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Visitor numbers to National Parks decline after special free entry offer ends





If you make it free, they will come.

Parks Canada’s free entry program for the country’s 150th birthday saw Canadians and other visitors flock to national parks and historic sites in record numbers. An extra 2.5 million visitors poured through the gates in 2017.

In the first eight months of 2018, the number of visitors fell 10 per cent from the same period in 2017. In some parks that saw the biggest jumps in 2017, visits are down more than 30 per cent.

“We expected we would see a big increase in visitation in 2017,” said Ed Jager, director of visitor experience for Parks Canada. “We also knew that we would see sort of a return to the previous trend.”

Jager said Parks Canada’s chief social scientist — Parks Canada has a chief social scientist, and an economist, and data analysts — predicted exactly what the free admissions in 2017 would do to visitor numbers. He said the good news is that the 2018 numbers are still higher than in the previous years when there were fees, reflecting ongoing marketing efforts to keep visitor numbers growing.

Entry is still free for anyone under 18, which it didn’t used to be, but adults once again pay between $3.60 and $9.80 for day passes to different parks.

‘They came back in 2018’

The number of visitors to national parks between January and August was up about three per cent compared to 2016. Visits to historic sites are about even, though final numbers could change because some visits, such as by tour groups, might not all be accounted for yet.

Kathleen Yetman, owner of Birdie’s Perch restaurant and the Point Pelee Trading Post, said her business had never seen anything quite like what happened in 2017.

“It was a gift,” she said.

Yetman’s place is just outside the entry gates to Point Pelee National Park, billed as the southernmost point of Canada and a birdwatcher’s paradise. It saw the biggest increase in visitors of any park, with 217,229 additional visitors in 2017 compared with the year before. The number of visitors in July and August was double the previous year’s.

In celebration of 125 years of Glacier National Park and to mark 50 years of Parks Canada and Canadian Forces’ joint avalanche control efforts, the Royal Canadian Artillery fire off Howitzer canons during the 1812 overture at Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

Yetman said the crash in 2018 was expected but she said things were still busier this year than in 2016.

“It was still very brisk and I do think 2017 brought people in and that they came back in 2018,” she said.

The number of visitors to Point Pelee fell almost 40 per cent in the first eight months of the year, compared with 2017, but is still about six per cent higher than in 2016.

Yetman said she would love for Ottawa to decide to make all parks free again but isn’t expecting it happen. She said the government is clearly working on keeping Point Pelee attractive, with improvements to infrastructure.

“Point Pelee just keeps getting better,” she said.

‘Pretty good deal’

Banff National Park, with nearly three million visitors, is the country’s most popular, and its attendance numbers varied very little regardless of the fees.

But the Banff Park Museum inside it, with a normal entry fee of $3.90, saw attendance soar 230 per cent to more than 72,000 people in the first eight months of 2017. For the same time in 2018, visits plunged to below 30,000. Though that’s still a few thousand more than visited in 2016.

The government estimated the freebie year would cost about $76 million in foregone admission fees and extra costs to handle all the visits. Jager said the biggest leftover benefit for the parks from Canada 150 is the two million people who signed up for email updates and notices about park programs. That helps market the parks and has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people buying annual passes to get into any national park, he said.

Jager said there haven’t been piles of complaints from people who want the parks to be free again. He says in reality, the small fees are a “pretty good deal.”

“If I’m going to go to a movie with my family it will probably cost me $40 and maybe $80 if I want to get popcorn and a drink and that’s comparative to $20 to spend a day in one of the most beautiful places on the entire planet,” he said.


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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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