The Future of Work: How technology is reinventing the way businesses get the job done

From winemaking to the legal profession, AI, big data and algorithms are popping up in surprising places.

Credit: PrecisionOS on Twitter

PrecisionOS allows medical professionals to get their job done more efficiently with the use of technology. 

From winemaking to the legal profession, AI, big data and algorithms are popping up in surprising places

Neo-Luddites, look out. “We think every industry is a tech industry,” says Tomica Divic, VP operations at Innovate BC, a provincial government agency that helps industries and firms adopt new technology and funds accelerator programs to kick-start innovation. Divic sees technology reaching into every crevice of the economy soon. Already, artificial intelligence, big data and algorithms power unlikely solutions in surprising places. Here are a few examples from around the province.


ASAP Geomatix saved 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery $7,000 in fertilizer costs, cut water use by 88 percent and, most important, helped the Comox winery grow better grapes. ASAP, based at the Campbell River airport, uses drones and helicopters to capture high-resolution photographs and infrared and ultraviolet images. Plug in GPS data, add custom software, and ASAP can measure plant height, interpret the shape of the land, track soil moisture and measure plant chlorophyll in ways humans never could.


Lululemon Athletica made the sports bra fitting process a hightech affair. The Vancouver-based yoga brand’s R&D department, known as Whitespace, used tiny Bluetooth sensors to record the breast movement of thousands of women running on a treadmill. Finger Food Studios, a Port Coquitlam tech company, combined the data, bra information and an algorithm into an app. During an in-store bra fitting, a specialist attaches sensors to the customer, who then takes her own turn on the treadmill. The app captures movement data and matches her unique bio-mechanic signature, anatomy and personal preferences to the ideal bra.


First, do no harm. That core principle of health care is easy to commit to but hard to guarantee–especially when it comes to orthopaedic surgery, where every person, anatomy and injury is unique. Precision OS is making it easier with virtual surgeries. The Vancouver company has developed two holographic platforms. One focuses on education, allowing trainees to practise different surgeries in virtual reality, with evaluation and feedback. The other is for doctors preparing for the operating room. By uploading specific scenarios, they can test surgical techniques and approaches before making any cuts.


During a forensic audit, a typical lawyer can review about 40 documents a day. In the same time, the artificial intelligence bot co-created by AOT Technologies can tear through 600,000, accurately enough to win in court. The Victoria-based software developer teamed up with CGI, a Quebec-based IT services provider, and iManage, a U.S. document management firm, to enter a doc bot in Innovate BC’s AI Justice Challenge. Held in partnership with the B.C. attorney general’s office and the ministry of citizens’ services, the contest aims to encourage automation and tech adoption in the legal industry. At press time, AOT‘s bot had made the final round. But even if it doesn’t win, private firms will probably adopt the AI; CGI and iManage already supply similar services to many U.S. law firms.


Coast Capital Savings turned to robotic process automation (RPA) to give its employees a break from repetitive tasks–only to find it also saved money. Surrey-headquartered Coast Capital, which uses RPA to update bank account codes more often than manpower alone would allow, is the first Canadian credit union to do so, according to Deloitte. Last year it built its own software to harness this AI, saving an estimated $1 million in development costs. The credit union deployed the program in March 2018, just in time for RRSP season. Coast Capital found that RPA did the equivalent of three people’s workload, so it didn’t have to hire more seasonal staff. 


Vancouver-based Mustel Group, led by owner Evi Mustel, conducts market research for clients that include Telus Corp., the City of Vancouver and London Drugs, and is a regular contributor to BCBusiness. In March, Mustel interviewed 501 Metro Vancouver residents on topics related to the future of work, narrowing this group down to the 274 employed respondents for certain questions. Some results do not total 100 percent due to rounding.