In the News Archive
September 2004

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Who you gonna’ call? 3-1-1

Under the proposed strategy presented to Toronto’s eCity committee, the 3-1-1 initiative would transform Toronto’s approach to customer service – residents would simply dial 3-1-1 for any non-emergency services they require. They would no longer need to know which department specifically to call – and there would be a real person answering the call. City staff will process inquiries on a 24/7 basis on the telephone, Internet and eventually self-serve kiosks. By consolidating nine call-centre operations spread over 26 locations and improving access to city services, the city hopes to benefit from increased citizen satisfaction, improved efficiency and more accountability in service delivery. The service would operate much like those in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Three pilot projects are being planned – Works and Emergency Services-Customer Services, Toronto Public Health and Revenue Services – to get underway in summer 2005.

In addition to Toronto, several other Canadian cities have applied to designate 3-1-1 as the telephone number for non-emergency municipal government services: Calgary, Halifax Regional Municipality, Ville de Gatineau and the Regional Municipality of Halton.

Historic Barkerville gets a boost

In addition to annual grant of $750,000 per year, the Province of British Columbia is providing funding to help shift the day-to-day operations of Barkerville – an historic gold-rush town in northern central British Columbia – to local management.

In the spring of 1861, miners William Dietz, Ned Stout and others discovered gold on Williams Creek in the Cariboo area of northern-central British Columbia. Another miner, Billy Barker, staked his claim below the canyon on the creek and in 1862 made the richest strike. It triggered a gold rush that saw over 100,000 people travel the Cariboo Wagon Road between 1862 and 1870 and the establishment of Barkerville – at that time, the largest town in the Canadian west. Today, Barkerville is an integral part of the tourist industry in the Cariboo region. The town boasts over 125 heritage buildings, many artifacts, and several events and activities that keep the gold rush experience alive.

Over the last two years, 12 heritage sites in BC have come under the management of their local community. Barkerville is the last site to do so.

‘Newfie’ and Irish ocean tech businesses partner

In early July 2004, building on similar geographies and economic goals, NavSim Technology Inc. from Newfoundland and Labrador signed a partnership agreement with Ireland’s NowCasting International, and Lotek Wireless Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding with the Irish Marine Institute.

Lotek and NavSim are both based in St. John’s. Lotek, which manufactures microelectronic tagging devices that track fish, birds and wildlife globally, has been doing business in Ireland for more than a decade, primarily focusing on Atlantic salmon research coordinated by Irish Marine Institute.

NavSim, the first incubated spin-off from National Resources Canada's Institute for Marine Dynamics, manufactures advanced autopilots for boats, making it safer to handle a boat regardless of speed, weather and traffic conditions.

The Irish Marine Institute provides scientific services including research, technology, development, innovation and advice to marine businesses. NowCasting International supplies weather forecasts to maritime users.

A private-public business group, Oceans Advance, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, is marketing St. John’s internationally and using business opportunities to brand the city as the choice for ocean technology business. Partners include the City of St. Johns, the Newfoundland Association of Technological Industries, Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association, Memorial University, and private sector companies.

Vancouver ports upgrade to meet new security code

A new set of international standards, the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) code designed to detect and deter threats to international maritime security came into effect July 1, 2004. The ISPS requires ports to enhance and upgrade their physical and operational security.

All of the Vancouver Port Authority’s (VPA) 25 major terminals worked together to complete security assessments, develop security plans that were submitted to Transport Canada and received approval from the department. Despite being in full compliance with the new requirements the VPA continues to invest ($12.8 million over five years) in new security measures implementing or enhancing barriers and equipment including perimeter fencing, lighting, optical intrusion detection devices and closed-circuit camera surveillance, as well as automated gates and vehicle access control systems that ensure only authorized personnel gain admittance.

CBSA to install new scanning system

The Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) has purchased stationary Pallet VACIS units from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), California at an approximate cost of $2 million each. The units will be installed by this fall at marine container examination facilities in British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The Pallet VACIS is a self-contained, gamma-ray (low-level radiation) system that uses Cobalt 60 as its energy source.

