What will it take for the City of Saint John to become Canada’s most connected community?
Enterprise Saint John recently launched the “Connected Community Data Project,” a three-year venture aimed at collecting and compiling information to help businesses solve problems and become more competitive.
“As far as we know, we are the only region in North America working to develop a community-based big data analytics platform with a business focus,” says Project lead Mirko Crevatin.
Most companies already collect their own data and use open data sources like Statistics Canada, but they rarely use shared data from the community. By compiling data from local industries, government organizations, non-profits and community groups, the team will demonstrate how information obtained cross-functionally is far more powerful and effective in problem solving. Crevatin and his team will collect and share data in a one-spot digital library of sorts. Enterprise Saint John, researchers and innovators will work with the local businesses—both start-ups and traditional industries— to look at data analytics and its benefits.
Three data source types are being examined: open data; data shared under specific circumstances; and private data used for very specific projects. Data scientists will identify patterns and insights that will help businesses tackle problems.
The project also has the potential to solve problems beyond the business world. Government and non-profits can glean insights that could help create more efficient systems to better deliver services to citizens.
While data mining is not new, a community-wide project of this scope is. Crevatin believes Saint John is the perfect place to undertake this, citing its business climate, location and size. Once learning the benefits, he expects companies will be quick to jump on board.
“We know if we want companies to participate in something so new, it will take a certain amount of trust on their part to offer us their information,” says Crevatin. “However, the business community here is connected and very open to new ideas, and that will help to move this project forward.”
It’s fitting that Saint John is leading the way for this innovative project. For many years, its lumber, oil and gas industries were “connected” in the traditional sense—benefitting from a large seaport, railway lines and proximity to the United States. Decades later, telecommunications giant NBTel introduced broadband for its services and became the first telephone company in Canada to provide internet service, connecting New Brunswickers to the world, and attracting high-tech ventures to the community. Today, Saint John is considered a hub for high-tech, with more than 30 technology-based firms calling the city home.
Dave Grebenc, Co-CEO of Saint Johnbased high-tech firm, Innovatia, says the impact of the city becoming a centre with expertise in data analytics is enormous. The combination of knowledge-based companies working with its traditional industries will give the city an edge in the global economy.
“We are witnessing a second wave of technological innovation that began with NBTel many years ago,” says Grebenc. “Saint John can become an industrial living lab for data analytics and help companies to solve problems. There is real potential that we can become known globally for this expertise. That will have a significant impact on the local economy and that of Atlantic Canada.” Crevatin also sees enormous potential with the Connected Community Data Project. It will help further establish Saint John as a big data centre of excellence and attract more knowledge- based industries to the region. It also provides opportunities to market their data and analytics products globally.
Today, the largest and most successful companies in the world are those who understand the value of data and use it to their advantage. Through this project, Saint John is poised to not only become Canada’s most connected community, but when it comes to understanding the power of community-based big data—one of its most knowledgeable.