

Xia Liu, project manager at AUG Signals said the environmentalsensor will be a portable device inserted into the water system tocheck for contamination. Non-sensor information will be provided bythe federal Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and collectedthrough the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence, a PHACnetwork that fosters intelligence exchange, surveillanceactivities, 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 otherdata management vendors would not be involved.

The intelligent system will identify trends in water-bornediseases. It will do this by analyzing archived water quality data.Liu said AUG Signals has data mining tools that have been used inother 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 theintelligent system would enhance water monitoring in cities as wellas remote areas, where contamination detection does not meetnational standards. The intelligent system, he said, would alsoprotect the city of Toronto against intended contamination, if (forexample) terrorists tried to poison the water system.

There are smaller projects in the US and Germany which usesimpler systems. We have taken a lead by starting this project on amuch larger scale,” Lampropoulos said. “When the intelligent systemis developed and will be used by municipalities it will save themmoney as they would not have to rely on laboratories or municipalworkers who do the work manually.”

AUG Signals will be working with Defense Research andDevelopment Canada (DRDC), an agency of the federal Department ofNational Defence, to provide information to municipalities who willbe the end users. Liu said the DRDC would ensure end users are notoverwhelmed with information that they would access electronicallyon monitors.

Another variant of iICT technology is being used to enhancesatellite services. The existing problem in this sector is that anumber of terminals use the same satellite. In simple terms, aterminal would be the antenna, cable and modem used to watchtelevision.

If one terminal is affected, say because of bad weather, itslows down and the bandwidth usage becomes inefficient; that, inturn, 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, anddevise strategies to deal with the breakdown problem. “When this isdone there will be stronger signals between ground stations andsatellites.

This will ensure that more people are able to use satelliteservices because the bandwidth usage will be efficient,” said AbdulLakhani, senior specialist, broadband architecture, TelesatCanada.

Satellite communications firm Telesat is heading this projectalong with EOION Inc., an IP products provider. Both companies arebased in Ottawa.

Telesat aims to launch the intelligent satellite system by June2007. “It will be the intellectual property of Telesat and EION. Wewill market it worldwide. We hope to get buyers as, until now, noother country has used intelligent systems in satelliteinfrastructure,” Lakhani said.

Not-for-profit group Precarn Inc. in Ottawa is funding bothprojects. Precarn has contributed $4.9 million which is beingdivided among four other projects. These include development of avision guided robotic system for auto parts, an advanced CT boneanalysis system, a 3D scanning system for deformable manufacturedparts, and an intelligent scheduling system for emergencyresponse.

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