The ROEB Experimentation Incubator is a mindset and approach that allows ideas to become concepts and eventually production ready products, with the intent of realizing benefits not only for the problem being solved, but for all of ROEB. It is not a physical place with equipment and solutions ready to be leveraged or applied. Instead, it is a collection of people with the desire to solve problems through collaboration and community learning. It is a critical aspect of ROEB's Digital Transformation agenda. The following is a snapshot of the current experiments in progress.
ROEB EHP-ON, the Transformation Office and the Canada School of Public Service are collaborating on a project under the Solutions Fund to explore the effectiveness and feasibility of game-based learning digital solutions as a tool to increase awareness and motivate behaviour change about environmental health hazards amongst youth. Digital solution technologies under examination include web-based applications, 360o 3D video production, augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed-reality. The effectiveness of a solution considers user engagement and behaviour change, and feasibility is evaluated based on financial costs, accessibility and learning resource supports. The project adopts a human-centred design approach which optimizes system development by focusing on user needs. Methods involve a review of literature and identification of market trends on game-based learning, consultation with behavioural specialists regarding behaviour change measurement, and facilitated group discussions with stakeholders on digital solutions. The assessment will provide suggestions on game-based learning designs and platforms for new and improved outreach to youth.
Project Cipher is a Solutions Fund project to explore and test artificial intelligence to create a new tool that has the ability to automatically risk rate and apply the appropriate section of the regulations to inspection observations, and provide a recommended overall compliance rating to GMP inspections and foreign evidence reviews. This will improve inspection processes by improving the consistency in risk rating observations, and improving the consistency in the assignment of Compliant & Non-Compliant ratings to drug establishments.
Stream I of Project Cipher (Explore the Problem) proposed to conduct an in-depth analysis to examine the value of applying Artificial Intelligence to the corpus of data, in an attempt to leverage the results to support risk based (and predictive) decision making.
Stream II (Experimentation/Testing) was focused on improving inspection processes by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning. This includes building and developing a machine learning tool for compliance and enforcement staff to assist them making risk based decisions and compliment the work these people do on a daily basis.
The current label review process is tireless, tedious and time-consuming. The process can have more than 10 long manual steps. An inspector can spend hours reviewing multiple pieces of information on a label, such as medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients, dosage, and claims and risk information comparing that to the licence issued by Health Canada. Such inspections are highly repetitive and require very precise focus and attention to details.
Steam I was a beginning stage into exploring various options and elements that would be necessary for developing a minimal viable product to be built in order for the solution to deliver the provided result. Steam I first goal was to undertake a feasibility study, identify challenges, options analysis and a Proof of Concept (PoC) model.
Stream II first focused on the development of machine learning models, following by the development of the solution pipeline that can incorporate the 4 key areas of focus. The solution pipeline includes the privacy design approach to development, rules governed by statutory constraints with inspections enabled by telecommunications, data source integration and automation, and UX design.
Inspired by the popular Magic 8 Ball fortune telling ball, Project 8Ball was created to leverage the technology developed in Project Cyclops to develop a user-friendly mobile application that will be used as a support tool for regulatory decisions on at the border. Project 8Ball is utilizing existing technology to expand the scope of Project Cyclops to apply existing technology to focus on cosmetics. This tool will allow Government of Canada employees to have relevant and tailored information at their fingertips (see icon mock-ups in design process). The mobile application will include automatic label reference tool to detect cosmetic ingredients from the Restricted and Prohibited Hotlist to assist inspectors when making admissibility decisions at the border. As well, have capabilities to generate reports that may be used by inspectors for detailed documentation, compliance promotion, outreach, education, and future surveillance.
The labelling and packaging requirements under the Tobacco Products Regulations (Plain and Standardized Appearance)TPR (PSA) and the Tobacco Products Labelling Regulations (Cigarettes and Little Cigars)TPLR are prescriptive, detailed, and require significant time and resource investment to be completed by an inspector. The project is exploring the ability to perform this type of analysis via automation would significantly improve efficiency, reliability and consistency of analysis outcomes.
The objectives of the tobacco product packaging requirements under the TPR (PSA) and the TPLR are to:
- protect young persons and others from inducements to use tobacco products and the consequent dependence on them;
- prevent the public from being deceived or misled with respect to the health hazards of using tobacco products; and
- enhance public awareness of the health hazards of using tobacco products.
