The Pulse: April 13, 2023

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

Want this in your inbox? Sign up to get The Pulse by email. It's free!


  • 12°C: Mainly sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High 12. Wind chill minus 5 in the morning. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Teal: The High Level Bridge will be lit teal for Month of the Military Child - Teal Up Day, which is being celebrated by Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) to recognize the strength and resiliency of military children. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (49-23-9) play the San Jose Sharks (22-42-16) at Rogers Place. (details)

A small, rectangular device with a robotic arm on top rests on a cement floor while people visit trade show booths in the background

Aro aims to make autonomous robots accessible to all

By Karen Unland

Faheem Khan thinks about that moment in the mid-20th century when mainframe computers were starting to help big corporations, but small businesses had little access. That's where we are now with AI-enabled robots, said the co-founder and CEO of Aro Robotic Systems.

The Amazons of the world can afford to operate their own warehouses with autonomous robots. "We thought, 'How we can solve the problem for smaller businesses?'" Khan told Taproot.

His Edmonton-based company emerged from "stealth mode" about six months ago, after three years of work to develop versatile, affordable, and easy-to-use autonomous robots for indoor industrial use. The Aro-S looks like a souped-up flatbed trolley without a handle. But it can "see" where it's going with sensors. It can learn where to go and what to do when it encounters an obstacle. And it can do more than one job.

"These are AI-based multitasking robots," Khan said. "You just buy one, and then you get the work done of multiple robots. If your robot is moving your boxes (or) handling materials during the daytime, the same robot can start cleaning the floors at night."

Aro's founders will pitch at the Demo Day for Batch 3 of the Alberta Accelerator by 500 on April 18. The accelerator has been helpful, Khan said.

"We didn't know what kind of experiments to do to reach our clients," he said. "It has been instrumental to teach me personally as the CEO of the company, to learn all those tips and techniques … how to listen to the clients, how to basically understand their problem and then form a solution around it."

The company's first trade show — SmartMTX in Red Deer on April 4 and 5 — was a useful way to meet prospective customers.

"It was a great experiment, especially for a company like us," Khan said. "We are not the kind of company that will send an email and someone would like to buy a robot … Our clients do want conversations. They want to get confidence and trust in us."

The trade show was also a chance to demonstrate the kind of collaborations Khan wants to foster. Fellow Edmonton startup Elementiam Materials and Manufacturing was also at SmartMTX. Within 30 minutes, they figured out how to mount Elementiam's 3D scanner on an Aro robot.

Continue reading

Headlines: April 13, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • City crews are completing pothole and asphalt repairs, work that happens year-round but mostly takes place in spring. Residents can report potholes on the city's website or by calling 311. According to a city release, crews filled 29,884 potholes from Jan. 1 to April 4 of this year. The city expects to fill about 500,000 potholes in 2023, which is roughly the same number as last year.
  • The city is updating its EPark parking system to introduce new operating hours, adjust rates, and convert some low-demand zones into time-restricted zones. Starting May 1, all EPark zones will operate from 8am-9pm from Monday to Saturday and 10am-5pm on Sunday, and hourly rates will increase from $3.50 to $4.50 in some high-demand areas. Monthly rates at city-owned parkades will also increase from $315 to $350, and free curbside parking in all EPark zones will be reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. Full enforcement of updated curbside parking rules will begin on May 15. Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, told Postmedia the changes come at the expense of small businesses, whose customers park downtown on weekends and evenings.
  • The Oilers Entertainment Group announced that the Edmonton Oilers will host two outdoor watch parties in the ICE District for every Oilers home game during the NHL playoffs. One party will once again be hosted at Scotiabank Playoff Plaza in the ICE District Plaza, but because the venue reached capacity several times during the 2021-2022 playoffs, a second party called the Ford Tailgate Party will happen at ICE District Fan Park. Admission to both events will be free, but space will be limited.
  • The man who became trapped in the Talus Dome on April 9 told CTV News he climbed the structure because he "wanted to go on an adventure" but slipped through. He says he was inside for about an hour before being rescued by firefighters. The Talus Dome was fenced off for repairs following the incident.
  • More than 30 employers are expected to participate in an in-person job fair hosted by Prospect Human Services on April 13, which is happening at the Royal Hotel West Edmonton from 3pm to 6pm. Up to 700 job-seekers are anticipated to attend. You can register for the event for free online.
  • The Edmonton International Airport experienced a partial power outage on April 12 and advised travellers to check their flight status. A spokesperson said the issue affected parts of the terminal and the area surrounding the airport. The airport's website indicated most flights were able to depart on time and power was restored shortly after 5pm.
  • Sports writer Don Landry wrote a piece for about Eugene "Geno" Lewis, a celebrated former Montreal Alouettes receiver acquired by the Edmonton Elks in February. "The Elks are getting a wizard in their midst," wrote Landry. "Just Google his name and click on 'videos' if you need a reminder." The Elks have also signed new receivers Steven Dunbar Jr., formerly of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Kyran Moore, formerly of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
  • The province is partnering with Al Rashid Mosque and the Alberta Council of Imams to explore opportunities for halal financing, which creates alternatives to traditional mortgage financing for Muslims whose faith prohibits paying or charging interest. In a release, the province said it introduced a regulatory sandbox in 2022 that granted temporary regulatory relief to businesses and made it easier for them to try new products and services. "We are laying the foundation for Halal mortgages in Alberta so the Muslim community can easily own affordable housing in similar terms as regular mortgages," said Omar Mahmoud, president of the Edmonton Council of Imams.
The words "Hey, are you okay?" surrounding a man in front of a dark background

Podcast questions timing of bystander-awareness campaign for transit

By Colin Gallant and Mack Male

The City of Edmonton launched its One Strong Voice bystander awareness campaign for transit on April 5, but "it didn't really hit the mark," says Episode 215 of Speaking Municipally.

Co-hosts Mack Male and Troy Pavlek compared the campaign's focus on educating individuals to similar efforts in the past, such as the Vision Zero campaign to encourage pedestrians to wear reflective clothing, which was widely panned. They also questioned the timing of the launch.

One Strong Voice "is aimed at reducing gender-based violence and harassment in transit and other public spaces." It proposes six intervention actions that transit riders can take: Be Direct, De-escalate, Distract, Delay, Document, and Delegate. The city says it is "part of a broader, multi-layered effort" to improve transit safety.

At a time when the responsibility for safer transit is ever-present in the news, Pavlek pointed to Coun. Aaron Paquette's recent Reddit AMA comments calling the timing of the rollout "epically terrible."

Coun. Andrew Knack, who also hosted an AMA on Reddit, agreed that the timing of the campaign "was terrible" but said he supports the message of the campaign.

Coun. Tim Cartmell told CTV News that he thinks the campaign might confuse people.

"If you see somebody being accosted, I don't think you're saying anything," he said. "I think you're calling the cops. That's what you're doing. At least that's what you should be doing."

The city says the campaign is evidence-based and was informed by research conducted in 2022.

"We're not expecting or requiring that bystanders have a role, we're just providing the information if someone wants to," Sarah Feldman, a business director for Edmonton Transit, told Postmedia.

With or without the bystander awareness campaign, the root causes behind the perceived lack of safety on transit must be addressed, Pavlek said on the podcast. "Those aren't horrible tips, but none of the items in there is going to get housing for anyone," Pavlek said. "This is, like we said before, absolutely not a solution."

Hear more about this, as well as the provincial commitment to put 100 more police officers in Calgary and Edmonton, progress on LRT expansion, changes to off-peak transit, and the return of scooters on the April 7 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

Photo: The city has launched its One Strong Voice bystander awareness campaign. (City of Edmonton/YouTube)