Tech Update: Steelmaker investments and ransomware attacks | #ransomware | #cybercrime

One of the world’s biggest steel producers is looking to lighten its carbon footprint. Through its XCarb Innovation Fund, ArcelorMittal Dofasco has made a $6.6-million investment and purchase agreement with CHAR Technologies, a Mississauga-based company that transforms forest waste products into sustainable energy sources. Dofasco has agreed to buy 5,000 tonnes of CHAR’s biocoal to use in its steel plants.

Don’t know your coal from your biocoal? CHAR takes wood waste, anything from leftover shipping pallets to lumber residuals like the unused ends of logs, and then processes it using high-temperature pyrolysis — heating things without oxygen at an ultra-high temperature, around 850 degrees Celsius. This creates biocoal, a fossil fuel-free form of coal that can be used to replace traditional coal in steel and other manufacturing processes. “You need solid carbon in blast furnaces for steelmaking or copper smelting,” says CHAR’s CEO Andrew White. “By making biocoal out of wood waste, we can allow the fossil carbon, which takes the form of coal, to stay underground, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas emissions with it.”

Steel is extremely carbon-inclusive to make — it alone accounted for 8 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. Being able to lower steelmaking’s emissions by using carbon-neutral fuels, like biocoal, in the process is a big win in the global effort to curb carbon emissions. White estimates that CHAR’s biocoal eliminates 30,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions for each 500,000 gigajoules of renewable energy it produces.

Right now, CHAR is working on getting their biocarbon production facility in Thorold, Ont., up and running — White says it’ll be open later in 2023. The investment from ArcelorMittal will allow CHAR to scale up its Thorold facility’s production and advance other projects. CHAR has also signed a memo of understanding with First Nations Co-op Lake Nipigon Forest Management to develop, build, own and operate another biocoal facility. “It’s important for us as a company to move fast,” says White. “But it’s also important for change to move quickly to bring greenhouse gas emissions down.”

Ransomware attacks are getting pricier

A new report from law firm Blakes found that Canadian companies hit by ransomware attacks pay up — and the price has gone up astronomically. In 2022, two-thirds of the firms attacked paid the ransom, up from 56 per cent in 2021. Canadian companies are also paying more to regain their stolen assets — in 2022, the median paid was $546,000, up from $100,000 a year prior.

“Bad actors are aware of the lack of preparedness across all industries,” says Claudette McGowan, CEO of cybersecurity company Protexxa. “These attacks are easy to execute with a high payday and minimal risk.” There’s a lot that companies can do, however, to shore up their defences. McGowan suggests business leaders invest in tools that use AI, as well as create playbooks and even hold cyberattack drills (like a fire drill). “Don’t make it easy for cyber criminals to access your data and systems,” says McGowan. “Get brilliant at the basics by updating systems, ensuring all applications are developed securely, implementing policies related to identity and access management, and using encryption for data in transit and at rest.”

AI to provide instant closed captions

Toronto company Videolinq has launched a new service that provides automated closed captioning for live video. This AI-enabled closed captioning will save clients the premium hourly cost usually associated with traditional live captions. The new service, dubbed “Edit,” creates closed captions and transcripts, and also includes the ability to correct captions in more than 60 languages.

New boot camp for female founders

SheBoot, a boot camp for investment-ready ventures that preps female founders on how to pitch and secure investment, is now a national non-profit. After three years as an Ottawa-based initiative, SheBoot is expanding to support women founders across the country. To make the expansion a reality, SheBoot has secured up to $700,000 in funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program over the next two years. It has already confirmed 30 women angel investors and landed $300,000 in equity-based investments for this fall’s pitch competition.

Youth mental health getting a boost from AI

Toronto-based Vector Institute is partnering with Canadian mental health service provider Kids Help Phone to use AI in its service. Kids Help Phone will be using natural language processing to create a youth mental health data set that analyzes young people’s speaking patterns when they call in. This will help front-line staff offer more precise services and allow mental health workers to route youth in distress to the appropriate and available services.

By the numbers

$30 million: Protein Industries Canada, an industry-led non-profit, plans on investing $30 million into artificial intelligence projects that benefit the plant-based and agri-food sectors between now and March 2026. The new tech has the potential to improve quality assurance for food producers, formulate ingredients and even develop new recipes.

$2,065,000: B.C.-based Novarc Technologies has landed $2.065 million in investment from the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada. The company plans to use the funds to help market its first-of-a-kind welding robot globally. Novarc’s robots have pipe-welding tech that’s designed to improve the speed at which workers can fix any type of pipe.

$80 million: CarbonCure has raised $80 million (U.S.). The fundraising for the Halifax company, which sequesters carbon dioxide in concrete to lower the grey stuff’s high carbon footprint, is led by Blue Earth Capital, a global investment firm.

Rebecca Gao writes about technology for MaRS. Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star, has partnered with MaRS to highlight innovation in Canadian companies.

Disclaimer This content was produced as part of a partnership and therefore it may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.

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