REPORT ON USES OF TECHNOLOGY FOR SME’S
REPORT ON USES OF TECHNOLOGY FOR SME’S
Ø Technology is being used creatively by Canadian SMEs in a variety of sectors;
Ø Benefits from the use of technology include increasing profitability, enhancing market share, achieving faster business processes, and creating new products and services; and
Ø Almost every region of the country reported an example;
Application: New Use for Video Technology Provides Customer Information
Benefit: Knowledge of Customer Buying Habits For Better In-Store Layout and Displays
Elaine Mah, Country Manager
Intel of Canada Ltd
i3 International is a Toronto-based company that started as a video installation organization. It evolved its product with the help of Intel, integrating Internet Protocol technology with software analytics. The resulting product and service helps companies make real-time business decisions using in-store video technology, to optimize customer purchasing patterns.
Realizing that only 1% of the video recorded by stores was being used by store management, i3 added software that allowed management to extract intelligent information and turn the fixed video camera feeds into a dynamic decision-making tool. Using an Intel chip as the processing platform gave them flexible processing power and allowed I3 to add new features in a cost-effective way.
Using the analytic software, customers of i3 can use video feeds to identify high-traffic zones within the stores, and relocate high-volume products. They can increase staff efficiency by putting top sales people into the right areas of the store and the right times. The data is available to managers over the Internet, allowing them to make decisions from any location. The system also minimizes the data storage requirements necessary for fraud prevention.
Application: Recycling of Greenhouse Nutrients for Economy, Carbon Emission Reduction --
A high-tech solution applied to greenhouse gardening
Benefit: Lower costs, Less Environmental Impact
Pierre Felix Brisson
Aquasolution Technologies; Nutrimizer
This Canadian company has found a way to recover excess waste water from greenhouses, providing cost savings and lowering the environmental impact while reducing carbon emissions.
Nutrimizer did the R & D to seek a solution for the problem of local growers throwing into the ditch 35% of their fertilizer costs. This run off was full of phosphorus and this was promoting blue-green algae in local lakes. Growing vegetables in a greenhouse requires that plants be over-irrigated -- typically the plant will be over-supplied by as much as 30 - 40 %. In a hydroponic facility, the irrigation waters contain all the nutrient to make it grow, as fertilizers are added to it. The excess waters will also contain all bacteria and possibly viruses, and cannot be re-used for fear of killing the whole crop. Typically, this excess water is discarded without any treatment.
This is the equivalent of pouring to about 30 to 40% of the fertilizer cost into the ditch -- a real case of pouring your money away!
The Nutrimizer system recovers all the excess water, treating it to control the bacteria and viruses, while leaving the nutrients intact. All the fertilizer remain active and can be safely sent back to the plants.
It obtains up to 96% recovery rates, using 35% less water -- which is easier on the water table -- 35 % less fertilizer costs, and a 96 % reduction of the loaded rejects into the environment. Carbon credits are affected because there is a reduction in heat, so less energy is used, and all the fuel used for fertilizer transport is reduced, resulting in less emissions and a greener Canada.
This solution is of value not only to greenhouse growers, but also to some of the government labs in Canada which are generating fertilizer-burdened -waters into the environment.
The company does not have any Canadian sales but exports their product to Mexico, where people are concerned with lowering costs through the use of technology.
Paper-burden Reduction Through Automated Processes
Benefit: Cost reduction and higher productivity
Bharat Diwanji, Manager, Business Development
Cal-Imaging Specialists is in the business of providing Total Office Printing and Enterprise Content Management solutions. Besides being an elite partner for HP, it provides supplies and maintenance services for all makes & models of printers and plotters. The need to automate business processes and comprehensively manage documents, was driving demand for more inclusive solutions that are easy to use, easy to adopt, and priced affordably. By examining the opportunities and risks associated with document management, Cal-Imaging Specialists is in position to make substantial improvements in terms of reducing the “paper burden”, lowering operating costs, improving regulatory compliance, mitigating legal risk, and bolstering the value of the information contained within our business. In today’s business environment many organizations regard workflow automation and document management as business imperatives. Cal-Imaging Specialists decided to partner with Computhink for their ViewWise Enterprise Content and Document Management Solution.
Cal-Imaging Specialists automated its manual processes on inventory, work-orders and invoicing. By automating its workflow, it has been able to reduce costs associated with printing. Productivity of each employee has gone up as storage and retrieval of documents has become extremely simple. Moreover, the ViewWise solution used by Cal-Imaging Specialists fell within a price range that is affordable for small and medium enterprises.
