Vooban primarily focuses on creating high-impact solutions for visionary businesses through artificial intelligence, data and IoT. The company was founded 12 years ago and has grown significantly since then. They now have a team of 135 employees, including 25 AI scientists, making then the most extensive AI expert team and leader in Quebec.

Vooban’s core values are: they’re bold and innovative, have the bit between their teeth, take care of their people, and tell each other the absolute truth.

Interview with Hugues Foltz, Associate, Vice-President Executive at Vooban.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Hugues Foltz: We specialize in custom software, mobile development, and all things AI applied in business (sales prediction, predictive maintenance, vision, etc.).

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

H.F: All our products are custom-made, so they’re all new in their own way! Recently, we launched a significant project: CSL (Canadian Steamship Lines), a Canadian shipbuilding company based in Montreal. This company turned to us because the lack of precision in predicting the arrival time of ships at their destination created organizational gaps and wasted human resources and fuel resources, not to mention constantly compromising the efficiency and fluidity of operations.

We have thus developed an AI predictive model which, by taking into account several variables, can accurately calculate the ETA of ships and predict when preventive maintenance will be required, as well as optimize their routes to consume as little fuel as possible and direct boats to their destination at a time when they are sure to have a place in port and a team ready to welcome and handle them.

Since we implemented the AI model, ETA can now be accurately calculated, increasing its reliability by 30%. In the next year, this AI project should enable CSL to reduce its CO2 emissions by 6,000 metric tons and decrease average fuel consumption by 3% for its entire fleet, allowing it to save money while doing its part in reducing GHG emissions!

By accurately estimating ETA, the company’s overall efficiency is increased. Indeed, when operations like crew changeover planning, navigation synchronization with dock and lock availability and material delivery coordination are optimized, the overall activities become more efficient and fluid. These changes enable CSL to maximize its workforce requirements and cost management, truly allowing it to deliver maritime ingenuity worldwide!

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

H.F: At Vooban, we provide a complete turnkey service. We don’t just supply an AI model or a solution idea: we have a 360° team to carry out the project from A to Z. This unique complementarity is one of our key competitive advantages. We have experience in programming, design, enterprise architecture, artificial intelligence, operational research, the Internet of Things and the cloud, enabling us to support our customers in every sphere of their digital transformation.

We, therefore, provide pre-production workshops in which we apply Problem Framing and Project Shaping approaches. At the very start of a digital transformation, these workshops aim to identify what issues must be addressed and prioritized. Once this has been established, we support the customer in the architecture of their new solution, its development, and its implementation within their infrastructures.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

H.F: The technology for automating business processes and predicting future sales is mature and ready to help companies make significant financial gains. Quebec has a wealth of expertise in AI, but unfortunately, this expertise is not reflected in the productivity of our province or even in Canada. The problem is that many businesses are still resistant to the use of AI in their processes. They still rely on human labour which could be automated; their operations are not optimized, and they are losing a lot of money over it.

By giving numerous conferences and webinars, I hope to demystify and democratize AI and help people understand that it’s not a far-fetched concept. Instead, it’s a technology that already exists and is readily available.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

H.F: In the artificial intelligence field, since the arrival of ChatGPT, all we’ve heard about is generative AI. The power of this tool and what companies can do with it make it a major attraction right now. Whether we embrace or fear it, generative AI is not just a trend but a market breakthrough! The vast majority of jobs will be affected by generative AI. The world is in the midst of a veritable revolution, similar to the one experienced when the Internet first appeared in the early 2000s.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

H.F: For me, an innovative product provides its user with a solution that not only helps him but also contributes to the well-being of others, as in the example mentioned above where the CSL company is saving money while reducing its GHGs. Another innovative project we’ve worked on, regarding user efficiency and environmental safety, is Flyscan.

It involves the development of a mobile application to assist the pipeline inspection process. Cameras and sensors have been installed on aircraft that fly over the pipelines. An AI model detects possible threats, and the pilot is alerted when necessary. Everything is linked together, making it easier for the pilot to concentrate on flying his plane instead of trying to analyze what’s going on below and increasing the efficiency of the spotting: the AI model won’t let any threat go by!

E.E: What estimations do you have for the rest of 2023?

H.F: In the current social and economic context, more and more businesses will understand the situation’s urgency and want to optimize their processes. According to a catastrophic OCDE study, Canada will soon be last on the list of its developed-country members regarding productivity. Remember that a country’s productivity goes far beyond its economic performance. It is also a key indicator of its ability to create high-quality jobs and improve living standards for its citizens. Therefore, I expect a solid increase in the use of AI to boost business productivity and compensate for labour shortages.