The Most Disruptive Canadian Tech Found at CES 2020

By David Daly

The consumer electronics industry is no stranger to innovation or disruptive technologies. Televisions, computers, cell phones, the cloud, and the internet of things (IoT) are just a few examples of electronics that revolutionized the world. Since 1967 the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has served as the stage for manufacturers and inventors to introduce numerous game-changing products to the public.

CES 2020 took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, in January, and I was there to search for the latest and greatest in tech. There were over 4,500 exhibitors, and Canada was well represented with over 100 exhibitors.

Canadian exhibitors showcased everything from robotics to clothing, and spanned a wide range of industries including products for the home and advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms. While it is difficult to choose from so many outstanding products, here are the ten most disruptive Canadian products I found at CES 2020.

A&K Robotics

This Vancouver-based company was founded on the belief that robotic technology can drastically improve the quality of life around the world. With a team of engineers, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs, they have created self-automated technology that can be applied to numerous devices.

Their first product was released in 2018, an autonomous floor-cleaning system. By design, the navigation stack of the floor cleaner can be used on other platforms. For CES 2020, the company showcased its latest product, the Autonomous People Mover (APM). 

Anyone who has traveled via airplane has no doubt seen numerous airport employees assisting travellers to their destinations. In many cases, an employee is required to physically push a wheelchair with mobility-challenged travelers to their departure gate.

According to co-founder Jessica Yip, some airports employ over 500 people solely for this undertaking. As the workforce ages, the associated cost of labor for this task is becoming more and more expensive. The APM is capable of safely moving people in complex environments. Additionally, the platform features a touch screen where the user can eventually add destinations like stopping for a cup of coffee before heading to their departure gate.

Trials of the APM at various airports are going well. In 2019 A&K Robotics was named the Most Impactful Start-up by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) at their Shark Tank Competition. It may become common to see the APM at your local airport soon.

Applied Brain Research (ABR)

Built around a group of neuromorphic researchers, ABR is a Toronto-based company looking to “build brains, not just networks.” The team recently developed a low-power, spiking AI. In December of 2019, ABR’s AI algorithm, the Legendre Memory Unit (LMU), beat the most commercially successful AI algorithm, the Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM). The LSTM has been the industry standard since 1997. 

The LMU can process real-time signals (audio, vision, control, anomaly detection) and utilize multiple neural network types (CNN, DNN, RNN, LSTM). This algorithm is a part of ABR’s Neuromorphic AI platform. The chip they produce uses less power, is smarter, faster, and can be used as adaptive AI for cars, robots, drones, controllers, sensors, and more.

According to the company, “LMUs can be used wherever LSTMs are, such as for classification, learning, and processing of time series data in speech, control, and analysis of sensor data in robotic motion, speech, handwriting, and music processing. The game-changing benefits include longer battery life for smartphones and smart speakers, and longer range for autonomous cars due to the large reduction in AI compute power.”

The company is already working with leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to apply their LMU to cars, smartphones, drones, and countless other applications.

Cloud 3D Print

3D printers have become powerful tools for a wide variety of applications. In many cases monitoring the usage of printers is a challenge. From product management to data storage, the logistical difficulties of efficiently running 3D printers catch many organizations off guard.

Cloud 3D print recognized this underserved need within the 3D printing world and developed a way to digitize the 3D printing workspace into the cloud. The company designed software and a handheld IoT device that can link up to 6 printers at a time. Their product is compatible with over 150 3D printers currently on the market.

Based on a subscription model, the service allows users advanced online slicing, cloud backup, real-time monitoring of progress remotely through a smart device, project management tools such as customer invoicing and time-lapse video sharing, and encrypted data security.

Cognitive Systems Corporation

WiFi signals cover the modern world. Our homes, in particular, are more often than not inhabited by at least one WiFi router and several clients (devices using the router). One could imagine the WiFi signal to be an invisible cloud that fills every room in a house. As we move through our homes, we disturb this cloud. Cognitive Systems Corporation has developed technology to use this disturbance in the WiFi cloud around us.

The company’s patented WiFi Motion technology uses the disturbances in the WiFi radio frequency to detect motion and track or alert users depending on their needs. This information can then be used to improve smart homes, for security, and even for wellness monitoring.

WiFi Motion can sense when you leave your home and automatically lower the thermostat or turn off lights. Your home security system can be armed as WiFi Motion detects you are leaving the house. The families of elderly individuals can track their loved one’s movements within the home to see if they are up or if they have fallen and need help.

Best of all, WiFi Motion doesn’t use any of your WiFi signal’s power, so your speed of streaming videos or surfing the web is not degraded.

