5G Changes Everything – Area X.O and ENCQOR Unleash the Potential of 5G to Create New Capabilities for Innovators, Firms and First Responders

June 30, 2021

Unparalleled Opportunity During Unprecedented Times

The pandemic has given rise to true heroes – the first responders who keep us safe. These brave women and men put themselves in harm’s way and work tirelessly to save and change lives. They are the paramedics, doctors, nurses, police officers, EMTs, search and rescue teams, and firefighters who face danger head-on to protect us, and our community.

It is a mission that is fueling innovators, entrepreneurs, and SMEs to create new smart mobility, autonomy and connectivity solutions that increase the capability and safety of these frontline public safety leaders.


This includes Peter King of Indro Robotics. If you ask the Head of Robotic Solutions what technology has unlocked the true potential of drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for first responders, there is no question. 


Command Centre at Area X.O

“5G technology is the missing piece that first responders have been seeking for years. Having a technology that can bring together drones, ground vehicles, communications, and data securely in real-time through a single command centre is ground-breaking.  It equips first responders with accurate, timely information, helping them make critical, split-second decisions in emergencies. It catalyzes immediate action that saves lives. And these capabilities are just the beginning – 5G will unleash a world of new possibilities in the days ahead.” 

The industry veteran knows this first-hand. InDro Robotics has unmatched UAV expertise to operate in unprecedented ways utilizing commercial UAVs to monitor and collect data and provide a wide range of services to innovators and industries, including fire and rescue.   


Regina Wilson, a 22-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, agrees. “Sometimes, it takes time to find the source of a fire in buildings that are 40 to 50 stories high. If we could have drones go inside burning buildings to determine the exact location of the fire and those in need of rescue while we are making our way to the scene, it would be invaluable.” It is the kind of technology that saves lives, and it is a priority for InDro Robotics. 


The novel application of drones, UAVs and 5G for emergency management is one of the many goals this Canadian SME is pursuing at Area X.O. In early 2021, the company expanded its footprint, capabilities, and team at the futureplex of innovation and collaboration in Canada’s Capital. The firm is an ideal addition to Area X.O, which enables the safe and secure development, testing and implementation of next-generation smart mobility, autonomy, and connectivity technologies.  The firm is creating new capabilities at Area X.O and leveraging this facility to develop new UAV and unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) solutions for many sectors, including public safety.  


Emergency Response: How 5G Changes Everything explored these and other opportunities for first responders.  Hosted by Invest Ottawa in early June 2021, this virtual event enabled public safety leaders, innovators, SMEs, regulators, investors and 5G experts to gain inspiration and actionable insight on: 


  • The critical life-saving role and stories of first responders, and the current and future needs, opportunities and challenges facing emergency management and incident response teams in their critical role on-the-ground; 
  • How advanced technologies (such as Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data and 5G) and innovative applications in public safety could help to address these needs and create new capabilities that bolster the efficiency, performance and safety of first responders, as well as the citizens and communities they serve; and 
  • The innovation-enabling infrastructure, services and support available through Invest Ottawa to help innovators, technology developers, startups, scaleups, SMEs, first responders and their collaborators achieve key R&D and innovation goals in public safety.  


Equipping Innovators, Firms and First Responders for Success and Safety

Working closely with public, private, and emergency management partners, Invest Ottawa aimed to achieve three key goals through this interactive event: 

  • To inspire more technology innovators, entrepreneurs, SMEs and first responders to pursue the development of novel 5G-ready solutions that increase the safety of emergency management teams and the citizens they serve; 
  • To showcase the art of the possible and the many public safety capabilities, use cases and innovations emerging from ENCQOR and Area X.O; and 
  • Help these leaders put this infrastructure and expertise to advance the safe and secure development, testing and adoption of 5G solutions for public safety.  


Invest Ottawa and a roster of top tier speakers brought more than 140 participants behind the curtain to explore the unique opportunities, capabilities and support available to help them achieve their R&D, technology development and public safety goals. These include:  

  • Area X.O ExteriorArea X.O: Coined the futureplex of innovation and collaboration, this facility combines diverse expertise with Ottawa’s telecom and cybersecurity strengths as a tech hub and helps local, national, and global startups, SMEs, multinationals, regulators and governments to address grand challenges and opportunities – including those engaging first responders. It fuels the creation, commercialization, and adoption of breakthrough innovations in mobility, autonomy, and connectivity. These applications span telecom; smart agriculture; defence, security, and public safety; unmanned aerial vehicles; and smart cities. Established and managed by Invest Ottawa, Area X.O leverages critical support from world-class founding partners including the Governments of Canada and Ontario, the City of Ottawa, Accenture, BlackBerry QNX, Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia, and Ottawa’s post-secondary institutions. 
  • ENCQOR: This transformational partnership brings together the Governments of Canada, Ontario, and Quebec as well as five world-class communication technology companies: Ericsson, Ciena, Thales, IBM Canada, and CGI. It supports research and innovation in 5G disruptive technologies, adoption initiatives and system use in many sectors. Since 2017, 600 SMEs have joined the program and tested their technology in a 5G setting. This includes companies spanning entertainment, transportation, smart cities, health care, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and public safety. 


