Ottawa pilot project lets innovators road-test products

A handheld device to help people who are visually impaired navigate pedestrian crosswalks is just one of the new products Canadian companies will test in Ottawa as part of a pilot project introduced by the city.

Companies hope city's 'Innovation Pilot Program' will lead to lasting partnerships, contracts

Mayor Jim Watson (centre) introduces representatives from eight Canadian companies that have been chosen to test out their products in Ottawa. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

A handheld device to help people who are visually impaired navigate pedestrian crosswalks is just one of the new products Canadian companies will test in Ottawa as part of a pilot project introduced by the city.

City staff have spent the past year sifting through more than 65 applications for Ottawa's Innovation Pilot Program, and on Wednesday announced the eight Canadian companies that made the final cut.

Councillors Allan Hubley (2nd from left) Tim Tierney (middle) and Stephen Blais (right) had a hand in the pilot project. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley, who helped set up the program, said testing products in a real, urban setting can help companies prove themselves.

"If you have a letter from your neighbour saying, 'This product works [well],' someone in San Diego isn't necessarily going to trust a letter from your neighbour," he said Wednesday.

"But if you have a letter from a municipality that deals with these issues and says, 'This is a great product, we used it, here was the environment, the test conditions,' all that kind of information they would want to have, we can give that."

Successful test could boost fortunes

Hubley said the eight winning companies will work with city staff to put their ideas to the test over the next several months.

If the city likes what it sees, a company can use that positive review in talks with potential buyers. The City of Ottawa could also invite companies to submit bids to implement their ideas here on a permanent basis.

One of the successful applicants is Ottawa's Key2Access, which uses a fob or mobile app to help visually impaired activate pedestrian signals at intersections.

The technology, which was developed in partnership with the Canadian National Institute of the Blind, is currently being tested at two intersections: Elgin Street at Waverley Street and Bank Street near the Billings Bridge Shopping Centre.

The pedestrian crossing technology of Ottawa company Key2Access is one of eight products that will be tested. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Key2Access CEO Sophie Aladas said the company has already attracted interest from Montreal after Ottawa chose to test its technology.

"We're definitely really thankful and really excited. It's really great to promote growth at home and [give] us these types of opportunities," said Sarah Aladas, the company's chief operating officer and Sophie's sister.

Hubley said the companies that weren't chosen this time will have a chance to show off their products at City Hall in the fall.

Here are the other successful applicants who will participate in the pilot project:

  • Ottawa-based VoIPshield will test its VoiceAudit security software for VOIP phone systems.
  • WAW Technologies will test the network monitoring effectiveness of its Catchwire product.
  • Gamifi, a startup based out of Carleton University, will test interactive content during upcoming mental health awareness training sessions for city staff.
  • Another local startup, Syncrodata, will test its TrendifyLive social media monitoring and analytics tool.
  • Savvydox will test a cloud-based document collaboration solution that will manage the application process for the Innovation Pilot Program.
  • Signority has developed an e-signature that will manage the authorization process for pilot agreements with successful applicants.
  • Waterloo-based Millenium Inc. will test Lacelabs, an online forum where municipalities can share information regarding pilot projects they've undertaken.