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Innovators from Los Angeles, Vienna, Toronto, Calgary, Milwaukee to speak at April 12-13 event

mesh conference attracts global innovators from Canada, U.S. and Europe



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It takes a village to drive large-scale innovation, and a month from now that village meets at the Platform Innovation Centre in Calgary.

Today the mesh conference unveiled its next round of speakers who will join the highly curated list of people who will share insight, learning, and digital transformation takeaways at the April 12-13 event.

“We aim to create the conditions for innovation to flourish, and we think those conditions require a meshing of people from diverse backgrounds and industries who come together to share the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities for the benefit of everyone,” says Chris Hogg, partner and co-producer of mesh, and president of content marketing firm DJG. “It’s about creating a space where people can connect and learn from each other, and where new ideas can be generated and tested.” 

With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — the mesh conference will host Canadian digital transformation leaders who will meet to connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing the way we think, organize, operate and behave.

Joining the all-star lineup of speakers announced last week, mesh today shared details of its society and marketing keynotes, and a host of featured speakers across all mesh threads.

Exploring neurodiversity and creativity

Mark Fairbanks
Mark Fairbanks

Mark Fairbanks joins mesh to explore opportunities in technology design to create inclusion. His keynote will focus on learning experiences and neurodivergent creativity. 

Mark is the co-founder and Executive Director of Milwaukee-based Islands of Brilliance, a creative program for autistic individuals that pioneers the use of art, creativity, and creative technologies to spark self-confidence, encourage independence, and build pathways to employment.

At mesh, Mark will share insight on neurodiversity and creativity, and how the combination of design process and lean methodology can be applied to create meaningful, measurable, and sustainable social impact.

Islands of Brilliance was started in 2012 by Mark and his wife Margaret who have guided the organization through constant evolution and growth, and today the organization has students from around the United States enrolled in all three layers of programming access.

The inspiration for the program originates with his youngest son Harry, who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum just before the age of three. 

The organization is now the subject of a research study being conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Michigan State University funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Prior to Islands of Brilliance, a 27-year career in advertising, design, and digital saw Mark working for notable creative boutiques in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago. During this period his work appeared in The One Show, Communication Arts, Graphis, and The Obies, while also receiving acclaim in Adweek, Creativity and The New York Times.

He was a member of the Creative Alliance, a cohort of notable agency creatives and agencies working on social impact initiatives during the final two years of the Obama Administration. 

Mark also currently serves as the Entrepreneur in Residence for Social Innovation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, devoting time to working with undergraduate students on design methodologies, business model canvas, and thinking through prototypes of their ideas focused on social impact.

Creating immersive experiences for marketing and sales success

Andreas Fraunberger
Andreas Fraunberger

Dr. Andreas Fraunberger joins mesh to discuss the immersive storytelling through virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), immersive video, and WebXR content.

As the Managing Director and XR Producer of Vienna-based creative studio, Junge Römer, Andreas will share insight on using VR and AR to transform stories into places people can visit, events they can influence, and experiences they can live through.

Andreas and his team have worked on mixed reality projects for HILTI, Red Bull, REWE, ORF, ARTE, ProsiebenSat.1 TV Germany, Austrian Tourism Board, Advertising Board of Tyrol, Wiener Staatsoper and more.

In addition, Andreas is a lecturer for animation and development at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna where he teaches about the theory of perception.

Andreas got his PhD from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he focused on time-based media and psychoanalysis.

Featured speakers

In addition to the keynote announcements, mesh also shared details about featured speakers who will join this year’s Calgary event, April 12-13:

Colleen Pound
Colleen Pound

Colleen Pound is a corporate strategist, community builder, and disruptor who lives at the intersection of connection and commerce.

As a member of mesh’s host advisory committee, she is passionate about bringing the best minds together to transform our future and have some fun along the way.

Mathew Ingram
Mathew Ingram

Mathew Ingram, Chief digital writer, Columbia Journalism Review

Mathew Ingram is Columbia Journalism Review’s chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in the Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as by Reuters and Bloomberg.

Mathew is a mesh OG and one of the event’s founders.

