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Utility Company Uses RFID to Identify Underground Pipes, Wires

Bravo Environmental has buried approximately 100 InfraMarker tags to help it identity the locations of infrastructure, as well as the work performed at those areas.
By Claire Swedberg

The solution provides a value-added service for customers, Garcia says, which is the key benefit. The data collected can be shared with any authorized parties, such as engineering firms, contractors or other companies that may need to dig underground, and Bravo Environmental can control access to that data.

What's more, Klonsinski says, third-party companies that might need to document any damage in the event of an accident can use the technology to do so. If their digging causes a pipe to become damaged, for instance, they could view the InfraMarker URL printed on the marker, visit the website to view information about what is located there and report what damage occurred. However, Garcia notes, the markers' placement 12 inches below the surface is also intended to serve as a visual marker that alerts individuals digging in the area that a utility exists somewhere below that marker, in order to prevent accidents. "The physical marker in the field is a verification that you are at the right point," he says, "and a fail-safe for field crews."

Bravo Environmental personnel can use the InfraMarker software, running on a computer or app on a smartphone, to view the locations of underground markers.
Bravo Environmental expects that the technology's use will earn the company more jobs, since it gives Bravo a way to automatically provide data regarding what its crews found in the field, or the work they accomplished there. The company has installed a total of about 100 markers to date, and has contracted for a project in which it will install another 150 underground.

Berntsen first released the InfraMarker system in July 2014. The Auburn Geospatial Research & Applications Center (GRAC) researched the technology and found that it took individuals seeking a particular marker an average of 2.5 minutes to locate it using an RFID reader, as opposed to 14 minutes using GPS data (see InfraMarker Adds GPS, Cloud Services to Manage Buried Assets).

A variety of businesses seeking to track underground infrastructure have tested or deployed the InfraMarker system, Nelson says. The testing companies' feedback led Berntsen, in September 2016, to release an updated version of the InfraMarker system that provides stronger GIS support, as well as an iOS version, greater customization capability and expanded access control.

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