“Area X.O and ENCQOR create a comprehensive suite of R&D and business capabilities for innovators, firms, and first responders,” said Sonya Shorey, Vice President of Strategy, Marketing and Communications, Invest Ottawa, and Area X.O. “They work together to catalyze the development, testing and implementation of 5G-ready solutions that increase the safety of first responders and the citizens they serve. We strive to help many entrepreneurs, SMEs and first responders to create life-saving technologies that address Canada’s public safety needs and export markets around the world.” 


Putting 5G to Work With, and For, First Responders

5G and other emerging technologies are transformational for first responders. Area X.O puts these capabilities directly in the hands of innovators, companies, and public safety collaborators. 


“Area X.O operates one of the most advanced communications infrastructures in the world,” says Kelly Daize, Director of Business Development at Area X.O. “Companies have access to V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) connectivity including GPS, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, LoRaWAN, TV White Space, 5G (including millimetre wave) from Nokia and Ericsson and satellite communication systems.” 


Michael Tremblay, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa, Bayview Yards and Area X.O, adds: “When I think about the capability the ENCQOR consortium brings to the table, it’s the depth of talent that has been generationally created in our region. That’s what sets Ottawa and our region apart, not just across Canada but around the world. ENCQOR brings all of these capabilities to bear for entrepreneurs and SMEs with comprehensive technical and business support to ensure commercial success.” 


These capabilities provide tech entrepreneurs like Henri Agorua with a competitive edge. “As someone new coming into the industry, ENCQOR and Area X.O give you the ability to test your system without having to invest all that money,” says the Director of RenMobi, an Ottawa advanced renewable energy and smart mobility startup. “This opportunity is invaluable. It is truly exciting to be part of ENCQOR and Area X.O.” 


It is the opportunity for entrepreneurs like Henri to leverage leading-edge 5G capabilities from Ericsson – technology that typically unavailable to early-stage founders and firms. This enables these entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, and 5G-ready solutions, faster. In the words of Dimple Thomas, Engineering Manager for Ericsson, a founding partner of Area X.O and ENCQOR, “This is technology for good.” 


‘Have Technology’ Will Travel for SMEs and First Responders

In emergency management, mobility is key to success. First responders are consistently on the move, intervening and taking life-saving action in mission-critical situations. As a result, they require technology that can be deployed safely and securely, in any location, from a downtown core to a rural community or remote, harsh environment.  Enter Area X.O. The organization equips innovators, firms and first responders alike with mobile R&D capabilities and technology solutions. 


Mobile Command Centre at Area X.O

“Working in collaboration with private and public partners and first responders, we developed the Area X.O Mobile Command Centre,” says Daize. “We can hit the road with this technology-rich, 24-foot sprinter van, and rapidly deploy a secure 5G network and infrastructure with complete situational awareness. This enables SMEs, especially in areas with poor connectivity, to securely test and validate their autonomous products and technology, IoT assets and services in any rural environment.  The power of the internet in remote locations equips first responders, such as paramedics and search and rescue teams, with new capabilities on the ground, bolstering their safety, performance, and outcomes.” 


“This mobile command centre will allow first responders to connect in ways that were previously unavailable to them,” says Joe Lee, Engineering Manager at Kongsberg Geospatial. This firm contributed to the Area X.O Mobile Command Centre. “We can take it to a remote location, stand up a secure 5G environment, and create interconnected ground search parties in areas where there was no possible way of doing this previously except with satellite (which has a very restricted bandwidth).”  

It is the very capability that excites search and rescue teams, such as the one that found a three-year-old boy after he accidentally wandered off in the woods of South Frontenac for three days this past spring. This technology could help first responders gather, analyze and exchange data in real-time, helping to locate and bring people to safety faster.  


“The very concept of a mobile command centre originated with first responders who openly shared the challenges they face in the field and the capabilities they lack when working in rural environments,” says Daize. “We are excited to help entrepreneurs, firms, and first responders across Ontario put this technology to work in demonstrations on the other side of the pandemic.” 


Unlocking the Potential of Drones and UAVs for First Responders

Drone at Area X.O5G is also unleashing the potential of drones and UAVs for first responders. It is one of the reasons InDro Robotics expanded their Canadian technology development operations at Area X.O.  


As the only R&D facility of its kind serving SMEs with beyond line-of-site testing, validation, and demonstration for drones and UAVs, Area X.O helps entrepreneurs and SMEs develop 5G-ready UAV solutions. Since late 2019, the facility has received requests from 80 companies with UAV technologies. Today, more than 30 percent of all industry-led projects at Area X.O engage drones and related technologies. Drones and UAVs also represent a lucrative market opportunity for Canadian firms. The global UAV drone market is expected to exceed $58.4 billion by 2026.  Increasing usage of drones and UAVs in the public safety, defence and military sector for surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, and intelligence is catalyzing the growth of this global UAV drone market.  