Once installed, the units will be used to scan pieces of freight and pallets. The images, similar to those produced by an X-ray system, are captured and displayed on a computer enabling operators to verify that the cargo does not contain contraband, weapons, and/or potentially dangerous goods, and that the contents match those on the manifest.

Oakville, Ontario tests parking fine e-payment

Adapted from an article by John Saunders, Technology in Government, May/June 2004

Oakville, southwestern Ontario municipality, went looking for a more efficient way to collect parking fines, which are an important source of revenue, and found paytickets.ca – a system offered by Teranet Inc. and the RBC Financial Group. Teranet supplies and supports the technology through its data centres; RBC markets the system. Parking offenders simply access paytickets.ca directly or through a link on Oakville’s website.

The deal did not require an up-front payment; the town pays handling fees on a per-transaction basis. While citizens appear to enjoy the flexibility of the e-payment option, at the time of publication the volume of use had not yet grown sufficiently to completely offset the cost of the transaction fees the city pays.

SYD Resource Road partnership deal in BC

In June 2004, a $40 million partnership deal was signed between the Province of British Columbia and BC-based Ledcor Projects Inc. to design, finance, upgrade and maintain the Sierra Yoyo Desan (SYD) Resource Road. Ledcor is responsible for the upfront costs of design, financing, construction and maintenance, and will operate and maintain the 173-km resource road – the main access to the oil and gas territory located in northeast British Columbia – for 16 years.

The partnership is looked on favourably by local industrial users who, along with the provincial government, will administer the user fees collected from industrial activity within the area serviced by the road. The fees will be used to compensate Ledcor for improvements, upgrades and road maintenance over the term of the agreement.

Kamloops and Red Deer reap rewards from GIS

Kamloops, located in the interior of British Columbia, has been a leader not only in the collection and distribution of spatial data, but in its integration into multiple city departments – including finance and engineering – via an Intranet mapping site. For city staff, the geographic information system (GIS) provides increased access to the wide variety of geographically-related information and reduces the time spent searching for required information.

City staff use the system to support planning and operational activities such as zoning and land development studies; energy planning; assessment reviews and proximity studies; and water, drainage, sanitary, and road utility information. The system provides information to emergency services, parks and recreation and organizations such as BC ambulance and forestry services, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the RCMP.

City field crews, using tablet PCs while at a work-site, have access to the city’s utility network information – as well as external utility data from BC Hydro, Telus, Terasen Gas, and Shaw Cable. The availability of company information is a direct result of efforts by the Integrated Cadastral Initiative Society (www.icisociety.ca). ICIS – a registered not-for-profit society based on a partnership of BC’s major utility providers and BC provincial and municipal governments –stated goal is to “create a single source of high quality, integrated provincial land and land-related data.” Utility firms provide data and 75 percent of the funding, provincial agencies provide data, expert resources and the remaining funding, and municipal government provides local data. Kamloops is a founding partner of the ICIS.

Citizens of Kamloops also benefit from the online system. In addition to searchable interactive maps (www.kamloops.ca/maps), registered users can record legal information and access tax and utility information, including connections and billing.

And in Red Deer, Alberta citizens are able to tap into the recently launched Web Map (http://webmap.reddeer.ca), the city’s first application developed with GIS. Web Map allows citizens to obtain detailed transit information online – routes, stops and transfer locations. Currently, users may also locate addresses, schools, recreation facilities, emergency services such as police and fire stations and the hospital, and other city attractions.

Future WebMap applications include the ability to locate voting stations for the 2004 municipal election, information on regulations and bylaws, garbage and recycling schedules, municipal improvement projects, and other services specific to Red Deer.

