City of Sebring

Like thousands of water utilities across the United States, the City of Sebring (FL) Utilities Department is tasked with providing a safe and reliable water supply, while managing all the dispersed assets of the water distribution and wastewater systems. And like every water utility, Sebring needs to regularly locate, map and inspect these assets to maintain service levels and operations. Typically, this means an expensive Geographic Information System (GIS) and the use of outside surveyors utilizing specialized GPS equipment. When Sebring evaluated this approach, they received a quote for GIS software that was over $30,000 and bids for surveying services that were as high as $300,000. And that didn’t even include the mobile tools to collect the data or integration with their existing CAD system.

Quick Summary

Challenge:

  • Costly GIS and GPS approach
  • Requirement for Survey-Grade Accuracy
  • Utilizing CAD Diagrams on mobile devices

Solution

  • TerraGo Edge on iPads and iPhones
  • Real-Time, Survey-Grade Accuracy with RTK
  • Customizable Smart forms

Results

  • Cost savings of 90% over traditional GIS and GPS systems
  • Improved efficiency and response times
  • Streamlined operations and in-source surveying

The Challenge

Like thousands of water utilities across the United States, the City of Sebring (FL) Utilities Department is tasked with providing a safe and reliable water supply, while managing all the dispersed assets of the water distribution and wastewater systems. And like every water utility, Sebring needs to regularly locate, map and inspect these assets to maintain service levels and operations. Typically, this means an expensive Geographic Information System (GIS) and the use of outside surveyors utilizing specialized GPS equipment. When Sebring evaluated this approach, they received a quote for GIS software that was over $30,000 and bids for surveying services that were as high as $300,000. And that didn’t even include the mobile tools to collect the data or integration with their existing CAD system.

Sebring didn’t simply need to find cheaper solution with a mobile application. Their technical requirements were not easily met with garden-variety apps available from the iTunes AppStore. They wanted to do something fairly innovative and bold. In fact, they were looking to break new ground with a solution that delivered entirely new features, while still delivering massive cost savings.

Sebring Utilities still needed to get the survey-grade accuracy (sub-meter, cm-level in some cases), which you can’t get with an iPhone or iPad out of the box (typically 5 meters at best). Some tasks, like mapping an underground valve, absolutely needed to be sub-foot or better accuracy. Other tasks, like locating an above ground valve, could be seen within 3-5 meters, so just the iPad would work.

Sebring also needed to be able to utilize CAD diagrams on the mobile devices, so they could identify and locate valves and other assets in the field. In the past, they relied on printing CAD drawings. but needless to say that was cumbersome and costly. Plus, if they were working on a leak, time was of the essence so they wanted on-demand access on their mobile devices.

With the multitude of assets from fire hydrants to valves to sewers, the data collection and maintenance work varied greatly. Sebring needed a solution where they could create custom forms and workflow processes, and modify them over time or create new ones whenever needed.

"We could see the traditional GIS and GPS approach was going to eat us alive cost-wise." - Mark Kretz, Water Plant Operations

The Solution

With TerraGo Edge, Sebring was able to integrate with industry-leading GPS receivers, which easily paired to iPads or iPhones via Bluetooth. Depending on the accuracy requirement, field users could capture data with a single data collection app at a cm-level, survey-grade mode, or at a 5-meter, consumer-grade mode.

Getting the survey-grade performance on the iPad has only been possible very recently and it’s one of the more difficult things to provide for iOS devices. One of the key benefits of TerraGo Edge over other data collection and forms apps is that it’s fully integrated at the software level with these leading GPS receivers, which are Apple-certified. Sebring wanted an RTK-capable receiver, which meant they could get cm-level accuracy in real-time (eliminating any “post-processing”). So, they selected an Eos Arrow 200, the world’s first RTK receiver certified by Apple. This meant the location coordinates were available to all apps on iOS. However, in order to get the full GPS data which is essential to high-accuracy data collection, an app must integrate the Eos SDK. Luckily, TerraGo was the first iOS app in the world to do just that.

The real-time performance of the GPS service meant they could do a lot more calls, a lot faster. For example, Sebring used to utilize a Trimble device for exercising valves but it would take 10-15 minutes per valve. With a customer base of 16,000 people that posed a real manpower problem. With real-time, survey grade accuracy, the work gets done in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost.

Sebring wanted to be able to share CAD diagrams within the TerraGo Edge mobile app. If CAD diagrams could be provided as basemaps, workers could utilize them quickly to locate valves and perform repairs in the event of a leak. Here, TerraGo provided the TerraGo Composer product to enable the geo-referencing of CAD diagrams in GeoPDF format, which could be imported into Edge. This enabled any worker to access any CAD diagram on their iPhones, iPad or other mobile devices for the first time, providing important productivity benefits in the field.

TerraGo’s form builder let Sebring create unlimited forms, entirely customized. As new processes come online with the TerraGo Edge data collection tool, forms can easily and flexibly be accommodated. Whether it’s water plant or wastewater operations, the right form can be designed and built within minutes and synced to all mobile devices instantly.

“The deployment of TerraGo Edge saved the City of Sebring the expense of a traditional GIS and GPS solution as well as the cost of surveying services, which could have run over $300,000.” - Mark Kretz, Water Plant Operations

The Results

“The deployment of TerraGo Edge saved the City of Sebring the expense of a traditional GIS and GPS solution as well as the cost of surveying services, which could have run over $300,000,” said Mark Kretz, Water Plant Operations. “On a day-to-day basis, the biggest benefit is that we get the ease of use of an iPad, and didn’t have to buy and utilize proprietary GPS handhelds, which are more complex and vastly more expensive.”

In addition to the significant cost savings, TerraGo Edge has helped the Utilities department be more efficient by collecting just the right data for the asset with customized smart forms. They have been deploying in stages first by asset types within plant operations and then expanding to wastewater asset management. Within plant operations, they started building forms and rolling out data collection by asset types. From valves to hydrants and beyond, the field values and GPS accuracy requirements are easily built into the field worker’s data collection workflow.

From the cost savings of a mobile GPS solution to the improved response times enabled by mobile CAD diagrams, the measurable and anecdotal benefits of TerraGo Edge are clear. Most strikingly, the deployment of TerraGo Edge by the Sebring Utilities Department is an exceptional success story of local government’s use of mobile technology to transform operations in order to cut costs and improve service. Prior to identifying a mobile strategy, the City of Sebring would have needed to outsource surveying services to traditional services and GPS technology. They would have also been faced with purchasing and maintaining an entirely new GIS platform. And they still needed to integrate CAD diagrams and develop a collection solution. With TerraGo Edge and the Eos Arrow 200, the City of Sebring was able toWater-Treatment-Plant.jpg in-source surveys and implement a cloud-based, mobile solution that outperforms traditional technology at a fraction of the cost.

“We are evaluating the expanded use of TerraGo Edge across other utility workflows to help unify and streamline operations. " - Bob Boggus, Utilities Director at City of Sebring

Like thousands of water utilities across the United States, the City of Sebring (FL) Utilities Department is tasked with providing a safe and reliable water supply, while managing all the dispersed assets of the water distribution and wastewater systems. And like every water utility, Sebring needs to regularly locate, map and inspect these assets to maintain service levels and operations. Typically, this means an expensive Geographic Information System (GIS) and the use of outside surveyors utilizing specialized GPS equipment. When Sebring evaluated this approach, they received a quote for GIS software that was over $30,000 and bids for surveying services that were as high as $300,000. And that didn’t even include the mobile tools to collect the data or integration with their existing CAD system.

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