For utility and telecommunication crews performing installation and maintenance work, the ability to accurately pinpoint the location of utility poles or other infrastructure in the field is absolutely essential.

For many years, crews have used GPS handset equipment that can be difficult to deploy, unwieldy to use or expensive to maintain. The need for inexpensive, reliable and accurate mapping information led TerraGo – a leading provider of digital PDF-based maps – last year to launch its newest product, TerraGo Edge, an app workers can use to share location-based information of all kinds, even at centimeter-precision.

“Our aspiration is to replace all of the clunky GPS devices out there from the 1990s, and that’s what we’re doing, one customer at a time,” says Mike Gundling, vice president of product management for the company. “We’re helping people replace those handhelds with their phone – everything you used to do with those old devices you can now do on your iPhone, iPad or Android device.”

The TerraGo Edge software also allows contractors to share digital notebooks with their entire workforce; capture notes, videos and photos from their devices; synchronize project updates from team members in real time and manage projects, tasks and locations from one central dashboard.

TerraGo Edge can be used for all types of jobs.  Engineers and surveyors can capture cm-level accuracy for sharing maps and CAD diagrams. It can also be used just to make sharing site information easier to speed up work. For example, TerraGo Edge customers can share electronic punch lists among employees, customers and contractors, taking before/after photos and updating the status of items to get sign-off, all from the phone in their pocket. 

Target markets for the TerraGo platform include the utility, energy and construction markets. Environmental engineering in particular is a growing market for the software. “We help a lot of construction companies see and manage what’s going on at their job sites at all times, without actually needing to be onsite,” Gundling says. “TerraGo Edge gives construction companies a bird’s-eye view of all their job sites and their people.”

Enhanced Operations

TerraGo Edge is helping a number of companies greatly improve their field operations. One of the software’s early adapters is International Empire Electric Corp., a Medford, N.Y.-based electrical engineering provider serving the industrial, commercial and residential markets. The company implemented TerraGo Edge as a way to streamline its reporting, quoting and paper-based workflow while improving its visibility into job site information. 

“For International Empire, every second of delay is a dollar lost. It could take days or even months to compile the required reports to assess, quote and start a job,” says Dave Basil, vice president of product development. “Management was looking for a faster and easier way to deliver information back to the office and also share it with their customers to get jobs done ontime and on budget. Field crews also needed to add photos and detailed observations to their normal reporting in order to accurately plan, design and price jobs.”

International Empire did not want to use a specific proprietary hardware to accomplish its goal because that would delay deployment, require training and add another expensive piece of equipment to manage.

“International Empire needed a customizable field data-collection solution that would meet the needs of both its field crews and managers and ultimately help deliver exceptional results to customers,” he adds. “Field crews needed an easy data collection solution that could be used on smart phones and tablets and not require any sort of proprietary hardware and specialty training.”

The company also needed the ability to customize information collected in the field from crew members. “Their solution needed to support multiple industries with manager-defined forms and the ability to upload photos and media,” says John Timar, vice president of global business development. “In order to meet these requirements, International Empire Electric surveyed and evaluated the market for mobile data collection solutions. They selected TerraGo Edge.”

With TerraGo Edge, International Empire’s field crews can easily document their findings with text and multimedia, record observations and cite information needed by management. “Managers now have the information they need to make critical decisions faster,” he adds. “Reports are instantly synced back to the office from anywhere, anytime. Managers can now review site reports without waiting days, months or even hours to receive them, and customers enjoy the speed and efficiency of project milestone accomplishments.”

The TerraGo Edge software also made International Empire’s operations more scaleable by making it easier to add field crews where needed. 

International Empire called the implementation process of the software “seamless,” adding that its field crews were able to adapt the technology and use it without any complications. 

“We did not have to make a large investment in specialty hardware and handhelds, because our crew already uses smartphones and tablets in their routines,” according to Edwin Quintanilla, Vice President at International Empire. “TerraGo Edge is a fraction of the cost of other products, and enable us to scale our business and go after many more opportunities than we ever have in the past.”

International Reach

The TerraGo Edge platform has also been adopted by international companies including Prime Electrical, a contractor for Eskom, the leading provider of electricity to South Africa. Most of Prime Electrical’s projects are small jobs located in the country’s rural areas. 

“There are many processes, documentation and procedures that Prime Electrical must follow and complete. They have to get various documents and proposals filed accurately and quickly to ensure the work can be completed and projects can be funded,” Gundling says. 

After implementing TerraGo Edge, Prime Electrical immediately began solving its data collection, timeliness and information-access issues. The platform was also deployed rapidly.

Prime Electrical uses TerraGo Edge’s map functions to document where inputs are made. Crews take pictures of work being done and attach them to a form and project.  “Prime Electrical can now supply accurate and informative information to their clients detailing stages, and specific locations of work that was done, where and what time,” Gundling notes. “This will not only streamline customer service, but also provide Prime Electrical with more robust information to allow Eskom to inquire at every stage of its projects.”

A Decade of Experience

The map functionality within TerraGo Edge is based on digital map technology initially developed by the company 10 years ago. GeoPDF, a digital map technology developed by the company, provided AT&T and other utility operators with digital maps used to find line poles and infrastructure. 

The company developed TerraGo Edge as a way for companies to use its maps on smaller devices than the laptop computers they were typically used on. “Our developers have been working with geographic technology and mapping services for over a decade,” Gundling says. “It’s all about making it easy for anyone to share location-based information.”  

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