Today’s regulatory landscape is complex and continually evolving, through rapid scientific innovation, technological advances and global supply chains. ROEB is committed to modernizing and transforming its compliance and enforcement approach to become more agile, assertive, consistent, innovative, proactive and risk-based. Digital Transformation is large part of this commitment and directs and coordinates transformation efforts across ROEB’s compliance and enforcement programs.
The Transformation Office was established to both support and lead this transformation movement by collaborating with compliance and enforcement programs to curate the mindset critical for change. As part of this movement, the Transformation Office, in collaboration with many divisions and programs within ROEB and beyond, is testing and applying novel technologies to advance compliance and enforcement into the digital era.
For an overview of the tools currently being used by each program area to support their work while working virtually, visit ROEB Virtual Tools.
Technology Being Tested
For a quick glance at the experiments ROEB is conducting, please visit the ROEB Incubator.
Natural Language Processing (Artificial Intelligence):
There are several projects testing Natural Language Processing (NLP) to support uses cases within ROEB. Project Cipher is a prime example of this technology to support the inspection programs. Project Cipher began as a Solutions Fund project to test the technology applied to inspection observations to create an automated process to assign risk to each observation and other business process requirements critical within many inspection programs (for example: assignment of "Standard Lines"). Project Cyclops also uses NLP to interpret and classify extracted text from Natural Health Product labels.
Robotics & Remote Sensing (Drones and Satellites)
As part of a Solutions Fund project called Hummingbird, ROEB has been testing data collected using drones and satellites to assess value when applied to outdoor cannabis inspections. To find out more, please visit the Hummingbird repository.
Computer Vision (Artificial Intelligence):
Project Cyclops, a ROEB Solutions Fund project, leverages computer vision to detect and interpret text in images via optical character recognition. This technology supports checking instances of non-compliance in natural health project labels examined by inspectors. Other projects like Drab are also exploring computer vision to support the tobacco label inspection process.
There are many plans to leverage Virtual Reality (VR) technology to support both inspection training and outreach / education activities ROEB is responsible for. Preliminary research is being conducted to further examine this technology. An example, Project Apollo created a VR tool to create a learning environment to public consumption.
Augmented Reality (mixed reality):
Augmented Reality is a type of immersive technology that overlays digital information in an analogue environment. Project Cyclops is a project that has plans to leverage this technology to support virtual inspections or tools to automate inspections.
Social Media Monitoring (Artificial Intelligence):
Data Lakes (Data Sharing):
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI):
Those attempting to sell illicit products online can employ filters on their websites to redirect traffic from government servers to an alternate website that is compliant with the Acts and Regulations. In addition, they can use trackers that detect when a government server has attempted to access their website, giving them the opportunity to hide any non-compliant products prior to an inspection.
In the past, some programs got around this by using standalone workstations located in a few locked offices that were connected to an off-grid network (Rogers/Bell), rather than the government network. This solution was not ideal, however, as it required inspectors to download and print the necessary information for their inspections prior to transitioning them to their workstations. As well, many inspectors were not located in these select offices, which meant they had to rely on another inspector to conduct their inspection activities.
The virtual workstations being tested are accessible from any departmental computers through web browser. The goal is for these workstations to allow inspectors to visit websites without being identified as being on a government network, and also make it easier to acquire and use tools that can be used for monitoring compliance of the online marketplace, such as web-scrapers and browser extensions.
Geographic Information Systems:
There is a growing need to incorporate geospatial information as part of the analyses conducted by many ROEB inspection programs. The Transformation Office is examining GIS technology to support various data augmentation needs. Project Sia is examining GIS platforms to integrate data to inform Compliance & Enforcement decisions using map-based visualization tools. Example technology: ArcGIS StoryMaps
There are many web scraping initiatives currently exploring various open or closed source technologies. Project Sparrow is a project exploring a digital library of online data enabled by web scraping technologies of emerging health products, techniques, technology, processes, trends etc, for the purpose of informing Compliance &Enforcement decisions
Project Iris is examining if a continuously learning, automated central system (Chatbot) for incoming inquiries for all ROEB is appropriate and feasible.
Technology Being Piloted
Low Code / No Code Automation
POD-TBI is currently leveraging low-code development to build software applications faster by reducing the need to code by as much as 95%. With a low-code application development platform, one can use visual development tools—such as drag-and-drop modelers and point-and-click interface creation—to enable the rapid creation, deployment, and maintenance of powerful business apps. By reducing development time, projects can be delivered at significantly lower costs. Appian is the platform currently being employed to transform business applications used by five inspection programs within ROEB.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Government of Canada’s digital transformation initiatives are enabled by Robotic Process Automation as it can be applied to many manual, time consuming and repetitive processes without heavy or complex integration & development efforts, enabling departments and agencies to quickly and cost effectively deliver business efficiencies. Whether processes within finance, HR, IT, or in front line programs and service delivery business lines, RPA provides an automation platform that is very re-usable across the enterprise, is easy to use, very open and highly scalable and secure. ROEB is currently piloting several options to leverage RPA.
- Pilot with UiPath (Medical Device)
- Pilot with Blueprism (ALR)
- Technology assessment/Options Analysis and procurement
- References and file repository
POD-TBI is currently experimenting with “SceneDoc” application, a Digital Notebook solution created and designed with regulatory officers and their needs in mind. This mobile software fills many of the gaps that currently exist for ROEB C&E inspectors in the field, including their ability to effectively and efficiently collect, track, and store information from an inspection using smartphone or tablet. The SceneDoc – Digital Notebook would also provide a solution for extracting digital content, such as pictures, video and other multimedia from smartphones.
Technology Being Used
VidCruiter is a solution for conducting certain inspection activities remotely, by enabling the secure sharing of audio, video, and documents in real-time (up to Protected B). VidCruiter is a versatile platform, which allows users to schedule live video meetings with others (similar to Webex), during which you’re able to share screen, chat, and send/receive documents securely.
There was interest in this type of solution prior to COVID-19, however the need became much more pressing as a result of travel and safety restrictions. Following an analysis of program needs, VidCruiter was identified as a viable solution, as it had already been assessed for use with Protected B information, and had already been used within the Department for HR processes. Our other available tools do not meet the security requirements; WebEx is available for unclassified conversations only, and while MS Teams is available for internal HC/PHAC conversations at the Protected B level, any MS Teams meetings that include external participants are considered unclassified and should only include unclassified discussions and documents.
VidCruiter was piloted by Good Pharmacovigilance Practices (GVP) and Health Products Inspection and Licensing (HPIL) in Q3/Q4 2020. Other programs have now started to be onboarded.