Customer Self-Selection and Self-Help Workflow Automation and Document Management Solutions
Benefit: Reduced cost and Larger Customer Base
Roland Wehjend, Director of Sales
Cal-Imaging is in the document management business. In presenting and managing their product, they have found that the customer can use modest technology to self-direct their own solutions.
For example, for many years Cal-Imaging sales-people had presented its technologies to customers using laptop computers and the typical 20+ Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. This approach generated the response of "...please, not another PowerPoint presentation" in the prospects that they visited. Cal-Imaging still wanted to get messages across to its customers that were of value to them, so they decided to use a more modern and fun approach: they copied their presentations to Apple iPads. The sales people would place the iPad on the table and let customers "swipe" and view the presentation parts they are interested in. They found that customers self-selected the two or three slides that they were interested in, and focused discussion on those.
In an example of self-help using technology, one of Cal-Imaging’s customers is a print shop specializing in business cards received all sorts of document formats, printed samples and even hand written "ideas" of business cards. The shop did not charge for design work, but only for the printing of the final business cards. Over time this got out of hand - too much work without revenue before the cards could actually be printed - and the variety of formats that were brought into the shop kept increasing day by day. As a consequence, Cal-Imaging worked with the shop to build a Web site built where customers can login, design their cards with the shop's online design program. The finalized business cards could then be pre-viewed right in the browser and customers could place their print orders directly online and pay online as well. The result of engaging the customer using common Web technology s that the initial overhead of outsourced design is eliminated, and the print shop had access to a larger audience.
Use of Social Media by Distribution Centre Automation Company
Benefit: Increased Sales, Faster Contact with Customers
Tom Napier, President
PSI Engineering and Social Media
PSI Engineering is a developer and manufacturer with a unique technology to help automate distribution centres. It exports almost all of its orders to either the USA or the EU, with orders as far away as South Africa and Puerto Rico. It finds its customers through the social media prime websites like, LinkedIn, Twitter and now Google+ . For this company, Facebook has not been found to be very advantageous for customer prospecting.
An example of this company’s pioneering use of social media, is the sale made to the second largest mobile phone distribution centre in South Africa, which is now a repeat customer. They found PSI Engineering through an answer one of the PSI experts had posted on LinkedIn; one of their engineers was rummaging through the Business Operations Q&A area and found an answer that solved a problem. The engineer clicked and viewed the PSI expert’s profile, went to the PSI website and sent the company an email stating they needed to speak with about a problem they had. PSI sent them the video links it had already posted on YouTube. The rest of the process then evolved into the regular sales routine, eventually closing this deal. The initial order was for two PSI systems and about 18 months later, they ordered a third system because their business had increased.
Secure Online Electronic Signatures
Benefit: Time Saving and Paperless Office
EPEink is a SaaS company and its focus is to develop and offer a secure online electronic signature service called Greensignatures for PC and mobile users. It offers affordable service plans to suit different needs.
At $0.50/day ($18/month), end-users can reduce and even eliminate the cost of using a fax phone line, fax machine, scanner, printer, paper consumption and courier expenses. Users will close deals securely online without delay and travel. There are no more paper storage expenses. All archives are digitally searchable. With Greensignatures, people can conduct business without geographical limitations.
It is a cloud application which is maintained and supported by EPEink’s IT professionals. Greensignatures allows individual and SOHO businesses to create sustainable virtual offices, creates high profile images for our customers’ businesses, and last but not least, it is a green, environmentally friendly approach.
Under the current trying economy, it is critical to build sustainable business, especially for SMEs. This is where EPEink can contribute.
EPEink is the best testimonial of its own product since Greensignatures is not only capable of signing, but also editing PDF documents. So far, it as been a completely paperless way to conduct business that requires things like signed NDAs, contracts with signatures,
In the legal field as an example, new-generation lawyers are saving costs by breaking the conventional business model and using a virtual paperless office with the help of the latest mobile technology.
The same applies in the real-estate sector: there are nation-wide green real estate organizations that are promoting a virtual paperless office such as NAGAB in Canada. Without the Greensignatures, application, one hour of work extends to 7.5 hours because the agent is physically running between the customer’s home and office. Customers have to spend several hours under pressure to complete a property offer contract. Both the agent and the customers’ family-lives are affected. An agent makes on average 3 trips back and forth between both locations. After the contract preparation is done and a fax copy is sent to the seller side, it’s very normal that a negotiation starts with a counter offer. However, a comparison of an image of the original contract versus the image of a returned fax copy, reveals that the fax is often illegible. This is a very typical problem of real estate contracts.
