What to watch in Ottawa’s tech sector

CENGN, Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall offer predictions for the year ahead
Dirk Bouwer and CENGN President
CENGN chief executive Jean-Charles Fahmy, left, with Dirk Bouwer, partner at Perley-Robertson, Hill and McDougall LLP. (Photo by Lois Siegel)

What will be the biggest tech trends in Ottawa? As technology quickly evolves, startups and other tech firms will be looking for new opportunities to commercialize their technology in Canada and globally.

CENGN, Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks, is giving Canadian tech firms of all sizes the resources to build, create, and test their technology for commercialization. CENGN is a consortium made up of major national and global ICT and networking companies. The organization supports Canadian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the development of new technology, and develops world class talent and expertise.

“The pace of change in networking technology continues to accelerate, and no single company can do it alone,” says CENGN’s chief executive Jean-Charles Fahmy. “Collaboration is key.”

Software-Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization

Virtualizing networks has revolutionized our ICT industry. Now, businesses of all sizes are creating innovative products that rely on networking, computing, and memory of different networks. Before launching these products and solutions, companies need to benchmark their solution at different scales, in a commercial grade infrastructure. Testing in the public cloud can be cost prohibitive for SMEs. This is where CENGN steps in. Its powerful testbed enables SMEs to test their solutions in an environment that simulates their potential end users, whether they be individuals or multinational businesses. CENGN also provides the technical expertise required to support the SMEs during the projects, and to provide valuable feedback to improve their products.

CENGN is set up as a non-for-profit, which gives the organization the flexibility to have competing companies support tech R&D under a body that is independent of competing interests. With this structure, CENGN is able to provide multivendor compatibility testing and a bipartisan testing ground for industry stakeholders.

“Our members share the same goal, (which is) for Canada to be a world leader in innovation,” says Fahmy. “We have independent test labs and interoperability capabilities in a multi-vendor and open-source environment. We want to have the leading edge in technology globally.”

Perley-Robertson, Hill and McDougall help maintain CENGN’s structure through its work in corporate governance and assisting in contract review.

“CENGN wants to lift the calibre of the industry,” says Dirk Bouwer, partner at Perley-Robertson, Hill and McDougall LLP.

Mobile and IoT

People have become more connected to their smartphones than ever before, but mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly come to mean more than people on handheld devices. In fact, the future of IoT has moved past connecting people and into connecting things, manifesting in technological breakthroughs in smart cities, autonomous vehicles and smart buildings. “We now expect connectivity anytime and anywhere,” says Fahmy. “The trend to mobility and broadband connectivity will enable the digital transformation of all sectors, including traditional sectors like health, manufacturing, and agriculture.  This will be key to the competitiveness of Canada’s economy. ICT networking is going to be huge with futuristic trends of AI and big data leading the way.”

With more connectivity, there’s also more data. According to IBM, 90 percent of data in the world was created in the last two years. The importance of sorting and analysis of big data will continue to increase for businesses in the coming years.

“Data analytics is a tremendous opportunity for companies and service providers,” says Fahmy. “It will allow them to better serve their customers, to monetize new business models, and to automate their networks and services.”

Cybersecurity

One of the major issues facing any industry involved in information technology is cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is being woven into telecommunications and infrastructure,” says Fahmy. “With the advent of 5G, cybersecurity will be even more important. It’s critical for Canada and Canadian companies to be able to secure their data and communications.”

CENGN has already done several projects with security companies, and will be adding new services to support this increasingly important industry.

“Security is a complex area where Canada can excel,” says Bouwer. “We have a strong infrastructure.”

To learn more about how Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP can help you prepare for 2019, visit perlaw.ca.