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TTC announces major tech innovations with Google maps and open data at toronto.ca/open

On October 12, the TTC unveiled a couple new technical innovations that have long been awaited by those hoping to have a richer mobile relationship with the transit service.

One banner project that a spokesperson says has been in the works for some time (indeed, the announcement was scooped by Torontoist after a soft launch last week) is transit route functionality on Google Maps service. By pushing a small streetcar icon in the service's "Get Directions" mode, users can get directions by TTC between any two points in the city. The service functions on Blackberry and iPhone, as well as other mobile devices that host Google Maps applications.

In a related announcement, the TTC will now be releasing its schedules and its live, real-time GPS streetcar, subway and (within about a year) bus routing information as XML files at the city's Toronto.ca/open website. That service was launched in 2009 to provide municipal raw data in a format that allows private developers and citizens to use it for various forms of analysis and software applications. Just this month, toronto.ca/open earned an Award of Excellence for the City government from ESRI Canada. In accepting the award, City Chief Information Officer Dave Wallace said that such apllications are "a catalyst for innovation," and that the project "supports Toronto's vision of becoming an enabled City, where information technology is integrated with City services to provide effective local government anywhere, anytime, for everyone."


Author: Edward Keenan
Sources: Brad Ross, Communications Director, Toronto Transit Commission; Joy Chan, PR Specialist, ESRI Canada

New "Project Eve" consortium will drive electric car innovation to ensure "our fair share of jobs"

A group of 11 Canadian companies, including four from the GTA, announced last week that they'd form a consortium named Project Eve to drive innovation to help build the local electric mobility industry. "If Canada is to get its fair share of the new jobs that will come from electric mobility, interested local companies must advance and improve their technologies," said Al Cormier of Electric Mobility Canada. "This consortium is a step in the right direction.

The partner companies will share information and research in order to better develop components of electric vehicles and make them work better together. The companies include Toronto's Toronto Electric and NMA, Vaughan's Vecture and Markham's arcx. Also on the local front, the Electrical and Engineering Department of U of T is one of the academic institutions allied with Project Eve.

"We are confident that by working together we can advance the market goals of our members," says Steve Dalls, CEO of Toronto Electric and a Project Eve co-founder, noting that the "Canadian fleet environment" represents a substantial target for the group. "Our Fleet Program in particular represents a good opportunity for Canadian fleet managers to introduce electric vehicles into their daily activities and to learn about electric mobility directly from the people who make the technologies."

The open consortium are discussing adding more participants.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: John Scott, Director, Project Eve
 

Dutch experts talk two-wheeled transport at ThinkBike Workshops in Toronto

As the ongoing municipal election campaign has demonstrated, building a bike-friendly city is not without controversy, and it's not easy. But the Netherlands has managed the job pretty successfully. "The bicycle is the most popular form of transportation for the 16 million people who live in the Netherlands," Dutch Consul General to Toronto Hans Horbach recently said in a statement. He noted that there are more bikes than people in his country, "resulting in less traffic, less pollution and a healthier population."

Visiting experts from the Netherlands were in town this week to share lessons from the most successful cycling country in the world with Toronto transportation planners, engineers and cyclists. During the two-day ThinkBike event held September 20 and 21 at the El Mocambo nightclub, experts shared best practices information about Dutch cycling infrastructre, and surveyed the downtown core and the Sherbourne Street corridor to suggest improvements for increasing bike use. According to organizers, the workshops included topics such as "bike safety, communting by bike, biking to school, bike parking, bikes and public transport, law enforcement," among others.

According to the City of Toronto, this is the first city to host such an event, though the example will soon be followed in Chicago and other North American cities.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Steve Johnston, Senior Communications Coordinator, City of Toronto


Brampton launches Zum, its first bus rapid transit service, expansion contunues through 2021

Environmentally friendly Xcelsior hybrid buses began zooming through the streets of Brampton this week with the launch of Zum, the city's first Bus Rapid Transit service at the new Brampton Transit Bramalea Terminal. Service along Queen Street in downtown Brampton to York University began this week, with further lines being constructed right through until 2021.

"Zum will not only bring jobs to our city through the construction, operation and maintenance of the service, but it will also make it easier for our citizens to get to their jobs, their schools, and their other commitments within Brampton and throughout the GTA," said Brampton mayor Susan Fennell in a speech at the groundbreaking ceremony. In addition to job creation, she noted the environmental benefits and the improvement to the quality of life of residents in her rapidly growing city.

