Skip to main content

Another view

By [email protected] - 28th October 2015 - 10:34

Today’s owners of critical infrastructure are facing an increasingly difficult task. As the age of assets increases and the urban underground landscape becomes increasingly congested, the task of managing assets is becoming more complicated every year. Asset owners are also working with datasets that are often decades old, manually recorded and without the insight of today’s capture methods, which can coordinate asset data with GNSS coordinates.â©

According to Charles Moscato, spatial information manager at Yarra Valley Water (YVW), Victoria, Australia, the key challenge YVW – and indeed all public utilities – faces every day is having confidence in the asset data available to it. The bottom line is that assets won’t always be located where an asset manager thinks they are.â©

He believes there needs to be a greater understanding of when various asset data sets were captured, so that asset owners can have a realistic expectation of just how accurate that data can be.â©

“If we had the ability to put some measures in place to quantify how accurate our data is, we’ll actually start to build some metadata underneath our data,” he says. “For example, in areas where data has been captured from the 1990s onwards, we know we’ve got very accurate data that’s been captured by digital means and provided in a CAD format. We know we have a higher level of accuracy for that data. For any data captured before that, it needs to be understood that there are restrictions with the way that data was captured and hence its accuracy.”â©

A system that could categorise data sets by when they were recorded would be particularly useful in his role, as would a system that would allow older datasets to be updated with correct, spatially-coordinated asset data.â©

Haydn Read, manager strategic asset planning at Wellington City Council in New Zealand, agrees. He faces many similar issues in his role managing the assets of Wellington City Council but also has the additional challenge of managing above-ground assets such as roads and buildings. With a complex suite of assets to manage, one of the greatest issues he faces is sourcing a unique solution that will allow him to best manage the needs of each asset type now and into the future.â©

For Katie Richards, director of LoKate Services in Waikanae, New Zealand, the main difficulties she faces when interfacing with asset data is the complicated process she has to go through to obtain multiple datasets when completing locates in a particular geographic region.â©

Working in New Zealand’s greater Wellington area, for her, the process of acquiring asset datasets traditionally has involved BeforeUDig, the service that provides New Zealanders with information regarding underground assets. However, she finds the process “crippling” to productivity, and she struggles to deal with the A3 paper plans to which she must refer. â©

“For a while, I’ve thought there must be a better way to visualise and locate underground assets.”â©

Disrupting the status quoâ©

Charles, Haydn and Katie have all recently adopted Augview, an application that enables users to view a 3D augmented reality (AR) overlay of the underground assets around them. It can also record and update critical attributes for assets, such as GPS location, installation date or asset diameter and material (see ‘How Augview works’).â©

It’s Augview’s ability to view multiple GIS data sources, such as gas, power, water and telco, combined on one mobile device as either 2D interactive maps or as 3D pipes and cables in the ground that has helped to win over all three of them. â©

According to Charles, integrating the application into the workflow at YVW has “been fantastic”. “It’s simple to use. By using a tablet or smartphone, we can point to a location and very quickly see what assets are underground. Having the ability for operators to quickly use the product, to give them confidence on whether or not there are assets within the area, is a huge benefit to our crews.”â©

He adds: “Not only that, we can also see if there are dangerous assets in the area and a stand-over is required and how far each asset is away from other assets. With all that information available to us, we’ll actually be able to very quickly respond to incidents and over time, gain more confidence in our data.”â©

Haydn is seeing similar benefits from using the technology at Wellington City Council. Not only is Augview an interesting tool for asset management in the field, but also for the Wellington emergency management project, WREMO. With Wellington being on a number of fault lines, it was important for WREMO to have access to all underground infrastructure, using one device to be prepared and ready for a quick emergency response. In situations such as earthquakes, floods or landslides, it is easier to locate buried or covered assets such as manholes, storm water drains, fire hydrants or gas-shutoff valves faster using augmented reality and a combined utility map. â©

“As an operational tool, Augview is helping to improve efficiency and effectiveness in asset management activities in the field,” says Haydn.â©

The futureâ©

Additional benefits are expected in the future as the council continues to test the possibilities of AR and other technological innovations in asset management. For example, Augview’s GIS and 3D modelling capabilities provide the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of structures above ground and to explore them without needing to physically visit the site.â©

Haydn believes that over time, the use of augmented reality, 3D modelling and advanced data analytics (see image) by councils to manage ageing assets, for example, will become ‘business as usual’ rather than the exception to the norm. It simplifies and speeds up the housing inspection process and especially for emergency management. Augview can be used as a fast, on-the-ground damage assessment tool since all data updates are either streamed live back to the server to be instantly available to the office crew to make decisions, or updates can be stored offline on the device and sync with the server once the user gets back to the office. â©

For Katie, there are other benefits. “Not only does it make my job easier in the long-run and reduces costs to the asset owners, it also provides real improvements in the cost of operations to the contractors and the asset owner through better network stability, brought about by less third-party damage,” she says.“It also has a major impact on reducing the risk to the contractor, their staff and the public from service strike damage, which is extremely important in the drive toward a zero-harm workplace.”â©

Collaboration between utilitiesâ©

Charles also believes that AR applications can highlight to other asset managers the potential benefits that utilities can experience by teaming up and sharing their asset data, such as the reduction of asset enquiry fees to third-party providers or costly project overruns. “That’s when we’ll start to see the real benefits,” he says. â©

He continues: “If we work together and put some tight measures around what is it that we’re actually doing with the data, and have some level of trust between the authorities, then it’s for the greater good of all utilities to have this information shared.â©

“If we can actually have the feedback mechanism by which utilities not only review the accuracy of their own asset data, but also that of all the other utilities in a given area – be it gas, electricity, water or telecommunications – how could that be anything but advantageous for all parties involved?â©

“As utilities provide one another their data, they’ll actually quickly start to see the extra benefit of having all utilities using the same sort of products to feed this information back.â©

“I think this is an excellent win/win situation – we really have the ability to be a role model for the industry, to showcase how good this technology can be. We could actually have a system in place to improve our data accuracy and improve the safety of our operators. What’s not to like about that?”â©

The answer to this question is very little, according to Katie. “There are several key technologies that I believe asset managers and asset locators need to embrace. Number one of these is the use of GNSS positioning for located assets. I believe that, if for no other reason than it’s an opportunity to improve the safety and minimise risk to the public and staff. That should be a sufficient reason to allow a greater partnership between asset owners and the people in the field, in improving dataset accuracy.”â©

The future is educationâ©

Charles, Haydn and Katie are at the beginning of their journey with AR, and at the beginning of the much bigger crusade to educate other asset owners about the benefits of spatially-coordinated asset data.â©

The key benefit and bottom line business reason for asset owners to undertake this process is simple: better asset data makes managing assets easier and it makes the operating environment safer for crews and safer for the surrounding community.â©

While it may be disruptive, the future for asset management is bright. The challenge is to educate asset owners on the massive benefits that spatially coordinating their data can open up to them.â©

Melanie Langlotz is business development manager at Augview (

Download a PDF of this article


Read More: 3D / 4D Aerial Imaging Data Capture Satellite Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT) GIS Terrestrial Surveying Emergency Services Engineering Utilities Security & Safety Municipal Government