Delivery Pod

According to major news outlets such as CNN and the BBC, one in every three people will fall prey to package theft. While many homes and businesses have cameras that can monitor thieves in action, most cannot keep criminals from getting away with their property. Delivery Pod believes they have the solution to this growing problem.

The company has designed a relatively affordable ($399 CAD), secure, and convenient container for protecting packages. The attractively-designed box is affixed to a home or business with a bike lock. The container is tested to withstand the harsh winter conditions of Canada, and the electronic door locks can withstand 200 pounds of force.

In addition to securing packages, Delivery Pod will notify your smartphone when packages have been placed in the box. The box is powered by 4D cell batteries and maintains power for up to 6 months per battery set.

Healium

Stress affects all of us both in our professional and private lives. Healium has developed the world’s first virtual and augmented reality platform powered by brainwaves and heart rate as capture on wearable devices.  

A user looking to lower stress wears a set of goggles and is presented with story-driven escapes. Within these worlds, positive brain waves can heal or improve the environment, while negative brain waves do not. In one scenario, the user sees a world that looks not unlike a wasteland. As sections are highlighted, the user can clean them up or fix them if they are emitting positive brain waves.

The technology is drug-free and has already been proven in three peer-reviewed journals to reduce moderate anxiety quickly and increase feelings of positivity using heart rate and real-time EEG feedback.

Kiri Innovations – Phiz 3D Scanner

What started as a class project for a handful of university students is becoming a powerful smartphone accessory. With a focus on providing affordable but accurate 3D scanning solutions, Phiz was born.

Kiri Innovation’s Phiz 3D Scanner turns your smartphone into an industrial-grade measuring device. Accurate up to 0.2 mm, Phiz will automatically calibrate before use and rapidly scan just about any object. Integrated lighting technology captures the true color of the subject being scanned, and the device is compatible with laptops, android, and iOS.

The 3D scans produced by Phiz are easily transferred to 3D printers, used in modeling, and can serve as the foundation for animations. The project started just over two years ago, and the first units shipped to crowdfunding backers in March 2020.

Logan Vision

First responders, such as firefighters, are faced with some of the most challenging tasks on a daily basis. The nature of fire obscures visibility and makes the job of extinguishing fires and saving lives an enormous challenge. Logan Vision is on a mission to improve the work experience and efficiency of these dedicated and brave individuals.

Understanding hotspots in a fire is essential to fighting them. Firefighters use thermal heat detectors to identify where to focus their efforts. When using these devices, their hands are occupied, making them less effective and vulnerable.

The Fusion Vision System (FVS) was developed by Logan Vision to address this problem. Using an augmented reality smart visor that attaches to the firefighter’s helmet, first responders can see through smoke, identify the location of victims, and find the source of fires.

Additionally, the FVS has information-sharing abilities for transmitting the location of firefighters in buildings. The visor is also capable of a live video stream. Commanders outside the fire can have real-time data allowing them to make more informed decisions. Logan Vision is on its way to developing the future of a safer and more informed firefighter.

Peel 3D

Another 3D scanner shined bright at CES 2020. There are many reasons why an object would need to be reversed engineered: from fixing product flaws to improving documentation, engineers are often given the task to work from the product backward.

The task of taking what is real and moving it to Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) systems can be more complicated than starting from scratch. Enter the peel 2 CAD 3D Scanner. This handheld device is a fully integrated solution for any reverse engineering projects.

The scanner can take any object and, in four easy steps, export the data to CAD software. The user first scans an object, then finalizes the mesh. Step three is to extract entities and surfaces. Finally, the data is sent to CAD software such as SOLIDWORKS or Inventor.

The peel 2 CAD scanner has all the tools needed to process geometric entities and comes with a calibration certificate. The accuracy is up to 0.1 mm and has a volumetric accuracy of 0.3 mm/m.

While designed for reverse engineering, the scanner can be used in numerous other applications. Some of these include; art, heritage preservation, design, human body scanning, health care, and more.

Stoko

This clothing apparel company is looking to develop the next generation of joint support. In the last fifty years, there has been little development in this field. Expensive and cumbersome braces have been the only real option until now.

Recognizing the need for a better solution, product designer, engineer, and Canadian Olympic athlete Scott Morgan got together and developed a solution. After figuring out how to build the same support as carbon fiber braces into clothing, the team expanded.

Stoko’s clothing mimics the muscles and ligaments that the body naturally uses to provide support. Proprietary reinforced materials and adjustable support structures are integrated into the material itself. The result is a joint support product that is comfortable and more effective than traditional bracing products.

Stoko sees the product’s use for athletes and people suffering from other medical conditions where joint pain is a side effect.

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