The $285 million cost of the rapid transit construction is being shared equally by the provincial, federal and Brampton city governments.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ian Newman, Office of the Mayor of Brampton



$7 million in funding for new Ryerson Urban Energy Centre will drive green innovation

Last week, Ryerson University announced the Centre for Urban Energy (CUE), which university President Sheldon Levy called one of his schools "most significant research and commercialization initiatives." The centre will be a research and demonstration centre for sustainable, innovative technologies to provide for cities' energy needs.

The CUE will bring together academics and industry professionals from various disciplines to study problems and attempt to commercialize solutions. "The Centre for Urban Energy will be anchored by the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science but will be a university-wide Centre drawing on a variety of experts across many academic disciplines," said Alan Shepard, Ryerson's provost and VP Academic. "We will also be reaching out and collaborating with other academic institutions in Ontario, across Canada and around the world."

The areas of focus for the centre almost all deal with sustainability, including areas such as reducing carbon footprints, alternative fuel sources, hybrid and electric vehicles and conservation. Initial funding for the project totalling $7 million is being provided by Toronto Hydro, Hydro One and the Ontario Power Authority.

"We're proud to partner with Ryerson on this unique initiative to forward the agenda for the next generation of electricity research and technologies in Toronto," said Anthony Haines, President and CEO of Toronto Hydro.

Colin Andersen, CEO of the Ontario Power Authority, said that the research is key to both the enviromental and industrial future of the province. "Innovation is how Ontario will remain a leader in conservation and clean energy, helping to provide Ontarians with cleaner air, high quality jobs and a vibrant economy," he said. "We know that visionary new energy technologies will play a significant role in our success, and the Centre for Urban Energy will help deliver them."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Suelan Toye, Ryerson University

$1 million innovation investment in Teknoscan will create 20 new jobs in Vaughan

Vaughan-based TeknoScan Systems Inc. will build a new manufacturing plant in the city to make its developmental technology for quickly scanning cargo containers for explosives at shipping ports. Over the next year, the new plant is expected to create 20 new jobs in engineering, manufacturing and sales.

The new plant will be financed in part with the help of a repayable grant of $1 million from FedDev Ontario, the federal government's local economic development agency. In making the announcement last week, Minister of State for Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher said, "Our investment in TeknoScan Systems Inc. is helping the company to expand its business and market its products around the world... This investment will create approximately 20 new jobs here in our community and commercialize state-of-the-art technology that will benefit world markets."

Sam Hyams, president and co-CEO of TeknoScan, said that global marketing of the GTA-born technology will be a big part of the immediate growth plans.  "Our goal is to develop and deploy a fast, cost effective system for screening the millions of containers that presently go unchecked," he said. "Designed to test for the presence of drugs and explosives in air samples, our technology offers the potential for 100% cargo screening sought after by security forces the world over. This investment will bring us significantly closer to achieving that goal."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for FedDev Ontario

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

TTC's Eglinton LRT will create 46,000 jobs, buys tunneling equipment from Toronto's Lovat

Mayor David Miller and TTC chair Adam Giambrone visited Toronto-based Lovat Inc. late last month to celebrate the purchase of tunnel boring equipment from the Toronto manufacturer for use in the construction of the Eglinton Light Rail Transit route.

The $53 million order for four tunnelling machines will support the 380 staff of Lovat, whose plant is located on Carlingview Drive near Pearson International Airport. According to TTC spokesperson Ryan Bissonnette, the contract was awarded in an open and transparent bidding process that did not favour the local manufacturer, who is a world leader in the design and manufacture of tunnelling equipment. However, Bissonnette says, the transit commission does see the fact that a person could actually ride the TTC to the manufacturing plant as a benefit. "We're exceedingly happy to be able to support a Toronto business -- usually we say 'Toronto area,' but in this case, Lovat is actually in the city," he says.

Construction on the 33-kilometre-long Eglinton Crosstown LRT route, part of the city of Toronto ambitious Transit City plan, is scheduled to begin next year. Bissonnette says the project is expected to create approximately 46,000 jobs.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ryan Bissonnette, Public Affairs, Toronto Transit Commission

Got an Inovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Metrolinx takes over airport rail link that will create 10,000 jobs

In a surprising announcement late last week, Metrolinx, the Ontario government's regional transit authority, announced that it would build, construct and operate the planned rail link between Union Station and Pearson Airport. Previously, the project was to have been built and operated by a private group led by Montreal's SNC-Lavalin, but negotiations on the project broke down over the province's refusal to provide an operating subsidy.

According to Metrolinx spokesperson Vanessa Thomas, the link will operate as a separate entity from the agency's existing Go Transit service, an express shuttle service running every 15 minutes using small, two-car trains. The project, expected to be completed by 2015, will create 10,000 jobs, Thomas says, directly related to professions and trades involved in the design and construction of the link.