This creates a wealth of opportunity for innovators, entrepreneurs and firms, as well as paramedics, police officers, firefighters, and search and rescue teams.  And it is one Area X.O, and ENCQOR aim to help them seize. It is critical to meet first responders where they are at. 


“The rate of change in a paramedic’s world is mind-boggling,” said Greg Furlong, Paramedics Portfolio Manager at Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC). 


Drone at Area X.O

Michael Nolan, Chief Paramedic and Director of Emergency Services for the County of Renfrew agrees. “The use of drones has increased our situational awareness dramatically. Imagine being able to stand down a helicopter, reduce your footprint on the ground by dozens of firefighters, police officers and paramedics, or gathering live images and sharing them with your emergency operations centre. These capabilities help others to see what we see, and then problem-solve collaboratively.”  

“Knowledge is power,” he adds. “If you have situational awareness or even a common picture before you arrive at a complex operation, that’s a game-changer,” he said. “Technology has been an incredible accelerator for the tools we have, but also the way we operate in emergency services. 5G capabilities, the work of Area X.O and support from InDro Robotics has allowed us to take a medical approach to a non-medical technology. It’s really technology that’s encouraged us to think differently.”  


Philip Reece, CEO of InDro Robotics aims to equip first responders with situational awareness through UAV and 5G technology. When working with Michael Nolan and his team, Reece said they quickly determined how the drone could gather information from an emergency scene. The challenge: how to share the right information with the base commander and those in the field.  


“This is where our collaboration with Area X.O and ENCQOR really added value. Now, we’re able to pump so much more information into the cloud, into the network, have it processed and brought back down with almost zero latency,” Reece said. “All of this is happening in the blink of an eye.” 


Increasing the Safety of Firefighters and Those They Serve

Ontario innovators and entrepreneurs are also leveraging ENCQOR, Area X.O and entrepreneurial hubs such as Invest Ottawa and Innovation Factory to create completely new products that help first responders perform their jobs more safely and efficiently. For example, Alex Shortt, Co-Founder and CTO of Longan Vision, a startup in Hamilton, is developing enhanced vision and communication devices for extreme challenges and environments. This includes an augmented reality system worn as a helmet by firefighters. Featuring a thermal imager, it operates in a hands-free manner. In addition, its sensors can communicate with others who are also responding. He expects it to hit the market by early 2022.  


In Canada’s Capital APX Data just secured its first state-wide contract with the state of Nebraska. The scaleup has developed a suite of easy to use, user-driven solutions that firefighters reduce risk and save lives by providing real-time access to accurate data or information at times of emergency. These solutions are serving first responders in more than 100 cities across North America.   


Paul Martin, Founder and CEO, has collaborated with Invest Ottawa for years, leveraging different programs and services throughout his entrepreneurial journey.  He is excited by the impact of this solution on firefighters and emergency management teams. 


“We equip firefighters with critical data when they are heading to a scene. We help them understand where they are going, the size of the structure, the location of key assets and risks,” says Martin. “5G is only going to accelerate the innovations companies such as his can bring to firefighters and other first responders. “Decisions are happening in seconds, rather than once they arrive on location That is a dramatic improvement in response.”  


Technology adoption is critical to achieve impact. Regina Wilson, an NYFD veteran, is eager to put new solutions to work: “Firefighters are excited about any new technologies that help us to perform our job more effectively and safely.” 


Helping Innovators, SMEs, and First Responders Seize the 5G Opportunity

5G and emerging smart mobility, connectivity and autonomous technologies are creating new life-saving capabilities and solutions for first responders.  With many public and private partners, Area X.O and ENCQOR aim to help innovators, SMEs and emergency management leaders seize the 5G opportunity. As underscored by Chris Pogue, Vice President & Managing Director at Thales Defence & Security Canada, the use of 5G transforming the way we communicate.  


“For first responders working in very challenging and complicated environments, 5G will allow them to know the environment they are in better. They will know how to respond better. They will know where people who need help are, and the best hospitals to take them to, and the shortest route to get them there. These are all capabilities we can put at their fingertips. It is about changing the way that we operate.” 


How Can We Help You? Are you an innovator, entrepreneur, industry leader or first responder who aims to create and commercialize an innovative solution for public safety? Reach out to us to explore how we can put the unique capabilities of Area X.O and ENCQOR to work for you and help you achieve your goals. 


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Sincere Thanks to Our Partners  

Invest Ottawa extends special thanks to the following public and private partners for their generous contribution and commitment to the entrepreneurs, firms, and community we serve. 

  • Area X.O Founding Partners: The Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario (including the A.V. Innovation Network managed by the Ontario Centre of Innovation), the City of Ottawa, Accenture, BlackBerry QNX, Juniper Networks, Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia, and Ottawa’s post-secondary institutions 
  • ENCQOR Founding Partners: Governments of Canada, Ontario, and Quebec; Ericsson, Ciena, Thales, IBM Canada, and CGI 

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