A project by the Cannabis Directorate – to explore virtual inspections using experimentation strategies related to IT Tools projects for conducting inspections using the powers of telecommunication. This project will explore the feasibility of using new technologies to conduct virtual inspections with the aim of replacing certain physical inspections or some of the steps of physical inspections. The project proposes that through innovation in the tools and processes to support virtual inspection, the greater the success in implementing virtual inspections across a broad spectrum of compliance & enforcement activities.
Rapid Identification of Visible Impurity by FTIR Spectroscopy
Project Hummingbird is a ROEB Digital Transformation initiative supported by Health Canada's Solutions Fund. The goal was to test the value of data acquired through satellites and drones to enhance inspections involving outdoor cannabis licence holders. The core technology tested as part of the experiment is called “remote sensing,” but the goal of the experiment was to understand, test, and showcase opportunities that went beyond the science or the technology. The experiment included components of infrastructure, legal frameworks, ethics, operationalization, cost and other considerations. The experiment began in 2019 through a Solutions Fund Stream I. It expects to closeout the Stream II portion of the experiment in June 2021, but the project was approved for continuation within the ROEB Cannabis Directorate.
Project Helix is testing the ability to leverage Bitcoin e-wallets to enabling online health product sampling to aid compliance verification. The regional programs in HPCRM are looking to use a single e-wallet (loaded with an initial allotment of $500 and refilled as needed) to allow for sample purchasing from companies only allowing cryptocurrency transactions. After 6 months (or longer), we will assess the results of the experiment to determine long term feasibility.
All regions in HPCE purchase samples from various online vendors (can up to $7500/year) using credit cards and other online accounts. Online vendors are becoming more creative in the mechanisms in which online products are purchased, often times only allowing cryptocurrencies as the only transaction method (percentage of ‘cryptocurrency only’ online models are growing). Without an e-wallet allowing for cryptocurrency transactions to target these online retailers and improve the inspectors discreet status, Health Canada risks potentially unauthorised/counterfeit health products entering the Canadian market. This enhanced capability allows Health Canada to make these sample purchases whereas otherwise we could not, in a discreet, traceable manner to allow for effective compliance and enforcement action. This additional functionality would be an add-on to the current C&E toolbox our compliance verification inspectors currently utilise, especially in this pandemic environment (online sales have increased).
Project Iris is looking to leverage “Chatbot” technology to create opportunities by improving the methods used when responding to inquiries. In 2019, ROEB participated in a Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP by PSPC and TBS) experiment to qualify a chatbot technology with our corporate partners at IMSD, specifically Help Desk. From the learnings of this experiment, ROEB is looking to apply the technology to how it manages inquiries from external stakeholders. The project is planning explore options with the Consumer Products Safety Program to incorporate as part of their inquiries modernization project.
The legal framework for regulating vaping products aims to protect young persons from nicotine addiction and e-cigarette use, while allowing adults access to vaping products as a less harmful alternative to smoking tobacco. Recent evidence, however, shows a significant increase in young Canadians taking up vaping, and that youth who use e-cigarettes with nicotine may become addicted and are at increased risk of becoming smokers. Project Kelpie is a Solutions Fund project to improve current methods to identify and track digital ads, viral marketing campaigns, giveaways, and lifestyle promotions is needed to stop the rapid rise of youth vaping within Canada.
Improve the average turnaround time for testing and reporting of NHPs submitted for routine testing, including hand sanitizers and products that require screening for undeclared ingredients, to 2-3 weeks, thus increasing the capacity of the laboratory and enabling inspectors to make prompt and effective decisions and publish evaluation results for public awareness.
Project Sia is proposing to explore the science of data integration, validate the data and its potential, and test the methodology that integrates data for meaningful storytelling. If successful, it will be a key component to adopt within our risk-based framework to support decision making; but first we need to learn and build the skills to allow our programs to leverage and exploit multi-faceted data. Only then will ROEB be in position in assigning the appropriate resources to targeted proven areas of highest risk regulated parties, products and substances to ensure that compliance monitoring and enforcement are applied with greater precision. There is a need to increase integration and consistency to inform decisions within and between programs.
Project Sparrow is one of ROEB's Transformation initiative which started in April 2021. The project aims to create 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. We are currently in a research phase - defining the problem statement and scope, as well as discover what other partners have done in this space. The project anticipates taking my pivots as new information is discovered.
To access status updates or presentations related to these projects, please visit our team repo.