The knitting together of this vast country with high-speed internet just got a step closer to reality with the awarding of a $3.39-million federal contract to a graduate of Waterloo’s tech ecosystem.
Ecopia is using its AI-based mapping systems to mine GPS and GIS datasets to find the connectivity gaps in broadband infrastructure across rural Canada, including many remote areas and Indigenous communities. Their findings will help quicken the implementation of broadband service from coast to coast to coast.
Although the contract was just announced this week, the 50-some members of the Toronto-based HD mapping company are already working on the broadband project, expected to be delivered in March.
Ecopia has a long-standing connection with Waterloo Region, from being created as part of a PhD project at the University of Waterloo.
Ecopia co-founder and President Jon Lipinski said, “Ecopia was born in the Waterloo Region – we’re a graduate from the Accelerator Centre (AC) and a member of Communitech.
“During our time at the AC, we worked on foundational R&D and business development related to our AI-based mapping technology. Since then, we have expanded to map over 100 countries around the world. We’ll always be grateful for all the support and resources extended to us from the AC and Communitech.”
Lipinski also credited the provincial government for its support, “including through AVIN/OCE/OCI for autonomous vehicle mapping initiatives in both Waterloo and Toronto.”
The rural broadband mapping is a separate initiative with the federal government, and shows the potential use cases for the company’s HD mapping platforms.
In an earlier news release, Lipinski had noted that, “Ecopia's mission is to create a digital representation of the real world to drive enhanced decision-making – in this case, we are delivering foundational information which will support an effort of national importance – bridging the digital divide across Canada.”
The “remote by default” work environments that many employers adopted during the past two years of the pandemic have shown the gaps in Canada’s high-speed internet connectivity, with more than half of rural communities still not having access to broadband service. Ecopia’s work will help paint a clearer picture of those gaps, using current mapping data.
This contract demonstrates that the Canadian tech landscape has developed such that public and private sector buyers have alternatives to off-shore solutions to their digital requirements.
Said Lipinski, “Homegrown solutions are vital for any economy, and we’re encouraged that the government is leveraging domestic products such as ours to tackle the key challenges we face as a country.”
This federal contract is another success for the homegrown Ecopia, which has been developed since 2013 without the need for venture capital.