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BlackBerry Lays Off 200, Pointing to Shift Away from Phones

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OTTAWA — In what appears to be part of its retrenchment from making phones, BlackBerry said on Friday that it has laid off 200 workers at its head office in Ontario and at an office in Florida.

John S. Chen, the company’s executive chairman and chief executive, is shifting BlackBerry to a company largely based on selling software and services to businesses and governments. He has repeatedly made it clear that the company will continue to produce phones, the product that made BlackBerry a household name, only if that business can at least break even.

Most of the layoffs occurred at the company’s headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario, and some at an office in Florida. On Thursday, BlackBerry filed a notice with the State of Florida indicating that 75 people at a branch in Sunrise would be let go this month.

“As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce,” the company’s statement said. “This means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while driving toward sustainable profitability across all parts of our business.”

In a dramatic shift, BlackBerry introduced a phone last year that uses Google’s Android operating system rather than its BlackBerry 10 software.

Last month, Mr. Chen wrote in a blog post that he is not giving up on BlackBerry 10, which the company’s previous management had hoped would restore the brand to its former glory. “We’re not abandoning the loyal customers who have contributed to our success,” Mr. Chen wrote.

But his commitment extended only to improvements in the BlackBerry 10 software and left open the future of phones based on that operating system. The only phone plan he revealed was the introduction of a second Android phone.
 “We’ll share more details about our road map when we’re ready,” Mr. Chen wrote.

A gradual shift to Android would eliminate much of BlackBerry’s distinctiveness, but it allows the company to overcome the relative shortage of apps made for BlackBerry 10. Also, by shifting the burden of developing the operating system to Google, Mr. Chen will be able to further reduce costs by shedding more employees.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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