University Of Guelph And Left Partner On $2.13M Mitacs Research Project To Improve Connectivity In Northern Canada

A multi-year research project to develop wireless mobile mesh technology to address Canada’s digital divide was announced on Friday, November 2, 2018. 

Left, a multi-award-winning technology start-up based in Maple Ridge, BC, and the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph, announced today a $2.13M collaboration with Mitacs to support the development of “RightMesh”, their patented mobile mesh networking technology.  The project, the largest-ever in partnership with the School of Computer Science, will support up to 120 graduate student internships over five years, from universities across Canada, to improve connectivity in Northern Canada.

The research program will support the implementation of the RightMesh platform and the development of community-identified and led, mesh-based applications, including messaging, emergency response, and environment and health monitoring applications. For Northern communities dealing with changing ice and environmental conditions, the latter applications have been identified as necessary to manage and adapt to the effects of climate change. However, with the limited mobile connectivity in many of these communities, sharing critical data in real time is a challenge which RightMesh is being developed to overcome.

One such location is the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, where climate change has negatively affected food security, health and wellness, and personal safety. Rigolet also faces connectivity challenges with only one Internet Service Provider and no nearby cellular infrastructure.  To solve the problem of limited connectivity, in 2017 the community of Rigolet partnered with Left to adopt, develop and implement RightMesh. This research program will continue that partnership, with results of the research being used to improve connectivity in the community and beyond.

“This funding will let us expedite our work connecting the community of Rigolet, providing life-saving data without dependence on traditional internet,” said Dr. Jason Ernst, Chief Technology Officer on the RightMesh project and Adjunct Professor at the University of Guelph. “RightMesh’s infrastructure-less mobile mesh networking platform allows people to connect with each other using the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi Direct capabilities built into smartphones, even if those phones are currently offline. The support from Mitacs will also low us to scale, improve in performance, and expand internet connectivity in other remote communities.”

Adds Dr. Dan Gillis, Associate Professor at the University of Guelph School of Computer Science, who will serve as the Principal Investigator of the research alongside Ernst: “Improved connectivity in the North will help communities collect and share the data that is important to them, and connect in ways they never could have before. This includes collecting and sharing data necessary for responding to, managing and adapting to the impacts of climate change. With the support of Mitacs and RightMesh, communities like Rigolet can continue to lead research that will improve life across the North and beyond.”

The four Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) and sixteen PhD interns supported through the Mitacs funding will all spend some portion of their internship working at Left’s offices in Maple Ridge, a suburb of Vancouver.

“We are excited to see meaningful tech innovation come out of Maple Ridge,” said Dan Ruimy, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP. “For many years, Vancouver has been the lone driving force of tech innovation in the area, but life changing work is also happening here in the Fraser Valley. This grant will bring many great, young researchers out to this area of British Columbia, contributing their energy towards a project that helps bridge Canada’s digital divide.”

The $2.13M total award is provided in partnership with Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation Canada for business and academicas. The organization funds research projects designed to help strengthen connections, improve economic performance and create jobs. Mitacs works with more than 60 universities, thousands of companies, and both federal and provincial governments to build partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. For this project, Left will be providing $1.1M in support of the research, and Mitacs will match with the remaining $1.03M, including support for the researchers to travel to the remote communities.

Jennifer Wilkie, Chief Financial and Human Resources Officer, Mitacs

“Mitacs is pleased to partner with RightMesh to provide graduate students with opportunities to apply their skills to improve connectivity in Canada’s North while enhancing their own job-readiness. Collaborations like this demonstrate how research and technology can combine to advance both economic and social innovation in Canada, which is the heart of our mission and mandate.”

Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph

“It is encouraging to see the B-Certified Corporation Left using the tools we recommended in the report from the INDU Committee, specifically utilizing the increased funding to MITACS, and partnering with researchers at the University of Guelph through the MITACS program.  The resulting technology will improve life in Canada’s north, at the same time providing economic opportunities in this underserved region of Canada.”

Jill Tipping, President and CEO, BC Tech

“BC Tech is inspired to see one of its member companies using technology to solve such important problems; it is a true example of technology as a force for good for the economy, for society and for our future. Partnering with Inuit and other remote Northern communities to improve connectivity is the kind of progress that helps everyone participate and thrive in the digital economy. Innovative projects like this one are a testament to BC’s continued leadership as a tech ecosystem.”

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

“Today’s investment in RightMesh is providing Canadian students with the hands-on learning experience and skills required to successfully transition from the classroom to the workforce. Investing in the talent of tomorrow is the best way to spur innovation, strengthen our economy and grow the middle-class.”



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