Every day across North America, critical underground utility infrastructure is seriously damaged because of unreliable location records and dated industry workflows and business practices. When this damage occurs, project costs increase, critical services are lost, hazardous materials enter the environment and life-threatening injuries may occur.
Precision mapping solutions company ProStar is looking to help the construction industry avoid these utility strikes by leveraging the most modern GPS, cloud and mobile technologies and creating a more digital world.
The company’s flagship software is a service product, PointMan, designed to seamlessly connect the field with the office and enable users to precisely capture, record, display and manage critical infrastructure, including roads, railways, pipelines and utilities. The software also creates, captures and binds forms, sketches and photos to any point, line or polygon.
“What makes PointMan so innovative is that it allows people to walk through both remote areas and dense urban environments equipped with just a mobile device and electromagnetic wand, and they can capture all the metadata behind the infrastructure assets that sit above and below the ground,” said ProStar spokesperson, Joel Sutherland. “PointMan uniquely provides survey grade measurements in the field, which means that when our software says infrastructure – like an underground pipe – exists, engineers looking at the data can be satisfied that it’s there within three inches of accuracy.”
ProStar currently serves clients across Canada, the United States, and Australia and has recently seen a growing interest in its software in Mexico and as far away as Slovakia. Some of the largest entities in North America have adopted ProStar’s solutions, including Fortune 500 construction firms, subsurface utilities engineering firms, utility owners and government agencies.
A modern twist
The “call before you dig” system – where someone goes out with an electromagnetic wand to search for buried infrastructure, marks the spot with spray paint and then a survey team goes out to assess the paint mark – is woefully outdated and far from optimal. ProStar’s PointMan is a much more accurate solution that has proved to be massively disruptive by increasing productivity and reducing occurrences of utility strikes.
“The beauty of our software is that you can send someone out in the field to take measurements and be sitting back in the office at your desktop to see the work being done in real-time,” said Sutherland. “Once the measurement is taken, it’s instantly processed in the cloud, and you can look at all the data behind the measurement to determine if it is survey grade or not. It transforms a process that once took days – if not more – and makes it as close to instant as possible.”
Unlike survey grade A, which requires removing soil and performing a visual inspection, PointMan provides a non-visual survey grade B in the field, which requires an electromagnetic wand connected via Bluetooth to a mobile device with a high-precision GPS. This is a significantly more cost-effective option for contractors and operators digging sensitive areas.
“On one particular project, a truck was brought out every 10 feet, six feet of dirt and asphalt was taken off the top, and a picture was taken to show where the utility line was,” said Sutherland. “With PointMan, the contractor only had to perform a visual inspection once every 50 feet to confirm that our software was telling them exactly what was underneath – saving them considerable time, effort and money.”
A new partnership
Specializing in post-tensioning structural concrete, Safe2core Inc. has more than 45 years of experience in ground penetrating radar, concrete scanning, concrete cutting, utility locating and CCTV pipeline inspection. The company’s technicians have inspected various concrete structures, varying from simple inspections, such as finding rebar on concrete walls, to locating post-tension cables in highly complex structural concrete slabs.
In January, Safe2core adopted the PointMan solution to enhance its operations and provide its clients with the most accurate and timely deliverables.
“It is very apparent that locating utilities is moving away from just placing paint marks on the ground and into the digital era, where much higher data quality standards, including geospatial precision, will be required,” said Safe2core chief operating officer Antonio Guzman. “We explored several options, and it became quite clear that PointMan provided exactly what we needed to help us transition into the new digital era and to remain an industry leader in providing utility damage prevention services.”
This partnership with ProStar will improve Safe2core’s ability to provide added value and pass on cost savings to their clients.
“ProStar is taking all the data involved in the measurement process, capturing it and displaying it on a digital map that Safe2core can review, not only in real time, but also throughout a project’s life cycle,” said Sutherland. “[PointMan] overlays all the measurements that Safe2core might take over a period of time, allowing the user to navigate through timestamps to see the various measurements that were done regarding the different utilities on site.”
Making the grade
While the average digital twin (an up-to-date digital representation of a physical asset) may provide a nice visual, it’s not always survey grade. PointMan elevates the concept of digital twinning while providing contractors with the highest degree of confidence that what the software says is beneath the Earth is accurate.
This level of accuracy is essential for the deep foundation sector, where knowing precisely what’s underground can prove to be the difference between the success and failure of a project and ensure the safety of workers.
“From an economic standpoint, pile driving companies make money by keeping their equipment moving,” said Sutherland. “If a pile driver happens to sever a gas line and they need to call the provider to fix it, everything comes to a stop, and the equipment sits idle. Or worse yet, someone gets hurt or loses their life. So, if the objective is to avoid utility strikes, having access and knowing where everything is underground to within three inches will significantly reduce the likelihood that you’re going to have any accidents.”
Pioneering a digital transformation
Looking ahead, it is easy to imagine a world where everything is interconnected, and excavation equipment and pile drivers are integrated with solutions like PointMan, not only programmed where to dig, but also where not to. As such, this partnership between ProStar and Safe2core represents only the first step of many along the path toward construction’s digital future.
“We are seeing a significant increase in the adoption of PointMan from companies like Safe2core that realize that the utility locating industry is being transformed by modern technology. History shows that whenever an industry experiences a significant transformation, a few will lead the way, others will follow, and some will simply be left behind,” said Page Tucker, CEO of ProStar. “It is great to see companies like Safe2core adopt PointMan and recognize it is transformative.”