Vacuum extraction tools have played a vital role in the process of locating subsurface utilities in recent history. High-pressure vacuum equipment allows for relatively fast asset locating without the need to dig large disruptive trenches, which waste both time and resources.
Although the importance of vacuum extraction should not be understated, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology now allows for an even more efficient method of mapping and tracking subsurface utilities without the need for any invasive digging through the use of asset tagging.
Inefficiencies Can Be Costly
Imprecise asset locating poses both a physical danger to utility workers as well as a financial risk to stakeholders invested in their continued integrity.
The hazards associated with cross-boring subsurface utilities can lead to various consequences depending on the particular situation, but none of them bode well for anyone involved.
Compromising high-voltage lines buried underground can lead to injuries or death for those operating machinery above, while severed fiber optic lines can lead to major telephone service disruptions. Punctured gas and sewer lines can result in major explosions and contaminated soil if proper steps are not taken to reduce these risks considerably.
As is stands today, the process of using vacuum extractors to bore holes into the surface in order to visually locate and orient buried assets within the ground can become redundant and tedious over long periods of time.
Where it succeeds in its ability to largely mitigate the kinds of problems caused by even less accurate forms of asset locating, it fails to provide customers with a long-term solution to marking assets that are frequently located for various utility work over extended periods of time.
If, for example, a particular asset required locating for separate utility projects over the span of a few months, vacuum extractors would be required to suck out the same hole every time the asset required locating. From a service perspective, this comes at a cost to the client.
RFID’s Customer Benefit
RFID technology like that used by the InfraMarker system provides a whole new opportunity to offer tracking and mapping markers as an innovative alternative to traditional repetitive vacuum extraction techniques.
Unlike vacuum extraction which requires separate digging operations each time a particular utility is located, an InfraMarker tag can be placed as shallow as a foot beneath the surface above a given utility and encoded with a variety of information valuable to utility companies seeking to identify it relative to other assets in its vicinity.
In addition, the tag can also be encoded with depth information to position it in a precise location as well as list any information regarding previous projects, which involved finding that asset before.
This new technology allows for a shift from a “customer-serving-company” business model where the customer pays only when they need an asset located, to a “company-serving-customer” business model where a service plan could be offered at a regular rate for RFID tag installation.
This way, only one hole is dug to bury the tag, and any subsequent utility projects can simply track the buried tag to gather information on a particular asset.
Get a closer look at the InfraMarker by visiting its product page or ordering a catalog.