From start-up to "virtual" success—VEERUM transforms how the world's infrastructure is built and maintained
- Calgary, Alberta
Construction and infrastructure projects play a huge role in our lives; not only are they vital to the global economy, they also provide us with roofs over our heads, roads to drive on, buildings to learn in or work in, and so much more. However, while vital to our lives, large infrastructure projects come with equally large challenges: delays, loss of productivity, waste and budgeting overages, to name a few. In fact, an estimated 90% of all capital projects are reported to go over budget—culminating in $1.6 trillion per year of waste.
What exactly is leading to this waste? The fundamental challenge is for industries to identify and resolve issues before they impede a project.
That's where VEERUM comes in. Based in Calgary, Alberta, this global software-as-a-service (SaaS) company has developed a technology that enables companies to remotely monitor and track exactly what's occurring on a work site. VEERUM's "digital twin technology" unifies multiple types of disparate data including engineering model data such as CAD and geospatial data, with satellite and drone imagery, IoT sensors, existing design information and more. The cloud-based application uses this information to create precise replicas and simulations of the work site and its assets to support companies with project management and execution.
With advisory services and support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), VEERUM has been able to successfully expand its business and grow its technology. Its application is now helping some of the world's largest companies identify room for safety and process improvements, while greatly enhancing their ability to quickly build and effectively maintain the world's most critical infrastructure.
Setting the foundation for a prosperous future
When VEERUM first engaged with NRC IRAP in 2016, the company was an early start-up then known as True Sight View. Having recently acquired another business, the growing firm required support to hire new employees, improve technology readiness, and move into a better position to be able commercialize their solutions.
Among its first projects that NRC IRAP helped support, VEERUM was able to advance automated matching of project plans and digital design to reality, enabling the technology to better identify mismatches for engineering, fabrication and construction clients.
"Those first projects were basically a stepping-stone toward us building one collaborative platform that visualizes the asset for users at multiple levels—whether you have project managers looking at project flow, or someone overseeing operations who wishes to confirm in advance whether a specific pipe will fit into the structure being built," says Chris Bacon, Director of Finance for VEERUM.
"With support from NRC IRAP, we were able to hire the right brain power required to prove that all sorts of features would be commercially successful, allowing our platform to evolve into what we have today."
Forging solid connections for business growth
NRC IRAP also empowers technology clients like VEERUM to grow their networks and customer base through the program's extensive business advisory services.
For example, Hamid Sarreshtehdari, an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with NRC IRAP, was able to connect VEERUM in 2019 with Alberta's largest research and innovation agency, Alberta Innovates, and with the Petroleum Technology Association of Canada (PTAC). These networking opportunities resulted in VEERUM receiving funding support from Alberta Innovates, and being invited to give a presentation of its technology to the PTAC members, which ultimately led the company to expand their presence and increase business in the sector.
"Once the big oil and gas companies became aware of VEERUM and everything they have to offer, they started using their technology for oil and gas infrastructure projects. As an ITA, I really enjoy facilitating the right connections, at the right time, to help a company grow."
Structural integrity through the COVID-19 pandemic
When the worldwide pandemic emerged in early 2020, NRC IRAP provided additional assistance through its temporary wage subsidy program, the Innovation Assistance Program (IAP), allowing VEERUM to continue to innovate despite the challenging environment.
"Without NRC IRAP stepping in with IAP to help keep our team together, we probably would have had to slow down productivity or take cost-cutting measures to survive," says Chris. "This funding was very critical for us to keep moving forward, without hurting the future development of our product. Thanks to NRC IRAP, we were able to continue throughout COVID-19, and we also were granted some cost certainty towards business decisions we had to make at that time."
Expanding international horizons and R&D capabilities
Through a broad range of international activities, NRC IRAP also helps connect Canadian companies with advisory, funding, export and innovation services to help them access new markets and global value chains. One of these initiatives, the "3+2" Canada–Germany Collaborative Industrial R&D Program, enables businesses, researchers and universities across both Canada and Germany to partner on co-innovation projects that have a high potential for commercialization.
In mid-2021, VEERUM embarked on a cross-Canadian-German collaboration known as the "Digital Twin Platform for Infrastructure Asset Lifecycle Management." The project, in tandem with leading SMEs and research institutions, is focused on creating an advanced preventative monitoring solution that integrates artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for critical infrastructure worldwide.
The project is currently underway, with VEERUM as the project lead on the Canadian side while being supported by the University of British Columbia and the NRC's Digital Technologies Research Centre and Aerospace Research Centre. VEERUM has provided the software platform central to the collaboration and is spearheading IoT integration and research and development related to 3D object detection.
Meanwhile, on the German side of the collaboration, Fraunhofer IKTS, a world leader in development work related to the potential of ceramic materials, is acting as the other national project lead, conducting R&D into acoustic IoT sensors for predicting infrastructure failures. The institute has joined forces with Marx Krontal Partner (MKP), a German SME that is also a project asset owner overseeing 3D model data capture.
Ultimately, the multi-year collaboration's goal is to provide the ability for industrial asset owners to successfully use the enhanced VEERUM platform to reduce the number—and severity—of costly infrastructure issues that such critical projects often face.
Building an ideal future
Since becoming an NRC IRAP client in 2016, VEERUM has expanded from 2 to 45 full-time employees and increased its annual revenues by eightfold between 2016 and 2020.
Today, the VEERUM platform is used by clients around the world to help keep projects on track and verify asset health from anywhere. The technology developed for construction applications has been expanded to be used during the operations and maintenance phase, which represents over 80% of an asset lifecycle. By decreasing or removing the need for being on-site throughout the entire asset lifecycle, VEERUM is also helping keep clients safer, saving them money on travel costs and reducing their overall environmental impact.
The last year has seen some exciting growth and milestones for VEERUM. In late 2021, the company attained the ISO/IEC 27001 certification, completed System and Organization Controls (SOC 2) Type II certification and announced a premiere partnership with Inline Group. In early 2022, VEERUM was awarded funding for another digital twinning project from the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN).