Imagine if all public works engineers and utility company crew chiefs were equipped with a mobile device that could easily and accurately identify every piece of infrastructure underground and above ground—every gas valve, every water main or service line, every fiber optic cable, every transformer, and every light pole—and surveyors could use the same device to locate every survey marker.
How much time and money would that save? Given that 10% of underground utility damage events nationwide are due to visible but incorrect markings, how many such accidents would it prevent?
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology already makes this vision possible, and I believe it should be applied to all infrastructure features as they are installed, repaired, or replaced. By connecting to a back-end database, RFID-enabled infrastructure marking would then become a cornerstone for a connected infrastructure management world.
A report endorses much of this vision: the September 2018 report for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on issues associated with state transportation departments’ management of utility installations within highways’ right of way. It advocates the use of RFID for underground markings as a key step toward developing 3D inventories of utilities.
“Program benefits,” the report says, “range from the availability of geo-referenced utility segment data for establishing protection zones during construction to the development of a reliable inventory of utility features for asset management purposes and to facilitate future construction activities.”
Berntsen International, founded in 1972 and long known to surveyors as a provider of survey markers, has been working with RFID technology since 2006. It is steadily turning the above vision into reality with its InfraMarker product, a connected RFID locating and management system that utilizes RFID in a new way.