By 2050, America’s population is projected to have grown by 30%. That’s an additional 100 million people putting stress and strain on an already overworked public infrastructure made up of roads, bridges, tunnels and a myriad of other vital systems.
But while crumbling roadways, cracked bridges and deteriorating railways are just now beginning to grab national attention, the country’s less visible but equally vast underground asset infrastructure is deteriorating just as quickly as the systems that sit above it.
Fixing this problem will not be cheap or easy. Over the next 20 years, upgrades to the nation’s water system alone are expected to cost anywhere from $3-5 trillion. And while governments at all levels continue to struggle with budget shortfalls and political gridlock, addressing the problem of infrastructure modernization has left municipalities and utility companies increasingly desperate for an affordable solution now.
Underground infrastructure asset management: a vital starting point
The “big picture” fix to these issues, as laid out by Bonner R. Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, essentially boils down to four steps:
1. Monitor underground assets for problems and investigate their causes;
2. Assess the life-cycle of materials and the cost of their procurement and replacement;
3. Rehabilitate underground asset networks; and
4. Prioritize the selection, design and timing of replacing aging assets.
As Cohen notes in his report on the nation’s underground water system, the state of decay taking place within these asset networks has made it clear that the old ways of doing things have become “inadequate to the task at hand” and should be replaced with both new asset management technologies and better policies.
But while improving outdated procurement and replacement policies is ultimately in the hands of legislators, municipal leaders, utility companies and others can take advantage of new technologies that accomplish the vital first step of marking, mapping and locating existing assets.
With today’s advanced asset management systems, problems caused by deterioration can be dealt with quickly while large-scale replacement projects can be implemented gradually over time––a solution that lends itself both to the immediate problems posed by aging infrastructure and the long term management challenges that lie ahead.
RFID and the future of underground asset management
Part of what makes the problems of aging underground infrastructure so difficult is the lack of even basic data on asset type, location, and condition. Without a system capable of keeping precise records on assets, technicians often rely on outdated paper records, or worse, memory alone.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) changes all of that, and while the technology has been around for years, its value as a tool in asset management is finally being realized by those looking to invest in the future rather than kicking the can further down the road.
RFID underground asset management systems like the InfraMarker Solution Suite use a system of robust RFID-enabled magnetic tags, locators, reader/writers, and software to mark, map and locate buried assets and relay that information back to a centralized database in real time.
With InfraMarker, field crews can simply fire up a mobile app, follow the asset’s pin on a GPS-enabled map, confirm its precise location with a hand-held magnetic locator and access a variety of record data stored on the buried tag with a reader/writer device that can be attached directly to a smartphone.
Any changes made to the record are automatically pushed to a database along with details on when the changes were made and who made them. This granular approach to asset recordkeeping not only helps keep information accessible at a moment’s notice, but also completely auditable for those who may find themselves subject to more stringent regulations in the future.
Although it’s unclear what the future holds in terms of the policies keeping modernization from happening on a wider scale, systems like InfraMarker are designed to help those in charge of managing buried assets a reliable, data-rich foundation from which to work from.
Interested in seeing InfraMarker in action? Click here to download the InfraMarker app from Google Play and sign up for a free 90-day trial at www.InfraMarker.com.
To learn more about the InfraMarker, visit www.InfraMarker.com, the InfraMarker Product Page, or Request a Catalog.