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3 Improvements to the Bridge Inspection Process

Structures Inspector Mobile Application Streamlines the Inspection Process

Remember the time I told you about how bridge inspections are performed? Since that post, we set out to find a simpler way to overcome the many challenges inspectors face during the inspection process. After dozens of interviews with inspectors and collaborative tests to validate our ideas, we developed and launched the AgileAssets® Structures Inspector™ mobile application, specifically designed for inspecting bridges and large culverts. The launched version represents a minimum set of functionalities that inspectors can use to streamline the inspection process and increase the accuracy of data collection. We will continue to expand on these features over the coming months.

The Structures Inspector mobile app’s home screen shows you a list of the structures that are scheduled for inspection and helps you find them on a map.

Here, I’ll highlight three of the main challenges inspectors face and how the Structures Inspector mobile application helps eliminate them and improve the inspection experience.

The Structure Summary screen gives you access to the last inspection report. You can view the report on the in-app PDF viewer.

No Printing Needed

The majority of bridge inspectors today still follow a process that requires them to print out hard copies of key information and manually record the inspection findings using a clipboard, pen, and paper. The Structures Inspector mobile application changes all that, specifically eliminating the need to print out the last inspection report for each bridge or the inspection manual that contains guidance for each condition rating. This valuable information is now available within the app, and you can easily download it to a tablet.

No Connectivity? No Problem

Inspectors typically park their vans on or under bridges, depending on which location provides easier access to the substructure elements. In most cases, when under a bridge, connectivity is spotty or unavailable. This presents a challenge when inspectors attempt to record their inspection findings in an online-only application.

With the exception of the initial download of inspection candidates and syncing recorded information at the end of the day or week, the Structures Inspector mobile application works entirely offline, so inspectors can record findings at the bridge site while performing the inspection. This is important because inspectors can use the app’s built-in data validation feature to format and double-check findings or retake measurements if any issues arise with the initially collected data. The result is less rework and fewer repeat trips to inspection sites to re-collect data.

With the Structures Inspector mobile app, you can tag a photo for a condition state rating. You can also annotate the photo with text and other annotation options.

Photo Evidence? Check

A critical part of the inspection process is taking photos of various parts of the bridge and their conditions as evidence to support the inspector’s observations. Without the help of a mobile app, inspectors need to take the photos with a digital camera and then capture hand-written notes on paper. When those inspectors start recording findings in a system, they must sift through numerous photos and notes to identify which ones match the appropriate condition rating.

The Element Ratings screen shows the structure’s various condition states and the attached photos for CS3 and CS4 ratings.

We simplified that cumbersome process by enabling inspectors to take photos of bridge elements using the same mobile device that they use with the Structures Inspector mobile app. Inspectors can then digitally annotate the photos by adding graphics or notes directly in the app. This helps keep inspection data in one place and saves inspectors time.

We will continue to add more functionalities and refine the current set of capabilities as we receive feedback on the Structures Inspector mobile app. For now, inspectors can use the app’s baseline functionality to become more efficient and effective in the field.