Railroad Bridge Inspection Just Got A Little Easier

  • Software

20 Sep 2019

Author: Ian Anderson, Chief Product Officer

The railroad industry is using technology to manage its infrastructure in really cool ways, but our bridge inspectors felt something was missing. Managing Excel files, inspection photos, and paper reports can be a time-intensive process that is not very exciting. That is when we decided to create AREview™, a software platform that eliminates the non-value added steps in managing data and generating timely reports. The result, more efficient use of one’s time doing the things that one like’s to be doing!

Mobile Bridge inspection softwareSolving the File Management Dilemma

How about an example?  With Excel files or PDF’s, 100 bridges quickly becomes thousands of files, some organized and some not.  It’s like they are reproducing on their own in Dropbox, OneDrive or wherever the data is stored. There’s a first, a second, and maybe even a third draft as you try to maintain your revision control. Adding additional demand on the file management, the file names and data sets just keep getting bigger. Then, there are the photos.

Bridge inspectors take lots of photos, for good reason.  The right photos say everything an engineer needs to hear. It is a critical part of the health of system assessment.  Sometimes there can be hundreds, if not thousands of photos, especially on larger or more complex bridges. This adds another layer of complexity in managing the inspection files.  Sound familiar?  Our engineers dealt with this issue “every day”.  Or at least they did……

Ok, inspectors. What if this was the case?  You have thousands and thousands of files to deal with after having completed an annual or routine bridge inspection.  You’re dreading what’s ahead in terms of the time it takes to organize all of the data into a field report.  AREview™ may have just helped you address a likely source of frustration.

What do I mean?  AREview™ is built by engineers. And it’s built for engineers. That means, no more photo logs in the field. AREview™ tags your photos as you go. Findings and photos are ready for reports when you leave a bridge. It provides real-time reporting and in a reporting format that meets the FRA’s highest standards.  AREview™ just made thousands of files disappear, and we think that’s pretty cool!

Railroad Bridge Inspection Web App and Mobile App

We get excited about things like databases and organizing data to make your job (and ours) easier. So let’s take a look under the hood.  Access to data is one of the really exciting frontiers of digital technology, and it’s completely relevant to bridge inspectors. We’ve been there. Our infrastructure is laid out across a beautiful country and some of that majesty doesn’t have great cell reception. Even in some of the places where you have great cell service when you’re in the mud on your hands and knees under a bridge or in a concrete box, you are doing off-line work as an inspector. And, yes, it’s about databases again!

Our software moves with you. As railroad bridge engineers, you are always going to go in and out of service. We know. We’ve been in Bridge Inspection Softwarethose places. As soon as you’re back online, your data is synchronized, both ways; bi-directional synchronization. Photos and data move without effort, and fast!

We think the office and the field are starting to feel a little closer to each other, and that’s the point. It’s about transferring more than data. You are trusting us with your team’s skills and knowledge. We take that very seriously. After all, our own inspections are the proving ground for AREview™.

And for those who are asking, what’s next? Our software team is very excited about working with the UAS community. We have had some early successes with some of the key hurdles for our mobile drone application. Our technology partners have given us the edge computing capabilities we need to make a great user experience. Early indications from this are positive. There is a need for it, and we have a lot of great people, with years of drone inspection and GIS experience. Something good is going to come out of that when it gets going.

For our ground inspection software, the next features and functionalities are already taking shape. It’s our reporting. Because peace of mind is a good thing.

AREview™ – Bridge Management Solution

Reporting is central to success in any business. As an RBE (Railroad Bridge Engineer), bridge reports are either your most valuable assets or your worst enemy. We understand. Too much and the information is buried; not enough, and the knowledge doesn’t get transferred.

Making good decisions is a long, connected process. It’s a whole team of people working together. Everyone is trying to be sure nothing gets overlooked.  There are often a lot of details that need to stay connected all the way until the end.

Actionable reporting in real-time might speed up the process, but the process is still the process. For engineers, your work is over when the problem has been successfully addressed, not before. In other words, decisions about bridges don’t end with the inspection report.  They begin with the inspection report.

Inspection findings, photos, repair tracking, and costs are seamlessly connected in our management portal. The intuitive dashboards and intelligent reporting give you visibility from start to finish. As I said, we are really excited about what’s next! Railroad bridge management is about to get digital, in a good way!Field inspection app

We aren’t advertising better sleep for railroad bridge management teams, yet. We are thinking about how important data visibility is for our (and your) organization. For us, visibility is the antidote for the detailed process of managing risk.

2020 is shaping up to be a big year for us. There are lots of challenges ahead. And everyone is very focused. The goal is clear. AREview™ is going to be battle-tested and ready for demos soon. Our management console is not far behind. Our ground mobile inspection app is already being tested. And AREview™ is about to take to the air, with the mobile drone inspection app being spearheaded by the UAS team. All are a part of one common goal.

Our mission is to produce railroad bridge management software for the digital age—software by railroad bridge engineers and for railroad bridge engineers. What that means for our customers is more than the value our software brings to your team.  Our inspectors and engineers are committed to railroad bridge safety. When our inspectors and engineers said we needed to build software, it was all about helping them keep bridges safe. And that really shows!

We know you expect efficiency. We know you need quality. The software has to be scalable. It must be secure. And we understand it has to be focused on bridge safety. We had the same requirements.

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