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Street Cuts Get Intelligent

Several dozen municipalities are adopting CDO Technologies' RoadTag solution to identify who performed road restoration work so that any follow-up repairs or maintenance can be dispatched quickly.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 13, 2016

CDO Technologies has commercialized its ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution for tracking information regarding street cuts—openings in roads that are typically made by utility companies to repair cables and pipes underground. The solution, known as RoadTag, was commercially launched last year, and several dozen cities and agencies are now preparing to adopt the system to monitor road cuts, as well as some roadside assets, in order to provide information to workers in the field. Denver and Colorado Springs recently announced deployments of the technology, while Los Angeles intends to employ the system to track sidewalks and bicycle lanes citywide, as they are being installed.

Dayton, Ohio, was the first municipality to adopt an early version the RoadTag, (see RFID Speeds Up Roadway Repairs), with ruggedized UHF RFID tags embedded in the roadway where cuts had been made and then restored using concrete and asphalt. Every year, the city investigates 70 to 100 complaints about poorly restored road cuts, and for sections where an RFID tag was installed, the technology enables those who respond to quickly access information about who made each cut and carried out the restoration, so that any necessary repairs can be quickly scheduled with the appropriate parties.

In Dayton, Ohio, a worker uses a Zebra Technologies MC 9190-Z handheld reader to capture the ID number of an RFID tag embedded in a newly repaired street cut.
During the past three years, the Dayton deployment afforded CDO an opportunity to test the technology in a real-world environment. The tags have been subjected to rain, snow, ice and heat, as well as the application of cement and steamroller pressure.

The greatest challenge now is not in the technology's effectiveness, says Robert Zielinski, CDO Technologies' director; CDO knows it works. Rather, it is the operating procedures in regard to the tags' use: How are they distributed to contractors, for instance, and how much data should be associated with each tag?

"We decided generalizing a solution made sense," Zielinski says, adding that those acquiring the technology must consider not only the system's technical aspects, but also the politics of how it is used. And, he says, users need to know that the technology "is not meant to replace bodies." Instead, it allows public works and utility companies to divert labor to more productive projects, such as following up with complaints and watching for potential future failures on the roads. What's more, it can improve a city's public image by enabling it to become more responsive to the public.

Using the learnings of the first installation in Dayton, CDO released a commercially packaged solution in October 2015. The system consists of 5,000 UHF RFID Technologies ROI (TROI) tags to be embedded in roadways, as well as CDO's RoadTag software and one each of a handheld and desktop reader.

Dayton has handed out approximately 9,200 tags to utilities since 2013, according to Andrew Marks, an engineer in training for the city. Most are used by Dayton's natural gas provider, Vectren. Because Vectren is divided into three branches, the city provides tags encoded with a different ID number for each branch, and also links the month and year with each tag in its own software as the tags are distributed to the utility.

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