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In a world where milliseconds matter, research is king
Okanagan College Media Release

WTFast_YK_Mar2016Already a leader in its niche in the multi-billion dollar global gaming industry, Kelowna’s WTFast sees a track to growth, with applied research as a vital component of the fuel to take it there.

That is one of the reasons the company, a private gaming network provider, is matching an investment by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in an Okanagan College research project that aims to improve action-to-reaction communication for gamers across the world. Each of the three organizations are contributing to the $750,000 project which is led by Okanagan College Computer Science department Chair Dr. Youry Khmelevsky.

WTFast is already making strides in providing optimum real-time communication for gamers with its Gamers Private Networks (GPN). In that world a network delay, as small as 48 milliseconds (less than half of one-tenth of a second), can be the winning difference between a player and his opponent.

“The internet is very dynamic and complex. With improved automated network intelligence results, we anticipate we can more than triple our daily active users by providing a fast, reliable and secure GPN across the globe,” says WTFast CEO Robert Bartlett.

Bolstering the region’s tech sector prominence, the project will pursue ongoing research on improving speed, connectivity, and security of GPNs. It was awarded a $225,000 NSERC Applied Research and Development Grant Level 2. WTFast contributed an additional $450,000 to the research: $225,000 in funding, and further in-kind resources in the form of employee work hours and equipment use valued at approximately $225,000. Okanagan College also invested time release for the professors involved and technological resources worth $75,000. The funding will be disbursed over three years.

“Receiving this significant funding is validation at the national level of the work done to date and also demonstrates the tremendous support from local industry,” says Khmelevsky. “Gaming’s popularity is only increasing. This project will certainly help WTFast and the gaming industry and also helps put Okanagan College on the same playing field as leading worldwide universities and technology institutes who are conducting instrumental industry-shaping research.”

Five Okanagan College students from the Computer Information Systems (bachelor and diploma) and the Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technology diploma programs will work on the research, giving them relevant and valuable experience. Beyond their demanding program course loads, students in these research positions will be engaged for 15 hours a week, and then full-time during summer term.

“Hiring these students provides them the obvious financial benefit while they pursue post-secondary education, but the greatest benefit is that it gives them the opportunity to see the immediate application of their skills and knowledge learned in class,” says Khmelevsky.

In addition to the students and Khmelevsky, Okanagan College Professor Scott Fazackerley, as well as a consultant in France and WTFast employees will all contribute to the research in meaningful ways.

For Bartlett, working with the College to provide relevant industry experience and support curriculum development that keeps up with current demands is essential.

“Investing in the research was an easy choice. We are getting the opportunity to help shape future high-tech employees for WTFast and other local companies, and it’s a partnership that ensures students are getting skills and experience that will help them in the real world upon graduation,” says Bartlett.

“We are keen to support faculty in their applied research projects that will better serve students, communities, and industry. This is a key direction for the College,” says Dr. Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President Education. “On behalf of the College I congratulate Dr. Khmelevsky on having his research recognized prominently and anticipate a tremendous impact that it will have both on the students’ learning experience at the College, and the industry as a whole.”

This is the second level of funding for the research project. In 2014 Khmelevsky received a $25,000 grant from NSERC and in-kind support from WTFast to launch the research.