Calgary-Based Innovation Accelerator Sees Promise in Lifesaving Technology

Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, and Microsoft has Cortana. SIX Safety Systems has LUCI.

While the Calgary-based company’s technology was developed as a fatigue and detection management system – not a voice-controlled digital assistant like her artificial intelligence counterparts Siri, Alexa and Cortana – LUCI may actually save lives. By using real-time fatigue and distraction monitoring technology, LUCI uses near-infrared sensors placed on an operator’s dash/workstation to detect and measure the operator’s eye movements. The readings are immediately analyzed to determine levels of fatigue and distraction.

LUCI was conceived by SIX Safety Systems and commercialization of the company’s technology recently got a boost from tech giant IBM Canada during the launch of a new technology accelerator space in Calgary.

In March 2017, IBM Canada and District Ventures partnered to establish an innovation space in Calgary. SIX Safety was one of eight companies that made up the inaugural cohort for the District Ventures-IBM Innovation Space. During its year-long residency in the Innovation Space, SIX Safety concentrate its efforts to further develop and commercialize LUCI.

“During our time [there], we have deployed a record number of LUCI systems in a variety of vertical markets. We are thrilled that LUCI is in the field saving lives,” says Emily Overes, SIX Safety’s director of marketing and communications.

Using a “demand-driven” approach, the District Venture-IBM Innovation Space taps a roster of industry experts to help companies target their problems, challenges or business gaps.

“Once that is nailed, they can more easily raise capital, create brand awareness, and develop the necessary technical skills to execute their vision,” says Robert McMurtry, executive with the Innovation Space. “We believe that by harnessing the power of IBM’s artificial intelligence, blockchain, and internet of things capabilities quickly and with precision, our Innovation Space cohort companies can enable change and increase value much more rapidly.”

Companies accepted into the Innovation Space benefit from direct access to IBM’s artificial intelligence service, better known as Watson.

“By harnessing the power of Watson Analytics, we’ve effectively begun measuring the effects of operator fatigue against any KPI our customers deem important,” says Overes. “This predictive risk analysis unlocks a multitude of possibilities that will deliver a positive return on their investment.”

As an innovation accelerator, the Innovation Space provides resources for both entrepreneurs and large businesses – and Alberta’s information and communications technology (ICT) industry is large. In 2016, Alberta’s ICT industry included about 4,600 companies and 40,000 employees generating about $16 billion in annual revenues.

In Calgary, it’s an industry that is poised to grow. Alberta’s largest city already has an established network of organizations focused on start-ups, such as incubators Startup Calgary and Innovate Calgary.

In addition, 27 per cent of all graduates from Calgary’s seven post-secondary institutions are from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

The first cohort of Innovation Space companies that included SIX Safety’s LUCI system came from a wide range of industries, such as health care, natural resources, financial services, clean tech, and agriculture.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve just completed our first cohort in the Innovation Space, and we’re looking forward to applying what we’ve learned to build an even better program for cohort II,” says McMurtry. “This program is accelerating the process of economic diversification in Alberta.”