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New Case Study Released Avista Utilities Automating Field Data Collection with Smart Phones

New Case Study Released Avista Utilities Automating Field Data Collection with Smart Phones

06/28/12 Des Plaines, IL

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) announces the availability of a case study about a pilot project that used smart phones and mobile GIS to automate field data collection for exposed pipe surveys. Based on the results of the pilot project with Avista Utilities, the estimated payback period of the total investment will be less than one year and the net present value over a three-year period will be more than $200,000 for the utility if the technology is fully implemented.

In March 2012, Avista—located in Spokane, Washington—commenced the pilot project to evaluate the new technology being developed by GTI and 3-GIS with funding from Operations Technology Development (OTD), a not-for-profit company that facilitates voluntarily funded, collaborative research on issues relating to gas operations and infrastructure. Four iPhones with a GIS-based data collection application were implemented with field crews responsible for performing exposed pipe surveys. The new technology replaced paper maps and forms with software that allowed field crews to view the GIS and collect inspection results on an iPhone. Manual data transfer and entry in the office was replaced by an automated process that uses cloud computing to make electronic survey data available immediately without the need for manual entry.

"Accurate, high-quality data that is accessible for analysis and decision making is the basis of integrity management. GTI's Intelligent Utility Program is taking a look at ways that the industry can leverage recent advances in information technology to develop tools for extending electronic data capture and real-time access to geographic information to users in the field," says Alicia Farag, GTI program manager. "This project is just one example of how electronic data forms on mobile devices can optimize the data management process, reducing costs and improving data quality."

The results of the pilot project demonstrate that the mobile data collection system provides value in a number of ways. Field crews are able to see facility data on a handheld device rather than having to call back to the office to request additional information to be looked up, adding significant efficiency to their work flow. Data is validated in the field in real-time, which reduces the occurrence of inaccurate data being recorded. Re-entry of the data back in the office is eliminated, helping to reduce the possibility of errors, and potentially providing an estimated annual $150,000 in cost savings if the technology is fully deployed. The structure of the new mobile data collection system allows inspection data to be directly associated with an asset in the field without the need for a manual mapping process back in the office, providing easy access to exposed pipe survey data while onsite. Field crews were able to learn to use the software and handheld devices with minimal training and had good experiences during the pilot project, so the transition to the new system was easy.

Based on a positive experience with the technology, Avista is considering future work to explore the use of mobile data collection on handheld devices for other operations.

About Gas Technology Institute (GTI)
GTI is a leading research, development and training organization that has been addressing the nation's energy and environmental challenges by developing technology-based solutions for consumers, industry, and government for more than 70 years.

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