Doubters inspect Kiva
- By Dibya Sarkar
- May 07, 2001
A permit-management company has given itself a lofty goal: Convincing municipal
building inspectors that technology can help them.
According to Richard Morrey, co-founder and president of Salt Lake City-based
Kiva (www.kiva.com), inspectors are not only unaccustomed to technology,
they have little patience for it.
"Paper and pencil is their most preferred technology," he said.
Kiva has introduced handheld and wireless permit and inspection systems,
which include software, hardware and communications services, to nearly
two dozen municipalities across the nation.
In part, use has been spurred by the company's partnership last September
with Hewlett-Packard Co.
Kiva offers various computing devices, such as Palm Inc. products and
Sony Electronics Inc. Vaio notebooks, depending on customer preferences.
But company officials said when the users tested various computing products
for nearly a year, most preferred HP's Jornada devices running Microsoft
Corp.'s Windows CE operating system. "We needed a supplier for hardware,
but it also went beyond the Jornada," said Paul Deshler, Kiva's access technologies
director. "It is a full-cycle [partnership] from the input devices to the
servers to the output devices. That was one of the reasons we went with
HP's "mentorship" program, Deshler said, helped the company with marketing
and financing solutions. Before, municipalities had to buy the hardware
on their own and purchase software from Kiva. Now, he said the hardware,
software and communications services are bundled into one package as an
"To HP's credit, we approached other hardware vendors, but they didn't
catch the vision," said Marcus Walton, Kiva's strategic relations director.
Cathy Martin, national business manager for HP's state, local and education
divisions, said Kiva fit into HP's desire to combine electronic services
with always-on infrastructure and Internet appliances. She said Kiva's technology
could be leveraged not only to building inspectors but also to the building
"As these appliances get smaller and more affordable, and technology
becomes more robust, the applications become more numerous," Martin said.
Kiva's system is designed to help building departments increase productivity,
streamline operations, reduce paperwork and improve communications, company
Inspectors on assignment can call up site information that is downloaded
on their portable devices or remotely access their databases. Kiva uses
Sierra Wireless Inc. and Novatel Wireless Inc.'s Minstrel cellular digital
packet data modems. Information entered on the browser-based system includes
the type of inspection, address, schedule dates and comments.
HP's Jornada devices are available as a personal digital assistant or
as a larger "clam top" device, which contains a small keyboard. Both are
available with color screens. Users can type comments into the devices
or "write" with the PDA, which has an intuitive character-recognition program,
Deshler said. The devices also can be tied into a mobile HP printer that
enables inspectors to issue correction notices and inspection results on
The city of Glendale, Calif., which has a building department with a
staff of 53 about a dozen of whom are inspectors has been using Kiva's
wireless system for about a year.
Neville Pereira, a city civil engineer, said Kiva's system has combined
disparate departments and agencies into a single information database. Not
only have inspectors used the system to call up cases, but the city attorney
also has used it to track cases being prosecuted for noncompliance, he said.
Getting inspectors to use technology takes some time, Pereira said, but
he added that they are beginning to understand the benefits of technology.
In the past, inspectors used to come to the office to pick up their assignments.
Using the wireless devices, they can download their assignments on their
devices and go into the field directly from their homes, he said.
"It's instantly available in the database for whomever," he said. "Where
you see the benefits of the Kiva system is when you retrieve the information,
[and] you don't have to go through the file cabinets."
The system has even allowed inspectors to conduct a couple dozen spot
inspections while on their routes, he said.
Kiva is beginning to offer itself as an application service provider
where for a flat monthly fee, it will host and manage inspection and permit
systems around-the-clock for municipalities. It is also pursuing the federal
market and developing virtual private networks for larger municipalities
to run their applications via the Internet.