The Pulse: Jan. 17, 2023

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  • -6°C: Cloudy. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud near noon. Fog dissipating near noon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 6. Wind chill near minus 12. (forecast)
  • Teal: The High Level Bridge will be lit teal for International Mentoring Day. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (24-18-3) play the Seattle Kraken (26-13-4) at Rogers Place. (details)

Erik Brisson and Amshu Gongal in front of a screen showing the Plug and Play Alberta stage

Element 4 offers battery-less power for industrial IoT

By Caitlin Crawshaw

A Sherwood Park startup is pioneering a device that harnesses ambient energy — from vibrations, radio frequencies, solar, and other sources — to power the Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT).

Element 4 was founded in 2019 by Erik Brisson, Amshu Gongal, and Porfirio Mendez, who set out to create a technology that would power IIoT without lithium-ion batteries. "We went about designing and developing a device that was capable of living autonomously without any power source," CEO Brisson told Taproot.

The company's flagship product, the Gallium 1.0, harvests power from a sensor's immediate environment, specifically solar (via an organic ink technology from France), piezoelectric (from vibrations such as traffic), thermoelectric (from temperature changes), and radio-frequency (produced by electronics like wireless routers and radio). Those sources are where the four in Element 4 comes from.

The device is wireless and battery-less, but also modular — that is, designed to attach to other companies' sensors — and self-sustaining for up to 20 years. Accompanying software supports data collection and analysis.

Like IIoT itself, the Gallium 1.0 has wide-ranging applications such as mobile asset tracking, environmental monitoring in agriculture, and industrial gas sensing. One of Element 4's partners is an Alberta startup with technology that monitors the electrical current in power lines and needed a safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries, given the volatility of lithium. Last summer, Element 4 did its first proof-of-concept at the smart farm at Olds College, which uses IIoT tools to monitor crop growth.

Element 4 has been gaining momentum with help from accelerators such as the Alberta IoT Fast Track Program and Plug and Play Alberta, as well as the 2022 prime cohort of Creative Destruction Lab. With patents secured and a production-ready product, Element 4 is on the cusp on the next stage of its development.

It's an important moment for Brisson, too, who said the company was conceived not long after the birth of his son four years ago. At the time, he was running a fleet management company with Gongal and Mendez, and was thinking a lot about the world his son would inherit. Concerned about the environment and human rights, Brisson wanted to create a company that could be a force for good — as did his cofounders, with whom he brainstormed ideas. "We kept coming back to the same thing — we wanted to leave the world in a better place than we found it."

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Headlines: Jan. 17, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city mailed out more than 400,000 property assessment notices on Jan. 16. The notices tell property owners what to expect this spring on their property tax bill, which will reflect the 4.96% overall tax increase for 2023 that council approved in December. The city released a video to explain how it calculates individual property tax rates.
  • Up to 30 temporary pop-up off-leash dog parks will be installed in Edmonton green spaces for six months under a city pilot program beginning this spring. The city is prioritizing neighbourhoods that have a significant need for an off-leash area, according to a report at the Jan. 16 community and public services committee meeting. The final list of locations will be announced by the end of winter following a public consultation. Coun. Michael Janz doesn't have a dog but was excited nonetheless. "I was thinking, if I was a golden Labrador, my tail would be wagging considerably as I read this report and looked at that map," he said. The program is expected to cost between $150,000-$300,000.
  • The city's Winterscapes photo contest is accepting nominations until Feb. 27. Edmontonians are invited to submit photos of outdoor spaces, including their or a neighbour's front yard, a school yard, or a community hall. The categories for entry are Winter Art, Winter Garden, or Winter Play. Each nominee will receive a snowman building kit, while supplies last, and will be entered into a weekly draw for a gift card to one of the #YEGWinterPatios. The public can vote for their favourite photos on the city's Facebook page.
  • As part of its Healthcare Action Plan, the province announced it is working to implement recommendations made in a report by the Alberta Emergency Medical Services Provincial Advisory Committee and an independent dispatch review. The recommendations include adding 10 ambulances each to Edmonton and Calgary and introducing guidelines to streamline ambulance transfers at emergency departments and urgent care centres. The province will also issue a request for proposals from contractors to provide non-emergency transfer services. NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said the UCP government's move ignores requests from paramedics to improve recruitment.
  • Moms Stop the Harm co-founder Petra Schulz expressed concerns about the transparency and efficacy of the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS), the province's overdose prevention app, such as whether someone's drug use could lead to criminal charges or be added to their health record. "Frankly, the other concern I have since the app was launched is that we don't have data on it," said Schulz. The app has been downloaded 3,700 times and has nearly 1,100 registered users, but a government spokesperson said the province won't release data about its effectiveness because DORS is a "confidential and anonymous service."
  • Lesley and Lyle LeGrande have a special relationship with Edmonton Transit Service, aside from the fact they both work for the service. The couple met in 2012 on an ETS bus Lyle was driving, and he later proposed on the same route. Their wedding took place on a chartered ETS bus in 2013 at the same bus stop as the proposal. "Everyone was so happy," Lesley said. "It was amazing."
  • "No one is expecting much" this year from the Edmonton Elks, wrote Postmedia sports columnist Gerry Moddejonge. Over years of management overhaul and playing to a quiet Commonwealth Stadium, the team has finished last in three out of the past four West Division seasons and is sitting at 17 straight home losses and counting. "We know what it takes to win," said head coach Chris Jones. "Now we just have to reassemble our team and stay the course." The team's pre-season starts in May and the regular season begins in June.
  • Edmonton is one of the seven best places to live in Canada, according to MoveHub, a U.K. company that compares international shipping quotes. "Edmonton is a great place for anyone looking to start a family," the company said, while also praising the "enormous mall."