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High-tech meets high-fashion: Ontario company may finally win eyewear technology race





An Ontario tech start-up thinks it has the foresight to succeed where giant international technology companies have stumbled.

Using North Inc.’s glasses, called Focals, people will be able to interact with Amazon’s digital helper, Alexa. They’ll also be able to connect to their phones using Bluetooth and check various phone apps. such as the weather … without blocking the user’s view.

But unlike like the clunkier models built by other tech companies, the Waterloo technology firm has created high-tech for your eyes that focuses on high-fashion, and is “hidden by design,” according to North Inc.’s promotional video.

Tuesday, North Inc. unveils its second showroom in the world at 113 Ossington Ave. The only other one so far is in Brooklyn, New York.

The company said it picked the two markets because they are leaders in fashion design and they are technology innovation hubs.

Glasses mix ‘magic’ of technology with high fashion 

Adam Ketcheson, the company’s chief marketing officer, said Focals have been designed with just as much emphasis on “aesthetics” as technology.

“Whereas most of the companies that have come before us have tried to shrink all the information that’s on your cell phone and essentially stick it in front of your eyes, we’ve really focused on trying to only give you the information that allows you to stay connected.”

The glasses will use a microphone and can display things such as the time and weather, but there’s no camera on the device, and it’s operated by a ring on your finger. (North Inc.)

The eyewear, which retails at roughly $1,000, leverages the “magic” of technology with a hidden holographic display that projects images about an arms length in front of your eyes, Ketcheson said.

The concept isn’t new. Google, Intel and Samsung are among the tech giants that have tried and failed to introduce high- tech glasses into the market.

Will humans ever like wearing computers on their faces? 

Duncan Stewart, the director of research for Technology, Media and Telecommunications with Deloitte Canada, already tested Focals and said he appreciates the “sharp” design, however he is skeptical consumers are ready for digital eyewear.

“At the end of the day it’s actually about human psychology. If human beings won’t wear goggles of any kind because they don’t like wearing computers on their faces then that’s the problem,” he said.

“I found the process of looking [at the digital display] and talking to somebody… and shifting my focus back and forth to be an effort,” said Stewart.

“I suspect that there will be people who don’t mind that effort or don’t mind overcoming that effort, but I wonder if we want really to be constantly shifting our focus and importing information in this way.”

He blasted other companies’ attempts at digital glasses for being too tech-focused.

Duncan Stewart, the director of research for Technology, Media and Telecommunications with Deloitte Canada, is skeptical the eyewear will catch on with consumers because it takes ‘effort.’ (Deloitte Canada)

“The [previous] glasses were also pretty big, pretty bulky and made you look awfully geeky,” Stewart said.

“Consumers voted with their wallets and with their attention and said, ‘We don’t like these things for a whole bunch of reasons,’ and that’s where we are right about now.”

Stewart said it’s no surprise a Canadian company could be poised to succeed, though, because Canada continues to be a “magnet” for homegrown and international technology companies.

“Canadians are brilliant and it doesn’t even vaguely surprise me that it is possible that a Canadian firm may be one of the ones working on new and interesting wearable technology,” Stewart said.  

Not ‘techno-fetishism’ and that’s a good thing, researcher says

Isabel Pedersen, the Canada research chair in Digital Life Media and Culture at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, said society has substantially changed since the first iterations of digital eyewear first came on the market.

Now. she said, people are constantly using “wearables” — technologically-advanced gear from watches to fish-eyed cameras strapped to our foreheads.

Isabel Pedersen, the Canada research chair in Digital Life Media and Culture at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, says new high tech glasses may succeed because society is overall more ‘savvy’ about tech. (University of Ontario Institute of Technology)

“The customer is a lot more sophisticated when it comes to the idea of wearable technology. Just from what they’re doing in their everyday life,” said Pedersen.

She also pointed out that consumers as a whole have demanded more from tech companies to protect privacy and not infringe on it.

For example, the previous iterations of high-tech glasses had cameras that some consumers would have found “disturbing” the researcher said. However, Focals do not have a camera as part of the lens.

Google Glasses also seemed to be going after a niche market, whereas Focals are trying to target the mainstream and will customize the eyewear for the individual users fashion.

“[Google Glasses were] sort of all bound up in techno-fetishism and the desire to get technology for technology’s sake. Now we’ve really moved past that as citizens and users were much more interested in what technology will provide for us.”


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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future





Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M






Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.


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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study






The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”


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