Industrial innovation in the Basin: A Q&A with Brian Fry, partner at I4C Innovation
Last month the Columbia Basin Trust announced that it had purchased a commercial building in the Waneta Industrial Park and partnered with “a local tech industry entrepreneur to fill the facility with new jobs and new opportunities.”
The Rossland News spoke with Brian Fry, a partner at I4C Innovation and the local tech industry entrepreneur in question, to find out what kinds of jobs and opportunities will fill the newly purchased building.
Rossland News: The press release put out by the CBT says you will fill the building with jobs and opportunities. What kinds of jobs and what kinds of opportunities?
Brian Fry: The space that my partners and I work in is technology industry, but we are interested in combining both the technology industry and the advantages of the region, such as metals, woods, … natural resources, and focusing together on ways that we can really leverage those strengths and pull together stuff that’s really interesting. Our primary focus is on industrial Internet of Things.
RN: What is the Internet of Things?
BF: What it is, is something that’s been going on for a little while now, which is … every living thing and even a lot of things that aren’t living are all tracked through the internet, just like what you could do with weather. You could pull together all this data on what’s going on with the weather and you could combine that with all kinds of other things, maybe flights or anything you can imagine, to come up with some really interesting insights. And it’s the same thing that you do in industry.
In big industry they have this need to have an understanding of what’s going on at levels that allow them to be very competitive, and sustainable is the other word that’s often used. And so that’s what we do. We are in the business of attracting companies in the Industry Internet of Things. … Most of them are trying to do it within North America and South America right now, but we could be going even further.
And the building itself will be focusing on advance micro-technology labs and business readiness, and making sure that these companies not only have access to the right technology, but they’re also ready to be successful business-wise.
RN: What are some examples of how micro-technology can benefit metallurgy and forestry?
BF: What’s happened is micro-technology is the building of these sensors and devices that collect the data. And so in both the metallurgical industry and the woods industry there’s all kinds of data that’s required to do the right things. And typically they haven’t had access necessarily to the advanced capabilities of artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence. And you can imagine, that’s where we can take industry. We could take it to the point where the information getting to the human being is so much more advanced and comes with so much more intelligence behind it that they can make very good decisions.
RN: So, in terms of what’s actually going to be happening inside the building, like if someone came and observed, what will that actually look like?
BF: What it’s going to look like is a number of services are going to be provided by I4C for these companies to be successful. … For example there would be special rooms called clean rooms … and these clean rooms are absolutely necessary for doing your research and development on your micro-electronics. And then there’s a number of labs. … There’s the special fabrications labs … and micro-electronic mechanical systems and those types of things.
RN: So, just the different areas that you need to be able to develop the technology?
BF: The way we approach these things … is you start moving — we like to say get the boat moving and then you can actually steer — and that’s the approach we’re essentially taking. We’ve got a high-level concept that is focusing on Industrial Internet of Things and we know that we want to attract many of the world’s best companies. Typically they’re going to be small, they’re going to be companies that are making money — they’re already in the business making money, but not necessarily profitable, but they have revenue. And then we will assemble together probably one of the world’s best organizational groupings of companies around Industrial Internet of Things.
RN: What’s the timeline for actually getting into the building?
BF: At this point I expect that we’ll be in the building by May, but that’s just getting up and going. There will be a grand opening announced pretty soon. And then actual full on operations you probably would expect by the early fall.