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University of Alberta and TELUS partner on a 5G ‘living lab’

$15-million investment focuses U of A’s innovation and commercialization capacity in areas of strength, starting with precision agriculture and autonomous vehicle systems.

  • March 23, 2021
  • By Michael Brown

The University of Alberta announced a five-year partnership with TELUS to establish a 5G “Living Lab” at the U of A that will contribute to a pipeline of new research and technology with commercial applications, while supporting the development of the talent pool needed to enhance economic recovery and diversification in Alberta.

The $15-million investment from TELUS will provide the 5G infrastructure that will allow TELUS and the U of A to accelerate research and drive technology roadmaps to address society’s most pressing challenges now and into the future. 

U of A president Bill Flanagan says the investment in 5G advanced infrastructure will stimulate economic growth, diversification and innovation in Canada, and will transform Alberta's ecosystem for technology and innovation. (Photo: John Ulan)

“This investment in 5G advanced infrastructure will not only stimulate economic growth, diversification and innovation in Canada, but it will transform the Alberta ecosystem for technology and innovation,” said U of A president Bill Flanagan. “This is the sort of diversification opportunity that provincial, education and business leaders are pushing for in order to position Alberta to compete globally.

“It reinforces TELUS’ remarkable reputation as a technology company driving emerging opportunities.”

TELUS’ investment will help the university prioritize research projects with a direct path to public or commercial viability in the areas of precision agriculture and autonomous vehicles, with potential subsequent partnerships in precision health, virtual medicine and smart cities. It will also leverage strengths in artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver innovation and technology solutions in these areas.

Ibrahim Gedeon, chief technology officer at TELUS, says the company's alliance with the U of A will support innovation in education and "propel our efforts to further enhance the lives of all Canadians through technology." (Photo courtesy of TELUS)

“TELUS is excited to be part of this great initiative and to be investing in technological innovation to create sustainable, intellectual wealth for Alberta and Canada,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, chief technology officer at TELUS. “The promise of creating jobs and positioning leading technology to support innovation in education and providing solutions for both Alberta and Canada as leaders in the connected and digital economy is crucial.

“We are proud to support the faculty and students at U of A, and we are confident that this alliance will propel our efforts to further enhance the lives of all Canadians through technology.”

5G is the fifth generation of technology for broadband cellular networks. With mobile data speeds up to 100 times faster than the current 4G, 5G networks will move the amount of information needed to enable everything from remote surgery to autonomous cars and the creation of truly smart cities that optimize the lives of residents using innovation, data and connected technology. In Alberta, TELUS’ 5G network will support vital connectivity including remote work, virtual health care and distance education, all while inspiring the technological innovations that will unleash new opportunities for human productivity and will enable Albertans’ entrepreneurial spirit.

“Ultimately, this partnership creates a space where innovative thinkers can transform ideas and discoveries into sustained value, both economic and social,” added Flanagan.

The U of A is home to the Autonomous Vehicle Testbed, which enables researchers to develop and test autonomous vehicle technologies that will allow vehicles to see the road and any potential obstacles, communicate seamlessly with the environment and with other vehicles, and make immediate decisions on speed, direction and safety.

The disruptive technologies enhanced by 5G will also enable researchers to address global problems in agriculture and food systems, such as increasing demand for food and growing competition for land, energy and water, and improve the efficiency, quality and sustainability of these systems.

Stan Blade Headshot
Stan Blade, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, says the TELUS 5G Living Lab will help the U of A leverage its leading expertise and industry collaborations in agriculture and food systems to create new teaching and research opportunities. (Photo: Faculty of ALES)

“Having precision agriculture highlighted in the first stage of the partnership will create unique opportunities for us to generate new, innovative ideas with our partners,” said Stan Blade, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.

“The agriculture and food sector has been a leader in developing new technologies based on effective collection and use of data for diverse applications. Our expertise across the entire agrifood value chain and extensive industry collaborations will generate many new initiatives in both teaching and research using the strengths of the TELUS 5G Living Lab.”