Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, correspondence has continued between WIMTACH and its industry partners. Trainings, technical consultation and applied research projects have taken on new forms and processes to continue the progress that has been made so far. Collaboration has been at the centre of these efforts. It strengthens the network of digital health companies across the GTA and builds more capacity for change and innovation. Interdev, a veteran company dedicated to emergency services software solutions, is one example of the benefits of collaboration.
Interdev began its partnership with Centennial College almost a decade ago. With the Applied Research and Innovation Centre, the company was able to access resources to carry out its business projects and activities. As the partnership expanded to include WIMTACH shortly after, Dr. Purnima Tyagi, Director of WIMTACH, connected the company with Centennial’s career services, software developers and faculty. As such, students were and continue to be a major resource for Interdev. Most Software Developers at Interdev have come directly from the College, including the current Director of Development and Innovation, Chirag Rana, a Centennial graduate of the Applied Information Science, Software System Design program.
Interdev came to collaborate with WIMTACH because of a common challenge: technical expertise.
“Naturally, with the growth of the company, we had a conversation with our partners clients and found that there was need for a new product. We started developing that product for the community to start using for vulnerable populations. But it’s a little bit outside of what we do. So, we decided to partner up with Centennial to see if they could help us…with the use of students.”
This need inspired a hackathon in June of last year in which over 20 students participated. These students were put in groups and tasked with designing a prototype of a mobile application that connects trained volunteers with vulnerable isolated people in initial non-medical emergencies. The groups were given a list of scenarios and issues to consider. To make the winning prototype, each group had to think beyond these issues and scenarios to develop a robust solution that stands out from the competition. “It was a nice exercise,” said Rana. “Students collectively came up with really creative solutions. Combined together, we had a better idea of “This is something we can go down the road with.”
Shortly afterwards, WIMTACH and Interdev went ahead with writing an NSERC grant to make these ideas a reality. While there was a delay in processing the application due to the pandemic, the applied research project was approved a month ago and the meetings have already begun.
The project is called “Situational Awareness of Vulnerable Populations during crisis or Evacuation or (SAVE)”. It aims to improve situational awareness, especially during emergencies, crises and disasters. The SAVE project will increase Canada’s awareness in the event of an emergency and assist EOC in their alertness level and exercises; and will improve response protocol of emergency services to save lives. Among other expertise, WIMTACH is providing technical consultation for the artificial intelligence and mobile application components of the project.
For Rana, there are many advantages of working with a Technology Access Centre, such as the project management structure and technical expertise. However, it is the human resources – students and faculty – that strengthen the collaboration between Interdev and WIMTACH throughout.
“If it’s a good fit, we make them (faculty and/or students) part of the team. The other thing is having access to resources like professors who have knowledge and expertise on things we might not have. For instance, some of the mobile development is a muscle we haven’t developed here at Interdev yet and we realize the importance of it. WIMTACH is helping us get familiar and build that muscle. It decreases the risk involved if we have to later on develop the resources within. Then, we have access to the students who worked with us and if it works out well, we have the potential to hire them and bring that skill set to the company.”
Collaboration is a key component to the success of WIMTACH, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. WIMTACH will continue to forge these partnerships to serve the digital health innovation in the GTA and beyond.
For more about WIMTACH’s applied research projects, please visit
WIMTACH proudly recognizes funding to support this work from NSERC.