Making the Most of Data

The right software solution can help utilities raise the value of sewer inspection data

Making the Most of Data

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Sewer inspection is only as valuable as the data it yields. It starts with recognition and accurate coding of defects, but the real value comes when that data is leveraged to make smarter infrastructure management decisions.

WinCan was the first inspection software on the market, and over the past 30 years it has evolved to give utilities greater insight and additional capabilities. Getting the most out of inspection data is critical, and WinCan is helping utilities do just that.

Mike Russin, general manager for WinCan in the Americas, is an old hand in the industry. He started doing sewer inspection for a contractor in North Carolina 30 years ago, then took a job as a municipal wastewater project inspector before moving into sewer equipment sales and eventually software with WinCan. Since 2001, he has been a steadfast NASSCO member, a certified trainer, and has served on the NASSCO board of directors and as chairman of the Software Vendor Committee.

Municipal Sewer & Water recently caught up with Russin to talk about WinCan, its capabilities and the future of sewer inspection.

MSW: Can you give a brief overview of WinCan  and its capabilities?

Russin: When it comes to understanding the condition of wastewater collections system assets, WinCan is the world’s most trusted software. It was also the first software on the market to fill that role. Early on we focused on data collection, but now WinCan is a full-featured platform for helping wastewater professionals make confident decisions about infrastructure maintenance. It offers powerful analytics and data visualization tools, plus a robust cloud platform that lets all members of a wastewater team collaborate to get essential work done — and do it rapidly, cost-effectively and securely.

MSW: What differentiates WinCan from other sewer  inspection software?

Russin: Using WinCan, everything starts with a flexible workflow. Those who gather sewer footage, code it, analyze it, plan maintenance, do budgeting and perform cleaning and rehab — they’re seldom the same people with the same needs. We focus on making it easy for each team member to do their job, view data the way they need to and hand off their work efficiently to the next person. This is coordinated through a cloud platform that gives every team member immediate, online access to the latest data using any web-enabled device — all using the latest protocols for security and redundancy.

MSW: What’s the philosophy behind development and innovation at WinCan?

Russin: We never pursue technology for technology’s sake. We develop our product roadmap based on customer feedback, and we seek innovation that helps cities make better decisions with less effort and budget. We test every new solution rigorously in the field before it ever sees the light of day.

MSW: What role will artificial intelligence play in the future  of sewer inspection software?

Russin: At WinCan, the future of AI is here already. Our new Sewermatics suite of service offerings uses cutting-edge AI to recognize defects, identifying both type and qualifying details. That AI scan is then vetted by a team of PACP-certified experts to ensure the highest accuracy and to train our AI engine to become even more perceptive. Down the road, we’ll be extending this AI to field operators and office coders where it will provide automatic assistance in the coding process and offer the ability to “scrape” massive sets of legacy data to identify defects, deterioration and other trends that may have escaped prior notice.

MSW: How do the different WinCan software packages and modules fit together and help you customize systems for clients?

Russin: We’ve modularized our solutions so customers invest only in what they’ll use, and we’re very cognizant about offering capabilities that support our customers’ processes, rather than forcing customers to adapt their processes to our software. Clients can also offload any data management task to our Sewermatics team — coding, data migration, third-party integrations and customizations. This gives them the flexibility to maximize their own internal resources while alleviating bottlenecks and competency gaps.

MSW: How does WinCan integrate with asset management systems?

Russin: We’ve always recognized wastewater infrastructure O&M has much broader implications on budget, environmental compliance and ratepayer satisfaction. We’ve built out robust, bidirectional integrations with some of the biggest names in municipal enterprise software: Esri, Cityworks, CentralSquare (powered by Lucity) and Cartegraph, to name a few.

MSW: Is existing inspection data easily imported to WinCan?

Russin: Absolutely, WinCan is able to import and validate any PACP, LACP, MACP and WRc certified data set, along with many others. Mapped imports make it easy to ingest noncompliant data, and our Sewermatics team is always able to help with challenging data sets or high volumes of data.

MSW: How does the software help utilities plan  rehabilitation projects?

Russin: When people think of AI for sewers, they think of defect recognition. At WinCan, we’re also developing AI to recommend smarter rehabilitation strategies. Our Rehab Planning Module will build a system-wide matrix of defects by type, severity, criticality and proximity, and then cross-reference that against a database of regionally available rehab methods, each with its associated cost and availability. It will then auto-generate — in minutes — a plan that delivers maximum impact for a given budget, saving municipalities weeks of analysis and guesswork.

MSW: How do you work with utilities to make sure they get a system that meets all their needs?

Russin: No matter how simple the need, our sales approach is highly consultative. If a customer doesn’t get incredible value out of using our solutions, we know they won’t be our customer for long.

MSW: What sort of training and support does  the company provide?

Russin: We have the industry’s largest training and support team. We offer that support by email, phone or on site. For support cases, our team maintains a satisfaction survey rating of 97%.

MSW: What do you say to the small municipal utility that isn’t sure if the investment in this system will provide a return?

Russin: WinCan can deliver incredible insight, even for small datasets. But regardless, growth can’t always be anticipated, and if you have clean, comprehensive data and processes, it’s much easier to support growth than if you’re playing catch-up. With your inspection data in WinCan, you’re ready for whatever the future may bring.

MSW: What has you most excited about 2021 and moving forward?

Russin: AI has huge potential to ease the bandwidth constraints municipalities are facing, and to deliver better insights and smarter strategies. Cloud technology like WinCan Web is already supporting collaboration among remote teams and enabling workflows that start with field inspections and end with high-level budget justifications. Beyond that, we continue 

to offer support for emerging technologies like side-scanning, laser/sonar-profiling and Lidar-based geometry acquisition. And we’re working on some pretty cool technologies that extract geometry from video, model underground assets based on data from XYZ sensors and support augmented reality for virtual visualization of buried assets out in the field. 


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