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NHL tests puck and player tracking in regular-season games

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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press


Published Friday, January 11, 2019 12:20PM EST

LAS VEGAS — The NHL for the first time has tested real-time puck and player tracking in regular-season games and intends to have it in place across the league next season.

Microchips were added to players’ shoulder pads and fitted inside specially designed pucks for two Vegas Golden Knights home games this week, against the New York Rangers and the San Jose Sharks. Antennas around the arena tracked the players and the puck through radio frequencies and relayed the data to a suite where league and Players’ Association executives and representatives from 20 teams and various technology firms, sports betting companies and TV rights holders were watching.

Previous versions of puck and player tracking were tested at All-Star games and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The latest tests were intended to refine the logistics of using the technology in meaningful games and to show how the real-time statistics can be used on broadcasts, in betting applications and even to create virtual reality and augmented reality simulations.

“Technology gives us a chance to bring our fans closer to the game, gives them a chance to look at the game from different perspectives, to actually see from a data standpoint, from a visual standpoint more of what’s going on in the game,” Commissioner Gary Bettman told The Associated Press on Thursday night as Vegas played the Sharks. “And the opportunity is unlimited in an era where technology is developing at a record pace.”

Fans will get their first real taste of this puck and player tracking system at the upcoming All-Star Weekend Jan 25-26 in San Jose when NBC in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada will have access to the data to use on their broadcasts. If all goes according to plan, the full range of puck and player tracking will be in place to begin next season.

The NHL and NHLPA have been discussing puck and player tracking for several years. Player concerns over tracking data being used against them have been quelled enough that they agreed to an understanding with the league about wearing the microchips. All three teams this week had the chips in their uniforms and every puck had the technology.

The NHL owns the data but must share it with the union.

“I do think the potential positives far outweigh any negatives,” said Mathieu Schneider, a retired defenceman and special assistant to the NHLPA executive director. “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure we’re doing not only for the current guys what we can but for future guys. It’s a juggling act there’s no question. There’s the juggling act. But I think the timing’s right.”

Once the technology is implemented, the NHL will join the NFL as the two major North American professional sports leagues with players wearing tracking technology. The NBA and Major League Baseball track players and game action using sophisticated systems that can include radar and cameras.

The Jogmo World Corp. and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany developed this particular system in conjunction with the NHL over the past three years. It has taken that long just to get it right; the rubber used to make pucks originally didn’t work with the sensors. The system tracks a puck 2,000 times per second and players 200 times per second.

“Overall, hockey’s the most challenging sport that you can think of because the highest mechanics, the highest speed, the highest impact,” Jogmo founder and CEO Martin Bachmayer said. “We had to change the puck recipe, the puck mixture to make that work. That was super difficult.”

The NHL won’t say how much, but the new pucks are considerably more expensive than the frozen rubber varieties used over the past 100-plus years of hockey. How referees handle them and how equipment managers deal with the microchips on the shoulder pads were major elements of the testing this week, and adjustments will be made based on feedback from players and officials before next season.

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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.

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