From surveying to monitoring in 3 easy steps

Being a surveyor is the best job in the world. The days are never the same, each one brings a new challenge that needs to be resolved, unknown environment to be explored and a heavy responsibility on the shoulders that can only get unloaded with a job well done. Surveyors are also superheroes, often supporting other engineering sciences with little credit. Still, they are the ones who make sure that a bridge being built from both sides meets in the middle, and that a tunnel being bored from each side of the mountain doesn’t result in two tunnels.

Surveyors may seem fearless, but there is one task that has a “kryptonite” effect on them, at least until they realise that the shiny green stone is, in fact, an emerald: MONITORING! It is often perceived as a “freaky thing no one understands” and there is even a special breed of surveyors called “monitoring specialists”, capable of monitoring. Unlike surveying, automatic monitoring includes,  the 24/7 power supply and communication components, which aren’t taught at the surveying universities or colleges.

But, to complete the monitoring tasks, do you really need to get deep into automatic monitoring? Is the step from surveying to monitoring a giant leap?

In this blog, I walk you through small steps to take the leap from surveying to monitoring.

STEP 1: Starting small

Understanding the problem is half of the solution, so let’s start with the question: What is monitoring?

To put it in simple words, monitoring is nothing more than repeatedly surveying the same object and comparing the results. So – it is something every surveyor has already done before, at least to a certain degree.

The most common way surveyors start with monitoring is when the periodic check of an object is needed, e.g. yearly dam levelling, bi-monthly surveying of the seawall or weekly surveying of the bridge during its reconstruction.

Tasks like these are the first step from surveying to monitoring. Truth be told, this doesn’t seem so much different from “regular” surveying. For a proud owner of a Leica level (e.g. LS10/LS15) and a surveying total station Leica Viva TS16, tasks like these are done by using Leica Captivate apps, Leica Infinity and maybe Excel to calculate the displacements, i.e. the changes in position between the measurements. This first step is called manual monitoring.

STEP 2: When you need to go beyond manual monitoring

The trouble usually starts when a large number of points need to be measured in shorter intervals (e.g. once a day) with a campaign (periodic) monitoring method. At this point, it becomes very time-consuming to measure them manually, drive to the office, process the data, create a report and send it out to whoever needs it. This is inefficient and errors might happen. It is every surveyor’s nightmare when they reach the office and realise one point was accidentally not measured.

Wouldn’t it be great to see the measurement results already in the field?

You might be thinking that having a complete monitoring dataset with a generated measurement report in the field  before even reaching the office is simply too much – and definitely not possible on a surveying instrument like the TS16. This is all possible – and it is easier than you think.

To take the next step, an onboard TPS Monitoring application is needed. Like any other, Captivate or SmartWorx app, the TPS Monitoring application is available on myWorld, Leica Geosystems’ customer portal. Download it and load it to the total station and you’re ready to test for a limited time.

So, what makes this app so special? Why can it complete the job better than other onboard apps?

The TPS Monitoring application was developed to automate the repeated measurements, and it is also the first move towards automating the monitoring process. The surveyor first needs to “teach” the instrument which points to measure by doing normal surveying measurements. After that, the app will automatically measure the points with the push of a button, and even perform quality checks as it does the measurements. Of course, the surveyor decides how many rounds of measurements are needed, as well as defines which points are the reference (control) points, and which ones are the monitoring points. At the end of the process, there is a guarantee that all the points in the instrument’s line of sight are measured, and that they are measured with the highest accuracy using Automatic Target Recognition (ATR).

STEP 3: Optimising the workflow

The TPS Monitoring application partially optimises the workflow by increasing the measurement speed and minimising errors. But there is still a lot of work to be done before sending the final report to a client. This is where  GeoMoS Now! Survey Edition (SE) comes into play, a cloud-based service for visualisation and analysis of monitoring data.

Is there a link between the TPS Monitoring app and the cloud service? How can the measured data reach the cloud and how to start using the cloud service?

To begin with, the only thing that’s required is a smartphone. Each GeoMoS Now! SE user gets credentials that need to be entered into the TPS Monitoring app. A hotspot function on the smartphone can be used to share the internet connection with the total station. Nothing more is needed for the measurements to reach the cloud.

By using the smartphone browser and the login credentials from TPS Monitoring application, the measured data can be imported to the project. As soon as this is done, the graphs with calculated displacements are automatically created on the dashboard. The whole process takes 2-5 minutes, depending on the smartphone. In case of a missing internet connection, the data transfer can be done by using the SD card, same as it would have been done with any coordinate import or data transfer of levelling, TPS and GNSS data.

Being able to see the measured results while still standing next to the instrument in the field is a huge step forward in the workflow. But there is still one task that needs to be completed before you are done: creating a report and sending it to the responsible person. That can also easily be done within GeoMoS Now! – a report template can be created, and the reports are then generated automatically with a defined schedule and emailed to the defined list of recipients.

What does this workflow mean for a surveying company?

It is a great time- and cost-saver. There is no need to drive back to the office and lose time on something that can already be done in the field. The time saved by the new workflow can be used for several other site visits and measurement campaigns. With a growing number of campaign monitoring projects, you will start seeing a bigger return on investment, resulting in more profit.

What comes after campaign monitoring?

Let’s summarise the steps we took so far.

  1. First, we had manual monitoring, where the normal surveying workflow with some help of Excel is needed to complete the task.
  2. The second step introduced the optimisation of the surveying process for campaign monitoring by using the TPS monitoring app.
  3. With the third step, we further optimised the workflow by automating the processing, visualisation and reporting tasks, and eliminating the need for the office work with GeoMoS Now! Survey Edition.

What happens if the measurements need to be taken continuously?

In that case, campaign monitoring won’t be able to meet requirements and automatic monitoring system will need to be installed, but this is a topic big enough for a new blog post.

Is it worth investing in campaign monitoring if it doesn’t fit all purposes?

Absolutely yes, because most of the monitoring projects can be carried out with campaign monitoring, whereas using automatic monitoring for them would be an “overkill” and a poor investment.

What is the future of campaign monitoring?

A wise man once said, “Things always need monitoring”. Cities are growing, construction has never been faster, and the safety of people and equipment has never been more important. Campaign monitoring may be a step out of the comfort zone for the surveyors, but it is not a difficult step, nor a step into the unknown. Adding monitoring to your company’s service offering has a huge potential of making it even more interesting, successful and profitable.

Being a surveyor is the best job in the world. Having the opportunity to use high-quality instruments and software opens new doors for surveying companies and makes surveying superheroes invincible.

Please contact us to get started with monitoring.

Lidija Spiranec, Product Engineer Monitoring Solutions

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