Maintaining road infrastructures is highly complex, but also essential for the safety of travelers and economic progress. Roads are heavily used by both business and private travelers, making it difficult to close them for maintenance.
Currently, many government transport agencies rely on road inspection techniques that are manual and time consuming. Inspectors write everything down on paper and take photos with digital cameras. When returning to their office, this information must be documented digitally, requiring more labor- intensive work. Another challenge is the quality of the data. For example, handwritten notes can be difficult to read and both notes and photos are subject to physical damage.
Mobility solutions are on the rise within the transportation industry and are a great tool for reducing manual processes, driving efficiencies, improving productivity and reducing costs. There are many different types of mobile applications in use today by transport workers, especially those in the field—apps that facilitate real-time information viewing and sharing, electronic report generation and other critical processes that are essential to good decision-making and improved performance.
CGI client Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) is one of many government organizations taking advantage of mobile technology, using it to improve an essential part of its overall mandate—the inspection and maintenance of roads.
RWS is part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of road and waterway networks across the Netherlands. CGI worked with RWS to build a mobile app for maintaining the Netherlands’ main road networks.
The app enables road inspectors to drive along road networks and inspect road conditions, using their iPads to record and report on those conditions. It offers the following unique features:
- Seamless online and offline synchronization: The app is specially designed for the inspectors’ working environment and enabled by their 3G or 4G network connections. In the absence of a network connection, the data can be stored locally and retrieved as soon as a network connection is restored.
- Intuitive user interface: Inspectors can use the app to record any type of road observation at any time. The app prompts the user to add information such as road number and hectometer pole, which will give GPS coordinates for the observation’s location with 100% accuracy. The observation is then plotted on a map or displayed in a list view. The learning curve for using the app is less than five minutes.
- Photo observation: The app offers photo storage and a built-in camera, providing a several photos for each observation. Each photo can be resized to a lower resolution to ensure an upload time of less than 15 seconds.
- Cloud-based back-office with HTML5 user interface: The recorded observation is automatically sent to the back end without any input from the inspector. It can also be pushed to all other inspectors that have the app installed on their mobile devices. By using HTML5 as a user interface, the back office can be made available on every device.
- User feedback: A feedback feature is available to report app bugs and suggest new app features.
This is just the starting point for mobile road inspection apps. The future will unfold more functionalities and features in terms of, for example, navigation, inspector work areas assignment, incident reporting, etc.
Mobile devices can’t replace road inspectors, but they can make their lives easier. Where road inspectors in the past had to travel back and forth to do their administrative work, it is now a matter of finding a good parking spot.
A mobile device with the right apps converts an inspector’s car into a digital workplace, enabling him or her to perform all necessary administrative tasks virtually. Eliminating travel back and forth from the office and providing relevant information to the road inspector at any time and place enables the inspector to cover wider areas, respond more quickly to issues and make better decisions.
As in every other industry and field of work, mobility is transforming road inspections, creating new efficiencies and unlocking tremendous possibilities.