Inspecting roads at 100 km/h
Pavemetrics Systems Inc.
January 28, 2013— Québec, Québec
Founded in Quebec City in 2009, Pavemetrics produces laser systems capable of effectively inspecting transportation infrastructures at 100 km/h, day or night, without slowing down or affecting traffic. In 2012, systems produced by Pavemetrics were used to inspect five million kilometres of road – the equivalent of six return trips from Earth to the Moon! That’s seven times more than Pavemetrics’ closest competitor.
Its three cofounders, Richard Habel, Jean-François Hébert and John Laurent, took three years to develop cutting-edge technology at the National Optics Institute (INO) to meet the needs of organizations and companies in the transportation field.
Expanding the possibilities of the technology
Richard Habel explains that INO developed three families of laser systems for inspecting roadways, but that the Laser Crack Measurement System (LCMS) had the greatest potential. They were convinced that they could considerably increase its value by adding new functionalities in response to market needs. Jean-Yves Roy, President and Chief Executive Officer of INO, and Simon Labbé, Vice-President of Business Development, know and trust the three cofounders. With the support of INO, Pavemetrics will call upon the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) for financial support to help it resolve technical difficulties and accelerate development without having to resort to venture capital.
Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) Michel Arsenault, also an INO alumnus, is in charge of the file. Through an advantageous agreement that shares the risk between INO and Pavemetrics, the company has the right to use the intellectual property of the LCMS, and has had access to INO’s client list since its launch. Since the beginning, the ITA has suggested improving certain functionalities of the LCMS so that Pavemetrics can generate additional revenue as quickly as possible and further the success of the product.
Pavemetrics will increase the functionalities of the LCMS in several aspects: increased accuracy, added crack measurement in concrete roadways (with or without striations), macro-texture measurement and longitudinal profile measurement. Pavemetrics sells its systems to companies that install them on their vehicles and collect data for their clients, including departments of transport and municipalities. Richard Habel added that the LCMS is mounted on two Transports Québec inspection vehicles, and is capable of accurately inspecting the entire Quebec road network in a single summer.
A high-tech product like the LCMS must constantly evolve to meet user expectations and stay ahead of the competition. Pavemetrics has quickly realized the benefits of adding a global positioning system (GPS) to the LCMS, as well as a device capable of producing 3D topographic surveys of roadways. A second IRAP project is underway to equip the LCMS with these new functionalities, so that this new data can be acquired and saved extremely quickly.
A well-controlled progression
First and foremost, the NRC IRAP has helped the company prioritize the LCMS functionalities based on market needs, says Richard Habel. They were able to generate sales from their first year of operation. Michel Arsenault directed them toward provincial and federal programs that could fund the hiring of the professionals that the company required to progress with and maintain its R&D activities.
Since 2009, Pavemetrics has hired three more scientists for its R&D work, as well as the services of a part-time accountant and a business development expert. In cooperation with INO, Pavemetrics intends to further expand the possibilities of the LCMS. The three cofounders are certainly not lacking in ideas: they would like to tackle the inspection of railways, railway tunnels and airport runways.
According to Richard Habel, they are constantly discussing all aspects of their projects with their ITA. Not only do they talk about technical challenges, but also marketing, funding, sales and expansion to other markets. Currently, 40 U.S. states are using the LCMS, and Pavemetrics is doing business in 30 countries around the world. Its road inspection technology has become THE technology recommended by market specialists.
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