SAINT JOHN – Saint John is going big with big data.
On Thursday Hotspot Merchant Solutions, T4G Limited, Cisco System and Enterprise Saint John announced three community-led projects that will aim to make the city a leader in big data and analytics.
“This is really about driving economic growth in a new and focused way and a more intentional way of supporting existing industry which is forms about 80 per cent of the growth in an economy, to really drive job creation,” said Enterprise Saint John CEO Steve Carson. “But also…it’s an opportunity to really retain and attract people from around the world who want to play in a playground like we’ll have in our community as a living lab for all of this.”
The first project is Big Data training course led by T4G that will begin this September. The courses will aim to address the data skills shortage and will be a step towards establishing a Data Centre of Excellence in Saint John. Other courses will include training in digital accessibility.
The second project is the 2016 Big Data Congress which Saint John will be hosting in October. The inaugural event, held in 2013, was the largest tech event ever held in Atlantic Canada.
The third project features New Brunswick startup superstars HotSpot Merchant Solutions. Hotspot has worked with T4G, Cisco and Enterprise Saint John to develop the Pattern of Life Data project will help better analyze and both vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the city’s uptown core.
“Right now we do a lot of in-store analytics for small businesses, but they are really focused on the customers and we really can’t tell what percentage of the customers are getting from the entire downtown. So we don’t know how successful they are actually being,” said HotSpot CEO Phillip Curley. “Until we have a full picture, we can’t improve. The end goal is that we actually have a base-line to compare each individual businesses progress to help them succeed more.”
The data collected will illustrate traffic flow patterns and provide visualization and trend analysis on the impact of these movements on the local economy across various sectors including retail, tourism and restaurants.
Nancy Tissington, executive director of Uptown Saint John says the project will help current and future businesses and events succeed in the city by putting them where they will be successful.
“Because a business often sets up and they do it just on gut,” she said. “They’re passionate entrepreneurs, but without the data to tell them where they should be, sometimes they’re set up for failure right from the very beginning and we was the to be successful. We want to them to be in the right place.”
Hotspot will provide its existing beacon network data sets and infrastructure to the project. T4G will develop tools and identify insights from the collected data. Cisco will contribute any further expansion of WiFi infrastructure needed.
Janet Scott, director of business and community development for Enterprise Saint John says some companies like McCain Foods are already embracing the benefits of big data to solve the problems they face. The goal is to now do that on the bigger scale.
“How do we take that same idea apply it to our other industrial companies? If we actually define a specific problem, we could have university researchers and innovators from around Atlantic Canada and beyond coming in to build new technology applications that could be then scaled and sold around the world,” Scott said.
“Data is the new fuel for that.”