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Telus technology bus rolls into Halifax, showcasing here and now

Well I didn’t get hit by any celebrity golf ball, but I did get a grand tour of the Telus technology bus. We take what they give us.

I was at the 2012 Telus Worlds Skins Game at the Glen Arbour Golf Course, where the host sponsor showcased its Mobile Office, a touring transport of things technological.

Telus Corp., who recently announced an $8.4 million expansion in Atlantic Canada along with 65 new jobs, are best known for their wireless mobility technology, but want us to know they do much more than that.

Hughes Bélanger, Telus’s Technology Strategy Manager, explains that while they have Innovation Centres to display their technology in large cities like Montreal and Toronto such showcases don’t exist in smaller areas. So they came up with the idea of a bus to bring their technology to customers where the reverse is not possible.

The bus, a modified Volvo diesel vehicle, came to life in 2010, when it was first used in a broadcast on the V network in Québec, in a program sponsored by Telus. Called Géneration Inc., the show’s aim is to contribute to the success of entrepreneurs by garnering the expertise of seasoned business experts such as the president of the BMO Financial Group in Québec.

What I liked and didn’t like about the bus were one and the same thing: it did not get into anything “futuristic”. While it would have been fun to be whisked through a world-of-tomorrow style presentation, there was something refreshing about being shown what’s here and now, without exaggeration, but with talk of how it can be used today.

The first thing was digital signage technology. Ho-hum you say, we see that at Tim’s every day. But the way it is being used goes far beyond advertising. With each sign having its unique Internet address and content managed by non-techies via Media Composer software, it suddenly becomes a very interactive way to communicate with your audience.

Another interesting aspect is that signs can belong to groups and sub-groups, so the content can be directed according to need. Bélanger used the example of schools, where the lunch menus, evening schedules, and special events are being pushed out, with an “alert” group in existence for emergency messages.

The messaging can also be controlled by computer systems or webcams for just-in-time content.

There was also a demonstration of video conferencing and web-collaboration technologies, which although fairly commonplace, had an edge in that Telus’s huge bandwidth availability provided audio and video that was superior than what you normally get.

Telus has a concept they call “Bring your own device” – “BYOD” – whereby their unified communications technology works on many types of devices, and I saw evidence of Cisco, Samsung, Panasonic, and iPhones. Bélanger adds that they support Blackberry’s and Android devices as well.

In my mind, the best technology they showcased was called the “Telus Health Space”, based on software called “Health Vault” which is used in the U.S. It is an online repository of health information, that a consumer can keep for life.

Julie Koel, Telus’s Consumer Health Senior Marketing Manager, demonstrated the system, and tells us that although not yet in use in Canada it is certified by the Canadian Health Infoway, a testimonial to its adherence to security and privacy standards.

If it can get widespread acceptance among health care professionals, the system could then be used to share patient information with pharmacies, labs, and doctors. One visitor from the IWK who was in the bus at the same time as me was evidence that it caught the attention of health-care professionals here.

The idea behind this system is that it empowers patients to manage their own health records, not their general practitioner, and it allows them to keep track of immunizations, medications, prescriptions, lab test results, key health care contacts, etc.

One clever feature is a digital “baby book”, which you can then share online if you so choose, and it adds a little fun to an otherwise serious topic.

There is only one such bus in existence today, but there is talk of building more, and Bélanger tells me he is coming up with ideas for the second generation. For now, he has to content himself with being the steward of the one and only, which means he has to high-tail it back to Montreal mid week in time for a Friday shoot for Géneration Inc.