More than two hundred million vehicles cross deficient bridges in America's 102 largest metropolitan areas every day, says the American Society of Civil Engineers' most recent report card on the nation's infrastructure. Although the ASCE gave bridges a C+ overall—better than the other infrastructure categories rated—there is still much bridge work to be done. Using data gathered from state departments of transportation across the nation, ASCE's report calls for $76-billion worth of work.
Now, Bentley Systems is offering a new mobile app interface for its popular InspectTech Collector software. The app extends bridge inspectors' collection capabilities and makes their work quicker, easier and mobile.
The new app, called InspectTech Collector Mobile, collects and pushes data into Bentley's system. While Scott Neubauer, a bridge maintenance and inspection engineer with the Iowa Dept. of Transportation, has used Exton, Pa.-based Bentley's desktop software for years—calling it "an all-encompassing package that allows us to store all data and documents that have to do with inspecting a bridge"—he is eager to try the mobile version.
Richard "Lee" Floyd, state bridge maintenance engineer with the South Carolina DOT, is already testing the new app. "So far, it looks pretty impressive," he says. He is beta-testing the app alongside two other software options to see how well it will fit into his operations. "Mobile is the way to go," he says.
Floyd's team is also testing in-house software as well as a web-based application called Bridge Web, developed by Infrastructure Corp. of America, Nashville, Tenn. Bridge Web "is really heavy on the administration end, whereas InspectTech is heavy on the inspection end," says Floyd.
Bentley's free app, available for the iPad at Apple's app store, integrates with Bentley's enterprise InspectTech Collector, so pre-existing users can go mobile instantly. Users interested in testing the application who do not use Bentley's system can try the iPad's demo version, which uses demonstration designs.
Using the iPad's built-in hardware, the app can take photos and video recordings as data points are collected and tag inspection locations with GPS. It provides a set of fields and drop-down menus for all applicable Federal Highway Administration and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials standards, says Jeremy Shaffer, Bentley's director of transportation asset management.
The menus can help inspectors remember all the items that must be inspected, so they don't leave any element unchecked, he says.
"Sometimes, [the inspectors] actually forget to record the data," Shaffer says. "If that happens, they have to either guess or incur the expense to go back out there," says Shaffer, who is also project manager for AASHTO's Pontis bridge-data management software, which he says is used by 44 DOTs. "InspectTech Collector is designed to integrate with Pontis," he adds.
Not just for bridges, the app also can capture asset data about other infrastructure types, including roads, railroad signs, high-mast light poles and culverts. "But bridges are the most complex and often get the most attention," says Shaffer.