Following up by email, Thomas notes that while the majority of the hiring is expected to be done by contractors, "Metrolinx is working with various agencies, construction associations and contractors to support apprenticeship programs that will promote career opportunities for people living in the City's priority neighbourhoods."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Vanessa Thomas, Media Relations & Issues Specialist, Metrolinx-GO Transit

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

 

Bike-sharing service BIXI launches membership drive, will hire by next spring

Even though the city of Toronto government has been actively pursuing its bike plan (though not actively enough, in the eyes of some), Toronto has been without a bike sharing program since the community-group-operated BikeShare folded up its operations due to a lack of funding in 2006. That situation is poised to change.

At a gala launch at the Gladstone Hotel on July 28, BIXI Toronto, operated by the Montreal-based Public Bike System Company working with the City of Toronto, launched its program to have a bike sharing program in place by next spring. In order to reach its goal of launching May 1, 2011, the program needs to sign up 1,000 members who'll pledge $95 each by November 30. Dan Egan, the city's manager of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, says that the program attracted 125 pledges within 24 hours of the program's launch. "I'm confident we'll reach our milestones and proceed on schedule," Egan says.

Public Bike System Company already runs a similar, award-winning program in Montreal, Boston, London, Washington, Minneapolis and Melbourne. The advance membership drive is intended to ensure the programs financial viability.

Egan says that the program will create jobs in Toronto for administrators and mechanics, although "we're not at that point yet," where he can say how many jobs there will be and when hiring will take place. New hires will be working directly for the Public Bike System Company and not for the city.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Dan Egan, Manager of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, City of Toronto

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.




Federal cash to 4 GTA clean tech innovators, including $5 million to Electrovaya for plug-in car

Four Toronto-area companies will be receiving a slice of $40 million in funding for the development of sustainable technologies, Sustainable Development Technology Canada announced earlier this month.

Among the recipients is Electrovaya, a Mississauga company that is developing batteries and battery systems for plug-in electric vehicles. Its project to develop a plug-in battery for use in hybrid vehicles, intended to be used in a test fleet of Chrysler pick-up trucks, received $5 million. In a release, Electrovaya CEO Sankar DasGupta noted that the battery is made using an innovative zero-emissions process.

Other Toronto-area companies receiving funds are: 3XR Inc, for an energy-efficient process to strip ammonia from wastewater to make fertilizer; InvoDane Engineering, for a gas pipeline inspection technology; and Lakeshore EMPC Two L.P., for an on-site treatment of brownfields contaminated by chlorinated organic solvents.

The projects were among 18 across the country to receive a total of $40 million in funding (a full list of projects is available here). The SDTC is an arms-length federal agency operating with a grant of $1.05 billion to fund innovative green technologies. In announcing the projects, SDTC Chairman Juergen Puetter noted that the companies funded "create jobs, provide Canada a technological edge and contribute to improving the quality of Canada's air, water and soil."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Patrice Breton, Director, Communications, SDTC; Electrovaya Inc.

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Firan Technology Group $17M aerospace R&D project will create 30 jobs over 5 years

Toronto tech company Firan Technology Group has committed to investing $17 million in a research and development project that will create 30 new jobs over the next five years. According to a company announcement, the project will focus on expanding its production of circuit boards for aircraft -- "advanced material, buried passive, high density interconnect, high speed, high reliability and thermal management printed circuit board technologies."

The provincial government's Economic Development ministry has committed to providing up to $5.1 million in loans to the project. A government announcement notes that there is a $1.8 billion market for such circuit boards globally, and says of Firan's technology, "These new boards will provide airplanes with smaller, lighter electronics helping to enable more efficient and safer air travel, and contributing to Ontario's role as a leader in the aerospace industry."

Firan President and CEO Brad Bourne says, "FTG's focus on the aerospace market demands innovative, high technology solutions and the support of the Ontario Government will allow us to continue to invest for the benefit of our customers, our employees, our shareholders and the Ontario economy."

In addition to creating 30 new jobs, the project is expected to support the ongoing employment of 50 other, according to the provincial government.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Bradley C. Bourne, President and CEO, Firan Technology Group Corporation; Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Trade

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Mississauga fuel innovators Woodland Biofuels gets $4 million for demonstration plant

The Mississauga company Woodland Biofuels has patented a technology it says can produce clean-burning automotive fuel from virtually any type of biomass -- including wood and agricultural waste. The process eliminates the need to burn food products such as corn to create ethanol.

Earlier this month the provincial government gave the company a grant of $4 million to build a demonstration facility, expected to be located at the University of Western Ontario's Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, to prove the efficacy of the groundbreaking innovation in waste disposal and clean energy.

