Mapping the Way with Construction Technology

July 16, 2013

Maps can be used for more than just routing vehicles. In the construction industry, this data can be integrated with technology for modeling, project management, and more, extending necessary geospatial information even further into construction business processes.

Beginning in June, PG&E, www.pge.com, San Francisco, Calif., for example, began sending its construction crews out with rugged laptops that provide access to detailed utility maps with a matrix of streets and gas and electric lines. The objective is to update maps daily and push to each laptop, eliminating paper maps that are ripe with outdated information. What’s more, the workers in the field can mark-up maps with comments or questions, so everyone is working off the same data.

Certainly, infrastructure construction professionals can benefit from maps, as field staff is trying to find up-to-date and accurate data related to utilities, telecommunications, and transportation networks.

Taking it a step further, imagine this functionality: an app with a map that is geocoded using a tablet’s GPS location and moves based on where the worker is located. This capability is now available in the new Bentley Map Mobile app from Bentley Systems, www.bentley.com, Exton, Pa., and will be used by the Philadelphia Water Dept., www.phila.gov/water, Philadelphia, Pa., as one example.

Bentley says, with this app, infrastructure professionals can share geospatial data with non-GIS (geographic information system) specialists in the field, including installation and maintenance teams, construction and engineering technicians, and inspectors. The first release runs on Android-based devices and works with Bentley’s i-models, which are containers for open infrastructure information exchange.

This gives workers the ability to make decisions based on realtime asset information and improve worker safety by having access to utilities data. One of the distinctive advantages is the fact this app puts mapping data into the hands of an entirely new group of users.

Where else might this type of mapping data come in handy on future construction projects? On road projects, for example, the information can allow field technicians to identify certain deficiencies in the road and share that with project-management systems in the office.

Earlier this month Rii (Resource Intl. Inc.), www.resourceinternational.com, Columbus, Ohio, announced iiCollector, which uses data from Google Maps and integrates into its project-management platform, ProjectGrid. With the technology, field technicians can rate road deficiencies under various categories via a mobile device and send the information to the office. The iiCollector is currently being used on pilot projects, with the final product becoming available in the coming months.

Another area that provides value for any type of construction project is the ability to integrate maps with asset-management technology for improved routing.

One recent example comes from Rand McNally, www.randmcnally.com, Skokie, Ill. The Rand McNally IntelliRoute TND 720 truck GPS devices give drivers access to local search capabilities such as maps and vehicle-specific routing. Interestingly, this also integrates with realtime fuel prices, which are made available via GasBuddy.com, allowing contractors to choose the least-expensive fuel or the closest station, depending on their needs.

The opportunities for mapping data in construction are likely only beginning to be realized. Keep an eye on this trend. There might be more technologies that use integrated mapping data in construction in the future.