Living Lab Concept Shaping Development In Summerside
Mike Thususka wants to make Summerside a testing ground for new ideas and technology.
Summerside Economic Development Director Mike Thususka looks over an outline to the city’s ‘living lab’ plan, a concept that promotes integrating new ideas into existing municipal infrastructure for economic development.
The plan has been endorsed by city leaders and is what is driving the “Living Lab” concept officials have been pushing in recent months.
The city wants to further its ‘living lab,’ by taking more new ideas and injecting them into existing municipal infrastructure to foster growth and opportunities for economic development.
Thususka, economic development director for the city, said the easiest way to describe how a living lab works is through a project that was designed and tested in Summerside a couple of years ago by technology company 5050 Central.
5050 Central developed a sports raffle and draw system that electronically captures every transaction while providing updated real-time raffle information to display devices located throughout a venue where a sporting event is taking place.
In that instance, tickets were sold to fans at Summerside’s Credit Union Place through fixed touch-screen terminals and mobile devices, creating an effortless data collection system providing faster sales transactions, longer selling periods, accountability and substantial increases in average raffle proceeds.
“5050 Central developed a unique IT in sports opportunity,” Thususka said. “ They developed it in their offices and they needed a place to test it in a real life setting.
“They came to the city and said, ‘You guys deal with minor hockey and the (Summerside Western Capitals junior hockey team), can we test our product in your facility and work out the bugs to see if it works?’”
“We agreed, and in essence that’s a living lab.”
Thususka said the city would work with companies to use the municipal infrastructure to test and commercialize ideas and discover how to move those products forward.
“We’re working right now with a local entrepreneur who has developed a new technology for a piece of (water and sewer) infrastructure in the roads,” he said. “He wants to see if the city is willing to look at partnering with him to help him test to see if his virtual manufacturing works in real life.
“We’re trying to find ways to put it into our existing streets, test it and work with him to help him grow his business.”
Thususka said the city has a lot of expensive infrastructure that it manages, that people want to utilize and test out as they develop products and services.
“A living lab is a platform for industry to collaborate with government,” he said,
“to explore real world issues and demonstrate how products, services and innovations can work in that setting.”
He said in the case of Summerside, with 15,000 people, “We’ve got a lot of infrastructure that rivals some of the biggest cities in the world.
“We’re trying to develop an open-minded philosophy for having companies coming in and work with us to test assumptions, test products, so that they can grow their business and hopefully, grow them in Summerside,” Thususka said.
The city has five different concepts that make up the living lab: an eco-business park, that would offer wind-generated electricity; on-site storm water retention; energy storage along with access to solar heat and more; ev (electric vehicle)/car sharing; fibre optics to the home.
The city’s pollution control plant is state-of-the-art and affords the city a unique opportunity.
“One opportunity that we are looking at is in bio-diesel,” Thususka said. “Sometimes we have a problem with seaweed buildup and we’re looking at a way to take that seaweed and turn it into a fuel.
“We would look at utilizing it in our utility as opposed to bunker C oil, and if it’s successful, we can export that technology to other communities. Downstream, maybe our whole city fleet becomes bio-diesel.
“We’re trying to package Summerside’s capabilities into one,” he said. “A population of 15,000 is a great test bed for commercialization of products and services.” mcarson@journalpioneer