Technology is Paving the Way for More Efficient Urban Planning
A bright idea out of UW is changing the construction of Seattle’s infrastructure
By Jennifer McCullum
January 13, 2016
As Seattleites breathe a collective groan over Bertha’s continually delayed drilling beneath the city, Westlake-based Pavia Systems (paviasystems.com) broke new ground in urban planning with the launch of HeadLight last year. Created by a team led by University of Washington alums Si Katara and George White, HeadLight is a mobile project-inspection platform offering technological solutions to Washington State Department of Transportation dilemmas.
“The big idea was looking at problems in the transportation industry and how technology could improve them,” Katara says.
Pavia interviewed chief inspectors and project engineers in transportation departments throughout Washington, Texas and Minnesota, and the singular common hang-up was how much time was spent manually recording inspection data, calculations and project inventory. After spending the day in the field, workers had to return to the office and organize detailed, daily documentation at their desks.
With HeadLight’s software, inspectors can now enter observations and take photos on site with a tablet, instead of scribbling the information in notebooks. Info is then relayed from the field and automatically transcribed for project archiving. Pilot results showed documents that used to take inspectors an hour to complete are now created in a matter of seconds. “Inspectors are saving 38 hours a month in productivity, but they’re collecting 275 percent more project data,” Katara says. “When you make it easy to gather information, you get more of it.”
HeadLight is currently used on 42 Washington job sites, including the State Route 520 floating bridge and the Interstate 5 expansion. A Mercer Island native, Katara has a unique perspective on the evolving transportation challenges of the city.
“Seattle is growing up,” Katara says. “Have you ever tried to drive in Santa Monica in L.A. on a Thursday afternoon? Those are the ‘big city’ problems we’re starting to see in Seattle now, and we have to find ways to solve them efficiently to accommodate what’s happening.”