"Thanks to Ontario's support we can build a plant that we anticipate will confirm our ability to successfully produce ethanol from renewable waste with breakthrough efficiency. We expect to be, by a significant margin, the lowest cost producer of automotive fuel in North America," said Greg Nuttall, President and CEO of Woodland, in a statement welcoming the investment. "This will not only put Ontario in the front of the global race to find an alternative to fossil fuels but ultimately will also provide Ontario with significant economic and environmental benefits. We are grateful for the extraordinary level of support provided by the province."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Greg Nuttal, President & CEO, Woodland Biofuels; Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Accessible, Toronto-made tech innovation will help Paris Metro (and soon GO Transit) passengers

Students working at the Ryerson Digital Media Zone (DMZ) have developed an app for the Google Android that will revolutionize travel in the Paris Metro -- especially for those passengers with special needs such as vision and hearing loss.

The application, called "Mobile Transit Companion," will provide passengers on the Metro system with real-time updates and information contextualized to their location. Among its functions are service availability notices, elevator locations and other station navigation information and alerts from operators directly to the passengers. The app relies heavily on the visual, touch, sound and vibration capabilities of smartphones to serve passengers with various special needs. You can check out a video demonstration here.

According to a statement by Ryerson post-grad student and DMZ member Hossein Rahnama, the team that developed the application at the DMZ focused on passengers with special needs because they believed "those communities could really benefit from such applications, even though they are often not considered when [people are] developing apps." The DMZ is working on other, similar projects for airports and other transportation hubs, and is working with regional transit authority Metrolinx on a project for GO Transit to be launched in the fall. Plans also call for the application to be developed for other smartphones such as the Apple iPhone.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Heather Kearney, Public Affairs Officer, Ryerson University

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Boutique cycling company Beater Bikes surveys future, sees growth online

"Doesn't everyone want to design a bike?" asks David Chant, in explaining how he came to launch his boutique bicycle company Beater Bikes in the summer of 2009. The self-described "bike nerd" -- who owns an assortment of high end pedal-powered vehicles -- felt that there was a particular niche waiting to be filled. A quality bike built for city driving -- ready to go with fenders and chain guards -- that would ride well but be priced low enough that you "wouldn't have to worry about locking it up on the corner."

After a year or so of designing and learning the ins and outs of contracting manufacturing in Europe (and a two-month shipping delay in Amsterdam), his first shipment of bikes arrived late last summer. The ladies model sold out within months, and, as Chant says, "the bikes are flying out the door -- we even have a waiting list for the women's model." Is this success? "It's not bad for a one-man operation selling bikes out of an art gallery," he says.

Chant already has his eye on next spring, when he plans to launch a new and improved model. To that end, he's conducting a survey online right now to see what people are looking for in a bike. Chant says he sees Beater Bikes' future in "going a bit more international" -- doing most of his sales through e-commerce.

Still, as he speaks, it's clear he sees it as much as a calling as an empire-in-the-making. "I love bikes and I want more people in Toronto to ride them. Putting more bikes on the road is my form of advocacy."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: David Chant, Owner, Beater Bikes

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.



Prize-winning innovators Skymeter could revolutionize parking -- and eliminate traffic

The holy grail of the international traffic industry is eliminating gridlock. With a technology that Wired magazine recently named as key to accomplishing that lofty goal, Toronto start-up Skymeter Corporation recently won the top prize for innovation at the prestigious Intertraffic Innovation Awards in Amsterdam.

The company's Skymeter product is a GPS-based road-use meter that is currently used in Winnipeg to bill drivers for parking (on a no-tag-necessary, by-the-minute system that eliminates the risk of parking tickets). Similar applications are in the works elsewhere, but the application of the technology that's really turning heads is its possible use for congestion charging: its GPS technology would allow accurate, hassle-free billing for different streets or zones at different times of day.

According to Skymeter CEO Kamal Hassan, the use of Skymeter for congestion charging has already been tested and proved effective (in a commissioned project for Cisco Korea. He says that such uses are among "about six groups in our pipeline" that are ready to place large orders.

The company was founded in 2006 -- the realization of an idea founder Bern Grush had after getting a parking ticket and wondering why his car wasn't smart enough to know when its time was up and feed the meter itself. Together with Hassan and company CTO Preet Khalsa, Grush developed a metering technology based on GPS that, according to Hassan, "takes readings from the car and turns them into financial transactions, while protecting the privacy of the driver." Since launching in 2006, the company has grown from the three founders to employ 12 people.

In addition to the contract in Winnipeg, Skymeter notably has an R&D contract with the European Union. Expecting large orders to begin coming in this year, the company is currently seeking financing to ramp up production.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Kamal Hassan, CEO, Skymeter Corporation

Got an Innovation & Job News tip? Email edward@yongestreetmedia.ca.

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