Pinpoint system puts leak reporting in the palm of your hand

The Pinpoint system enables mobile field engineers to file real-time reports - from wherever they are, through a hand-held personal digital assistant (PDA) device - of pipeline leaks and defects. The PDAs have built-in global satellite positioning (GPS) and GPRS (internet) technology.

The system was commissioned by engineering consultancy RPS Water and developed by mobile software specialist eSay. It was piloted by United Utilities, an RPS client.
The companies say it offers precise and instant filing of leak location and data.

It is fully integrated with reporting systems at head office and can schedule and reallocate engineers in real-time.

Using custom-made software, engineers complete an electronic report on the PDA, filing it instantly to head office over the internet. If no GPRS signal is available, reports are stored and automatically filed when connection is restored.

A 12-digit GPS grid reference is automatically generated for each report - precisely locating the site of the leak. The software can be modified to capture a photograph or sketch of the site.

Key objectives for the technology were:
  • To improve existing leakage reporting procedures
  • To deliver efficiency benefits to RPS clients and, critically, to save water
  • To deploy the RPS field engineer workforce more effectively
The developers say that Pinpoint is the first mobile technology to specifically address the issue of water leakage. While mobile systems are generally used in other areas of the water industry, leakage reporting is generally done using paper-based systems.
The company estimates that paper systems could take up to four days, because forms were physically delivered to an office. Now they are reported and repairs raised on the same day.

Allowing engineers to log on and off for work remotely, and removing the need to deliver paperwork, can make an operation much more efficient. The developers estimate savings of about five hours a week in travelling time for engineers, reducing mileage and their carbon footprint.

Ninety Pinpoint devices went live for United Utilities in February - that equates to a return on investment of an additional 450 hours a week of productive time, equivalent to an annual saving of £280,000.

eSay and RPS Water say the choice of PDA devices offered a smaller, more portable alternative to laptop computers.

Anglian Water has also adopted Pinpoint and has 20 devices in use. The product is generating considerable interest from the other utilities, too.

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