Managing Unseen Assets

WinCan software system gives utilities more access and control over important infrastructure data.
Managing Unseen Assets
Sections of a collection system are imposed on satellite imagery. Color coding indicates section conditions while the detailed photo allows easy referencing to recognizable features. Images like this are especially beneficial when explaining system needs to interested but nontechnical audiences like homeowners, ratepayers and elected officials.

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Managing, preserving and restoring underground sanitary sewer and stormwater management assets present the infrastructure owner with several challenges, all of which are exacerbated by the assets’ location – underground.

Continuous improvements in data gathering means and methods provide asset owners with a wide range of dependable tools for that task. Likewise, thanks to professional collaboration, the consistency of data interpretation, through which specific section conditions are identified, is becoming more and more reliable as well.

The release of the WinCan VX software suite (VX identifies the version) makes it easier to access and manipulate all that data in a variety of enhanced, new or more visually appealing formats. These formats meet the information needs of a variety of users from engineering and construction professionals to elected officials and the affected ratepayer.  

WinCan VX software is a decision-making tool that enables asset managers to create a sound fact-based foundation for informed and defensible maintenance decisions.

The WinCan VX software was demonstrated over the Internet by Mike Russin, business manager for Pipeline Analytics. This company is the sole distributor of WinCan VX in North and South America.

Walk-around

Like all software, the sole point of contact for WinCan VX is a computer monitor with interactions occurring through a keyboard and mouse. Tablets and other devices with appropriate processor speed, a compatible OS and an Internet connection may also be used. Data storage needs will vary depending on the number of asset sections (the basic management decision-making unit) and the manner in which the asset owner has established its relationship with WinCan.

Local data storage can be used or data can be preserved on, retrieved from and distributed through WinCan’s dedicated Cloud storage services accessed through a Web browser. This access is called WinCan Web.

The VX software can be purchased for local use or licensed for interactive use over the Internet. The latter is called SaaS, or software as a service.

System management tasks are completed in the Home area accessed through a tab at the top left of the main screen shown in Screen Shot 4. Through this tab, password access privileges can be set for individual employees or groups of workers or contractors. This row of tabs includes Projects, Tools, Views, WinCan Analyst and Extended Modules. The latter two are extra-cost items.

The Home tab is where the WinCan VX main screen can be arranged and rearranged to suit users’ needs and the tasks at hand. Below this row of tabs is the tool bar. The tool bar includes three filter options to select sections, manholes and laterals. There are six data exchange tools and two report tools.

Dependent not on a brand of hardware but on the hardware’s ability to deliver industry-standard compliant data, WinCan VX software imports digital data, GIS and GPS coding and graphic image files.

Because WinCan VX reports will only be as accurate as the data files, standardized section condition reporting is critical. WinCan VX can directly receive and archive an inspection camera’s data stream. System users can conduct initial section evaluations, or audit, verify and update already assigned condition notations, or both. WinCan calls the review process validation; it is accessed through the Validator tool. Regardless of the number of sections in a project, the Validator can quickly scan the condition notations in every section, identify those that are out of compliance with certified NASSCO standards, and guide their revision.

Software interaction begins when the user selects from default data set screens or creates customized screens on the Home tab. Data sets are displayed in discrete screen sections or panes. Different tasks may influence data set selection or pane positions.

One common task, reviewing gathered graphic and condition assessments on a section-by-section basis, requires four screen panes. Each pane presents data in a separate area of the monitor’s screen.

In the pane on the far left of Screen Shot 4, and filling the area below the tool bar on the monitor from top to bottom, is a generic pipe graph that resembles a thermometer with a bulb at both ends. The bulbs are manhole icons. The tube between the icons represents the pipe section. It is on this template that individual section report data is depicted.

Immediately to the right, a second top-to-bottom pane presents a list of sections in numeric order. Each line presents section number, pipe segment reference, upstream and downstream manhole numbers, and size/shape notations. Additional characteristics can be added at the operator’s option and as need requires. Along the bottom of this pane are “tabs.” In addition to default or standard tabs, the user can add others. Each tab is connected to a separate data file that is mouse-click accessible. On Screen Shot 4, the Section tab is selected and Document, Geometry, History and Ratings tabs are readily at hand. Clicking on a section and report brings the section-specific report to a new monitor window.

The balance of the monitor screen is further divided into two panes. The top right Photo/Video pane presents images gathered in the inspection process. The lower right pane presents a catalog of observations for the section being reviewed.

Starting in the Section pane, clicking on a section number initiates two behind-the-scenes database searches for the corresponding photo/video images and observations. The image will appear in the Photo/Video pane. Observations are listed in ascending order from section start point to section end point.

In the Pipe Graph pane, the cursor and each observation point appear. The information is presented as a combined graphic and text format. Mouse manipulation moves the cursor “down” the pipe. Simultaneously, the photo or video image advances from observation point to observation point. In like manner, each set of condition details is highlighted. All are in their respective panes. WinCan VX automatically synchronizes all of the displayed information.

In Screen Shot 4, the cursor is indicating a condition notation at 6.05 feet into pipe section 1. The observation note is of a circumferential crack. The photo shows the defect at that location. Moving the cursor further “down,” the pipe icon will change the displayed image and any corresponding condition notation, in this case, a lateral connection that is in satisfactory condition.

Operation

For this demo, Russin used the previously prepared Home screen to present a previously selected set of information in the four panes shown in Screen Shot 4, although he could have chosen as few as two or as many as five panes. He started the demonstration by showing the ease with which the panes on the monitor screen could be customized through the Home tab before returning them to their starting points for the balance of the demonstration.

Moving to the Section pane, both Russin and the observer could reposition the cursor moving through the section’s length. Stopping at an indicated condition observation, both the observation text and the image could be simultaneously viewed and compared.

Russin next reconfigured the screen to depict data in a variety of formats. First he selected data from multiple sections that were dispersed over an entire village. Moving to the WinCan Analyst, an optional feature, and using his inputs, the system created a pictograph of the village’s buildings’ perimeters and collection lines. Also presented on Screen Shot 3 are the assigned condition rankings for each section.

Again using the Analyst with a preset presentation format, similar data from another village was presented. In this depiction, section conditions are identified by colors that are further amplified or muted through the addition of shading that correlates to the density of sections of varying conditions. Traditional hot and cool colors, i.e., red and green, are apparent in Screen Shot 2. As the concentration of troubled sections increases, so too does the intensity of the red shading. Similarly, a concentration of good sections presents as a saturated green area. The resultant graphic is called a heat map, resembling the ubiquitous TV weatherman’s temperature map.

Graphic presentations are beneficial for certain audiences while a tabular data array is more beneficial for others. Russin demonstrated how tabular data can be presented in a standard inspection report illustrated in Screen Shot 5. This report combines the Pipe Graph and Condition comments similar to that in the first demo screen. Here, a flow-chart-style report brings together section number, position of observation notation, code, MPEG (image) identifier and grade. A pie chart is yet another manner in which systemwide data can be displayed for ease of understanding.

Russin next demonstrated the WinCan Web capability as an SaaS user would encounter the system. For this part of the demonstration, both Russin and the observer accessed the dedicated Cloud system. Russin was in California during the demo and the observer was in central Pennsylvania. The distances that first the mouse instructions and then the data had to cover did not noticeably slow the information presentation. When Russin displayed new data in the original Screen Shot 4 configuration and advanced the cursor down the pipe graph, the visuals in the associated photo/video file kept pace and did not hang up or pause.

Addressing the need to distribute various reports, Russin returned to the original user interface then selected Media Distribution from the tool bar. This tool is used to assemble one or all of the various reports that have been created for a project and package them for distribution. Here, too, there is a range of formats and delivery modes available for easy selection. Recipients can be work crews, contractors, elected officials, system customers, regulators or the media, and the reports are customized for each user group.

As he demonstrated each capability, Russin was able to select which data to depict and customize each report’s appearance to meet users’ needs.

All of the data and reports can be exported and shared via WinCan Web. The data is stored in multiple locations to protect its integrity and accessibility.

Observer’s comments

WinCan VX, accessed directly, through WinCan Web or WinCan Cloud, was equally responsive; it did not miss a beat. The software empowers users to format tabular or graphic reports to meet multiple users’ information needs. Viewers with a broad range of skill levels and from various educational backgrounds can easily understand the meaning of the information depicted.

The ability to sort through, prioritize and select a few sections or hundreds of sections and present that information in a variety of formats are useful tools WinCan VX puts at every user’s fingertips.

Operator training is essential to overcome an expected steep learning curve.

Manufacturer’s comments

Data ownership rests firmly with the asset owner while its security through redundant backups and passwords is shielded from accidental loss or intentional attack. The data can be shared through a variety of widely available Web browsers or distributed in pdf, Word or Excel document formats.

WinCan VX is scalable, an attribute that allows asset owners to deploy a powerful tool right-sized for their needs. As their needs grow, capabilities can be added by purchase or subscription.



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