Edmonton, Alberta (PRWEB) January 04, 2013
At JV Driver’s sprawling module fabrication yard in Nisku, finding material and equipment needed by workers is as simple as typing in the part’s code and following an arrow on a rugged hand-held tablet computer. And just as it is with a metal detector, the “Geiger counter” beeps speed up as the device nears its target.
The Remote Operating Visibility Enabled Reader (ROVER) is a patent pending system that allows sites to gather critical information autonomously, without any human interaction, thus providing critical data in a near real-time mode. Active RFID tags are being engaged and read up to 300 meters away on a 2-5 second interval refresh rate, updating the location of personnel, equipment and materials in instantaneously
Using existing RFID (radio frequency identification) and GPS (global positioning satellite) tags, along with some clever new software and technology it has developed on its own, Leduc-based Intelliwave Technologies has become a world leader in automated material tracking. The firm now has major companies as clients and can track international container shipments, critical equipment locations and even staff members on jobsites using its SiteSense system.
Tracking information is regularly updated from either satellites or, in the case of JV Driver’s operations, by tag readers at site entry points or installed on mobile equipment like Bobcats that are constantly on the move. Fresh data is fed back to a computer that updates the positions. The information is instantly available to the hand-held device, as well as company officials and even customers.
Intelliwave’s system gained notoriety recently when the company was named a finalist in the Canadian Manufacturers and Exports regional awards for new technology in 2012.
Founders Dale Beard and Jordan Williams had some RFID experience when they started thinking about applications for the construction business six years ago.
“We spoke with various construction firms, and because JV Driver is private, it was an easy decision for them to make, so we set up a partnership and developed the hardware and software appropriate for the construction industry,” said Beard.
Having the ability to get immediate on-site experience and feedback was the key to its fast development, he added.
Pat McGowan, the firm’s vice-president of business development, said being so close to a firm like JV Driver meant that “everybody was watching what we were doing with them.”
McGowan, who once worked with RFID technology in the automotive industry, said companies are usually willing to let someone else take the risks of being first with a new idea.
“They would say the second mouse gets the cheese and everyone was afraid to be the first one in the trap. But with this new technology, everyone is getting the payback and industry is now looking at this as standard practice,” he said. “There is a competitive advantage for the first firms out of the box. Others firms are watching and saying, ‘you helped Driver, we should be doing this.’ ”
Apart from a safer work site — knowing the location of all staff is important when there is an emergency — the operation is also more efficient. If a welder is out looking for some equipment that was moved by others on a different shift, he isn’t working while on his search mission — but he is still being paid. Considering that dozens of trailer-loads of parts may look the same, plenty of time can be saved by knowing exactly where each one is located. The system can also prevent the wrong components from being brought to the worksite, saving more time. McGowan figures the labour savings and general efficiency on a project can pay for the cost of the Intelliwave system many times over.
“Just think there is a yard full of snow-covered pipe. Using a grid system would get you to the right street, but Intelliwave gets you into the driveway,” he said.
Another area of tracking is a “cradle to grave” approach in which expensive components are tagged by the manufacturer and tracked to a project. “The owner of a project would never substitute an inferior product, but procurement staff can go out and order a $40,000 valve and find exactly what they need for $30,000 and think they have a real deal — it looks the same as the genuine valve, but it is a counterfeit,” said McGowan. “The metallurgy is different.” And when the project is a nuclear power plant, such substitutions can’t be tolerated.
Just back from a North Carolina nuclear project where Intelliwave technology is being looked at to ensure the “pedigree” of the products used, McGowan said the rise of counterfeit parts from Asia is a risk. “We have to ensure the general population’s safety, it’s not just for the workers anymore.”
As well, customers can see the exact progress of their projects. “You can’t say ‘we’re almost finished’ when the customer can see that you clearly aren't,” he added. Tracking container shipments is also part of Intelliwave’s offerings and Beard showed a Google map with an overlay of the route one container took recently. Travelling from Vancouver by barge to Idaho, then by truck through Montana en route to Alberta, the shipment took a detour along the way.
“Because this was in real time, with the GPS tracking the head office was aware that the driver had taken a wrong turn in Montana. He was out of cellphone range, but when they contacted him, you can see he turned back,” said Beard.