Listening to Wastewater Challenges – Our Founder’s Story
In 2007, a partnership was formed between a utility, Charlotte Water, and academia to help solve a problem familiar to those working in collections system maintenance –
How can utilities understand where blockages are in their extensive underground network of sewer pipes, without wasting time and resources?
In the average utility, only 10-35% of pipes require near-term maintenance. However, using traditional time-based methods, it’s hard for operators to understand where those problem areas are, without spending significant money and resources.
Dr. Ivan Howitt, then a professor at UNC-Charlotte, wanted to explore whether acoustic technology could be a potential solution to this problem. With the help of funding from the National Science Foundation, he developed a portable tool using sound waves to rapidly assess sewer lines for blockages.
This new acoustic inspection technology, called the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool, or SL-RAT®, won WEF’s Innovative Technology Award in 2012. Since then, the SL-RAT has gained traction and is being used by hundreds of utilities worldwide to prioritize much more expensive cleaning assets and has inspected over 200 million feet of pipe.
Our Approach – Continuing to Listen
InfoSense’s approach for providing relevant technology is to listen to customers’ feedback. The SL-RAT’s technological improvements have been driven by user feedback and requests. This process of identifying customer needs will continue to be an essential part of the technology’s evolution.
Proof of concept
Based on wastewater challenges brought forth by Charlotte Water, Dr. Howitt creates proof of concept for acoustic inspection technology.
After inspecting over 1 million feet of pipe using the SL-RAT, Charlotte Water provides feedback that results in improvements to user interface, battery life, and is ruggedized for field use.
The latest version of the SL-RAT has incorporated user feedback and requests to improve user experience - this generation is lighter, further ruggedized, GPS enabled and integrated with a data management software and mobile app.
Alex has worked with InfoSense since early 2011 and has been active in all aspects of the business’ evolution and growth since that time. He is focused on building an efficient, scalable, customer-focused company that attracts and retains top talent. Alex oversees all business operations and strategies and spends most of his time supporting customers and the sales team. Prior to joining InfoSense, Alex ran a number of operationally complex business units in the Waste and Direct Store Delivery industries, and worked as a consultant for Booz & Company. Alex has an MBA from the Tepper School at Carnegie Mellon and a BS in Physics Engineering and Economics from Washington & Lee.
Ivan founded InfoSense in 2007, developing and commercializing the award-winning acoustic technology that is currently known as the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool. He oversees all technological developments at InfoSense, ensuring the continual improvement of the SL-RAT. Prior to InfoSense, Ivan amassed over 25 years of engineering experience. He spent 15 years as a university professor, focusing on research with applied solutions for industrial problems. He has a PhD in electrical engineering from UC Davis and a MS and BS in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech.
CTO, Chairman & Founder
CEO & Corporate Secretary/Treasurer
Our team, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is dedicated to providing excellent customer service and experience, while working together on defining needs for enhancing our technology. We’re driven by the shared vision and commitment of our customers and we look forward to having the opportunity to work with you.
Dr. Howitt, then a faculty member at UNC Charlotte, begins researching acoustic technology solutions based on variety of problems brought forth by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities.
Research for acoustic technology begins
InfoSense, Inc. established in Charlotte
InfoSense, Inc. is formed as a North Carolina corporation to focus on commercializing technologies developed from Dr. Howitt's research.
InfoSense wins NSF Grant
InfoSense wins National Science Foundation's Small Business Innovation and Research funding to develop a stationary network of acoustic sensors to detect abnormalities and overflows in wastewater collection systems.
SL-RAT Proof of Concept Developed
Based on feedback from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities, Dr. Howitt develops first generation of the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool or SL-RAT. Charlotte-Mecklenburg becomes the first SL-RAT customer.
SL-RAT Field Prototype Developed
A second generation version of the SL-RAT is developed with an improved user interface, better power management, and ruggedized for field use. Charlotte-Mecklenburg purchases several units that successfully inspect over 1 million feet of pipe.
Based on customer feedback, a third generation SL-RAT is developed that is lighter, GPS enabled, and further ruggedized.
InfoSense wins the WEF Innovative Technology Award as well as an NC IDEA grant, the Charlotte Venture Challenge High Tech category, and the Charlotte Chamber Power Up grant for promising technology companies. Patent issued in June 2012.
SL-RAT wins WEF's Innovative Technology Award
The Sewer Line Data OrGanizer or SL-DOG® is developed to help SL-RAT users download, archive, anallyze and visualize their acoustic data. Over 5 million feet inspected.
InfoSense #1 Fastest Growing Private Company in Charlotte
Enhancements released include improvement to transmitter, GPS performance, and integration with Google Earth. Over 150 units in the field with more than 120 utility customers around the world. InfoSense is named the #1 Fastest Growing Private Company in Charlotte
ASTM Standard F3320-17 released “Standard Practice for Prioritizing Sewer Pipe Cleaning Operations by Using Transmissive Acoustic Inspection https://www.astm.org/Standards/F3220.htm – based on the SL-RAT technology. InfoSense joins the Charlotte Business Journal’s Fast 50 List of fastest growing private companies in the Charlotte region for the 3rd time in a row.
ASTM Standard for Acoustic Inspection
Mobile App Developed
Over 250 unique municipal customers. SL-DOG Android and iOS App released to help streamline the input of asset ID’s and field notes. Over 100 million feet of pipe inspected – of which over 70% did not need cleaning – saving InfoSense customers millions of dollars.