Gazing into the future

Conference to highlight technology’s impact on trade

Submitted Photo Marlo Anderson of Mandan, left, a Des Lacs native and technology guru, stands with an Epson company representative at the Drone Rodeo in Reno, Nevada, in this photo courtesy of The Tech Ranch. Anderson, a proponent of an autonomous-friendly transportation corridor, is to be among speakers at a technology conference in Estevan April 26.

ESTEVAN, Sask. – MABU Agency in Bismarck finds augmented reality is adding value for its advertising clients as more consumers have access to and expect more from technology.

Ed Sargeant, director of creative services at MABU Agency, describes augmented reality as an extended version of product QR codes, which when scanned by smart phones or tablets give users access to more information. Although an older technology, augmented reality is beginning to come into its own with the proliferation of consumer handheld technologies, he said.

“Now we are starting to understand how it fits in with existing media. It’s not trying to replace print. It’s trying to add something on top of it. It’s trying to enrich the experience,” Sargeant said.

MABU Agency will be sharing its experiences with augmented reality as a business tool during the second biennial Trade, Transportation and Technology Conference, hosted by the Central North American Trade Corridor Association and City of Estevan on April 26 at Southeast College in Estevan, Saskatchewan.

Conference presenters, many of them from the local region, will cover topics such as smart cities, which use electronic data collection sensors to supply information to manage assets and resources efficiently. They will discuss distance learning technology, social media, automated trucking, cybersecurity awareness, nontraditional products and services in agriculture, robotics and artificial intelligence. Estevan will share its story with e-commerce.

Dwight Fitz Bramble, Estevan’s economic development coordinator, said the conference can benefit everyone but especially business people who will learn about new technologies that can impact their operations in coming years.

“If you have the technology available to you to make your production and distribution more efficient, then it enhances trade. So in that context, technology is very important,” Bramble said.

“It may sound futuristic to a lot of people, but in reality, the future is already here,” he added. “Part of the objective of the conference is to share that kind of information and to make people more aware of what’s happening and let them know there are real opportunities out there to enhance their business activity and their lives in general.”

“It’s absolutely knocking on the door,” Ron Hall, chairman of the CNATCA, said of technologies from automatic trucking to robotics. Hall, of Fort Collins, Colorado, grew up in North and South Dakota and has worked on projects with MHA Nation at Fort Berthold. He said there needs to be discussion on how rural communities will be affected by technology. Pilot projects using driverless trucks already are in place in some states, and the expectation is CNATC communities won’t be far behind, he said.

The divide between urban and rural will enlarge unless smaller communities can find ways to take advantage of technology, Hall said.

“Our mission in the Central North America Trade Corridor is to try to reframe all these challenges and things coming at us. What’s the application to the corridor, to rural communities?” he said. “The purpose of the conference is to frame those issues in a way that applies to the rural communities and to those corridor communities and to engage in that dialogue to try to articulate what those challenges are, what those opportunities are.”

Regarding augmented reality, Sargeant said there are different types and ways to use the technology to engage an audience. In print advertising, MABU Agency has used augmented reality to give the audience the ability to pick up a print ad and watch a related video on their devices.

It’s also possible to use location-based technology to get pop-up information on restaurants or historic sites in the area. At historic sites, a sign scan might allow a visitor to see a 3D re-creation of the original site or view a video with more information. A diner might hold a phone up to a menu and get a 3D version of a menu item.

The technology conference comes at a time when CNATCA is promoting Highway 39 in Saskatchewan and U.S. Highway 52 in North Dakota as a viable trade corridor that could benefit from rapidly emerging technologies.

Conference tickets are available online at eventbrite.ca or by calling 306-634-1800. The $30 tickets include lunch. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.