Elevate Tech Fest day two was a whirlwind event, with more than a dozen different ‘tracks’ spread out across Toronto that focused on everything from fintech to health, smart cities and more. IT World Canada spent the day attending the artificial intelligence (AI) track and learned about some interesting ways that Canadian companies are using AI.

As a leader in the world of AI development and research Canada is home to a number of AI research labs for many of the big names in tech including Facebook, Microsoft, Alphabet Inc., LG Electronics, Adobe Systems Inc., which have opened labs in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton or Vancouver. And not to forget MaRS Discovery Centre which hosted today’s AI event, and has housed and helped AI companies like Element AI and Rubikloud.

Jordan Jacobs from Layer 6 AI talking about the artificial intelligence landscape in Canada. Photos by Meagan Simpson

Layer 6 AI co-founder and chief AI office for TD Bank Jordan Jacobs helped start-off the discussion around just how big a role Canada plays in the AI industry, calling it the country that essentially created AI technology.

“We are at a unique moment time when this industry around artificial intelligence is first starting to grow and we need to jump on this opportunity,” Jacobs said, “we have an opportunity to transform the world.”

He singled out areas such as privacy and healthcare that Canadian companies would be well poised to lead AI development and throughout the event the theme of AI technologies in the field of healthcare was fairly prominent.

Companies like Cloud DX, which is working on using AI to create technologies that could help improve patient care, BenchSci which does research on anti-bodies while utilizing AI and Phenomic AI which uses deep learning to accelerate the rate of drug discovery all made cases for the strength Canada has in the specific industry of AI and healthcare.

During a panel discussion Marzyeh Ghassemi, an assistant professor in computer science and medicine at the University of Toronto pointed out that as a country Canada is uniquely poised to be able to drive innovation in this area because our of our universal healthcare system. She recalled instances while working in the U.S. when she or fellow researchers would bring products or ideas to healthcare professionals and the first question would be, “how is this going to make money and be profitable.”

Outside of the world of healthcare, Wednesday’s event also focused on AI use-cases for businesses and companies like Waterloo-based Plum, with co-founder and chief executive officer Caitlin McGregor talking about using artificial intelligence to help with hiring and retention of employees. Stephany Lapierre, chief executive officer from Tealbook also talked about creating stronger B2B connections through her AI based supplier management system.

Similar to other recent trends with AI chatbots, Telus talked about its collaboration with Toronto-based Ada Support which helped Telus develop a virtual assistant to improve customer service. Cory Wain, director of automated customer experience at Telus said he has found it to be quite successful in dealing with customer inquiries with more than 1.3 million active conversations through the virtual assistant so far and said he hopes to use the AI-powered platform to automate other tools in the future.

Venture capitalist (VC) firm Georgian Partners is even stepping into the world of AI, not just with its investments, but it has developed its own research team that creates software to help its companies succeed with programs like applied artificial intelligence.

Overall the AI track of Elevate 2018 gave an interesting view into the many ways Canadian companies are using artificial intelligence and attempting to make Canada a global leaders in the industry.