In the energy sector, the production cycle involves multiple engineering teams, oil production and oil service companies. For such a large scale of project management, the current approach is a high volume paper based manual estimation process which is inaccurate, expensive and lacks interaction.
EPEink's customized enterprise offering saves money and increases productivity in paper intensive industries that are seeking change. In Canada, there are 100,000 realtors, 68,000 lawyers and over 56 energy companies.
Besides three key market sectors, the company has clients in the Canadian government, school boards, hi-tech firms and financial institutes. It has just completed and submitted CICP proposal with the real-time interactive signing feature.
Travel Advisory Services
Benefit: Time-Saving and Trip Efficiency For Travelers
A new travel advisory initiative, FTAS - the Foreign Travel Advisory Service. -- was started recently to provide automated travel advice. FTAS is a technology based service which automatically and continuously monitors and captures verifiable, trustworthy travel advice which is then communicated to independent traveller and those who support them via various services.
In order to manage this information, it employ a combination of intelligent web crawling with a specially designed HTML page difference engine which extracts the changes between versions of a webpage. This allows the company to create a unique representation of changes to important governmental travel safety advice over time, as well as creating highly focused information relevant to an individual traveller based on itinerary. In addition to governmental advice, it tracks dozens of NGO, commercial and travel safety analysis service sources.
High Tech Corporate Development Through Government Program
Benefit: SR&ED Program Spurs Development of Canadian Companies
President, Tecnar Automation Ltee
St. Bruno, Quebec
Tecnar is a small (45 people, 7M$ sales) high-tech firm that develops and commercialises highly specialized industrial instrumentation. Most of its products are spinoffs from NRC’s Industrial Materials Institute and cater to worldwide niche markets (35 countries in 4 continents). It has been in business for over 20 years and its clients include many well known global industrial corporations such as GE, Mitsubishi, Daimler, Gazprom etc.
Tecnar’s products allow other companies to provide non-destructive testing using sensors that do not come into contact with the object being assessed. This includes matter analysis using a very efficient laser, such that the result is virtually non-destructive. A unit designed for industrial pipe pre-fabrication uses proprietary software to ensure absolute precision and reliability.
Without the SR&ED Tecnar would not exist. Each year, it returns to the government, in income tax alone, more than twice what it receives in SRED credits, almost all «new» money because 95% of its sales are exports. Moreover, it manufactures in St-Bruno and most of its suppliers are Canadian, which also generates returns for the government and the country. Finally, its high visibility in the specific industries promote Canada’s excellence in advanced technology all over the world.
Technology Allowing People to Take Charge of Healthcare
Benefit: Self-management of health care
CEO, HHI Healthcare Solutions
New software is being developed to empower employees and their family members to take responsibility for their own health rather than depending on doctors or governments. HHI has a new breed of software applications to achieve this end -- a new dashboard to better manage personal health using integrated solutions. Until now, employees and their families have relied on their employers and government programs to look after them. "They pay the freight, so why should we care about our bodies and our minds" seems to be the prevalent attitude.
Now, in have a significant shift, employers are no longer prepared to pay it all, and treat a $14,000.00 expense as a "fringe" benefit. Employees and their families know very little about medical pricing. As astute as they are about buying anything else, they know virtually nothing about "shopping" for medical and wellness services. On their own, they also do not have any negotiating power.
HHI has started wellness centers that are more like a country club than a medical clinic of a fitness center that are warm and inviting. Done correctly, Health Care costs can be cut across the board by 20% and "bend the curve" towards CONSISTENT lower health care costs.
Advanced Business Models and Federal Risk Sharing
Benefit: Start-Ups Use Software Processes for Development
Founder, The Code Factory
TheCodeFactory is an active bootstrap business incubator and start-up co-working space. .It is home to several hundred independents, entrepreneurs and start-ups. The business is an evolution in how early stage business work ,learn and grow. It has facilitated the creation of some 20 new jobs in its tenant companies and an additional 23 student hires. It connects some of Ottawa leading early stage knowledge based businesses (YOUi Labs, Patient Way, Momentous, Zeebu Mobile, Koneka, Norada ...) through students and start-ups program. TheCodeFactory is entirely self financed; the management appreciates the Government of Canada’s Canadian Small Business Financing Program for its participation.
