Here’s where U of T experts stand on Sidewalk Toronto’s controversial smart city plan

Google’s sister company proposes redevelopment of Quayside, sparking concerns

Here’s where U of T experts stand on  Sidewalk Toronto’s controversial smart city plan

On October 31, tri-governmental organization Waterfront Toronto tentatively agreed to move forward with a reduced version of a controversial plan to redevelop part of Toronto’s Quayside into a technology-filled smart neighbourhood. 

The redevelopment proposal was put forward by Sidewalk Labs — a company owned by Alphabet that focuses on urban planning and innovation. Alphabet was formed in 2015 and is the parent company of Google and other Google-related ventures. Sidewalk Labs’ first significant redevelopment project, Sidewalk Toronto, has promised radical urban planning to improve city life. The flashy innovations range from timber skyscrapers, to robotic garbage collection, to new public transit infrastructure.

However, Sidewalk Labs has faced significant backlash over its evolving scope, governance structure, consultation processes, and data collection goals.

The Varsity spoke with several U of T experts to discuss the divisive proposal and how it may impact the university community.    

How Sidewalk Toronto got here

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Waterfront Toronto’s partnership with Sidewalk Labs in October 2017, alongside Toronto Mayor John Tory and then-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The original plan was to redevelop nearly 12 acres of land at Queens Quay East and Parliament Street. As the project developed over time, Sidewalk Labs argued for an increased scope, including the addition of a roughly 190-acre plot of land in the Port Lands as a new site for Google Canada’s headquarters. These changes were released last June in Sidewalk’s 1,500-page Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP).

When Waterfront Toronto agreed to proceed with the project on October 31, it did so with the condition that Sidewalk Labs considerably limit its MIDP.

Moving forward, Waterfront Toronto has agreed to continue holding consultations and negotiate plans until March 31, 2020, when the parties must formally approve the partnership. If approved at this phase, the proposal will still require additional approval from the City of Toronto.

U of T’s involvement with Sidewalk Toronto 

U of T has played a consultatory role on the Sidewalk Labs project to date. President Meric Gertler served on Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors from January 2017, until he was fired from this position on December 6, 2018, for unknown reasons. Former Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton also fired Waterfront Toronto chairpersons Helen Burstyn and Michael Nobrega alongside Gertler.

The firings followed a report by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, which criticized the board’s oversight structure and raised concerns about Waterfront Toronto’s initial proposal request process that may have favoured Alphabet over other applicants.

Several U of T professors and faculty members have participated in Sidewalk Toronto consultation processes and committees. One of them is Andrew Clement, Professor Emeritus from the Faculty of Information, who currently sits on Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel. When asked about his role on the panel, Clement wrote to The Varsity that he offers advice “on whether the digital aspects of Sidewalk Labs’ proposals achieve high standards of protecting and promoting the public interest.” 

Additionally, four U of T students — Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie, Paul Seufert, Carol Yeung, and Sharly Chan — participated in a Sidewalk Toronto Fellowship program in the summer of 2018. They explored urban issues around the globe and provided insights into the Sidewalk Toronto project.

In their final report, the 12 fellows issued a series of recommendations for Sidewalk Toronto’s consideration, including setting affordable housing targets, promoting data literary, and using data collection to “build community trust.”

While it’s not officially part of Sidewalk Toronto’s redevelopment, U of T has partnered with MaRS Discovery District to lease 24,000 square feet inside the Waterfront Innovation Centre, a technology- and business-driven venture at the city’s waterfront.

In response to a question about whether U of T supports the Sidewalk redevelopment, a U of T spokesperson wrote to The Varsity that the “university supports Waterfront Toronto in its ambition to turn Quayside into a sustainable smart neighbourhood. Collaborating with global partners in such endeavours helps ensure the city, the province and the country build experience and influence as world leaders.”

Other postsecondary institutions have officially partnered with Sidewalk Labs. On November 28, George Brown College announced its signature of a letter of intent to work with Sidewalk Labs on community programming initiatives.

Thoughts on the proposal

Mariana Valverde — a professor of criminology and sociolegal studies and member of #BlockSidewalk, an organization opposing Sidewalk Toronto — criticized Waterfront Toronto’s initial request-for-proposal (RFP) project.

Waterfront Toronto “issued a highly ambiguous document (RFP) that then allowed a Google company to propose a very vague but extremely ambitious plan that would require overturning any number of local laws and rules and would completely marginalize city departments and city democratic processes,” Valverde wrote to The Varsity.

Clement believes Sidewalk Toronto offers a unique opportunity to consider policy responses to smart city proposals. However, he cautioned against approving the project as it stands, noting that there has not been enough information or time to adequately debate Sidewalk Labs’ sweeping plans.

Shauna Brail, Associate Professor, Urban Studies Program and Associate Director, Partnerships & Outreach at the School of Cities, wrote to The Varsity that the proposal will most likely shift as it moves forward. “We’ve seen over the past 18 months that the plan is subject to change and will most certainly continue to change if it makes its way through the approval process.”

Ongoing criticisms of Sidewalk Toronto are its data collection processes and subsequent privacy implications. Clement reflected these concerns around privacy, noting the consequences of “a multitude of sensors capable of fine grained surveillance of individual behaviour.”

Alongside questions about data collection, Brail also highlighted concerns regarding the financial model and accessibility of the project, given that “the property is predominantly publicly owned, thus resulting in heightened public expectations.”

Valverde echoed these privacy concerns, while adding that there are issues with the urban development process of Sidewalk Toronto. “There are basic issues of democratic control over urban development, or rather the lack of it. Waterfront Toronto is not a democratic organization. It has no mechanism to be accountable to citizens,” she wrote.

Brail noted that some U of T researchers, faculty, and students are already benefiting from the Sidewalk Labs project through various consultation and scholarship opportunities. “If the proposal moves forward, there are likely to be additional opportunities, for instance in prototyping, experiential learning, and continued research and evaluation,” she wrote.

Civil and Mineral Engineering Assistant Professor Shoshanna Saxe — who has also written about the Sidewalk Labs project in The New York Times — wrote to The Varsity that the university can broadly benefit from studying Toronto as a “living lab.”

While acknowledging that Sidewalk Toronto could theoretically provide employment opportunities for researchers, Valverde put forward that “there has been little emphasis on hiring locally or using local tech companies, and we know that Google does buy tech inventions from all over, including Toronto, but the profits all go to the US, as does the intellectual property.”

Meanwhile, Rotman School of Management Professor and School of Cities Scholar in Residence Richard Florida is a vocal proponent of the Sidewalk Labs project. In an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail, Florida argued that Sidewalk Toronto demonstrates Canada’s potential in the high-tech development sector.

Disclaimer: Kaitlyn Simpson previously served as Volume 138 Features Editor and Volume 139 Managing Online Editor of The Varsity, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Varsity Publications Inc.

UTSG: Black Career Conference

Jointly hosted by the Black Students Association, BRC, and the National Society of Black Engineers, the Black Career Conference presents a day filled with workshops and networking with reps from across industries!

Five business podcasts to listen to on your commute

From How I Built This to Freakonomics Radio, this list has something for everyone

Five business podcasts to listen to on your commute

There are many podcasts on the market for listeners interested in business, economics, and entrepreneurship. The guests featured in some of these podcasts take you through their entrepreneurial journey, sharing their wins and missteps, or give aspiring entrepreneurs their best advice. If you’re looking for something to listen to on your commute or travels over winter break, check out this list.

Studio 1.0 from Bloomberg

Studio 1.0 by Bloomberg is what The New York Times is to politics, and what ESPN is to sports when it comes to technology and media influencers. Host Emily Chang interviews some of the most groundbreaking entrepreneurs and CEOs in technology and business.

The star-studded list of guests includes executives from YouTube, Uber, and Microsoft. The podcast also features founders of up-and-coming businesses, such as Eventbrite, GoPro, and Slack.

It gives listeners a front-row seat to a show where the biggest names in business share their stories and advice — except that you can listen to it from the comfort of your bed or on your commute to class.

How I Built This from National Public Radio

Ever wanted to read a business book on a famous million-dollar company, but you don’t want to spend the time to flip through the 400 pages of dense text? Look no further: National Public Radio’s How I Built This is the perfect solution. This show explains the origin stories of successful innovations and businesses without the hassle of carrying around a tome on the subway.

Condensed into 30-minute segments, host Guy Raz details what spurred the beginnings of now-famous companies. From Dyson appliances to Lärabar snacks, Raz never ceases to entertain the podcast’s listeners with his enthusiastic story-telling of capitalism’s greatest inventions, coupled with his charming exclamations at new and interesting facts.

Working from Slate

Working by Slate gives listeners a peek into a day in the life of Americans working in different careers and industries, one episode at a time. In this podcast, Slate asks working Americans the question: “How do you do your job?”

From attorneys to neurosurgeons, and from toy engineers to oyster farmers, this podcast visits workers in a range of fields.

Working gives listeners access to an honest presentation of what each career consists of in day-to-day routines and duties.

So for all of us doubting what career to journey into after U of T, Working provides valuable, first-hand insight into the careers that you are working toward, or inspires you to pursue a career that you haven’t considered yet.

Secrets of Wealthy Women from The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal’s Secrets of Wealthy Women brings into the spotlight a diverse group of successful women who have thrived in businesses that are traditionally dominanted by men. Host Veronica Dagher interviews women executives, advocates, and entrepreneurs to find out their secrets for success.

Dagher fosters an easy-going conversation with her guests and streamlines their most valuable advice, which they have learned over the course of their careers.

It is empowering to hear how women, and especially women of colour, have overcome obstacles on their paths to professional success. More than that, this podcast contributes to the important goal of making women role models accessible for young women aspiring to succeed in the same paths.

Freakonomics Radio from Stitcher

Confused about everyday economic concepts, like whether boycotts actually work, or how Spotify’s free music streaming makes money? Host and economist Stephen J. Dubner debunks it all in his podcast Freakonomics Radio.

Dubner, the co-author of the best-selling Freakonomics books, talks with Nobel Prize winners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs to explain these confusing economic concepts that lurk behind everyday activities.

Despite the complexity of the subjects discussed, Freakonomics Radio is conversational and digestible enough for listeners of all ages to understand.

Building a career out of a chemical engineering degree

U of T chapter of Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering hosts alumni career panel

Building a career out of a chemical engineering degree

The perennial question of what to do with one’s degree was answered in part for chemical engineering students at an alumni career panel last week. Alumni from U of T’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, who now work in fields ranging from biotechnology to environmental engineering, shared advice on how to apply their skills to business and building unique skill sets.

The Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering — University of Toronto Student Chapter hosted the event at the Haultain Building on November 27.

From graduate school to business development

Dr. Darren Rodenhizer, the Business Development and Partnerships Lead at the biotechnology startup AmacaThera, spoke about the value of earning a PhD in science.

He explained that his education has enabled him to develop a technical expertise with the firm’s products, which lets him speak “down in the weeds” with scientists about his firm’s offerings.

Beyond technical expertise, Rodenhizer also noted that his graduate studies taught him the skills to work in business without specifically studying the field.

“You’re going to learn how to tell data-driven stories, which are what many companies hiring today are looking for,” he said. “You’ll be able to collect and analyze data; it’s going to open up a whole new realm of job opportunities.”

However, Rodenhizer did note drawbacks of pursuing a PhD. For example, he said that graduate students could feel a lack of recognition for their work. “You’re going to extend your student living… for another five years. You’re not going to make very much money,” he added.

“And there’s a lot of publications coming out now [about] the mental health side effects of going to grad school,” he said. He recalled a study that found that graduate students in the US are at least three times more likely to experience mental health issues than the average American. This study was conducted on economics PhD students.

Making the leap to a career in industry

According to Cathy Grant, a Principal Consultant at C&S Grant Environmental Consulting, “Once you graduate, the hard part’s over.”

“You did all the hard slogging; you did all the technical stuff. And really what you walk away with is the ability to teach yourself what you need to know,” she said.

She noted that learning on the spot is a strong advantage, as there is a great deal of information that employees who start out in their respective fields need to learn that may not be taught in a traditional engineering degree program.

Grant also shared interview advice, noting that if you get nervous, it is helpful to reflect on the top three bits of information that you wish to convey.

“Always go into a situation thinking, ‘What do I want to say?’” she said. She also recommended preparing for general questions, such as why you think you’re qualified for the job.

Getting the most out of your undergraduate years

Firas Ghazali, a consultant at Deloitte, advised undergraduate students to make the most of their degrees.

Ghazali, while noting that his experiences might not be valid for everyone, recommended that students find time to build relationships with their colleagues during their studies. He also recommended that they schedule time to disconnect from their work and unwind.

“You need to disconnect so that you can restart that following week and keep going. This is not an easy program.”

“I would say [too much stress] is not worth it,” he said. “So try to balance your personal health and mental health… because it really is not that bad at U of T.”

Building a valuable skill set

Mark Angelo, the CEO of LMC Healthcare, spoke about his unconventional career path that took him from U of T as an undergraduate, to Harvard Business School, and finally to industry.

