SHRC technology roadmap to assess wireless industry needs

Three months after announcing its mandate would expand to take in technology hardware as well as software sectors, Canada’s Software Human Resource Council has identified the first hardware sector on its list of priorities.

The SHRC will develop a technology roadmap for the wireless communications industry, officials said, which will identify the core skills companies will need to succeed with the technology.

“Wireless is the first of probably five technology roadmaps that we’re planning on,” said Paul Swinwood, president of the SHRC. “It was top of mind and top of opportunity.”

At the end of March, the SHRC – a non-profit sector council that receives funding from the federal government – held an invitation-only conference in Ottawa where several presenters gave overviews of key technology areas. The Technology Vision Conference was aimed at seeking a consensus on what technologies are important to Canada’s international competitiveness in information and communication technology.

The presentations covered microelectronics, photonics, wireless communication, software and systems, quantum computing, sensor networks and nanotechnology, along with an overview of information and communications technology by a speaker from Industry Canada.

Swinwood said the council will issue a request for proposal to find a company to work with it in conducting a series of focus groups and consultations with industry. The intention is to talk to “just about everybody you can think of” to determine what future market demands will be, what types of products will meet those demands and what skills will be needed to create those products, and how Canada can market wireless technology to the rest of the world.

The process is intended to produce a final report in the spring, Swinwood said. He said the SHRC will work with the Canadian Wireless Association and with various other groups across the country.

Canada has shown some strength in the wireless area, said Oakville, Ont. consultant Michael Rozender of Rozender Consultants International, who specializes in the field. He referred to Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Inc., a leader in wireless e-mail technology, Mississauga, Ont.-based Nortel Networks Corp., which is active in GSM/GPRS mobile telephony, and Calgary-based Wi-LAN Inc., which develops broadband wireless data networking technology.

“This is a welcome announcement,” Rozender said. “I’d like to think that the wireless industry has been a relatively innovative one, albeit somewhat smaller than in Europe.”

But Rozender said Canada’s wireless sector does face some challenges in finding the skills it needs to continue growing and competing with companies elsewhere. Rozender’s own background is in radio-frequency engineering, and he noted that those skills are scarce and in high demand in Canada. Canadian colleges and universities scaled back or even closed their telecommunications programs during a slump in the telecommunications industry from 2001 to 2005, he said, and that has constrained the supply of telecommunications-related skills in general.

Swinwood said a critical concern is a lack of people with the right combination of technical and marketing skills. “One of the great things about Canada is we invent things,” he said. “One of the unfortunate things is we don’t get around to telling people about them.”

With the expansion of its mandate beyond the software field, SHRC will be getting a new name, which Swinwood said is likely be announced this fall. The other industry sectors for which the council will produce technology roadmaps will probably be announced next spring, he added.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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