Safety products: Underground asset protection

Utility safety: Breakthrough in asset protection from Cambridge Consultants and IPEG Corp.

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Safety products: Damage to underground assets by builders and roadworks costs millions of dollars every year and causes massive disruption. But now help is at hand in the form of a breakthrough service that product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants has helped technology solutions company IPEG Corporation create. The service already has its first customer – a leading US telecommunications company – and trials are planned with a number of other major industry players.

UTTO® is a new generation of cloud-based mobile locate technology that is set to revolutionize the way utility companies protect their underground pipes and cables. Until now, US utility companies have repeatedly sent technicians into the field without knowing precisely where their underground assets are. With UTTO, all the location and positioning data that was being lost or thrown away is seamlessly captured and stored – without even changing the working practices of the field technicians.

UTTO consists of a cloud-based platform, a mobile tablet app and a networked locator device. IPEG Corporation approached Cambridge Consultants for help with the complex system integration – including wireless communications hardware, app development and server-side software.

“We believe this new technology will revolutionize the locate industry,” said Alan Haddy, president of IPEG Corporation. “Since the first underground pipes and cables were laid, utility companies and skilled field technicians have had to search repeatedly to find their assets. Now, they can map and relocate those assets with the support of our cloud-based technology – saving time and money, and reducing mislocates.

“We chose to work with Cambridge Consultants on this project as it has the multidisciplinary expertise necessary to solve our complex technical challenges fast – and has enabled us to link together all the elements into a complete platform from core to cloud.”

In the US – unlike the UK – it is the responsibility of utility companies to provide contractors with details of the location of underground assets such as pipes and cables. A contractor will call a utility company 48 hours in advance to warn them that work is about to start at a certain location. The utility company then contracts an asset location company to go to the site with pipe and cable location equipment and physically mark the position of the underground assets. In areas where a lot of work is carried out, the same asset can be marked up over and over again – yet the precise location information is not usually recorded.

With UTTO, the locator device is used in the field in the same way as existing devices – but the data is stored and uploaded to a mobile tablet app and then uploaded to the cloud. The crucial innovation is the linking together of all the information elements to dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of asset location.

“Our world-leading expertise in industrial sensing and wireless technology was key to the success of this project – coupled with our multidisciplinary teams, which have all the necessary skills under one roof,” said Nathan Wrench, head of the industrial and energy business at Cambridge Consultants. “Our relationship with IPEG Corporation goes back many years and we’re delighted to be part of its transformation into a world-class technology solutions provider – and to be helping it deliver this radical innovation to market.”

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 540 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, energy and wireless communications.

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