Tyler Chisholm
Tyler Chisholm

Tyler Chisholm, co-founder and CEO of clearmotive marketing, podcast host of Collisions YYC.

It’s been said by many colleagues and friends that Tyler Chisholm‘s superpower is being “endlessly curious,” which has served him in many ways, from growing up on the farm to his passion for marketing.

Tyler is the co-founder and CEO of clearmotive marketing, a full-service agency focused on helping brands that operate in fast-paced, competitive industries execute their marketing campaigns more effectively with a deep focus on business results.

Tyler is also the host of two podcasts: They Just Get It and Collisions YYC.

They Just Get It features interviews with people who have taken interesting and unique paths through life, often outside of what is considered “normal”, highlighting the importance and rewards of following your dreams.

In-depth knowledge about Alberta’s economy and growing business opportunities is what you’ll get from Collisions YYC. Each episode goes beyond the headlines to provide listeners with valuable insights that might just inspire their next big idea.

Tyler is a passionate philanthropist and founder of Red Express, a project designed to put toys in the hands of children in need each holiday season.

Charles Buchanan
Charles Buchanan

Charles Buchanan, Founder and CEO of Technology Helps.

As an innovator and visionary, Charles has a distinguished history in corporate technology leadership (including Suncor Energy, Deloitte, Oracle, MNP, and Royal LePage), management consulting, and entrepreneurship. 

Charles has founded and worked with numerous technology companies in diverse areas such as online gaming, fintech, environmental protection, and more. He continues to be an authority in the tech space and has provided expert advice and implemented large-scale technology solutions for enterprise clients.

Charles is a passionate contributor to the community and has served on various non-profit boards for the past 20 years, including his role as Board Chair at Centre for Newcomers. He currently serves on several boards: Calgary Black Chambers (co-founder); The Common Approach to Impact Measurement; Momentum (finance committee); Black Business and Professional Association. He also serves on the grant committee at Calgary Foundation and an entrepreneur mentor at Venture Mentors Service of Alberta (VMSA). Charles is a founder and advisory board member of UpRising Academy helping talented at-risk youth in Jamaica in STEM and sports.

He holds an MBA from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and a B.Sc. (Hons) in electrical and computer engineering. When recharging, Charles can be found on the golf course or hiking in the beautiful mountains near his home in Calgary and spending meaningful time with his family.

Alison Pidskalny
Alison Pidskalny

Alison Pidskalny, Strategic Advisor, Pixelated Ventures

Alison is a trusted ally to founders, CEOs and Boards having spent her career equally in the corporate and non-profit sectors.

She is described as a “Swiss army knife” bringing a vast toolkit to organizations looking to grow, shift strategy or engage more authentically with community.

As a strategic advisor Alison builds Community-Informed Strategic Plans that (re)invigorate and focus her clients on bold directions.

As a born/raised Albertan, she leverages her vast network, angel investments and philanthropy as a Financial Feminist and an avid campaigner for community infrastructure that promotes connectedness and inclusion.

Alison sits on the Board of Movement51 and the Board of the Indigenous Gathering Place Society of Calgary, and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Circle for the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary.

Chris Wolfenberg
Chris Wolfenberg

Chris Wolfenberg, Partner, Corporate Group, Dentons

Chris is a leading business lawyer in Calgary focused on public and private corporate and securities transactions in the technology, mining and energy sectors.

Chris is known for building strong, long-lasting relationships with clients at every level. He also acts as Director and Officer of a number of public, private and not-for-profit entities. Chris has been recognized as Canadian Lawyer of the Year for Mining Law, and has also been recognized for his Venture Capital and Securities practice. He has received national recognition for his community contributions.

Scott King
Scott King

Scott King has 20 years experience bringing emerging technology to digital marketing.

He specializes in brands with grudge purchase products — products you have to buy, but don’t necessarily want to buy — like household cleaners (Clorox, Pine-Sol, Liquid Plumr) or banking & insurance (Brokerlink, Citi, USAA).

