Develop GPS/GIS-enabled Tablet Applications to Modernize Resources and Facility Condition Monitoring

Project ID: 8617
Principal Investigator: Kenneth Nowak
Research Topic: Condition Assessment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2015
Keywords: gis, gps, tablets, infrastructure, inspections

Research Question

Will mobile devices, with their ability to access and leverage detailed spatial mapping and engineering data, add efficiency to our field inspection processes? Most utility companies and many resource management agencies use mobile applications on tablets and smartphones to conduct a variety of field monitoring and data collection activities. Think about how useful it would be if you could access and update your data while in the field. Most field data are location specific, so it makes sense to use a simple GIS application on a GPS-enabled tablet to find locations, link site photos, record field measurements, report findings, and similar activities while in the field. The popularity of last year's Research Jam winner is testimony that many in Reclamation see potential uses for tablets. It seems apparent we need more program-supported projects to develop and pilot several tablet applications to modernize and enhance Reclamation's many field-based workflows, facility reviews, weed management, recreation reviews.

Need and Benefit

Reclamation is responsible for operating and maintaining a water delivery infrastructure for irrigated agriculture in the western US. Much of the current infrastructure was originally constructed more than 50 years ago, and the field inspection process is critical to the overall health and efficient operation of the water delivery network. Current business practices concerning the inspection processes are mostly paper based and manual, do not capture the spatial nature of the infrastructure or the locational relevance of the associated facilities, and do not preserve and store the data in relational databases for discovery and re-use. Current mobile technologies, when coupled with GIS/GPS capabilities can enable our field crews to more efficiently capture new data, complete inspection check lists, query and compare previous inspections, and take photographs. Increased efficiency often leads to reducing cost required for performing the activity. While the scope of this project is intended for the inspection processes for operations and maintenance engineering, once validated the mobile technologies can be applied to other Reclamation mission areas that require field data collection and validation; including but not limited to cultural resources management, environmental monitoring and assessment, and water delivery management. The cost of mobile devices continues to decrease, as the capability and usefulness of the associated mobile technologies increases. In addition to the reduced time for completing inspection report information, the mobile device coupled with GPS allow for more efficient and thorough planning of site visits for inspection and data collection.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Report - Field Inspection Processes and Reporting Requirements
Database Schema - O&M facilities database schema for GIS
Report - Utility Industry Mobile Applications
Report- Research proposal

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Last Updated: 6/22/20