May 4, 2022






Mission critical intelligence; evidence-based policy making... Information is essential to making good decisions. But what happens when there is an overload of data, as is increasingly the case in this digital era? Or when data is presented in ways that the human brain can’t easily process?


“Our brains have difficulty processing complex data, so we want to reduce cognitive loading while still enabling deep understanding,” explains Jeff LaFrenz, Founder and President of VizworX. The company uses immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence to create digital experiences that provide insights into data. “In essence, it’s about presenting data more naturally, more intuitively.”


The Calgary-based company is working with MDA and Simon Fraser University (SFU) to develop a next generation technology solution to help the federal government better understand what’s going on in Canada’s coastal waters, in this case helping identify illegal and unreported fishing activities. The collaboration began through MDA’s LaunchPad program, which is designed to help innovative small and medium-sized Canadian companies grow in the fast-paced space and defence industries.


The three partners each bring highly specialized expertise to the collaboration. MDA provides near real-time monitoring, with satellite data acquisition and analysis, bringing to bear its Dark Vessel Detection solution. SFU supplies behavioural analytics. And, building on their Virtual Operations Environment (VOE) framework, a sort of next-generation control room, VizworX is using advanced visualization and virtual reality to help combine and transform the data into something which a human operator can readily interpret to support better decision-making.


LaFrenz describes a scenario with two boats coming together mid-ocean. Is their meeting incidental? Innocent? Or are they meeting for an illegal transaction? An operator reviewing multiple streams of data in 2D would find it difficult to get the full picture. But if the data is visualized appropriately, with time as a third dimension, the operator would be able to ‘see’ that the boats came from different locations, converged, and then sat next to each other for a particular period of time, before diverging. “Suddenly, it becomes clear that this is a behaviour that needs more attention. Having this kind of insight available to their personnel can be a game changer for the Coast Guard and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.”


LaFrenz is excited about what lies ahead. “This was our first effort to create an instance of VOE for a specific use case — in this case Maritime Surveillance. It was a great opportunity for us to test out and explore the use of the technology!” VizworX and MDA have plans to integrate the learnings from the project into a commercial product. VizworX has also been exploring other opportunities for its VOE solution, including with NATO. “Our LaunchPad project with MDA has allowed us to push forward the bounds of existing solutions, from the ocean to space. Who knows where we’ll go next?”