Changes in construction project management (CPM), specifically those dealing with subsurface utility locating, are not only being presented by utility companies, contractors, product manufacturers, and technology innovators, but also by scholars conducting hard research and reaching measurable conclusions.
Technological systems such as Radio Frequency Identification are not new by industry standards––the first RFID tools geared towards making the process of subsurface utility mapping and locating faster and more accurate have been around since the 1980’s.
However with a traditional system engrained into the infrastructure of the construction industry and initial costs scaring away would-be buyers, RFID is just now catching on as a 21st century alternative to a traditionally flawed, inaccurate and potentially dangerous system of estimation and trial-and-error underground utility location.
Scholarly studies have been shedding light on the benefits of new identification systems for years now––many of which are not exceedingly technical or complicated to understand.
Let’s take a look at some of the findings these studies have highlighted as they pertain specifically to subsurface utility location in particular.
“Information is recognized as a new element for CPM success; some even proposed the paradigm that doing construction business is essentially making a web of informed decisions across its process based on the information and knowledge available. (Flanagan and Lu, 2008) How to effectively manage information presents new challenges for contemporary CPM.” (Huang, Lu and Li, 2011)
Next to the benefit of protecting construction workers and technicians from the dangers of general estimation when it comes to excavating with incomplete or inaccurate mapping data, one of the best affordances of RFID systems is its ability to compile complex mapping information for later use.
As these researchers have pointed out, effective information management continues to be one of the major hurdles affecting the construction industry at large.
RFID systems attack this problem by using battery-free electronic tags buried directly above assets, which can be read by handheld reader devices by technicians at the surface.
Where traditional locating techniques often relied on incomplete or approximate data, magneticc RFID provides a means of pinpointing a specific tag within a range the size of a golf ball.
With each RFID tag corresponding to a unique ID, this digital data can also be used to create highly detailed and accurate asset maps by compiling initial location data into a common spreadsheet platform, and then importing the data to your own mapping software using native software.
The InfraMarker RFID system includes its own powerful software tools that can apply on-site location data to a centralized mapping system for later reference.
“Advanced information-storage capabilities mean better quality assurance. The list of innovative applications of RFID in ensuring construction quality can be longer. It is not that RFID is a mysterious ingredient but it can improve information visibility and traceability thanks to its advantages. For example, no direct contact is needed to read its signal. In comparison with bar code, the information in RFID can be better retrieved, particularly on site with a dusty or muddy environment. RFID tags are thin and flexible, which can be set into construction materials.” (Huang, Lu and Li, 2011)
If any doubts should arise as to the durability or reliability of RFID’s reliance on digital tools and information storage, this should quickly put them to rest.
RFID is by no means a delicate or easily broken system. Particular to the InfraMarker system is the integration of Ingress Protection rated IP68 for maximum resistance to dust and continuous immersion in water.
These tags are built to withstand harsh environmental elements for years at a time while maintaining a low profile and non-intrusive design. Constructed of a Polycarbonate case, InfraMarker tag cases are bonded to a 304 stainless steel plate to preserve its strength and durability under stress.
One of the major advantages of RFID integration in subsurface utility locating systems is the affordance of close proximity detection rather than direct contact.
The technology behind magnetic RFID works by detecting distinctive magnetic fields generated by buried tags. Once in the area of a tag, a technician with a reader can pinpoint the exact aboveground location of the tag without the need to dig––even under harsh weather conditions.
InfraMarker tags themselves require no external power source, creating a kind of failsafe mechanism, which will magnetically preserve the tag as a permanent locating device even in the event of an electronics failure.
For more information on the InfraMarker, Berntsen’s cutting-edge, all-in-one RFID marking system, visit the InfraMarker product page or request a catalog.
Creative Commons image via JaxStrong