L-Spark accelerator companies demo secure IoT applications as second cohort unveiled

LeoLax
L-Spark executive managing director Leo Lax speaks at a showcase of the first cohort from the secure IoT accelerator. Photo by Kwabena Gyamfi.
Editor's Note

This article was updated to clarify which accelerator program the new cohort is attached to.

L-Spark and its corporate partners celebrated the first round of their secure IoT accelerator program Wednesday at the Brookstreet Hotel as they looked to the future with new program partners.

The Kanata-based accelerator first announced plans last March to run a new accelerator program with Telus, Kanata-based Solace and BlackBerry, which already works with L-Spark on an automotive software-focused program. Geared towards secure applications for the burgeoning Internet of Things industry, participation in the accelerator came with a development kit for companies to build their own IoT solutions.

Leo Lax, executive managing director of L-Spark, told the gathered crowd Wednesday that the entire accelerator program came together in a very short period of time, which was remarkable given the size of the partners involved.

“Nine to 10 months ago, Telus, BlackBerry and Solace were three companies that maybe knew each other casually. Today, they are collaborating, co-operating and have developed tech that … will change the way IoT devices will be managed in the future,” Lax said.

One of those participating companies was the Ottawa-based Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which is responsible for the .ca domain name. CIRA chief technology officer Jacques Latour acknowledged in his presentation that the company probably didn’t fit the mould for an IoT accelerator.

“You're probably wondering why we're here. Well, it’s to talk about something new,” Latour said.

CIRA demonstrated a registry for IoT technologies that treats connected devices in the same way as domain names. As the number of devices connected to the internet is expected to bloom to more than 50 billion in the coming year, Latour argued for the importance of registering devices’ SIM cards with security certificates to prevent hostile actors from gaining access to an IoT network.

This comes with a series of conveniences as well, Latour explained. He gave the example of the City of Ottawa working with a third-party provider for smart parking meters. Instead of hardcoding each meter’s SIM card to the provider, going through an IoT registry would allow the city to administer thousands of devices immediately and remotely, even switching providers as easily as transferring a domain name.

As CIRA and its peers in the program presented their IoT innovations onstage, L-Spark also unveiled the newest cohort of companies for the second round of its automotive accelerator program with BlackBerry. Among them is Sensor Cortek, a startup from the University of Ottawa that uses artificial intelligence to augment radar technology on connected cars to help make drivers more aware of their surroundings.

Lax also announced an extension to the secure IoT program. In the first quarter of 2020, L-Spark and its partners will take the accelerator and its IoT developer kit to Queen’s University in Kingston to see what faculty and students at the post-secondary institution can create with cutting-edge tech. Specific details on that program are still to come, Lax said.