ACOL offers online lien check service

For a nominal fee, citizens in Atlantic Canada can now use Lien Check, an online service managed by Atlantic Canada On-Line (ACOL), to search for liens against property (such as a second-hand car or other items such as mobile homes, boats, etc.) that they are considering purchasing. ACOL (www.acol.ca) is a joint effort of the four Atlantic Provinces and UNISYS, a private sector technology developer. The service can be accessed from the ACOL website and member provincial websites.

For an additional fee – each province sets its own, ranging from $5-$10 – citizens can also search for registrations in the other Atlantic Provinces. To search, all that is required is the item’s serial number and the province where it is located. All searches and credit card payments are processed securely online. More information on Lien Check can be found at https://acol-prod1.acol.ca/pprs/lc/index.do.

Vancouver college upgrades email and saves money

Vancouver Community College, which serves 25,000 full and part-time students, had been running Linux for some time, but lacked the tools to manage email effectively and create virtual teams… and it was time to upgrade. The college chose Novell’s SUSE LINUX, Nterprise and Nsure, which allows students to send assignments and large files and saves the college an estimated $1 million in costs. The move to the new system did not involve increasing overhead or adding any IT resources.

Wireless tested as intelligent transportation tool

In early June, the City of Calgary, the Calgary Wireless City program and a private sector firm, ENCOM Wireless Data Solutions, partnered to test wireless technology as an intelligent transportation system (ITS) tool. An ITS uses innovative technology to reduce traffic congestion, save money, improve safety and reduce environmental impacts in the area of transportation.

The three-day demonstration test was held during an event in Calgary and featured four dynamic messaging signs controlled by a single mobile command post. Wireless technology was used to receive and display accurate and timely information allowing the signs to be quickly changed, updated and re-deployed in response to changes in traffic patterns during the event. The signs provided information to drivers enabling them to make more informed driving decisions.

Funded in part by the governments of Canada and Alberta, Calgary’s Wireless City program was officially launched in June 2003 under the management of Calgary Technologies Inc., a not-for-profit organization that promotes economic development in Calgary's advanced technology sector. In September 2003, Calgary approved an ITS strategic plan that set the direction, pace and priorities of ITS investment within Calgary – the goal being a balanced, efficient and safe transportation network.

Membrane technology offers safe, better-tasting water

With water quality being a top-of-mind concern, Mississauga (Peel Region) purchasers wanted their choice of new water treatment technology to be reliable, cost effective and integrate well with the existing technology at the city’s Lakeview Water Treatment Plant – one of the world’s largest water plants. The city opted for ZeeWeedâ, an ultra filtration membrane system developed by Zenon Environmental Inc. in 1990. The filtration process uses gentle suction rather than applied pressure. Membrane technology reduces the energy and chemical requirements of typical water treatment processes.

As part of the process, source water being drawn from Lake Ontario for the Mississauga region will be pre-treated with ozone and biologically-activated carbon prior to filtration, delivering safer and better-tasting water.

The City of Thunder Bay, located in northwestern Ontario, is building a new drinking water plant that will treat 30 million gallons of water per day using Zenon’s proprietary membrane technology – a technology the city was already familiar with. Thunder Bay draws some of its source water from Loch Lomond, an inland lake, which, in 1997, was contaminated, forcing city residents to boil all water. In response to the emergency, a Zenon membrane was obtained, installed and successfully delivered safe water.

The new plant, which will be completed by the end of 2005, will replace the Loch Lomond plant and the one at Bare Point, which uses conventional direct filtration technology. According to Doug Scott, engineering manager for Thunder Bay “the [membrane] technology is now very cost competitive with conventional systems and provides a higher margin of safety…”

Home-style entertainment for troops abroad

The Canadian Forces Radio & Television Service (CFRTS) offers two television channels – one French and one English – several radio stations and other data as required to Canadian soldiers serving abroad. Under contract since 1999, International Datacasting Corp. (IDC) delivered the services through an encrypted, closed circuit, high-speed broadband satellite system. Under a renewed contract (this past spring), IDC will provide an extra French television channel as well as radio stations broadcasting from Quebec City.


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