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Geolocation, RFID Companies Selling System for Pipe and Equipment Tracking

ProStar Geocorp is deploying the RFID technology of its sister company, EchoRFID, to offer a holistic solution to track the GPS-based locations of pipes and other equipment in storage and in field installations, using RFID tags and handheld readers.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 04, 2017

Colorado-based ProStar Geocorp has teamed up with its sister company, EchoRFID, to create an RFID-enabled solution to manage the locations and status of utility assets, such as pipes, drills and heavy equipment. The system combines ProStar's Transparent Earth geospatial locating platform, its GPS-based PointMan mobile app, and EchoRFID's read- and write-management solution, known as Pipe Talker. The two companies are currently in discussions with several oil and gas and utility businesses to begin piloting or deploying the holistic solution to manage the movements of pipeline materials to and around worksites, and to track them for maintenance purposes after each pipe piece is installed.

ProStar launched Transparent Earth, its software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, five years ago after spending about a decade in research and development, as well as registering for patents. Layne Tucker, ProStar's co-founder and EchoRFID's founder and CEO, came up with the concept in 2002 when a gas pipeline in Northern Alberta was accidentally struck during a construction project. That incident started him wondering how such mistakes could be prevented. Tucker spent several years researching and developing a solution, and ProStar was the result.

The solution serves as a kind of Google Maps for pipelines and utility assets. Companies using the system can view maps that indicate where their assets are located in real time, as well as collect historic data about those items and their movements, even at multiple sites around the world. Traditionally, the system has used GPS data from the handheld devices it sells its customers to link to data about assets that workers input onsite.

"People are used to finding the closest Starbucks," says Bill McIntyre, ProStar Geocorp's business development VP. "Our question was, 'Why can't you do that with pipes or conduit?''" The Transparent Earth system, he explains, stores location data and enables users of smartphones or GPS devices to record inventory or maintenance status information, using the PointMan app, and to save that data, along with their GPS-based location.

For several years, EchoRFID has offered ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID and GPS-based data at oil and gas or utility sites, using systems integration and software from a third-party provider, to help users identify specific assets at remote or not-so-remote locations (see EchoRFID Offers Views Into Buried Oil and Gas or Utility Pipes). With the newly announced partnership with ProStar Geocorp, the firm can now provide that technology to customers worldwide as part of the Transparent Earth platform.

RFID provides automated data entry and reduced entry errors related to information regarding when and where piping, valves or other equipment are accessed, maintained or moved. For instance, McIntyre says, merely finding a piece of infrastructure permanently installed underground can be a difficult and error-prone task. Even if workers use metal detectors to identify the locations of pipes, along with GPS data that was input for each item, it's still difficult without RFID to ensure which piece of equipment is being maintained, inspected or repaired. With an RFID system in place, that data is automatically collected and viewed in the field. The system reads each tag, and users can upload details about their work performed on the tagged item by reading the tag as well.

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