As one of the newest members of the South Island Prosperity Project, we recently sat down with Dan Ruscheinski, Director, Sales Operations & Business Partners at Esri Canada, to learn more about the company and what attracted them to get involved
Tell us a little bit about Esri. What does your company do and how long have you had a presence in Victoria?
Since 1984, Esri Canada has been delivering proven solutions based on geographic information systems (GIS) technology from Esri Incorporated, the world’s leading GIS software provider out of Redlands, California. The company established a Victoria office location in 2002.
Our solutions help organizations across many industries make timely, informed and mission-critical decisions by leveraging the power of geography. By accurately recording, analyzing, and displaying data in the context of its location, Esri Canada helps its customers make better decisions or uncover meaningful relationships between data. We help clients create stunning visualizations of complex data that allows for better management of resources and infrastructure assets, while also helping ensure safety and comfort for citizens. Our clients (at all levels of government, all types of utilities, natural resource companies, engineering companies, and practically companies from other industries as well) use Esri technology to manage the authoritative data they collect to conduct their operations, better operate their businesses, or serve their citizens. Everything is somewhere, so Esri’s ability to accurately analyze and visually map relationships between the things all around us is a powerful tool in helping the world be a safer, healthier, prosperous, livable, sustainable, and well-run place to live for all.
How did Esri become involved with the South Island Prosperity Project? What was it that attracted you to the organization?
In June 2016, I met with Craig Norris, Chair of the South Island Prosperity Project, and he told me about the organization and work they do. I have had a keen interest in exploring economic development initiatives for the region, since moving to the Island in 2008.
I was personally motivated to get involved with SIPP because I have two sons in their early twenties and want to ensure that the region establishes an economic base so that they can establish families and put down roots to build a life here.
I also strongly believe that the region has extremely attractive and rare qualities that make it special in the world. Qualities that lend themselves to the area becoming a unique center of knowledge, creativity, and innovation.
As I learned more about the goals and objectives of SIPP, it became apparent that the work Esri does could contribute significantly to helping SIPP succeed, but more importantly, help the region create for itself the future it deserves.
Cities around the globe are adopting smart city solutions to try and solve real-world challenges. In your opinion, why do you feel our region is well positioned to capitalize on this approach?
I think our differences are what positions us for success in becoming a Smart City/Region. As a region, we are a multi-jurisdictional collection of communities, each possessing different personalities, cultural foundations, interests, and unique offerings. Across the region, we boast a variety of public and private organizations that are global leaders. We also offer a strong cultural and artistic community.
We attract well-educated people from around the world who want to live in a safe and beautiful environment. I believe it is the variety of interests, priorities, and capabilities across the region that sets us up for success. To be a smart city, you have to be an interesting city – a city people want to live in. By respecting our diversity and differences, and leveraging the natural advantages the region offers, we are in a position to establish Greater Victoria as one of the most interesting and enjoyable places to live.
What are some common misconceptions about smart cities?
People tend to think of smart cities as a very futuristic, with fancy robotic space age-like technology. A sort of Jetson’s meets Star Trek type of city scene. However, this is quite opposite from what makes a city smart.
A smart city leverages existing infrastructure and technology to create a safe, efficient, sustainable, and livable environment for its residents. A smart city is a city that shares information openly between departments and organizations to help people answer questions and find the information they need to live their lives. A smart city is a city that extracts the maximum benefit from the infrastructure, information, and data that it has, studying patterns of use to most effectively predict and procure additional technology in the future.
The fancy technology like autonomous electric cars, and robots cleaning our streets will be put in place when the time is right and their service is of value.
What are some of the key challenges we should be aware of as we begin to explore smart city initiatives across the region?
Becoming a smart city requires a commitment to a common long-term vision that all stakeholders are invested in. Once that vision is in place, the member stakeholders need to cooperate and share data openly. A holistic perspective is required for the region if we are to achieve a common vision for the future. Individual stakeholders can still have and pursue unique goals and objectives individually, but they must be willing to share and work together if the region is to reach its shared “smart” goals. I think it is critical for a region such as ours to appreciate that all will benefit, albeit at different levels, if good things happen in any of our local areas.
We also need to be careful not to put our faith entirely in technology. Technology alone will not deliver a final solution. Only when it is implemented with the willing participation of stakeholders will the technology live up to its promise of supporting a safer, healthier, prosperous, livable, sustainable, and well-run “smart city” for all.