Things are going uphill
Lonely nature, alpine life, genuine benefit – for it the Tiroler alps stand. In the midst of this beautiful landscape, an augmented reality app from Paderborn is now being used: NAVA for measuring house connections via smartphone.
TIGAS-Erdgas Tirol GmbH (TIGAS for short) operates a gas network with a total length of currently approx. 3,700 km in around 170 Tyrolean communities and supplies customers throughout Austria and Germany with natural gas. The company plans to meter 1,300 house connections with NAVA this year. We spoke with Rainer Fischer and Florian Schirmer from the network planning department.
Mr. Fischer, you decided in 2019 to break new ground in house connection measurement and purchased the NAVA app. How did this decision come about?
R. Fischer: On the one hand, we were dissatisfied with the situation on the construction sites. Today it is neither up-to-date nor reasonable for a pipe fitter or welder to measure house connections with a tape measure or a laser distance measuring device. The delivered measurement results were mostly only of sufficient quality. On the other hand, we saw Augmented Reality as a chance to introduce an innovation on construction sites and to optimize the area of house connections. There was no comparable product on the market, so the decision was made to use NAVA.
How do you use NAVA in practice?
R. Fischer: At TIGAS, network construction is carried out by external pipe construction companies. Therefore, it has always been our basic idea not to measure ourselves, but to commission our service providers with it. So with NAVA, our specialist department has given the welder a tool that is easy to use and has a certain coolness factor. At present, about 30 assembly crews use the app and deliver the recorded data to our network information system virtually in real time. We consider this a very elegant solution. We also regularly receive positive feedback from the construction site.
Mr. Schirmer, what is the typical procedure for a house connection at TIGAS?
F. Schirmer: In the first step we advise our customers on site and conclude a network access contract with them. In the network planning department, a construction contract is created from the network access contract and sent to the construction supervision, pipe construction and civil engineering departments. After the foreman has received the construction contract, he defines two reference points in the immediate vicinity of the house connection in coordination with the local construction supervisor, which will later be required for surveying. At the same time, we enter the construction order into the NAVA Manager together with the order number and address. For data protection reasons, we do not provide any personal data at this point. Afterwards, an employee of the construction company takes over the further procedure and forwards the order also via NAVA-Manager to the smartphone of the responsible pipe manufacturer. At this point we have a special feature at TIGAS: Before construction begins, a surveyor drives around the construction sites in Tyrol and records the two reference points „A“ and „B“ in the correct position with GPS support.
In addition to these reference points, the pipe fitter later records the building contour with NAVA, defines the reference line with zero point as well as alignment and records the complete course of the pipe with all essential components and the photo proof in the shortest possible time. We have deliberately reduced the components catalog to a few positions in order to keep the process as construction site friendly and user-friendly as possible. This includes the fittings, the house entrance and the connection point on the surface supply line. We can then call up the finished order in the office using the NAVA Manager and convert the recorded pipe route into absolute coordinates using Helmert Transformation.
„We have no accuracy problems with NAVA. The bottom line is that NAVA is far better than the system we had before.“
And this then allows a positionally correct display in NIS?
F. Schirmer: Correct. We receive the relative data as a CSV file from the NAVA Manager and transform it. We import the resulting absolute coordinates into the NIS and trace the points. At this point we can already see whether there is a deviation from the reference points that were previously measured by GPS. A further quality indicator is whether the pressure tapping fitting is located on the existing pipe and the house junction box on the building. If this is the case, the rest of the pipeline usually also fits. In the course of familiarization, we then document the dimension of the gas pipe and the type of house connection, i.e. whether it is an underground or above-ground house connection. At the same time, we use the pipe book to check whether the entire house connection is shown correctly. In the future, we are planning an automated transfer of the data into the NIS, so that the recording of the line and points no longer needs to be done manually.
Mr. Fischer, which functions of NAVA would you particularly emphasize and what is your practical experience?
R. Fischer: The photo proof has proven to be very helpful and is now also an explicit part of the order to the pipe manufacturer. With the NAVA photographs we can establish the connection with the pipe book and keep the overview when we enter the sketches with the attributes of the house connection into the network information system. Thus we are able to additionally assure the quality of the network documentation.
Overall, the system is very easy to handle. We receive similar feedback from the employees of the construction companies on the construction sites. The accuracy is also very high in the construction sites where we use NAVA. Of course, there are always exceptions where NAVA measurements are not feasible due to special local conditions. With NAVA, we have no accuracy problems whatsoever. If errors occur at all, the source of error is usually the GPS-supported measurement of the reference points by the construction companies in advance, for example due to unrecognized shadows, but also due to the assignment to changing coordinate systems. A further significant advantage of using NAVA in our processes is the time aspect, because the various specialist departments (professionals) involved in the house connection now work in a temporally decoupled manner. For example, there is no need to wait for the surveyor as the survey can be carried out directly at the open trench by the welder and his smartphone. Of course, this was initially also a change for the professional group of welders. Fortunately, however, we are dealing here with a flexible team that has quickly learned how to use NAVA. The fact that from now on no more hand drawings have to be made was very well received by all those involved.
The bottom line is that NAVA is much better than the system we had before, and we will certainly continue on this path. Mettenmeier and syqlo have also proved to be pleasant partners in the course of the cooperation, and they have responded to our wishes. We are therefore happy to continue to contribute our ideas to the partnership.
Thank you very much for your trust and the friendly conversation.
Phone: +43 512 581084-25031
Phone: +43 512 581084-25002
Phone: +49 5251 150-528
Klingenderstr. 10 -14
33100 Paderborn, Germany
Phone: +49 5251 150-5420