For many of us, the idea of implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our business not only feels light-years away, but seems daunting, confusing and expensive.
However, AI, machine learning and automation are coming whether we like it or not — and chances are we’ll love it. One Canadian company is leading the way in AI integration across a variety of sectors — and it’s headquartered in Winnipeg.
Sightline Innovation is a company which specializes in AI integrations for businesses across the spectrum — from construction and manufacturing to healthcare and insurance. Their goal is to use emerging technology to fundamentally change the way we work for the better.
Founded five years ago in Toronto by Wally Trenholm and Maithili Mavinkurve, Sightline Innovation looked west, opening an office in the heart of the Prairies. When asked about the shift to Manitoba’s capital, Derek Wiggins, Operations Specialist at Sightline Innovation, explains, “Winnipeg is a massive technology hub in Canada, and is a ‘hidden secret’ as far as I’m concerned.”
Winnipeg’s positive spirit
Their solution is a Machine Learning as a Service system (MLaaS, pronounced “M-Lass” for short), an AI-based solution which offers business owners an opportunity to integrate algorithms and machine learning into their existing business practices in order to increase output, productivity and ensure safety.
“Our mandate is to make AI a tool which can be easily integrated into any business,” says Derek. “With MLaaS we’ve focused on a cloud-based AI platform with Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities, allowing companies to embed machine learning algorithms directly into their processes.”
He went on to explain that Winnipeg’s infrastructure and positive spirit played a big role in the company’s decision to locate its HQ in the city. “Everyone here is so helpful and collaborative,” Derek says. “In other cities like Toronto, businesses aren’t always as willing to open up and work with one another, and here in Manitoba we don’t see those attitudes as often, which has been tremendous in terms of opening up new avenues for business partnerships.”
The benefits of MLaaS adoption
Sightline Innovation is currently partnered with a variety of businesses across multiple industries. By offering a “core” service which can then be modified to meet the needs of individual clients, their goal is to fundamentally change the way businesses collect and assess their data.
“There’s no end to the possibilities of AI integration,” says Derek. He uses manufacturing as an example of how MLaaS can be applied to increase productivity and ensure quality control. In this example, instead of having a team of people manually reviewing products for imperfections, AI systems can be trained to work with sensors that can detect imperfections and scan through multiple layers of paint, delivering quality control results more quickly than ever before.
“We’re able to integrate our system with sensors a company already has in place, and provide quality control analysis on products which are being created in real-time,” says Derek. He further explains that MLaaS can also help with issues such as quality control in infrastructure development.
“We’ve got an infrastructure-forced software called AI-3D which can scan for structural integrity and provide analysis and feedback on areas such as floor flatness, levelness and additional data which can be critical for assessing whether the work is being done correctly,” he says. “By providing this information in real-time, we’re able to accelerate the building phase because our clients can see what’s happening instead of waiting for other trades to chime in and provide updates after the fact.”
There’s a big need for tech advancement in the agriculture space,” he says, noting that MLaaS can assist farmers with issues such as soil testing and planning, and can be critical in understanding which nutrients are present, or lacking, in one area compared to another.
“We’re also doing a lot of work in healthcare,” Derek adds. “There’s work currently being done in the field of HIV resistivity, and we’ve been working with Manitoba-based internationally renowned physician Dr. Frank Plummer in this area.”
Derek notes that while these types of practices may not be the standard today, trends will begin to adapt to these new tech-based approaches as more industries look to MLaaS solutions.
“These are industry trends which I anticipate will sweep across Canada and fundamentally change the way many of our industries operate,” he states.
“When we look to the south, to the United States, you can see many examples of companies using VIM software integration to track the progress of their structures. We can see that it’s coming to Canada, but it’s been a slower adoption process,” says Derek.
He notes that being headquartered in Winnipeg has been a big boon for their business, as many of their partnerships are focused on agriculture and medicine.
What about jobs?
Of course, no conversation about machine learning and AI would be complete without discussing the “human impact” of rapid technology adoption.
“There’s a fear that with AI becoming more prevalent, people will lose jobs — that we want to replace people in the workforce,” says Derek. “But I see MLaaS as an evolution of tech trends which are already apparent in our society. The kinds of jobs which will exist and be sought after are changing, and I think we’ll start to see more technically skilled jobs like data analysis and programming becoming more and more sought-after.”
He goes on to note that Winnipeg’s technical colleges and their graduates are perfectly poised to take advantage of this trend in the job market. “There’s a lot of talent in Canada, and in Winnipeg especially, that’s being gobbled up by Silicon Valley right now,” he says, “and one of the reasons why Sightline Innovation is trying to grow here in Canada is to try and attract and retain those skilled individuals.”
Sightline Innovation CEO Wally Trenholm speaks to employees.
Applications for business
According to Derek, Sightline Innovation’s goal is to lower the bar to entry for MLaaS technology. He notes that many businesses look at opportunities like AI and machine learning and assume that it’s much too expensive, when in fact it can be integrated seamlessly, and without the staggering costs we often associate with these types of tech solutions.
“AI and MLaaS integration improves productivity, increases output, and ultimately helps keep people healthy and safe,” says Derek. “By embracing these tech advances, Canada can move to position itself as a tech leader at a global scale.”