The Made In Saskatchewan Technology (MIST) Program connects the Provincial Government to startup technology companies in Saskatchewan who are innovating products that could improve the delivery of a Government service. Companies who are successful in the program are awarded a contract of up to $10,000 to have their technology piloted by provincial government partners who use the innovation and provide feedback on the experience to help grow the technology.
Successfully piloting their tech with the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI), Rivercity Innovations has positioned its asset tracking device, BeeSecure, to help prevent thefts and recover stolen goods.
BeeSecure was developed by Jeff Shirley as a way to prevent bees from being stolen from the apiary that he and his wife run. With no internet, wi-fi, or Bluetooth connection to the hives, he sought out a technical solution to secure them. BeeSecure uses an emerging network technology called LoRa (short for Long Range) and cellular networks for GPS tracking, asset mapping, and geofencing.
Shirley originally presented the idea of BeeSecure to Innovation Saskatchewan during the 2017 rural crime challenge, where he won and worked with the government and RCMP to improve the pilot. Although designed with the apiary in mind, market interest was growing in other sectors. With this, BeeSecure was accepted into Co.Lab’s tech incubator and further developed into hardware and software, which included the use of their app and a small component that is attached to a piece of property.
BeeSecure has developed beyond use in the apiary, so the primary focus of the GPS asset tracking has shifted from bees to also being used for vehicles, equipment, and other high theft risk assets. When applying to MIST, Shirley and his team pitched safety, route tracking, and schedule time tracking to MHI.
“The BeeSecure project provided our group a valuable tool that allowed my Provincial staff to be more connected to the other areas as well as their own for tracking our paint stripers not only live data but able to filter down to specific days, months and hours of a particular day,” Dave Bester, Pavement Marking Manager explained. “Live data eliminated the need for some cell phone conversations which are distracting and time consuming and helped when multiple paint trucks were in the same area so the supervisors could track all the current locations to ensure efficiencies.”
Through the MIST program, BeeSecure has piloted 30 asset tracking units on MHI’s assets, including trucks, trailers, and equipment, such as loaders and graders. The review in late March 2020 went extremely well, and the feedback garnered was that there was definite value in the products, and operators liked them for safety and accountability.
Bester adds, “The individual GPS tracking units were also beneficial because of their universal application. We were able to move them from one unit to another in situations when an employee had to work alone operating a supply truck.”
Since COVID-19 has hit, the plan to deploy more trackers has shifted, but Shirley is still in contact with MHI and assisting them in solving a different problem.
With the support they’ve received from MIST and the success they’ve seen with BeeSecure, Rivercity Innovations has been building a bicycle tracker that’s ready to market. They’ve been in contact with municipal governments and major ISP companies to launch this innovation designed for bicyclists and commuters to prevent theft and help with planning bike lanes.
Throughout these transitions, Rivercity Innovations has been incredibly grateful for the support they’ve received from Innovation Saskatchewan, Co.Labs, and IRAP to grow their team and improve their product.
MIST has been instrumental in introducing Rivercity Innovations to MHI and also getting them in the door with the government. “We’ve been able to improve public safety, reduce crime, create jobs and income for the province, and work with clients from the US and Europe that are generating revenue for our business,” Shirley shares.
“This application in conjunction with regular cell phone communication provided better security for the employee,” Bester added. “BeeSecure proved to be more than an equipment locating device in case of theft, it is a valuable resource for our program.”
“Innovation Saskatchewan and MIST have been helping me move forward, which allows me to create other products,” Shirley says. “The opportunity to innovate, test, and try our solutions for a large government business through the support of MIST allows us to further develop our solutions while creating jobs and keeping our investment right here in Saskatchewan.”