This just in: this innovation team at Health Canada is the new 007
Located near Remic Rapids Park in Ottawa, the Remic Rapid Innovation team, under the Regulatory Operation and Enforcement Branch (ROEB), at Health Canada adopted its name because it jives with their philosophy of moving things along quickly. However, though the park is known for its balanced rock sculptures by artist John Felice Ceprano, the team maintains that nothing is written in stone when it comes to experimentation.
Peter Yoon, the manager of the team, and an old friend, excitedly sits down to chat with me—to tell me about his team’s projects, and to catch up because we haven’t seen each other in a while. He gives me an update on his kids and to his dismay, I tell him that they have unique celebrity names, which I quite liked myself. “That’s exactly the opposite of what I was going for,” he sighs. Sorry, Peter.
But on the topic of celebrity names, Peter gives me a glimpse of the many projects the Remic Rapid Innovation team has on the go, with names comparable to top secret projects from 007. The mission? To empower the people at (ROEB) within Health Canada who deliver services, to experiment and find new ways to better those very services.
Project Cyclops: using one eye to see better
Though not a one-eyed gadget that shoots lasers given to you by your genius spy sidekick, Project Cyclops is definitely more applicable to our everyday world. It’s a project that’s experimenting with using machine vision to assess whether a product label is compliant with regulations, particularly within the category of natural health products. Label inspections, as they go now, are a very manual process that take roughly 2-4 hours to complete. Inspectors will go to the manufacturer and inspect the ingredients, and the ingredient amounts, themselves. Peter explains that the amount, which is challenging to determine, is key, because certain ingredients can be considered a drug if over a certain limit. These calculations are currently done manually but it’s easy for machines to detect ingredients, and if the laborious process could be done using technology, the time and human power saved would be exponential.
Project Hummingbird: it’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a drone?
The fastest recorded hummingbird can beat its wings up to 80 times per second. However, it’s not humanly possible to move so quickly and cover extensive ground on foot. Project Hummingbird is exploring the option of using drones and unmanned aerial technology to conduct outdoor inspections with a current focus on cannabis fields. Some farms are so large it would take days for a human to inspect and walk through the entire lot—something an inspector would have to do to make sure fencing is regulated, and toxin levels on the plants are safe. Using remote sensing technology, the drones will conduct visual and spectral analyses on the health of a plant, to ensure that the plant is safe for human consumption. It uses colours to signify what’s happening on the ground. I learn from Peter that this is called a ‘spectral signature.’ A healthy plant will have one spectral signature, whereas an unhealthy one would have a different spectral signature.
An ancient debate: the Chicken or the Egg? The Innovation or the Challenges?
“The thing I think that is missing when it comes to embracing innovation and technology is trust.”
It’s no secret that Health Canada has been around for a long time, born out of the age of the legacy health industry, and driven by the need to regulate drugs. Having lived through time, the challenge then becomes: how do we ensure we are adaptable to change? Peter weighs in, “the thing I think that is missing when it comes to embracing innovation and technology is trust. There isn’t enough trust with not just technology itself, but also the process with it.” One bad experience with say, the set-up of your computer, is enough to leave a lasting negative impression. “The key is making sure that people are equipped in understanding the technologies that can be leveraged,” explains Peter. To do this, his team has adapted a slightly backwards way of embracing the new: “we identified those new technologies, such as AI, or blockchain, and analyzed them to see where they would help us by drawing connections to our business. It’s a stepping stone to the end goal, where we can identify a problem, and automatically pair it up with a technological solution,” Peter tells me, “there is a process to shifting the culture and mindset.”
“Achieving ‘digital dexterity’—defined as being able to leverage technologies whenever and wherever it’s appropriate to get better business outcomes—is their goal.”
Through it all, Peter is optimistic; he is passionate about his job and it shows in his excitement when talking about not only his projects, but his team. “I’m really lucky to have a boss who’s a visionary and a partner in crime,” he says, speaking of Martin Bernard, the Director of Technology and Business Innovation. “We began working together two years ago, and all of this would be incredibly difficult without people like him and executives we have that support this work.”
“Change is necessary because changes are happening in our immediate surroundings and in the world right now—much of which is driven by technology,” Peter says, “and we’ve got to drive with it.”
Achieving ‘digital dexterity’—defined as being able to leverage technologies whenever and wherever it’s appropriate to get better business outcomes—is their goal. It’s exactly why the Remic Rapid Innovation team is playing the role of instigator, and encouraging program areas to experiment with the possibilities. “Change is necessary because changes are happening in our immediate surroundings and in the world right now—much of which is
driven by technology,” Peter says, “and we’ve got to drive with it.”
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: