By Anna Guy
Did you know that two out of every three aircrafts take off and land using Thales equipment? Or that most e-commerce transactions are kept safe because of Thales technology? Thales impacts our daily lives by providing technology that makes our world work better, safer, and more secure.
It’s hard to imagine what Canada would look like without Thales Canada. The Canadian branch of the French multinational company not only contributes half a billion dollars to the Canadian economy every year, it employs 1,800 people in its sites in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.
But it’s not only the measure of Thales’ economic contribution that makes it one of the country’s most vital companies, but the impact it makes on the safety of our daily lives.
Thales’ main focus in Canada is Transportation, Defence and Security, and Avionics sectors. Through its Quebec City’s world-class Research and Technology centre, Thales develops hi-tech solutions at the forefront of the company’s expertise in critical systems. In fact, Thales Canada is one of the Top 100 research and development investors in Canada. And even with substantial domestic input, its export sheet is even stronger.
Focusing on improved operational efficiency and passenger services, Thales’ world-leading Communications-based train control (CBTC) and interlocking, automated revenue collection, and integrated communications and supervision systems (IC2S) are applied to mass rail transit applications globally.
Approximately half of Thales’ Canadian portfolio is dedicated to Transportation. “Thales Canada has a big base of operation in Toronto as well as in Vancouver, as our transportation-related facilities,” says Mark Halinaty, President & CEO, Thales Canada Inc. Thales is the product centre for Communication-based train control, or CBTC, which is an advanced railway signalling system that produces high performance and highly automated systems for subways and metros. Thales has a long history developing CBTC, and was one of the early pioneers with SelTrac (the name under which Thales markets CBTC technology) was Vancouver’s Sky Train network—the longest fully automated driverless system in the world—and the Scarborough RT in Toronto. The fully-automated trains on grade separated trains allows commuters consistent on-time reliability and safety.
“We have grown this technology and we export it around the world,” continues Halinaty. “We are supplying it on a number of lines in London Underground, Hong Kong MTR system, and for transportation systems in Dubai, Mecca, Doha, and China, to name a few. It is very much a global business we continue to supply here in Canada.”
Particularly in cities with existing infrastructure, like London, whose Underground is the world’s oldest (having opened in 1863), the upgrade saves new infrastructure from being built.
“The impact is obviously cost saving for the customer,” says Siegfried Usal, Vice President, Strategy, Research and Technology. “Through software and systems, you are able to build efficiencies by optimizing energy usage and minimizing the cost while having more throughput. It is also environmentally friendly because it is all about software—not adding costly trains and other systems.”
Defence and Security
For more than 50 years, Thales Canada has been a major supplier and a long-term partner to DND, enabling the Canadian Armed Forces to work with optimum safety and information. As a Prime Contractor and systems integrator for defence and security in Canada, Thales delivers world-class products like sensors radars and sonars, as well as is the primary supplier of developed command control systems.
More recently involved in Canadian National Shipbuilding Strategy, Thales is partnering with Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards (VSY) electronic system integration for joint support for both the Navy and Coast Guard vessels. This role encompasses the design, development, integration and installation activities for all communications, navigation, command and surveillance, bridge systems and the mission packages onboard the non-combat ships.
“Our real added value is the software that runs all of the algorithms that then takes that information and turns it into decision-making information that the commander can use in a real-time situation,” says Halinaty. “At the core of the system, our software takes data and information then digests it, comes up with solutions, and allows the commands to be distributed as well.
“Functionally, the electronic system integration is the brain of any system,” says Usal. “To understand Thales is to understand that any platform (be it an aircraft, ship, satellite or army battle system) can be equipped with sensors on board that can analyze input and optimize output. Thales is deploying the brain of each of these unique systems, and these sensors and algorithm to provide information to the user.”
Thales is a renowned leading supplier of avionics and fly-by-wire solutions for all major regional and business aircraft manufacturers. Thales brings together the latest robust technologies to design world-class secure, easy to use interactive cockpits and avionics systems.
Drawing from extensive experience in civil and business aircrafts, helicopters, military aircrafts and UAVs, Thales’ innovative ‘supported-through-life’ strategies maximise the efficiency of aircraft and the way they are operated.
Thales products, technologies and services are always the same from a concept standpoint: data and technology employed to best serve the user, and created efficiencies for optimized safety and security.
Cost reduction, less harm to the environment, safety, intelligence, connectivity: the digital age has brought us unprecedented advantages, which Thales has harnessed with abundant innovation. With a deep understanding of the capabilities of digital infrastructure comes the correlated understanding of the risk and vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure to information in cyberspace, from classified information to point-of-sale purchases and international financial transactions.
“We’ve discussed the potential for data to be used in multiple applications for safety in flight, transportation and defence, but the vulnerability of that information is growing as well,” says Halinaty. “Providing cybersecurity becomes more and more important. You see breaches in it every day in the news.”
“Thales’ unique specialty is to master both environments—the information technology and the operation technology environment,” says Usal. “We have domain expertise in trains, aircrafts, ships, and vehicles and we understand how the IT (Information Technology) and the OT (Operational Technology) worlds marry together. And when discussing cybersecurity for those physical systems, Thales has expertise in both. It is part of our DNA.”
“Safety is our raison d’être,” says Usal. It is the common thread throughout all of Thales’ divisions. “We don’t supply airplanes, trains, or vehicles, digital infrastructure—we supply the intelligence inside them. And the link is that it is all safety critical in those different aspects,” says Halinaty.
Everyday the men and women of Thales Canada work hard to deliver security solutions for Canadians’ digital and physical security. Continual innovation, Usal and Halinaty hint at something in the pipeline—to be revealed later in the year—that will be huge, even for Thales. We will be sure to let you know once that happens.