City of Boulder, Colorado – Storm Water
The city of Boulder serves approximately 104,000 residents. In 1989, the city created the Storm Water Quality Program under its utilities division to monitor the impacts of urban runoff on Boulder Creek. To better understand these impacts, water quality is examined to identify how it is changing over time, and to help identify and mitigate pollutant sources. The city monitors many of these impacts through its Water Quality and Environmental Services programs which includes the Storm Water Quality Program.
One of the long-term goals of the city is to move away from the compartmentalized solutions currently being used in different departments and implement an all-in-one solution that can be used across multiple departments. The city decided to try Touch Inspect, a rapidly customizable, geospatial based, work flow process and data collection system for handheld and touch-tablet computers which uses maps for geo-tagging assets, to solve their challenge. Touch inspect is made by Mobile Epiphany. They decided to use Touch inspect in one department, the Public Works department, to see if it was a viable solution to implement across other departments.
Boulder had been using paper forms and log books for their storm water inspections and a key problem they faced was not being able to get inspectors to all follow the same processes. This lead to inaccurate data, discrepancies between inspections, and wasted time trying to decipher different inspectors’ data. They needed a solution that would standardize both their procedures and their data collection requirements in order to improve documentation and data uniformity. Also, inspectors had to carry multiple devices such as a GPS receiver, a digital camera, a clipboard full of paper forms, and a cellular telephone. The ideal solution would allow them to remove the paper and perform their duties with a single mobile device.
As one of the foremost eco-friendly cities in the country, another goal for the city of Boulder was to move to a paperless system and eliminate the thousands of paper inspection forms and reports they were printing. Their paper-based system was also costly, time-intensive, and inefficient. It required inspectors to stop conducting inspections, return to the office, and spend an average of 2 hours per day manually re-entering data they collected in the field into to their database.
Reporting on the data collected in a useful and meaningful way was another key challenge for the Storm Water Quality Program. For example, every year, the city is required to report its storm water inspections and violations to the state of Colorado. It took them over 2 weeks to compile all the data for this single report because they didn’t have a cohesive reporting system. Their goal was to find a solution that would allow them to create reports faster, more accurately, and with no burden on personnel.
Their paper-based system also didn’t allow them to track the locations of inspections and assets geospatially or add media such as photographs with visual annotations to inspections—information which they wanted in their reports in order to create more detailed reports which would be unambiguous with respect to violations.
The city had tried other mobile solutions that turned out not to be user friendly and user adoption was the point of failure.
The city of Boulder chose Storm Water Inspector, a solution created by Mobile Epiphany partner geoRACK using the Touch Inspect platform. Storm Water Inspector placed all of the inspections that inspectors in Boulder where tasked with completing into a single application, that is broken down by the different types of Best Management Practices that the inspectors could expect to look for and enforce on a daily basis. Productivity was further optimized with the rich use of media inside of the Storm Water Inspector solution; reference images are carried into the field on the mobile device allowing for rookie inspectors to work with minimal supervision and use Touch Inspect as a training tool to guide them through their processes. They coupled this with the Touch Inspect Report Manager to generate reports required by the state of Colorado, create Notices of Violation for specific locations, as well as for internal reporting.
The city achieved their goal of moving to a paperless system for storm water inspections. Now, all of the data collected by inspectors in the field is automatically transmitted to their database. This saves over 80 work hours per month by eliminating the need to manually re-enter the data and manually reformat the data into a report on their PC. Not having to return to the office to re-enter data and manually build reports also allows their inspectors to stay in the field longer and conduct more inspections in the same number of work hours–increasing overall efficiency. Storm Water Inspector also allowed the city to overcome several other key challenges:
Firstly, they have been able to standardize their processes with work flows that guide inspectors through their inspection forms and validation rules that ensure data accuracy and consistency. As a result, all inspectors now follow the same processes, improving the overall quality of their data.
Secondly, using the Touch Inspect Report Manager, they are now able to create their annual report to the state in minutes, rather than the 2 weeks it took previously. They can also easily run more accurate internal reports in near real time as the delay caused by data re-entry and manual report creation has been eliminated.
Thirdly, field decision support has improved by giving inspectors the power to map assets and inspections geospatially and the ability to compare previous inspection photographs to their current inspection and it allows them to highlight areas of concern with Storm Water Inspector’s drawing tools. This gives inspectors better field decision support by allowing them to quickly review past inspections, both visually and by data collected, to the inspection they are currently undertaking.
Now that the city has proven that Storm Water Inspector is the right solution for their Storm Water Quality Program, they are looking to reach their goal of a single system by implementing Touch Inspect solutions across other departments. Having seen the cost effectiveness and increased efficiency it brought to their Storm Water Quality Program, they are actively working to deploy Touch Inspect to other departments that inspect assets such as roads, street signs, pipelines, and more in the future.