He also presented a list of takeaways for students interested in starting their careers.

“Try to keep your options open for as long as possible. Don’t close any doors until you’re forced to close them,” he said.

He also recommended having a “focused breadth.” To Angelo, that means having breadth in your skills, but also finding ways to take these divergent interests and synthesize them into a unique skill set.

Angelo, for example, studied engineering, health care, and social enterprise, and uses all three fields in his career.

“I think that gives you a competitive advantage. It allows you to be unique in what you do, because anyone can do maybe one of those three things, but there [are few] people who have maybe done all of those three things and combined them.”

He recommends that students reflect on three or four passions and build a unique skill set from them.

To embark on a career path, Angelo endorsed pursuing what makes you happy. “Trust your gut. Get feedback and input from others; it’s your life, and it’s your happiness.”

“Go out there and do what makes you come alive,” he said. “Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Going beyond the degree

U of T students share career insights with peers, one episode at a time

Going beyond the degree

Finding accessible and honest career advice can be a challenge.

Beyond the Degree, a podcast hosted by U of T students Angad Arneja, Talal Fahoum, Tate Claggett, and Max Baevsky, tackles this issue head-on.

Launched in September, the podcast features interviews with U of T alumni who have gone on to build successful careers in industries like finance, technology, and human resources.

Less talking, more recording

Arneja, Fahoum, Claggett, and Baevsky wasted no time bringing their idea into fruition.

“I was sitting with a few friends during dinner and we were talking about this other podcast, a similar student podcast, and I got the idea of doing a podcast where we interview U of T alumni,” Fahoum, a second-year math and statistics student, commented.

Fahoum shared his idea with Arneja, Claggett, and Baevsky, and within two weeks, the four students bought equipment and invited their first guest. Natural networkers, Arneja and Fahoum made valuable connections in their first year that they felt compelled to share through this podcast.

“We thought that we were learning so much through these coffee chats, so [we] might as well invite these people and record them so everyone else at U of T, thousands of people, can benefit from this instead of just us,” said Arneja, a second-year Rotman Commerce student.

During each 40-minute episode, the guests share their career path and offer practical advice, like networking tips or how to make the best of U of T’s services, like the Career Learning Network.

Learning on the job

While the team works well together and learns from each episode, the process was not always so seamless.

“Before you start working on something, it just feels a little daunting,” Arneja said on launching the podcast.

According to Arneja, he sometimes felt intimidated hosting the podcast during the first few episodes, but soon realized that the guests were all once students as well.   

“They were also a U of T student at some point and so it was just learning how to speak more informally and how to connect with the guest,” Arneja said.

A personal touch

Beyond the Degree brings U of T students insight from professionals who can demonstrate that the path to success is anything but linear.

“Learning the ins and outs of a specific role or job and learning how to sort of pave your way to that role is a much different experience [when] hearing it from someone who’s been in your shoes rather than at some career center, a networking event, or anything like that,” Fahoum said.

The podcast featured a diverse group of guests, ranging from computer scientists to entrepreneurs.

“I think short-term goals include trying to get people from many different areas,” Arneja remarked.

Fahoum explained that the team chooses guests based on their personal story or journey. For example, in their most recent episode, U of T alum Savana Elsays discusses switching into an human resources career at SnapTravel after earning a degree in life sciences.

Through hosting Beyond the Degree, Fahoum and Arneja have also learned about different business practices.

Fahoum advises founders to find a good team to work with: “It’s important to do it with the right people.”

With respect to starting a new venture, Arneja said that, “The most important piece of advice that I would give is don’t spend too much time just talking about [doing] things.”

The Fields Institute announces its latest startup incubator cohort

From artificial intelligence to genomic engineering, these four startups are fast-tracking mathematical innovation

The Fields Institute announces its latest startup incubator cohort

The Fields Institute Centre for Quantitative Analysis and Modelling announced its partnerships with four Toronto-based startups in September: Agnostiq, Clientelligent, Syndemedic, and Tesseraqt. The centre, comprised of 11 laboratories, aims “to solve real-world problems in science and technology while training the next generation of innovators.”

Agnostiq uses quantum computing to protect client data

Agnostiq, an enterprise security company, is building software that enables users to store their data over a quantum cloud.

Quantum computing can be considered the next stage of innovation in computing. In classical computing, information is stored in bits — the smallest unit of data in a computer — that are represented as one of two binary states.