More speakers and sessions will be announced shortly on the mesh conference agenda and tickets are on-sale now at the mesh conference ticket page. Early-bird tickets are on sale now for $679 until March 17 and a small batch of student tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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The Northern Lights Technology & Innovation Forum navigates AI, economic concerns and upskilling in Alberta

Panelists dive into how innovation and collaboration may help navigate the changing industry landscapes



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While rapid advancements in AI are reshaping industries worldwide, they’ve sparked discussions about innovation and community resilience through ongoing economic challenges. At this year’s Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum, panelists explored how technology could drive positive adaptation.

​​Moderated by the Calgary Economic Development’s Geraldine Anderson, the panel featured:

  • Mark Little, co-founder and CEO Jotson Inc, and board member of General Fusion
  • Anna Baird, culture and innovation evangelist at Google
  • Dan Semmens, SVP and head of data and IT at ATB Financial
  • Arthur Kent, Canadian journalist and author
  • Joy Romero, executive advisor innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)

Approximately 250 attendees gathered for the forum at the Calgary Petroleum Club on Feb. 8. Filled with industry leaders and burgeoning entrepreneurs, the forum focused on collaboration and knowledge sharing in the tech sector.

Over the past five years, Calgary has seen a 22 per cent increase in tech talent and total tech jobs, emerging as one of North America’s top markets for young tech professionals.

“The talent pool here is amazing,” said ​​John Givens, vice president of sales at C3 AI and one of the event’s organizers. “So how do we leverage our talent here? How do we share that knowledge?”

In response, this year’s forum included the inaugural “Mentors and Makers” initiative, where a dozen industry experts pinned green buttons to their lapels, signaling to anyone in the crowd that they’re open to a conversation.

Shawn Mahoney, another event organizer and co-founder of Spare Parts & Gasoline, said in his opening remarks that the initiative speaks to “creating the new innovators that we need to solve tomorrow’s problems.”

And with that, the panel took the stage to dig into the big questions: What are the challenges and opportunities for Alberta as a growing tech market? How will AI continue to change industries across the board? And if it does, will that be a bad thing?

The Alberta advantage

The panel conversation was kicked off by the first question asked by moderator Geraldine Anderson: “What is the Alberta mindset, or the ‘Alberta advantage?’” 

Mark Little. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

Mark Little, co-founder and CEO Jotson Inc, said Alberta has a lot going for it — including having the highest GDP in Canada, a younger population, and high education levels — but those aren’t the advantages that stand out to him.

“There’s a resilience and an entrepreneurial spirit here,” he said. “As a result of that, we’re seeing innovation … I think 10 to 15 years from now we’re going to lead this country in innovation and it’ll be every sector you could imagine.”

Hailing from Vancouver and the only panelist not based in Calgary, Google’s Anna Baird said she considers herself an honorary Albertan based on the “sheer grittiness and roll up your sleeves and work together” attitude she’s witnessed. 

“The grittiness takes us into innovation,” said Baird. “We’re willing to try new things, we’re willing to fail — hopefully fast and cheaply, as is Google’s ethos. But we’re also willing to borrow with pride and give kudos to the people we’re borrowing the pride from so we can have building blocks.” 

The panelists’ discussion kept coming back to the importance of adaptability, innovation, and collaboration. While the province faces significant hurdles, including global market fluctuations and environmental concerns, they spoke with optimism about the potential to emerge stronger by investing in the future.

Dan Semmens, SVP and head of data and IT at ATB Financial, calls it an “opportunity” for both the province and country to focus on investing in the next generation.

“I think the opportunity there is continuing to invest in our most precious resource, which is our young people,” he said. 

When it comes to AI, “it’s on all of us” to level up our own skills

Joy Romero. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

AI is already impacting most industries globally, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But it’s not new either.

Joy Romero, executive advisor of innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), said she was using AI neural networks 20 years ago to take ecological data and process it through oil sands facilities. 

“Why?” she asked. “Because that would allow us to improve our processing and our productivity … So for me, digital is our world. That’s productivity.”

The day of the panel, Google announced that Gemini Ultra 1.0, the largest version of their large language model, is being released to the public. 

Baird was asked about the implications of the new AI model, and while she acknowledged there will be challenges, she maintained that “the train has left the station.”

“It’s on all of us here in the room to level up our own skills,” she says. “With an announcement like Gemini, like you have to get in there, you have to play, you have to try.”