TheCodeFactory partnered with a local Ottawa/Gatineau software company LavaBlast to build business systems and apply advanced technology to its processes from the start. The company spent three years developing and refining our business model and system. However, bringing the business to a sustainable level without external funding has been extremely challenging physically, financially and personally due to the current economic situation and the major shock of the Ottawa bus strike early in the business. After four years of hard work it has a solid foundation of business processes to build on. It has plans for improvements to make the system more integrated, replicable (bring into the cloud) and matched to an evolved business model. The model is well suited to lightweight, efficient, effective economic development for many other Canadian cities.
Universal Business Language
Potential Benefit: Better e-invoicing The Matches Global Standards.
Hugh Chatfield, ex-retail Owner
This is an application that is an open opportunity for Canadian companies, and a solid example of the kind of project that Industry Canada’s new program could be supporting. A former owner of a retail store is an expert on a technology called Universal Business Language (UBL), and on the applications that support UBL (such as TradeShift). UBL is the first and only integrated set of XML (software) business schemas to be based entirely on a globally-agreed core component.
UBL could help Canada join the global shift to e-invoicing. Moving to electronic invoicing could have saved Canadian firms much effort - not to mention the mountain of paper they have to maintain for six years. One of the big issues in a retail business in fact is the order -- the invoicing process. Typically this is all done via paperwork. An order (different for each supplier) goes out, and a company receives the goods (in one or more batches) with an invoice, which we has to be paid in 30/60/90 days (different for each supplier).
Countries around the world are mandating e-invoicing, many using UBL and lately using Tradeshift as the inter-company transport. Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, Peru, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Panama and NHS in UK, and 12-countries (under PEPPOL) have all adopted UBL. UBL seems to be a complete unknown in North America -- despite the fact that at least one of the key players in UBL is a Canadian... and two Canadian companies have formed a business ecosystem to promote the use of UBL in North America.
Unfortunately, to get any traction for a move to electronic invoicing - the small and medium enterprises have little clout. We need major adoption by large corporations, governments (at local, provincial and federal levels) to move in this direction. There is one project in Canada looking at new methods for "Payment" but as far as I can tell - UBL is not (yet) part of the project. There is a US project that is built entirely on UBL, and the US Treasury dept has mandated a move to e-invoicing - but it is not clear whether or not they will use UBL.
Canada needs to move faster to avoid being on the bottom of the pile regarding the adoption of e-invoicing technologies -- an ideal opportunity that calls out for decisive support.
Automating In-Cab Workflow for SME Fleets
Benefit: Smaller Companies Can Match Systems Used in Larger Companies
Ken Frey, CEO
My Mobile Asset
My Mobile offers a suite of mobile applications that allow small and medium sized trucking fleets to automate in-cab workflow processes, including regulatory compliance paperwork and communications. These applications allow small and medium sized trucking companies to offer similar services as those offered by larger firms with much larger capital IT budgets, leveling the playing field and making them more competitive. In addition, this new mobile technology allows them to gain more efficiency, improve utilization and reduce unnecessary miles and greenhouse gas emissions.
My Mobile is a start-up technology company located in the Accelerator Centre (business incubator) in Waterloo, ON.
Health Care Information Storage
SCS Card Technology Inc.'s unique, Intellectual Property is a Multi-application Read/Write smart card technology and methodology that, among numerous other processes, stores for display personal health and healthcare information; securely stores, analyzes and reports to the card and databases certain laboratory results; securely stores prescriptions, calculates payer, co-payer and discount coupon information and reports to the card and a database; securely stores prosthetic and medical device information; securely manages court-mandated testing, analysis, reporting and time and attendance functions and reports these to the card and databases.
President and CEO, SCS Card Technology
The basis for this particular IP was originally designed as a personal Canadian healthcare card in 1998. It would save physicians, labs and pharmacies (arguably SME's) 100's of millions of dollars each year. Such useful, non-esoteric innovations are often viewed with enormous suspicion by senior provincial authorities.
Therefore, it was gratifying when after brief telephone discussions in mid-May, an influential U.S. biopharma group introduced the IP to "big pharma" (Pfizer, Daiichi Sankyo, GlaxoSmithKline, Lilley) and by June and July company management was in Philadelphia, NY and NJ for C-Level discussions with both pharmaceutical corporations, a Veterans Administration advisor, and really welcoming investment houses who - now that the IP is protected - are eager to fund the company.
This is a good example of typical higher-level Canadian government and VC disinterest in accepting or investing in newer technology.