On the other hand, quantum computers store information as quantum bits, which allows information to be represented in an infinite number of states.

This means that quantum computers can perform extremely complex calculations, which classical computers would not be able to execute, and even break encryption.

Large banks and enterprises are migrating to cloud-based servers to handle “complex workloads” but the cloud environment is vulnerable to attacks, according to Elliot MacGowan, a co-founder of Agnostiq.

“The problem with that is that the cloud environment itself is public,” said MacGowan.

Companies gain a computational advantage by sending workloads to the cloud, but “lose out on security.” Agnostiq creates another layer of encryption in order to allow users to work with their data to ensure that “nobody can listen in or understand what you’re doing.”

Clientelligent used artificial intelligence to predict client behaviour

As a former financial services executive, Darren Cabral, the CEO of Clientelligent, found it challenging to effectively engage with clients and retain them in the investment and wealth management industry.

Cabral co-founded Clientelligent, which applies artificial intelligence (AI) to anticipate client needs and preferences and provide them with more personalized experiences, thus allowing financial companies to grow.

AI can have a transformative effect on corporations, but they often don’t know where to begin or how to implement it, noted Cabral.

Clientelligent “brings to the table a full service, start to finish,” said Cabral. The startup helps companies explore their existing data and use them to attract clients. The startup is now working with various established financial institutions and hopes to recruit new talent through the Fields Institute.

Syndemedic applied math to drug discovery

The cost of researching and developing a new drug can be expensive, and it can take decades to bring a single new drug to the market. Add to this the fact that the failure rate of molecules found through traditional trials is over 90 per cent, and the costs of development quickly pile up.

“Oftentimes you don’t realize that [a] new, very exciting potential cure for Alzheimer’s isn’t going to work until you spend almost a billion dollars on it,” said Mclean Edwards, CEO of Syndemedic.

Syndemedic uses drug design algorithms in computer systems to simulate molecular processes, predicting the side effects and various performance of drugs in development before clinical testing.

This software could help researchers select more effective compounds and could better inform researchers on whether a particular compound will pass clinical testing.

The startup is now working with pharmaceutical research groups to find high-quality compounds that can go through the stream.

Tesseraqt hopes to eliminate side-effects of CRISPR genome engineering

CRISPR, a gene-editing technique, is considered “the holy grail in genome engineering,” said Erno Wienholds, co-founder of Tesseraqt.

However, as a new and upcoming technique, it still comes with many risks, potential side-effects, and off-target effects.

To offset these risks, Tesseraqt uses mathematical systems to predict the outcomes of CRISPR-based genetic modification procedures. While the prototype is still being optimized, Tesseraqt hopes to partner with regenerative medicine companies to develop CRISPR-based gene therapies or manufacture drugs.

UTM plans for five capital construction projects

Enrollment growth, research goals prompted need for new infrastructure

UTM plans for five capital construction projects

The UTM Campus Council announced plans for new and ongoing capital construction projects for the 2019–2020 academic year on October 2.

Of the $274.5 million net operating budget of 2019–2020, $44.6 million will be allocated toward capital construction projects.

The Arts, Culture & Technology (ACT) Building; Robotics Lab Environment; a new residence building; and the Annex are in early planning stages, while construction for the Science Building is expected to begin later this fall.

“[The] Annex will be a new modular building located beside our current Academic Annex… and will house Campus Police and Hospitality Services,” Chief Administrative Officer Saher Fazilat wrote in an email to The Varsity.

According to Fazilat, $41.5 million out of $44.6 million will go toward the proposed ACT Building, and the remaining $3.1 million to “a project in [the] Davis [Building].”

The proposed ACT Building will house several departments, like the Institute for Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, Computer Science, Robotics, and units like the Blackwood Gallery and the Indigenous Centre.

According to Fazilat, the proposed construction projects are a response to enrollment growth.

UTM plans for a five per cent undergraduate enrollment growth by the 2022–2023 academic year, according to the Planning and Budget Office’s 2018 Enrolment Report.

14,544 full-time undergraduate students are enrolled in full-time studies at UTM this year, a 630 student increase from the office’s projected enrollment goals for UTM.

New intake of full-time undergraduate students “won’t increase over fall 2019 levels,” wrote Fazilat.

Yet, this increase has prompted a need for more student spaces, like a new residence building.

“There are very few available residence spaces for upper-year students and fewer still for graduate students,” wrote Fazilat.

