by LYNDA LEONARD, Senior Vice-President, ITAC
As a technophile, I am predisposed to view ICT as a force for good. And when the annual ITAC Chairs' Dinner rolls around every June, I get fresh validation for my belief system. That's when we identify and celebrate Canada's IT Heroes - women, men and organizations from across Canada who display outstanding ingenuity in their use of ICT tools to solve a social problem or improve the quality of life in their communities. We have been hunting for heroes for nine years now. Thanks to the unflagging support of Intel Canada and other sponsors such as Innovapost, Bell Canada, SaskTel and the Ontario Government, (along with our partners ITWorld and inMedia Public Relation) we've been able to shine a spotlight on some tech-savvy citizens and companies making innovative contributions. Previous heroes have included the Cyber-bus project of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, the Nova Scotia Conservatory of Music, the City of Moncton and Upopolis, Telus' social networking site for hospitalized children. The stories of our heroes’ accomplishments are inspiring, sometimes funny (like Ryerson's Alexander Ferworn this year). But there always seems to be at least one lump-in-the-throat moment in the award presentation (goodness, when 17 year-old Kayla Cornale spoke about her software for autistic children two years ago we were downright teary). I hope you enjoy them.
Professor Alexander Ferworn, Ryerson University
The ability of urban search and rescue dogs to sift through the debris of collapsed buildings and access areas that human rescuers are unable to reach is what makes these dogs an invaluable tool.
For the past three years, Professor Alexander Ferworn of Ryerson University has been working with the Provincial Emergency Response Team (PERT) of the Ontario Provincial Police on technology designed to enhance the ability of canine units to find and help trapped disaster victims.
Professor Ferworn’s work resulted in the creation of Canine Augmentation Technology (CAT), which turns rescue dogs into mobile web servers. The dogs are fitted with fisheye cameras which transmit encoded video streams to emergency workers via a Wi-Fi network. This allows rescuers to see what is around the dog, even when they may not be able to follow where the dog goes.
Developing CAT required overcoming significant challenges such as the substantial stresses and impacts associated with being attached to a rescue dog, while simultaneously guaranteeing that the animal will not be impeded or potentially harmed in any way by the system. There are also significant complications with maintaining a continuous Wi-Fi connection with a freely roaming dog to allow real-time video streaming.
In addition to CAT, Professor Ferworn and his team also developed the patented Canine Remote Deployment System (CRDS), which uses bark-recognition technology to automatically deploy a payload, such as food, water, bandages or a radio, when the dog finds a trapped person.
The chances of surviving a structural collapse are greatly improved if rescue can occur within 24 hours, and Professor Ferworn’s work goes an extra step to improving the chances of urban-disaster victims in Canada and across the world. His technology has been tested by the OPP and by four of the five Canadian Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, and he has developed relationships with other organizations such as the U.S.’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“It’s wonderful to have been recognized by a great organization like ITAC for a project that I essentially do for free, as we don’t get much funding for this kind of work,” said Ferworn.
Winner: GE Healthcare Canada, Emergency Neuro Image Transfer System (ENITS)
Without a provincial image exchange system to support tele-consult, diagnosis and emergency medical transfer decisions, it is estimated that 35-50 per cent of transfers are unnecessary. The impact of this lack of technology can be measured in undue stress to many patients as well as millions of dollars in time and transfer costs. Furthermore, this shortcoming particularly affects rural areas that tend not to have timely access to neurosurgical specialists.
Working together with eHealth Ontario and London Health Sciences Center (LHSC), GE Healthcare IT embraced the challenge of building the Emergency Neuro Image Transfer System (ENITS), which allows the transfer and storage of neuro-treatment head-scan images from facilities throughout Ontario to a central site from which experts can access the images, determine treatment options and provide consultation at once for patients across the province.
ENITS is built using GE’s high-availability Centricity Enterprise Archive (EA), which allows for web-based distribution of images to collaborating hospitals and enables neurosurgeons to access stored images over the internet from any remote location.
By leveraging data centre infrastructure already established in the LHSC in South-Western Ontario, GE is set to complete the 12-month delivery of an Ontario-wide system, connecting 175 CT scanners in 130 hospitals across the province. The technology will provide nearly 70 neurosurgeons and approximately 200 CT technicians with the ability to communicate and consult remotely throughout Ontario.
The first phase was rolled out in December 2008 and connected 9 sites across Ontario. The remaining sites are on schedule to be connected. This initial rollout was an immediate success, with 40 per cent of all neurosurgical referrals being processed through ENITS to date. Of those referrals, approximately half would have normally resulted in unnecessary transfers, resulting in a savings of approximately $9 million and providing peace of mind for patients and family members.
“We are delighted to have been recognized by ITAC with an IT Hero Award, and would like to thank eHealth Ontario and the leadership at LHSC for their close cooperation and collaboration on this project,” said Mike Clarke, general manager, GE Healthcare IT Canada. “With ENITS, we have developed a system we are very proud of as it improves the quality, access and cost of neurosurgical care throughout Ontario and saves patients and their families the hardships and the stress of unnecessary hospital transfers.”
ITAC NEWS & EVENTS
The ITAC Digital Business Forum
Presents: 1,000,000 Acts of Green
Round Four of the Premiers
The Catalyst Awards provide five awards of $200,000 for developing a commercially successful new, or significantly improved, product or service based on a breakthrough technology.
The program’s five categories are: Best Young Innovator, Innovator of the Year, Lifetime Achievement in Innovation, Start-up Company with the Best Innovation, and Company with the Best Innovation. For-profit corporations and employees or directors of those corporations are eligible for this award.
The deadline for the Premier’s Catalyst Awards program is October 1, 2009. Please visit the Ministry of Research and Innovation website at http://www.mri.gov.on.ca/english/programs/MRI.asp or contact Lesley Cunningham at 416-325-9333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
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