Archive: September 2000 — How B.C. prepared for fires

The forest fires that have engulfed parts of B.C. over the past few months prove that even the best technology may not be enough to forestall a disaster.

Three years ago, Technology in Government reported on a range of new equipment the British Columbia Fire Service had adopted to help protection officers and weather specialists in their work. This included behaviour prediction software (FBP97) with another software product (WeatherPro3) that collects and analyses weather and fire data.

Created by Fredericton, N.B.-based Remsoft Inc. and customized to fit B.C.’s specific requirements, the two software applications turned manual processes that took about three hours into automated ones htta take seconds, officials told TIG.

“”There’s no tree that’s worth the life of a firefighter,”” said Judi Beck, leader of fire sciences with the B.C. Fire Service’s protection program. “”The best tool we can give them for fire suppression is accurate information, conveyed clearly on time.””

As new markets emerge it can be hard to measure the real rate of growth. This was certainly true in the fall of 2000, when Statistics Canada and Angus Reid offered conflicting reports about the state of e-commerce.

The study from Angus Reid (now known as Ipsos-Reid), said one-quarter of Canadian retailers had Web sites, while the bigger players were moving more quickly than smaller operations. The report forecasted 100,000 Canadian online retail sites in the near future.

StatsCan, on the other hand, took a more dismal view, estimating that retailers sold only $610 million in goods online in 1999, and Internet sales made up 0.2 per cent of retail revenue.

Benchmarked against the U.S., those numbers didn’t stack up well. American retailers sold $5.2 billion in merchandise and service in the fourth quarter of 1999 alone — 0.6 per cent of total retail sales.

Three years later, the news got even worse. The most recent installment of the Ipsos-Reid survey in January showed a 14 per cent drop in money spent on gifts during the holiday season. The drop means that in 2002 Canadians spent close to $990 million buying gifts online, as compared to $1.1 billion spent in 2001.

Who better than the Royal Canadian Mint to help the growth of e-commerce? In September 2000, the Mint began examining technology platforms to improve its online shopping experience. The project coincided with the introduction of a new coin, Family, that had been released in August 2000.

“”Everybody talks about Amazon and Chapters as places that have the definitive shopping experience, so we know people expect to be able to check their order status and know at what point in the process their order is,”” an official told us at the time. “”Those requirements are going to drive what we do in the back end.””

The Mint had already set its standards fairly high. Two years earlier we profiled the history of the RCM site, which was launched in 1995 with the announcement of the new two dollar coin. This static site became interactive when it hosted live chats, allowing the RCM to collect data on users and build up the customer list for its direct marketing campaigns. In 1996, digIT discovered the RCM’s gift club, an online catalog feature, was the area of the site generating the most interest. Seeing a potential market for selling coins online, the RCM began offering some products for sale online in May 1997. It was reportedly the first mint in the world to conduct e-commerce.

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