As I have blogged previously, a difficult challenge in many parts of the world is to find a single database which records where all underground assets, such as water and waste water, power, gas, oil, steam, and telecommunications, are located. There are a number of reasons why this is important.
The most important one is safety. You may remember to explosion in Belgium when a routine road excavation resulted in a disastrous explosion with a number of fatalities.
Secondly, the lack of reliable location information about underground facilities costs utility and telecom companies a lot of money, because when reliable information is not available, they have to roll a truck and send someone to the excavation site to (try) to determine if there is infrastructure that the excavator needs to be aware of. For each site this can involve seven or more trucks from different utilities and telecos converging on the future excavation site. Most utility and telecom companies have tens or even hundreds of staff doing this on a full time basis.
Thirdly, for the company or government agency doing the excavation, encountering unexpected underground infrastructure can seriously delay the project (and negatively impact the budget).
Fourthly, in many jurisdictions utilities and telcos are taxed based on the infrastructure located in the jurisdiction.
Tokyo has had a mainframe-based ROADIC system for many years. GITA sponsored a study trip to ROADIC a few years ago.
Sarajevo, in Bosnia, has recorded the location of all utility and telecommunications infrastructure operating in the city on paper maps for over 40 years. This was tied into the building permitting process in Sarajevo. A few years ago Sarajevo started converting these maps to digital format.
Calgary, Alberta has had the JUMP (Joint Utility Mapping Project) for many years, though not as long as Sarajevo.
State of Jalisco, Mexico
The Instituto de Información Territorial del Estado de Jalisco is developing an integrated infrastructure database for the State of Jalisco.
Edmonton, Alberta also has a shared facilities mapping database.
Recently, while I was in Penang I encountered an interesting approach for mapping and maintaining a database of underground facilities that is unlike anything I have seen elsewhere. It's called Sutra D'Bank (PENANG STATE GOVERNMENT SUBTERRANEAN DATA BANK) and is maintained by a joint venture company EQUARATER (PENANG) SDN BHD (EPSB) formed by Equarater Sdn Bhd and the Penang Development Corporation.
Sutra D' Bank's customers are utilities or any other party undertaking excavations in areas under the jurisdiction of the local government. The operator of Sutra D'Bank does two things. They will identify the location of underground facilities in the planned excavation area, using the Sutra D'Bank database of undergound facilities supplemented by an on-site survey using a variety of technologies. This is similar to the service that many utilities and telcos provide, but identifies all underground facilities, not just those of one utility or telco.
And they do more than that. To ensure that the Sutra D'Bank underground facilities database is up to date, the operator of Sutra D'Bank conducts an onsite as-built survey to record the position (X,Y,Z) and all relevant attributes of the new installation which they then upload to the Sutra D' Bank database. This is unique and very interesting, because it addresses a common problem - what's being captured as as-built, as-designed or as-constructed drawings ? - that many utilities and telcos face who rely on their construction contractors for as-builts.