Meet our 10 finalists


Derek Jacoby


After a decade studying speech recognition at Microsoft Research, Derek Jacoby returned to school and graduated from the University of Victoria with a PhD in 2016. Along the way he founded the Victoria Makerspace, a member-operated shared space where people come together and collaborate while sharing tools, resources and knowledge.


How is your project "smart" and aligned to the themes of Smart South Island?

The opiate epidemic is spreading from the inner city to the suburbs. To get resources to those that need them the most, we need smart tools to connect people who have overdose kits, with those that need them. Using apps and cloud services to do so we can save lives.


How was the final concept determined?

I arranged naloxone training for Victoria Makerspace a year ago, and nobody at that training has used a kit, but I know that I've probably been within a hundred meters of someone overdosing many times. When we set down to consider the SIPP call this is what came to mind.


How does your concept name explain itself?

Nal-Pal is a shortened version of Naloxone Pal. The idea is to establish a network of people who can help in the case of overdose.


Where else in Canada or the world could you see your project being effective?

The opiate crisis is worldwide, but different regions have different needs. We are open-sourcing the code for our solution, so that even if the approach needs to change for a different region, they can have a good place to start from.


What was the biggest challenge in creating your concept?

Determining how to keep responders safe and handle an emergency response in the way members of the community need to feel safe calling for help. We realized well into our design that a call to everyone and to emergency services could lead to someone having to decide between getting overdose help and avoiding an eviction. The idea of a friends list of people in the same building rather than a 911 call requires a different design than originally intended.


What has been the most enjoyable part of creating your concept?

Talking to the people working on the ground in the harm reduction community and seeing how a technological solution can help to save lives!


If you could select any well-known person to endorse your project, who would it be and why?

Dr. Gabor Mate, a Vancouver physician who has revolutionized the perception of addiction and is a shining light in the harm reduction community.


If you could include any partner(s) within your concept who would they be and why?

AIDS Vancouver Island is a fantastic front-line partner, but we need to get the hospitals and emergency services on board as well.


What long-term impact do you envision about your project?

Saving lives is impact enough. Who knows what that person, who is right now fighting to get free of their opiate addiction, will do once they are clean. It is those people fighting the hardest, that are at most risk. A week between fixes is the most dangerous time since tolerance goes down quickly. We can help these people survive!


Why is Smart South Island important to our Region? 

Technology can connect us and address key issues in our region and make our lives better and more productive.