Fazilat also wrote that the proposed construction projects aim “to enhance our research agenda.”

Jessica Burgner-Kahrs, Director of Continuum Robotics Laboratory, has been working with UTM to plan the proposed Robotics Lab Environment since she was hired in June.

“Having a building that had our needs in mind from the beginning will be transformational, so [that] our robotics program can really be the best and the biggest in Canada,” said Burgner-Kahrs in an interview with The Varsity. “And that will be great for UTM and U of T in general.”

The Science Building, “one of the largest capital projects at U of T,”  will house the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, wet research laboratories, the Research Computing Data Centre, offices for science departments, and space for facilities support.

Upward of $20 million in funding for the Science Building was approved by the Governing Council in 2017.

The building will be located between the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex and the Davis Building, and is expected to be completed by 2023.

Honeybee app: a hub to find research study participants in Toronto

Company co-founded by recent U of T alumni, helps students earn cash for participation

Honeybee app: a hub to find research study participants in Toronto

Honeybee, an online platform whose app will soon be released to the public, aims to create a central hub that will attract and incentivize people to participate in research studies in Toronto.

Just six months after the startup’s initial launch, co-founders and U of T alumni Catherine Chan and Weiwei Li have extensively expanded upon the company. They plan to launch the official app on November 7.   

The concept behind Honeybee

While pursuing her Master of Science at U of T’s Department of Nutrition, Chan continuously struggled to recruit participants for her research study. “I [had] exhausted all social media channels trying to recruit people… and I only got half of the people that I needed,” Chan explained in an interview with The Varsity.

She elaborated further, explaining that the delay had compromised her research data and said it was a massive waste of resources, because she had spent more time trying to recruit participants than actually performing the study.

Unfortunately, Chan’s circumstances are not unique. She noted that clinical trials are often terminated around the globe due to insufficient participant recruitment.

Chan immediately saw an urgency for a solution to this problem. That’s when Chan had the idea of Honeybee, an online platform where researchers could post their studies in search of participants, and participants could easily search for studies that they were eligible for.

During the end of her graduate degree, Chan took a week off from writing her thesis to pitch her idea to the Impact Centre’s Techno entrepreneurship program, where she was ultimately rewarded a microfinancing grant. Chan then went on to receive multiple other business grants targeted toward young entrepreneurs.

Li joined Chan as a full-time co-founder, shortly after graduating with his Master of Applied Science from U of T’s Department of Materials Science & Engineering.

How does Honeybee work?

Many of the current ways to discover research studies are through government-affiliated or institution-specific websites. In an interview with The Varsity, Li said that these websites can sometimes be “intimidating,” and often lack a friendly user interface.

A lack of awareness of the resources is another issue. According to its co-founders, Honeybee aims to combat this by building a community feeling and a centralized space for research studies across various disciplines.

Specifically, Honeybee wants to make sure that participating in research studies is easy and accessible. The company aims to take extensive measures to ensure informed consent in order to make participants feel that the researchers are being transparent.

“Sometimes people feel [like] a guinea pig of research, but [that’s] really not the case,” Chan explained. “We are working with a research ethics board coordinator [from Unity Health Toronto], who is our company advisor.”

A useful feature of Honeybee is its anonymous request process. Participants can join the service without disclosing their name or email, and access anonymous chats where they can freely speak to researchers without exposing their identities.

The future for Honeybee

The Honeybee app launches next month, and, according to its co-founders, is the first of its kind to market in Canada. Currently, Honeybee lists over 20 research studies, and has connected them to more than 100 participants, according to Li.

Chan explained that they “really want to grow in the city that [they’ve] built the product in.” As such, Honeybee will be focusing on expanding in the Toronto research community before anywhere else.

In the near future, Honeybee plans to include the implementation of artificial intelligence and natural language processing in order to optimize search options, according to Chan.

Another one of the co-founders’ goals is to support U of T students. As such, they’re beginning to bring on various students, including one from U of T’s Impact Centre Entrepreneurship course IMC392, who will earn course credit while accumulating work experience, according to Chan.

How can students earn money and gift cards with Honeybee?

Honeybee represents a great opportunity to earn extra cash, Starbucks gift cards, and even rewards such as free fitness trackers — all while meaningfully contributing to U of T and engaging in the research community, according to Chan and Li.

The search function is designed to be user-friendly and free for participants. To promote student engagement, Honeybee further plans to have their mascot active around St. George campus, and also engage with students on Twitter and Instagram.