Catalyst 137, IoT, and AI


Montreal is poised to reverse the brain drain that has seen many of our brightest researchers leave to find employment elsewhere. And it appears that we, as a nation, are poised to attract large corporations and start-ups; it will be interesting to observe if investment opportunities unfold.

Catalyst 137, a $55 million project is scheduled to open its doors in 2017: it’s a 475,000 sq ft campus that is planned to be “The World’s Largest IoT Space”. And they’re next door at our neighbour in Waterloo, Ontario. So what’s “IoT”? A simplified explanation, thanks to

IoT is short for Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.

These objects can include interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people with the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. (Think of “smart” tv’s, meters, light bulbs etc.) This is the focus of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and as it blazes into the public domain, Montreal is positioning itself to become one of the leaders in AI.

University of Montreal professor Yoshua Bengio, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) says: “AI will affect pretty much every economic sector; right now is just the tip of the iceberg.” Bengio says the institute has attracted interest from “most of the major IT companies,” some of which have also provided funding. Now, tech giant Google is jumping in, investing $4.5 million over three years to support the MILA’s research, as well as opening its own AI research group at Google’s Montreal office.

This comes on the heels of the Canadian government announcing an investment of over $200 million in three Montreal universities. (please see Our blog: Montreal the next tech capital of the World? ).

The head of engineering for Google’s Montreal office, Shibl Mourad, says the company hopes to help turn the city into a “super-cluster” of AI knowledge that will attract corporate investors, burgeoning startups and researchers. He said much of the credit goes to University of Montreal’s Bengio and his colleagues, whose research over the last decade has put the city ahead of its competitors.

The application? Bengio predicts important breakthroughs in translation programs, personal assistance, “smart” cameras and self-driving cars, as well as broad applications in the medical field.

Interested teckies can check out Catalyst 137 at: and The Montreal Insitute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) at: