Two Economies, One Province: Lightship Works brings cloud computing to the town of Elkford

Kamloops software maker Lightship Works helps the town of Elkford manage its public projects

Credit: Lightship Works on Twitter

Kamloops software maker Lightship Works helps the town of Elkford manage its public projects

Elkford may be home to just 2,500 residents, but like any community, it needs to keep track of a variety of assets. Since 2015, the picturesque East Kootenay district municipality has been doing that with software from Lightship Works Inc.

The Kamloops-based company, founded in 2011, offers a cloud-based platform that helps people with field operations management. “It lets them take all of that information that is coming out of a field operation, whether that is an industrial site like a mine or a gas plant or an emergency situation, and navigate it to find the things that are going to help them make better decisions,” says Jaethan Reichel, CEO of the 13-employee Kamloops Chamber of Commerce member. Lightship Works, whose clientele includes mining companies, emergency services agencies and First Nations as well as local governments, has more than 50 customers in Canada, South Africa and the U.S.

Previously, Elkford relied on a single online map that the provider had to update, explains Heather Potter, the municipality’s geographic information systems (GIS) technician. “Lightship Works allows us to have a huge number of customized maps as well as user groups, and it allows my users to log in and use the maps they want, print maps, see the data on the real world—like on top of a Google overlay,” Potter says. “So it’s much more flexible.”

The Elkford Chamber of Commerce member, which subscribes to Lightship Works for a monthly fee, has about 10 staff on the platform. Potter says the main users are public works employees, who can head out on a dig with an iPad showing the location of utilities and land parcel lines. Unlike most other such software, Lightship Works is designed for non-technical users, she notes. “The people I’m working with just need to see the data and maybe change a few of the records or use it for updating information.”

When rural and urban governments and companies connect, everyone benefits, Potter argues. “Standardization of services and industry best practice are all really essential to keep the ball rolling,” she says. “If we can all network together, it allows us to provide better-quality services to our residents and businesses, while keeping the costs down because we’re all working together to move forward with the technology.”

Reichel thinks the urban and rural economies are more intertwined in B.C. than in the U.S., pointing to the large number of engineering and other professional services firms in Vancouver that have built their businesses on natural resources. “A lot of people don’t realize that—how many of those people that are going to Gastown every day are there because they are supporting work that’s happening in regions outside of the Lower Mainland.”

As technology makes it easier for people around the province to communicate with each other, it’s breaking down the urban-rural divide, Reichel adds. Today he could run a company like Lightship Works from a smaller community like Smithers if he chose, he says. “You’re going to see a lot of the businesses that normally would have felt like they needed to be in the Lower Mainland for access to capital, people and markets that are finding they can either have remote workers who live at Sun Peaks or Panorama, or can have their headquarters someplace else and still be very successful.”