LSPTS is a mobile application for creating as-built maps of new construction with tracking and traceability data for pipes, fittings and joints. Data collection is automated with high-accuracy GPS and barcode scanning to create efficiencies in the field and improve data quality. Data is delivered from the field to the office in real-time to reduce mapping backlogs and delays.
The technology delivers data in a GIS format that is ready for review by back-office GIS personnel prior to integration into the enterprise GIS. GIS features are created and material properties are populated automatically from information contained in the barcode, thus eliminating the need for field or office personnel to manually enter data.
Training – Field users learned the technology best through hands-on training. Being able to physically interact with the technology enhanced their learning experience. In addition, requiring users to practice on a prototype pipeline in the classroom helped to solidify the concepts. Quickly following this up with job shadowing at a real construction site was critical in ensuring that the users were comfortable using the technology.
Construction Practices – Installation workflow and at what point the users choose to collect the electronic data varies from crew to crew. For example, some users collect data gradually as the day progresses, while others prefer to wait until construction is complete to map the assets. PMEX worked with LSPTS to add flexibility to fit data collection around existing construction workflows.
As a result, the new version of the application provided a guided process that walks users through the required data collection steps. PMEX users also gave feedback on how to make the interface easier to use, including the addition of bigger buttons and color schemes.
Field users initially expressed concern over the increased data collection tasks being added to their existing workloads. Currently, users don’t complete paperwork until the end of the day, or even a few days after completion of the job.
Since one of the goals of the technology is to reduce this delay, users are required to collect data as construction progresses. Based on pilot data, it takes about one minute to create a feature, populate attribute information, and place the feature on the map with high-accuracy GPS. A change-management effort will focus on addressing users’ concerns and ensuring open communication with their management.
Barcode scanning – The use of barcodes to capture field data will require construction crews to install assets in a manner that allows efficient data collection. This includes installing assets with the barcodes visible and accessible from outside the trench. Tight trench spaces and trenchless installation of plastic assets require alternate workflows to capture the barcode information in advance, and to match the barcode info with the correct GPS coordinates, once installed.
High-accuracy GPS – One of the main reasons for PMEX to use this technology is the ability to capture high-accuracy GPS coordinates for improved GIS mapping. PMEX’s requirements for GPS accuracy has been established at 6 inches. The initial pilot used a public, real-time kinematic (RTK) network to provide corrections to GPS data. Based on recent advances in GPS/GNSS technology, PMEX and LSPTS elected to setup RTK-base stations to provide dedicated services to PMEX field users.
While providing more reliable accuracy, this solution required the development of a simplified process to automate the connection to the appropriate base station when the mobile application is opened, and maintains a consistent connection throughout the data collection.
GIS record – In order to fully understand the quality of GPS accuracy, PMEX needed the software to capture data on individual vertices for pipe (line features). The latest version of LSPTS meets this requirement and provides a richer data set to help GIS users understand the quality of individual points.
While data is collected with high-accuracy GPS, additional techniques are needed to create the connected network required for GIS. Job site pictures are useful in understanding the actual geometry of installed assets and can assist GIS technicians in learning complex configurations.
However, PMEX wanted a solution that automatically created a connected network for simpler asset configurations. The project team is working to define “snapping rules” to automate the connection of assets to further reduce the time required to get assets mapped in the enterprise GIS.
Beyond the collection of material and GPS data during new construction projects, PMEX and Locus View are working on additional applications to collect more information or cover other maintenance activities.
Locate, mark – Locating for one-call tickets is an excellent opportunity to capture location data for underground assets that can be used to update existing maps and records as part of routine operations. PMEX is testing the use of GPS to map existing assets during one-call locates and sending the data to the GIS department to update maps.
The locate-and-mark team maps the location of paint markings and any known features such as bends, tees, branches, meters and valve boxes. New standards, PAS 128 and ASCE 38 and CSA S250-11, provide effective frameworks to qualify accuracy and confidence of collected data. In the future, locate-and-mark personnel will be able to use GPS to locate assets.
Repairs/deactivation – Repairs provide an opportunity to cost-effectively collect data to update existing maps and records. GPS coordinates and basic material information, such as asset type, material and method of joining existing assets will be captured whenever they are exposed (such as during leak repairs).
There will also be a workflow for capturing deactivations in which existing assets are abandoned in the ground. Importantly, the technology will differentiate newly installed assets, existing assets and deactivated assets.
RFID markers – PMEX is also testing radio-frequency identification (RFID) markers to assist in locating difficult-to-find assets. The RFID markers, produced by the vendor ELIOT, will be used in conjunction with tracer wire in difficult-to-locate areas.
The RFID markers work in depths of 5 feet and can be programmed with asset information which can later be retrieved with ELIOT’s locating device. LSPTS is working with ELIOT to create a method to transfer data from the RFID tags into the mobile application to enhance mapping and field-data collection. This will allow PMEX to capture GPS coordinates and the serial information of the ELIOT RFID markers when installed in the field, becoming part of the GIS record.