Traveling outside of Canada reminds us that Edmonton is not a well-known city internationally; the odd person may know it as a hockey town, while others might think we’re right next to Toronto. While we do not enjoy the same acclaim as cities such as Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, we’ll argue this may soon change (and Connor McDavid, as spectacular as he is, will only make a slight contribution).
First a bit of background:
Edmonton is home to the University of Alberta, which is recognized as a top 100 university worldwide. There are currently 38,311 students enrolled from 148 different countries, with a combined 888 graduate and post graduate programs being offered. The university has all the major faculties expected of a world class university, including medicine, law, engineering and business, to name a few. The focus of our article, however, is the department which has the potential to transform them all: Computer Science.
While computer science has been studied for decades, Artificial Intelligence, a sub-section of that field, has been gaining international attention (and considerable funding in the process). Coincidentally, Edmonton is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the development of Artificial Intelligence as the technology converges with our city’s world-class knowledge base.
To illustrate how much potential this has for Edmonton, let’s look at some recent events. In 2014, Google (Alphabet, to be more specific) paid around $500 million to acquire a company called DeepMind. The company describes themselves as the “world leader in artificial intelligence research” and is on the leading edge of developing technologies for self-driving cars and autonomous robots. While the technology will advance and evolve over the coming years, Google is already starting to commercialize the technology. In fact, the new AI technology is found inside their newest phone, the Pixel 2. Ask Google Assistant a question, and reams of algorithms and machine learning technology work at a frenetic pace to provide the answer. Google is making a big push into hardware with CEO Sundar Picha suggesting that AI will play a huge component in that development.
Outside of Google’s ambitious plans, other experts are predicting that AI will have a sweeping impact on everything we do. The field of law, for example, involves a considerable amount of research and review. IBM has been refining Watson (which you might remember from Jeopardy) to dramatically reduce the time required to conduct the research. Some law firms have already started incorporating this technology.
AI also has amazing potential in medicine. For example, AI can already diagnose tuberculosis in chest x-rays with surprisingly high accuracy. If AI can make such powerful inroads into both law and medicine, it’s a safe assumption that virtually any field can – and will – be impacted. Quoted from Microsoft’s Steve Guggenheimer in Forbes: “We don’t think of AI in the context of an app, workload or process but instead as a transformative technology that will change how we do things in the future.”
If you’ve bought into the enormous potential that AI has, the following information will make you look at Edmonton in a whole new light.
Edmonton is home to Amii, a research lab that humorously puts a human sounding name on an organization dedicated to advancing machine learning. Amii, which stands for Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, is renowned for having some of the best minds in machine learning. This includes Rich Sutton, who is also a professor at the University of Alberta and widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest machine learning experts in the world.
This isn’t just speculation on our behalf. In fact, it’s why Google just opened a DeepMind office in Edmonton. Let’s emphasize that: The first non-UK research lab of one of the leading Artificial Intelligence companies in the world just opened a main office in Edmonton.
Here was a quote from their press release:
It was a big decision for us to open our first non-UK research lab, and the fact we’re doing so in Edmonton is a sign of the deep admiration and respect we have for the Canadian research community. In fact, we’ve had particularly strong links with the UAlberta for many years: nearly a dozen of its outstanding graduates have joined us at DeepMind, and we’ve sponsored the machine learning lab to provide additional funding for PhDs over the past few years.
Not only has Edmonton attracted a breadth of experts in the field and a leading tech company, the University is also poised to teach and develop future talent within this unique, symbiotic environment. The potential for new industries, product development and economic diversity within our city and province is virtually endless.
With an astonishing amount of money, resources and manpower devoted to the development of AI, it’s truly remarkable (and surprisingly under-reported) that Edmonton is at center stage for the whole world to see.
We have made remarkably wrong predictions in the past. Information contained herein is the sole opinion of the authors and does not represent the views or opinions of any other person or organization. Information contained herein is not investment advice and can be changed without notice. View full disclosure here.