Sector: Tech, Engineering
Year Launched: 2020
Founders: Harsh Rathod, CEO (pictured), and Aki Tomita, CFO
Unique Selling Proposition: Safe, fast inspection of critical infrastructure.
Strategy: Adds software to pre-programmed drones from partner companies, collecting data and generating a report detailing concerns.
Award sponsor: Mike Geric Construction
Most of us never think about how crucial structures such as dams, bridges, tunnels or power plants are inspected. Typical practices include physical examinations, photographs, measuring cracks and hammer tapping.
Determined that less subjective, hazardous and labour-intensive methods were needed, Harsh Rathod came up with the idea for Niricson while working on his PhD in civil engineering at the UVic. After talking to would-be customers and winning several competitions, Rathod refined his solution.
“Rather than sending people out there, we have UAVs,” he says.
Niricson uses partners who send pre-programmed drones on missions to collect acoustic, thermal and visual data. Niricson’s team then takes over. “Our software combines the three layers of data to generate a report that shows potential concerns. We provide data analytics,” Rathod notes, not solutions.
Currently, it takes about two days to gather data at large sites, followed by four to five days to process, which is five times quicker than old methods and cuts costs by 50 per cent. Rathod’s goal is to reduce this to a couple of hours by collecting and processing data on site — a target about two to three years away, he says. Rathod met Aki Tomita, CFO, at a business competition at the University of Washington. Tomita provided the help he needed to sell his business plan. Niricson now counts 10 large customers in Canada, including BC Hydro, and the U.S. and has 13 employees.
A 2016 disaster spurred Rathod’s work. A 100-year-old bridge, used by Rathod’s family, over India’s Savitri River was swept away in a flood, killing almost 30 people. Rathod knows Canada is not immune to such events.
“We need massive investment to monitor [these projects] and see which have exceeded their life span,” he says.