Many may feel that Western Canada has yet to develop a strong community with regards to the innovation and development of advanced technologies applicable to the defence industry. With a richness in natural resources and a penchant to constantly seek new and better ways to locate, extract and increase investment returns, some would think that these are the only areas for which technologies are being developed.

However, with a strong research and development ecosystem in each of the Western provinces, not only are world-class technologies being developed, but their use in adjacent markets is a key contributor to diversity and economic growth.

Examples of excellence and leadership in a few of these areas of technology specific to oil and gas and with application to aerospace, defence and security (ADS) include:

Naval architecture and marine engineering are obvious connections to the British Columbia coast, where shipbuilding is a strong and vibrant industry. The often forgotten applications of the very same skill set are heavily employed in the energy sector in Alberta, where activities such as launching of barges, dredges, various types of boats, floating pipelines, floating platforms, docks, de-icing systems, mooring, marine lifting appliances and fueling systems on private fluid containment ponds are daily issues to overcome.

Cyber security, which is a key aspect of safety and reliability for any industry, is not viewed as a one-time activity, but as an integral and continuous part of the product lifecycle, from early design and development, through testing and commissioning, to lifetime support service and future adaptations. The ongoing development of system architecture is a means to mitigate the risk of cyber intrusion and as a defense of critical network data while integrating the increasingly automated SCADA and ICS controls with IT and cyber security measures.

Communications and ICT and the development of related technologies and devices have been at the forefront in Western Canada for many years. It is applicable across a multitude of industries. As an example, not unlike the defence industry, oil and gas operations are increasingly conducted in remote locations and generate unprecedented volumes of data. The combination of satellites, fiber optic and radio technology are all being utilized in a variety of combinations to enable companies to maximize production. While satellite and radio technology continue to show solid growth in this industry, fiber optic technology market is developing aggressively.

Geomatics is “the mathematics of the earth; the science of the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, especially instrumental data, relating to the earth’s surface,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Western Canada is a global leader in the development and training of geomatics expertise. It is no surprise that technologies related to this area of practice have been developed for many industries and continue to be at the forefront. In addition to supporting industries such as energy, agriculture and mining, applications related to geomatics are a fundamental requirement of the ADS sector as well.

Companies with expertise in areas such as global positioning systems (GPS) or global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), navigation, location-based services, digital mapping, GIS and spatial analysis, remote sensing, image processing and photography are vibrant and healthy. Technologies with relation to social media, crowdsourcing, cloud GIS and geofencing applications are being developed as well.

Unmanned vehicles and technologies are an area of expertise not to be overlooked. Western Canada not only has the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, it also has established an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training and Development Centre (TDC) at the Foremost aerodrome, in the Village of Foremost, Alberta.

The ADS industry is constantly seeking new ways to innovate and build smarter technologies. Whether it be for smart weapons, bio metric applications, autonomous technologies, cyber threats or robotics, Western Canada has a depth of expertise, a history of innovation and a plethora of companies seeking to partner, assist and develop the next generation of industry application.

Attend WestDef 2014 to have an opportunity to meet these companies taking part in the Innovation Showcase.
Denean Tomlin is the president & COO of WaVv Business Development and the co-executive director of WestsDef.