Five techs accelerating CCTV inspection turnaround

Five techs accelerating CCTV inspection turnaround

Inspection camera being lowered into sewer manhole for 3D digital examination

As the old adage goes, time is money. A significant amount of the cost for CCTV inspections can be attributed to the equipment, site set-up, back office processing of deliverables and associated labour. The good news is there are new technologies available to CCTV contractors and asset owners alike that can be used to drive down the overall cost of the CCTV inspection process.

5G for cloud streaming and streamlined access to online tools

The pipe inspection process is a field-based task and has to happen wherever the pipe is located. Prior to the roll out of 5G, the transmission of large amounts of data (such as video data, network mapping data) to and from the inspection location was often time prohibitive. In Australia, with Telstra’s rollout of 5G many major city locations and some rural locations now have access to fast wireless data streaming services. We can expect to see many IoT (Internet of Things) and cloud streaming services being deployed in wastewater networks as the 5G coverage and adoption increases.

AI for advanced analytics

Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in many shapes and sizes and can be utilised in multiple areas to aid the pipe inspection process. Not only are there applications like VAPAR’s that can automatically detect defects in pipes based on the inspection footage, but there are also statistical models that can predict pipe degradation, making the scoping of the next CCTV inspection package more targeted. AI has the potential to streamline both on-site activities as well as back-office activities, by taking out the manual parts of the inspection workflow.

APIs and integrations for data centralisation

Application Programming Interfaces or APIs are used to streamline data between different software tools (in particular, online software tools) without needing a person to manually export data from one system and format it or manually enter it into another system. 

When it comes to the pipe inspection and asset renewal process, there are many software tools involved. The process will typically start within an Asset Management System (or AMS) where pipes are selected for inspection. These pipes then need to be matched using a GIS system (Geographic Information System) so that operators know where underground the pipes are positioned, and how to gain access. Once the inspection data is captured, the results then require review before being entered back into GIS and AMS platforms. The whole process can take several days, if not weeks, with different formats and spreadsheets and manual data entry required. Through the use of APIs, data being passed back and forth can be repeated and automated without the resource load and delay of having to manually match data in different systems each time.

There are a number of other uses for APIs in asset management given the number of different software tools that are involved in maintaining an asset throughout its lifecycle. 

Autonomous hardware control for finer movement

Many existing crawler systems have telemetry (movement) data available that is being under-utilised in the current method of capture. Building systems that use this data and either recommend or automate crawler movement can prevent the camera tipping and traction issues. Currently operators need to be very careful in their operation of crawler hardware and can risk losing the expensive camera gear in the pipe. Crawler manufacturers are looking for ways to utilise this telemetry data in a way that assists operators and speed up the capture process. The future of such technology, if paired with AI, could lead to fully autonomous inspections being carried out at a faster rate with lower risk to the hardware.

Computer vision

The concept of computer vision (CV) is to use the pixels in a digital image to better understand what is happening in the picture. Some common computer vision applications include edge detection and filtering “noise” from images. Computer vision can also be used to estimate measurements from an image and to track changes over a series of images. The combination of computer vision tools can be used to provide additional insights and estimation measurements within CCTV inspection footage. We may also see applications for CV that stitch images together to create a “street view” like rendering of pipes, creating a software alternative to the similar deliverables that can currently only be obtained using specialised 360 degree cameras.

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There is so much innovation that is happening in the CCTV inspection space, and there are many companies that are pushing the boundaries. Talk to your clients and suppliers about how they can include some of the above industry innovations into their delivery process, and you might find some savings and additional value. 

For further information about how you can streamline your CCTV inspection process, you can also visit the VAPAR website here.

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