Winning an award rarely happens by chance or in isolation. This is the case for Canadian-based Blue Spurs who, this morning in Washington, was awarded the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Global City on a Cloud Innovation Award for Partners in Innovation. This award is the direct result of four organizations (including CyberNB) coming together to create a unique product offering—a Canadian first actually—the IoT Blue Kit.
We had a chance to get a few minutes with Blue Spurs CEO Mike LeBlanc to learn more.
First off, congratulations and thank you for taking the time to chat. This is a significant global award and your competition was impressive. First, for those unfamiliar with Blue Spurs, what do you do?
LeBlanc: Blue Spurs is recognized for our service and product offerings that enable clients to optimize technology through custom solutions and managed cloud offerings. I founded the company in 2012, and we are headquartered in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The award you have won is for your Blue Kit. Tell us about that.
The Blue Kit is a creative, low-code Internet of Things (IoT) educational starter kit that allows middle and high school students to understand the fundamentals of IoT. Using technology that complex IoT systems are built on today, including Arduino boards, sensors, AWS IoT and Noodl, students can build IoT projects to learn the fundamentals in a fun, interactive environment. Each project builds on the previous, providing increasing challenges that are aligned with school curriculum objectives.
The Blue Kit and the associated curriculum is fantastic and most importantly the kids love it! How did the Blue Kit come about? Was this something that you planned for some time?
Not really. Through our partnerships with AWS and Noodl, we arrived at a prototype solution for our IoT offerings. We have invested heavily in the underpinnings of IoT, and were ready to go to the next level using all of our competencies and expertise. By late summer we had engaged CyberNB about the latest developments and opportunities in the Internet of Things and cybersecurity spaces, and how we could partner for success.
While brainstorming, one idea lead to another and before you knew it a theme began to emerge. That theme was tied to skills development.
Skills development is a significant component of our strategy, specifically one of our pillars, CyberSmart. It’s safe to say that, like CyberNB, Blue Spurs realizes that partnering is essential for success. Collaboration is a pretty ubiquitous term these day. How did collaboration play a role in developing the Blue Kit?
Agreed! We all want to say that we are collaborating because it’s what we should be doing. However, most of us realize more often than not people stay within their four walls more than they should. That’s not how we think at Blue Spurs. We were already thinking about developing a specialized product for IoT, but what we didn’t consider was approaching it from the education side. After brainstorming with CyberNB we realized the product that would become the Blue Kit was the perfect way to help students learn through a fun and hands-on learning tool.
Working with government is often seen as a challenge. Governments are cautious and need to plan things carefully, and this means time. Was this ever a concern?
It did cross my mind, but to be honest, the brainstorming session set the tone. Then in a very timely manner, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) was brought to the table. I knew that was a good sign.
I did have a couple of conditions: let’s make sure that this is possible and that we can succeed. For that, we needed more than administrative support. We, needed teacher buy-in. Teachers were directly involved in designing custom curriculum, testing the kits, and working side-by-side with our team. This demonstrated buy-in and assured it was not just another “thing” that already busy teachers had to learn.
It sounds like executing this project and product in New Brunswick is a competitive advantage. Is that fair to say?
Absolutely! I believe there were two very compelling reasons and advantages. First, the relationships with CyberNB resulted in getting access to the right people in a timely manner. This idea emerged in fall 2016, and within weeks EECD was involved and committed. By spring 2017 kits were already being leveraged by teachers in the class.
Second, New Brunswick represents the perfect environment to build, test and deliver products and services. Not only is it easier to leverage relationships and expertise, but because the province is smaller in size it is extremely easy to scale a product or service roll out. It is a powerful ecosystem to operate from.
Maybe we could have done this project in another jurisdiction, but the partnerships that we have, and the strength of those partnerships to bring the right parties together in a fast and effective manner, is unique. I don’t believe we could have moved as quickly and effectively had we been in a larger jurisdiction.
We are thrilled to see a New Brunswick-based company awarded the Global AWS City on a Cloud Award for Partners in Innovation. This product wouldn’t have come together without industry, academia, and government working together for one possible outcome: success.
Learn more about Canada’s Epicentre for Cybersecurity at CyberNB.ca
Written by Heather MacLean