The Pulse: Aug. 4, 2023

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  • 24°C: Sunny. High 24. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • 50: The Edmonton Heritage Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Edmonton Exhibition Lands and Borden Park from Aug. 5 to 7. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Stingers (9-11) take on the Winnipeg Sea Bears (12-8) in the CEBL quarter finals at the Canada Life Centre. (details)

Three phone screens showing the three tests a police officer uses to check for cognitive impairment

Punchcard Systems spins off company that helps police test sobriety

By Nathan Fung

An Edmonton-based digital platform developer has spun out a new company to capitalize on an idea to improve the way police test whether drivers are impaired.

Standard Field Systems, co-founded by Sam Jenkins and Mark Zacharias of Punchcard Systems, recently launched its flagship product, a roadside sobriety testing app called SFST Mobile. York Regional Police concluded a pilot of the app in May and are set to become the company's first customer.

An officer can use the phone app to administer the three parts of the standard field sobriety test: the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which detects involuntary eye movements. The app guides the officer through the test to collect the information in a consistent manner, and it auto-populates the output report with the data captured.

The idea for Standard Field Systems came about from Jenkins's work with another Edmonton-based venture called Impirica, which tests for impairment in transit and trucking fleets. While testing technology in Jacksonville, Fla., a drug recognition expert instructor brought up problems with the way police forces currently do cognitive impairment tests and how data from those tests aren't always well-maintained in police records.

The current system of recording sobriety testing lacks standardization and leads to the potential for omissions and compromised evidence, Jenkins said.

"We're collecting a lot of data points throughout the course of the test that just weren't being collected before," he told Taproot. "For policing agencies, the way that they were reporting on this, especially like near misses, was, like, on a whiteboard at a police station… So this is providing a more holistic data capture and data collection and analytics platform."

Punchcard spun Standard Field Systems off on its own because the parent company isn't structured to take a commercial product and build a team around it, Jenkins said. The two companies also have different customer bases.

"Having it in a separate organization, even though it is a sibling, it has a specific outcome that it needs to achieve that is very different from Punchcard," he said.

This is also part of Punchcard's plan to incubate up to 15 new companies over the next 10 years, with Standard Field Systems being the first successful example.

"Our focus with Standard Field Systems is public safety, law enforcement, and so on," he said. "I suspect… we'll be tackling different either social or business issues through different ventures as we move forward."

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Headlines: Aug. 4, 2023

By Karen Unland and Kevin Holowack

  • The province has withdrawn its support for a joint bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games, effectively cancelling the bid. Tourism Minister Joseph Schow cited costs and a potential burden on taxpayers. Edmonton, Calgary, the Enoch Cree Nation, and the Tsuut'ina Nation were among the partners on the bid. "As one of the 40 best sports cities in the world, we were truly excited to unite people worldwide in a celebration of sport and culture, advance reconciliation with our Indigenous partners and create infrastructure and program legacies for future generations," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said in response to the decision, thanking Schow for notifying him as soon as the decision was made.
  • The Edmonton Downtown Business Association has officially launched a pilot project called Night Patrol, which began in January. The program deploys two teams of security guards from Backwoods Security, which is owned by Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, and peer support workers from Hiregood, a social enterprise run by Boyle Street Community Services. The teams patrol downtown every day from 12:30am to 8:30am to try to prevent break-ins and vandalism, connect people to resources, and de-escalate dangerous situations, calling law enforcement if appropriate. Crime prevention is not part of the business association's mandate, but "exceptional times call for exceptional measures," said executive director Puneeta McBryan. The pilot is funded through the city's Downtown Vibrancy Fund.
  • Coun. Aaron Paquette made a long post on the Edmonton sub-Reddit to explain what the city is doing to address safety, a frequent topic of discussion on the website. "It is likely that most people will have never heard of the steps and the investments the City has made regarding this issue," wrote Paquette. "The following may help bring folks up to speed."
  • The Edmonton Oilers have hired Jeff Jackson, a former player agent who represented Connor McDavid among others, as the new CEO of hockey operations. He will oversee all aspects of the organization's NHL, AHL, and WHL teams and report directly to Daryl Katz, the Oilers said.
  • Edmonton's Clean Energy Improvement Program pilot is reopening on Aug. 22, allowing 52 more homes to get low-cost financing for energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy upgrades. Informational webinars will be held on Aug. 9 and 10.
  • The province directed the Alberta Utilities Commission to pause approvals of large renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar farms, geothermal plants, and hydroelectric generators, until Feb. 29, 2024. It also told the AUC to hold an inquiry on agricultural land use and reclamation concerns raised by landowners and municipalities. Rural Municipalities Alberta, which represents 64 rural municipalities, welcomed the move to take local concerns into account, while environmental groups were swift to condemn the moratorium.
Two single-prop yellow warplanes in an aerobatic formation with a smoke trail against a blue sky

Weekend agenda: Aug. 4-7, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

This long weekend offers a launch party with the cutest attendees, music with a message, high-flying thrills, the world's largest three-day celebration of multiculturalism, a reggaeton party, and Shakespearean burlesque.

Find even more things to do in the Arts Roundup and the Food Roundup.

Photo: The aerobatic team Yellow Thunder, comprised of brothers David and Drew Watson, will be performing air manoeuvres at the Alberta International Airshow at the Villeneuve Airport. (Yellow Thunder)