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Sensing opportunity above and below

Sensing opportunity above and below

New sensor technologies are giving us eyes in the sky and underwater, enabling us to measure gas emissions from space and detect the smallest waterborne contaminants. Two Canadian companies are pushing this trend forward.

In 2016, Montreal-based GHGSat launched Claire, a satellite that can detect and measure carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions from industrial sites around the world. Orbiting the globe in a unit the size of a microwave oven, Claire’s sensors are capable of measuring 1,000 sites in a year, in all weather and any season.

The technology’s appeal is simple. As GHGSat founder, president and CEO Stephane Germain notes, “We provide better information at a cheaper cost.” Because companies can get more frequent and more precise measurements of emissions, they can manage their assets more efficiently, and spot and fix problems sooner, reducing the environmental and financial costs posed. Targeted sectors for this service include oil and gas, power generation, mining, agriculture and waste management.

Since his is the only company in the world using this technology, Germain foresees GHGSat playing a pivotal role in a multibillion-dollar market for carbon emissions in jurisdictions with carbon taxes or cap-and-trade mechanisms. The company is currently building two new satellites that will launch in 2019 and 2020. “In the next five years we expect to have 20 satellites flying above the earth,” he says.

Back on the surface, Real Tech Inc., based in Whitby, Ont., has been making a name for itself in water monitoring since 2004. Its current product lines include a suite of analyzers that detect contaminants in water and wastewater for clients in municipal water treatment, the beverage, petrochemical and pharmaceuticals industries, and government.

Jodi Glover, Real Tech’s CEO and co-founder, says her goal has always been to improve access to water-quality monitoring by offering practical, accurate and affordable solutions.

The company’s optical sensors use ultraviolet and visible light to detect various absorbing substances, allowing for water quality to be measured in real time without chemical agents. Because these sensors detect problems as they occur, users can act immediately to reduce energy and water consumption. With clients in 53 countries, “our competitive edge lies in the design and manufacturing of our sensors,” says Glover. “We’re focusing on developing our AI platform. We want to bring the business of water monitoring out of the Dark Ages and into the digital future.”