Water utility deploys iPad solution

March 2, 2016  - By

Like thousands of water utilities across the U.S., the City of Sebring, Fla., Utilities Department is tasked with providing a safe and reliable water supply, while managing all the dispersed assets of the water distribution and wastewater systems. This means regularly locating, mapping and inspecting assets to maintain service levels and operations.

Source: GPS world staff

This City of Sebring storm drain runs down the center of a street. (Photo: TerraGo)

When Sebring evaluated this approach, the city received a quote for geographic information system (GIS) software that was more than $30,000 and bids for surveying services that were as high as $300,000, which didn’t include the mobile tools to collect the data or integration with the existing CAD system.

“We could see the traditional GIS and GPS approach was going to eat us alive cost-wise,” said Mark Kretz, water plant operations, Sebring Utilities.

Sebring Utilities then researched mobile products to see if other organizations had field success using iPads and iPhones to do the work. Sebring still needed to achieve survey-grade accuracy — sub-meter, centimeter-level in some cases. This is impossible with an iPhone or iPad out of the box, which delivers 5 meters at best.

Source: GPS world staff

Installation of a storm drain in Sebring. (Photo: TerraGo)

Some tasks, such as mapping an underground valve, need sub-foot or better accuracy. Other tasks, such as locating an aboveground valve, could be seen within 3 to 5 meters, so just the iPad would work.

Source: GPS world staff

Mark Kretz, Water Plant Operations, City of Sebring, conducts water asset inspections and maintenance. (Photo: City of Sebring)

CAD integration. Sebring also needed to be able to utilize computer-aided design (CAD) diagrams on its mobile devices to identify and locate valves and other assets in the field. In the past, the utility relied on printed CAD drawings, a cumbersome and costly solution. Plus, with time of the essence when containing a leak, workers wanted on-demand access on their mobile devices.

With the multitude of assets from fire hydrants to valves to sewers, the data collection and maintenance work varied greatly. Sebring needed a way to create custom forms and workflow processes, and be able to modify them over time or create new ones when needed.

In the end, the city opted to deploy TerraGo Edge on iPads. With TerraGo Edge, Sebring was able to integrate with GPS receivers that pair to iPads or iPhones via Bluetooth because the product is fully integrated at the software level with Apple-certified GPS receivers. This enabled the city to cut costs, bring surveys in-house and improve response times for repairs. TerraGo Edge also delivers custom forms, CAD diagrams and survey-grade accuracy.

“On a day-to-day basis, the biggest benefit is that we get the ease of use of an iPad, and didn’t have to buy and use proprietary GPS handhelds, which are more complex and vastly more expensive,” Kretz said.

CAD on iPhone with TerraGo Edge. (Image: TerraGo)

CAD on iPhone with TerraGo Edge. (Image: TerraGo)

Edge benefits

  • Cost savings of 90 percent over traditional GIS and GPS systems
  • Improved efficiency and response times
  • Streamlined operations and in-source surveying
  • Use of iPads and iPhones
  • Real-time, survey-grade accuracy with RTK
  • Customizable smart forms