Anna Baird. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

Transitioning to the realm of media and journalism, Canadian journalist Arthur Kent highlighted the increasing role of AI in newsrooms. From assisting journalists in gathering and analyzing data to content creation, journalists are experimenting with AI for efficiency and detecting false information.

“We can become even better if we harness artificial intelligence to do that,” said Kent. “So we constantly have to be developing and pushing ourselves forward, to keep pace with this.”

However, he emphasized the critical role of journalists in maintaining integrity and discerning between fact and fiction in an era of AI-generated content. 

“Journalism is always going to be a human process, because journalism is based on their location, and verification, verifying leads, tips, and figuring out rumour from fact,” said Kent. “So far, none of the machines that I’ve seen associated with artificial intelligence, have those human characteristics. However, there is also that human aspect called temptation.”

Arthur Kent. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

In the financial services industry, Semmens said the impact of generative AI “poses an existential risk” to the relationship banks have with their clients. 

Despite this, he says incorporating AI technology into banking is “an incredible opportunity” to personalize experiences for customers more effectively and efficiently, and he expects to see a lot of changes in open banking in the next three to five years. 

“With all the disinformation that is out there, a trusted source is going to be a high commodity,” he said. “And so I think in banking, being a heavily regulated industry, there is an opportunity for us to really show up from that standpoint.”

Dan Semmens. Photo by DX Journal / Digital Journal

An innovation forum’s charitable roots

The Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum’s story begins over a decade ago. The organizers, including Givens, first banded together for the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Hockey Pro-Am Tournament in support of Alzheimer’s research and education. 

As the cause drew more attention they opted to expand the tournament into the forum as a way to expand their reach. All of the event proceeds go to Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Centre for the Alzheimer’s Research and Education Society — and this year they broke their record, raising a minimum of $40,000 thanks in part to a funding match made by Google. 

“It’s amazing,” Givens said at the end of the night. “I always knew the potential of our community. And I explained to people that the community is the draw … It’s about education. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about just finding ways for other people to get involved in doing the same thing. There’s enough energy there. Now we just have to harness it.”

DX Journal is an official media partner of the Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum.

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The Northern Lights Technology & Innovation Forum comes to Calgary next month

Panellists from Google, ATB, Jotson and Canadian media will join the the second annual Northern Lights Technology & Innovation Forum in Calgary on Feb. 8



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In a world increasingly dominated by global competition and technological advancement, the Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum focuses on the power of knowledge-sharing and collaboration in the tech community. 

Coming to Calgary Feb. 8, the forum places a spotlight on critical issues impacting the community. Last year’s focus was on enabling net-zero carbon emissions and this year the focus shifts to economic challenges and what solutions can be found through innovation.

As the past year has seen heavy inflation, layoffs, volatile energy prices and geopolitical instability, this year’s panel discussion is designed to  provide a “360-degree view” of how these challenges impact Alberta’s economy and community.  

Moderated by the Calgary Economic Development’s Geraldine Anderson, the panel includes:

  • Mark Little, co-founder and CEO Jotson Inc, and board member of General Fusion
  • Anna Baird, culture and innovation evangelist at Google
  • Dan Semmens, SVP and head of data and IT at ATB Financial
  • Arthur Kent, Canadian journalist and author
  • Joy Romero, executive advisor innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)

Panellists will explore how governments, large companies, and startups can work together to navigate changes to come, and which technologies have the potential to positively disrupt the status quo. 

“Mark brings a massive amount of background, and he’s led thousands of folks in our community, and to see what he’s doing now in the global economy is going to be really exciting,” says John Givens, vice president of sales at C3 AI and one of the event’s organizers. “And to have somebody who comes from a leadership position at Google in Canada — we’re crazy excited about that.”

Givens adds that he expects artificial intelligence to be a focus, with panellists like Semmens likely to focus on what’s happening in financial markets, and how technology will continue to impact that sector.

And with a packed career including working as a foreign correspondent at NBC, Kent has been “involved in more things than I can keep track of,” says Givens. Kent is expected to discuss cybercrime and the political and military impacts of technology.

