A handful of Canadian startups making an appearance in Austin have ambitions to cause a splash in the world of wireless computing
Somewhere between light sabre duels with the Firefox mascot and contemplating the dubious economics of waiting in hour-long lines for “free” beers at SXSW Interactive, I found a handful of Canadian startups promising big things for the wireless ecosystem. Many of them are in Austin, thanks to Vancouver’s own startup accelerator Wavefront, which, with support from Industry Canada, hopes to launch 150 similar companies (and create some 6,000 Canadian jobs) by 2016. Here’s a look at four exciting Canadian tech players hoping to change cloud computing:
Digital Retail Apps: This Toronto-based startup is looking to erase the retail checkout counter from the physical world. Its self-pay app allows you to walk into a retail store, pick up the items you want, scan them into your phone, pay for them with your phone, then scan a QR code at the exit to persuade the baffled shopkeeper you’re not actually stealing all the things you’ve stuffed into your backpack. No lineups, no registers, no cashiers. Coming soon to the Apple app store.
pplconnect: Dreamed up in Montreal, this company’s flagship app looks to take your smartphone, virtualize it, then push it up to the cloud so that your entire digital personality is accessible from any WiFi hotspot on any computer, tablet, smartphone or whatever other hack you’ve devised to browse the Internet. The Virtual Smartphone app is in alpha testing mode for Android and Chrome for now, with current features limited to calls and call logs, SMS, contacts and settings to manage multiple devices. The founders are promising more functionalities, browsers and operating systems in future versions. Best of all, the basic account is free. Premium functions and more storage space are available for a fee.
Sascea: When you’re on the web and do a search for pizza, you get answers in seconds. But when you’re an enterprise and search “what did we make last year?” it takes hours to assemble the data. Toronto startup Sascea is looking to change this with The Big Picture app, which brings the best ideas from consumer applications into enterprise performance management, including real-time access to corporate financial info.
PO-MO Inc.: Who knew Winnipeg was a Canadian tech hub? Through their PO-MOtion Interactive Software, this scrappy bunch of self-taught animators is in the business of interactive floor and wall installations that merge the real and virtual worlds. The app costs just $60 and integrates into any computer, web camera and projector to create gesture-controlled gaming and educational apps, dynamic lighting systems and pretty much any branded content you can imagine without having to learn how to code. CEO Meghan Athavale’s favourite installations include an interactive koi pond at Google Tokyo, a game teaching English to kids at a school in India, and an interactive rugby floor for an airline in New Zealand. And if nerdy weddings are your thing, PO-MOtion can even make a bride-to-be trigger blooming flowers and butterflies as she walks down the aisle.
More dispatches to come from Vancouver journalist Luke Brocki. He wishes Canadian hackers would hurry up and disrupt his home country’s archaic cellular market already. Until then, you can laugh at his smartphone-related contortions as he dowses for free WiFi like a water witch.