Infrastructure Management System (IMS) from Hurco Technologies is designed to simplify comprehensive testing and tracking of water infrastructure
Regulatory pressure and budget constraints are just two factors raising attention paid to managing information about water distribution systems. The challenge is to track assets, conduct testing, monitor results, schedule maintenance, and handle other tasks as efficiently and seamlessly as possible.
The Infrastructure Management System (IMS) from Hurco Technologies is designed to fulfill those needs. It includes a version for a desktop computer in the office to manage the data, and a mobile version for use on laptops and handheld devices in the field to capture data about assets including fire hydrants, valves and mains and can be used in conjunction with other Hurco Technologies offerings:
• Fire Flow Pro software and equipment for testing hydrants and mains
• Spin Doctor portable valve and hydrant testing with ValveSTAR
IMS was designed for communities, especially small cities that need a comprehensive data management tool. Cities can purchase or rent the equipment or hire Hurco to conduct the testing. It also allows separate databases for use by engineering firms that serve several clients. Hurco president Lynn Hurley demonstrated the system by way of a Web meeting on June 15.
The IMS system is designed for testing four key parameters of a water distribution system (Figure 1):
• Fire flow capabilities of hydrants
• Valve exercising in water mains
• Unidirectional flushing
• C-factor testing
Hurco offers computers designed specifically to handle the large amount of data in the IMS system, though the program works with any Microsoft Windows-based PC or laptop, and with handheld devices such as a Trimble Yuma or Panasonic Toughbook (except those powered by Windows Mobile).
A USB radio frequency transmitter/receiver is included for capturing data wirelessly from Hurco pressure sensors. It receives information from up to a few thousand feet away as long as the sensors are within line-of-sight of the receiver.
The sensors can also serve as repeaters. “One sensor will talk to another and relay data back to the laptop,” says Hurley. That means it is possible to set up testing equipment around the corner from the laptop location and still receive the data.
As with any database, most of the work with IMS is in the setup. Users enter information about each main, valve and hydrant, including manufacturer and model numbers where applicable. As users navigate through each setup page, some fields include dropdown boxes with pre-entered information, such as common manufacturer names. Users can customize these boxes so that they always include information specific to the locality.
The setup data is usually entered in the desktop version but can be entered in the field with the IMS Mobile touch screen keyboard, then uploaded to IMS. (Figure 2)
In the demonstration, a single click brought up the setup page for a hydrant, main, or valve, and the steps for setup were similar in each case. For a hydrant, for example, Hurley entered a name and an ID number, along with the installation date. If entering the data in IMS Mobile on location, a single click adds the GPS coordinates. Users can also manually enter coordinates using GPS or UTM, another form of GIS mapping.
The setup page contained several fields to enter the manufacturer, model number, paint color, and other details, including a picture. Hurley continued the setup process by adding location information, including an address and names of nearby cross streets.
Water mains are treated differently from hydrants and valves. “The system defines a main as what is buried underground between two fire hydrants,” said Hurley. That approach is consistent with the testing recommendations of the American Water Works Association.
Hurley showed how to set up a main, completing fields for name, ID numbers, pipe length and material, and the sizes and types of connections, such as mechanical joints or slip fittings. “The reason that’s important is for C-factor testing,” Hurley said. “An 8-inch T-connection just two-and-a-half feet long can add the same resistance to the main as 33 feet of pipe.”
Once finished with the setup, the user has a complete inventory of all assets. Hurley showed how clicking on a hydrant brought up all the information entered about it, including a picture, past test results, maintenance records, and a map of the location.
“We understand that small cities simply can’t afford an expensive GIS mapping system,” Hurley noted. “With an Internet connection, this is a free feature compliments of Google Earth. Small towns can do what the big cities do and do it very affordably.”
Setting up a test also took just a few clicks. Though users have to set up a separate test for each asset to be tested, that only must be done once, since all tests are saved. Tests can be set up in the desktop or mobile versions of the program.
Hurley showed how to select from a dropdown box to set up fire flow testing, valve exercising, C-factor testing, and unidirectional flushing. On the fire flow setup page, he named the test, and then entered the hydrant being tested along with the hydrant being flowed and the testing device (2-inch nozzle). That told the software how to calculate the test results. Users can also select a series of hydrants, as long as they are adjacent to each other. (Figure 3)
Hurley noted that the fire flow testing section conforms to standards of the National Fire Protection Association and grades hydrant capabilities based on NFPA color-coded standards (red, orange, green, blue). (Figure 4)
“Once you have entered all the assets and created the tests, the next step is to create work orders for the tests,” said Hurley. “Since testing is done every year or two, you make them recurring work orders. Each work order automatically appears in the pending work order list 30 days before it’s due.”
Testing is no different than normal, unless Hurco test sensors are used. For instance, for a fire flow test, a technician starts by installing a test cap. The test sensor is placed on the cap, and the valve and hydrant are opened to bleed off the air. Once that is done, the valve is closed and the hydrant is fully opened.
The Fire Flow Pro handheld is then connected to the laptop and the test is activated. “The first thing you’ll see is the current pressure in the main,” Hurley noted. “It directs you to open the next hydrant or hydrants. The handheld unit will immediately display and capture the percent of drop from static to residual, and the system saves the test data.”
Operation of the optional ValveSTAR is similar to Fire Flow Pro, automatically recording test data to the IMS Mobile if using the Spin Doctor valve exercising equipment with the wireless sensors. Hurley showed how to manually record test data and enter it in the field into IMS Mobile.
Hurley also showed the setup for C-factor testing mains, indicating the main to be tested, the hydrants to be used, and the isolation valves to be used. “Over time, water mains start to get plugged up,” said Hurley. “We can test the coefficient of a main between two fire hydrants and tell you how much water is flowing through it.”
Back at the office, Hurley explained, the laptop is synced to the IMS system through a docking station, and all the data and test results are automatically transferred. “If you find a deficiency in the field, such as a hydrant missing a cap, you just enter it in the field and it shows up in the report,” Hurley said. “From there, you can create a work order that automatically is entered into the system.”
When entering IMS, the main page displays a list of active work orders, those that are pending and recently completed, and a list of equipment deficiencies that have been reported but for which work orders have not been created. (Figure 5)
The IMS appeared user-friendly and comprehensive in the data it stores and manages. The system appears to include a field for almost any information about an asset that a user would need to look up. The software appears to deliver ample power at a cost affordable for most small water communities or water utilities, and has potential to save money by streamlining testing procedures and record keeping.
“IMS and IMS Mobile are designed to provide everything needed to manage, test and repair a water distribution system,” says Hurley. “You can go out to a fire hydrant or valve, capture the GPS data, take a picture and insert it into the record, make notes about deficiencies that will automatically create a work order, test the equipment and record the data manually or wirelessly to IMS Mobile on your laptop or handheld device. IMS Mobile even accesses Google Earth to provide maps and driving directions.” (Figure 6)
Software updates are free for the first year and available by subscription after that. Updates are done automatically on any Internet-connected computer. The software includes a backup application and allows Hurco, with permission, to link to the user’s computer and fix issues remotely.
“We have videos on our website that show how to navigate the screens and use the software,” says Hurley. “There are also PowerPoint presentations and tutorials that show how IMS works and teach technicians how to use it.”