Transforming from a hockey tournament to an innovation forum

Givens and his fellow organizers launched the first forum last year as a way to expand their decade-long history with the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Hockey Pro-Am Tournament in support of Alzheimer’s research and education.

Taking it back to the hockey tournament where it all began, 100% of the proceeds of this event go to Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Centre for the Alzheimer’s Research and Education Society. 

More than $300,000 has been raised by the team since its inception, and they commit an annual $25,000 to Alzheimer’s Society from the event. However, Givens emphasizes the importance of education and awareness in their campaign.

“It’s about education, not just the money,” he says. “It’s about creating awareness.”

John Givens and the C3 AI team for the Gordie Howe C.A.R.E.S. Hockey Pro-Am Tournament. Photo courtesy of John Givens

Outside of the charitable support, the event is meant to support the growing business community and tech sector in the province. Technological advancements are impacting all sectors, and Givens says it’s important to “mindshare” across disciplines and open avenues for new innovations to emerge.

“It’s called the Northern Lights for a reason — it represents Alberta,” says Givens in an interview with DX Journal. Givens notes that the convergence of technology, innovation, resilience, and charitable giving is central to the theme and purpose of this year’s event.

“What I’m really proud of when I think about the Calgary ecosystem is we have an enormous amount of talent in this community,” says Givens. “We’re competing on a global market now, so our customers are hiring globally, and they’re competing on wages globally. We need to bring our talent together and lift them all up and share the best of the best and let everybody know what the best looks like.”

More than 250 people are expected to gather at the Petroleum Club for the forum’s lively discussion and networking opportunities. The event is sponsored by Spare Parts & Gasoline (Presenting Sponsor), and the mesh conference (Platinum Sponsor), with DX Journal being this year’s media partner.

DX Journal is an official media partner of the Northern Lights Technology and Innovation Forum. To learn more and get tickets to the event, happening February 8, visit the event page

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COP28 points to AI for climate change solutions in developing countries

Examining AI initiatives brought up at the COP28 climate conference



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Need company data insights? AI can help. 

Better efficiency in healthcare? AI is there, too. 

It’s no surprise really, as AI paves its way into almost every industry. But the recent COP28 climate conference invited entire governments to consider AI as a solution to climate challenges in developing countries. 

Currently, governments already use AI to prepare for hurricanes, reduce water usage, and predict general climate patterns. It’s also been estimated that AI could help mitigate as as much as one-tenth of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

During COP28, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, Omar Sultan Al Olama, the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for AI, digital economy, and remote work applications, urged the entire world to integrate AI into climate policies.

“Harnessing artificial intelligence as a strategic asset to mitigate climate change involves integrating it into national policies and plans,” he said. “These measures and policies should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as a unified global initiative, acknowledging that climate change transcends geographical boundaries and requires concerted global efforts.”

Some examples of AI-inspired climate change initiatives include: 

  • Designs for low-emission technologies (advanced batteries)
  • Reduce emissions in food production and manufacturing
  • Balance electricity during extreme climate events like tropical storms
  • Identify renewable energy projects
  • Identify tropical disease with machine learning
  • Design hurricane-resistant buildings

Here are some highlights from other countries pledging to introduce AI into their climate policies: 


“We are partnering with international tech companies to test their ideas in Barbados whilst contributing to the island’s development. Some ideas include using machine learning and AI to check for the presence of tropical diseases, design hurricane resistant buildings and plan infrastructure investment. Collaboration, training and technology transfer are key to ensuring that AI contributes effectively to climate mitigation and adaptation for small island developing states.”


“It is important to adapt the technology to take account of the digital divide, especially among those most vulnerable to climate change. Integration of chatbot voice with local languages in these emerging technology tools is one solution that would ensure the existing digital divide is taken into account.”

  • Moussa Bocar Thiam, Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, Senegal


“We must manage the risks and seize the promise of artificial intelligence. The United States is committed to doing so, as President Biden’s recent Executive Order on AI demonstrates. By working together, we can responsibly harness the power of this emerging technology to develop AI tools that help mitigate climate change risks, make our communities more sustainable and resilient, and build an equitable clean energy future for all.”

  • Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor, United States of America

Learn more about COP28 here

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