By Scott Simmie
Canada’s largest Smart Mobility exhibit and demonstration took place in Ottawa September 27.
It was the second time the annual event has taken place. It brought hundreds of attendees – and more than 75 companies – to Area X.O, an innovation hub where leading Smart Mobility companies carry out research and development. The facility features a private 5G network and private roads, allowing companies to test and harden robots, drones, autonomous passenger-carrying vehicles, and more.
Sponsored by Transport Canada (that’s the “TC” in “TCXpo”), along with Invest Ottawa and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the event showcases innovations in the smart mobility space. Think the latest and greatest robots, drones, self-driving vehicles – along with a plethora of hardware and software associated with the sector.
“Today, we will celebrate Canadian innovation,” said Sonya Shorey, Vice President Strategy, Marketing and Communications of Invest Ottawa as she opened the show.
“Companies driving the smart mobility revolution. Innovators developing and commercializing multidisciplinary solutions to grand challenges and market opportunities. These innovations span every sector – from intelligent transportation to defence, public safety, security, aerospace, environment, smart agriculture, and telecommunications. And they are being developed by Canadian leaders.”
As Michael Tremblay, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa, Area X.O and Bayview Yards, put it: “We’ve got incredible capability right across the country.”
Below: Michael Tremblay at the opening of TCXpo
One of the highlights of the show was the new Drone and Advanced Robotics Training and Testing facility, also known as DARTT. Built to the demanding criteria of the US-based National Institute of Standards and Training (NIST), DARTT is designed for evidence-based evaluation of drones over a variety of surfaces (including sand, gravel and water) and obstacles (including a variable incline ramp). There’s also a netted enclosure for flying experimental drones or assessing new payloads and failsafe features in a safe environment.
InDro’s Luke Corbeth hosted tours of DARTT, allowing spectators to take control of various robots and operate them over obstacles. Here, he explains the basics of the facility:
STREET SMART ROBOT
InDro also publicly unveiled one of its newest innovations: The Street Smart Robot, or SSR.
Built with the support of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN), led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation, the SSR will be monitoring bicycle paths in Ottawa this winter to detect snow, ice, potholes and debris that might impact the safety of cyclists. When those anomalies are detected, they’ll be flagged to road and maintenance crews at the City of Ottawa so they can be remediated.
Initially, the SSR will be remotely teleoperated by a human being who will have real-time situational awareness of all surroundings. The eventual goal is for the SSR to operate autonomously, with AI flagging problems so they can be sent up the chain.
Here’s a peek at the Street Smart Robot:
PLENTY TO SEE
With more than 75 companies (and an estimated 1200 attendees) at TCXpo, there was no shortage of things to see and demonstrations to watch. Some of the highlights of the day included seeing:
- The Skygauge drone, a unique design purpose-built for non-destructive testing, carrying out a demo flight. Its NDT probe was delicately placed against a pole while in flight, mimicking the routine carried for testing of metal tanks, coatings, etc.
- The Wingtra drone, carrying out a flawless demo mission. The fixed-wing, two-motor VTOL is capable of transitioning to fixed-wing forward flight from hover, giving it great range and efficiency
- A driverless tractor carrying out a circuit on a field, with commands sent remotely from a phone. Such devices will be common in the Smart Farms of the near future
Plenty of things caught our eye, including a remotely operated hang-glider (low cost, long range, high payload). There was a new Nokia dock system, allowing for automated flights in remote locations. The system recharges the drone, checks all systems, while maintaining a safe harbour from inclement weather – perfect for regular inspections in remote locations. There was even a US startup that has developed a system that will automatically lower car windows if you happen to plunge your vehicle into water.
We’ve gathered a few pix of the above – and more – which you’ll see in the gallery below:
The first TCXpo – despite the rain – was great. This one was bigger and better – and the weather was perfect. The demonstrations and exhibits collectively made it clear: Smart Mobility is coming.
“Part of the growth between the inaugural TCXpo and this display was due to word of mouth,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “But part of the equation is that the industry itself is growing at a rapid pace. The world of Smart Mobility may not have yet arrived, but you can definitely see it’s on its way.”
Finally, a tip of the hat to Transport Canada, ISED, Invest Ottawa and Area X.O. Those kudos aren’t just for putting on a great show – but also for having to vision to realize that this sector will create jobs, improve safety and contribute to greater efficiency in the not-so-distant future.