A New Zealand-based utility locating company is breaking new ground in the visualisation of underground utility risks.

When construction or new asset installation impacts underground utilities such as gas, water or power mains, the consequences can be expensive, and even deadly.

According to Reveal, utility strikes cost New Zealand $89 million annually in direct costs and $2.5 billion per year in indirect costs – a staggering 1.17 per cent of GDP. Reveal CEO and Founder, Sam Wiffen, said Reveal provides a solution to what has been a long-standing issue across the construction and infrastructure sectors.

“I have an engineering background and used to work on large upgrades of buildings and electrical substations across the civil construction and heavy electrical sectors. We kept on hitting objects underground, primarily because we didn’t have accurate information and records on what was underground,” Mr Wiffen said.

Reveal started as a traditional ‘boots on the ground’ utility locating services business, but Mr Wiffen was eager to build a foundation of technology and innovation in an industry notorious for being slow to modernise.

“Locating underground utilities is really hard. Our thinking was, ‘How do we make that job easier?’ When you think about Superman, having x-ray vision, that would be amazing. But what if everyone was Superman or Superwoman?”

Existing geophysical tools can provide insights into the hidden environment of the subsurface and indicate the presence or absence of underground utilities. But historically, this information has been difficult to visualise or make accessible to non-specialists.

“If we could ensure that contractors and project owners could accurately and easily implement subsurface data, we could reap huge efficiency gains at every stage of the project lifecycle, from the concept and design phase through to construction,” Mr Wiffen said.

A digital understanding of the underground

The Reveal platform combines the best-practice utility locating standards in an intuitive cloud-based collection of tools that allow engineers, contractors and asset managers to understand the risks of a given project site, and make informed decisions.

The platform collates all existing information about the underground; utility plans, geophysical detection data, observation and aerial data, and photographic evidence from 360-degree cameras, Lidar and photogrammetry tools.

The platform allows users to create a Unified Utility Model that synthesises all these data sources and produces the most accurate picture of the subsurface infrastructure, with associated risk scores and quality levels clearly indicated.

“We’re helping people to not just take the existing records of utilities and combine those before making a design, we’re providing an understanding through a subsurface utility engineering process to identify where these risks lie,” Mr Wiffen said.

Reveal’s platform has already been utilised on crucial works during the Christchurch earthquake rebuild, as well as infrastructure works such as the Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport project and Riverlink urban revitalisation project in Lower Hutt.

Strength in diversity

Reveal’s development and services are backed by a diverse team originating from a wide range of industries. Mr Wiffen said this diversity has greatly supported both idea generation and innovation throughout the company.

“We’ve got people who are masters of their craft, people that are geophysicists, geologists, engineers, technologists, project managers, accountants, economists, you name it, all working side-by-side.

“Everyone is treated as an equal and this culture has been huge for us. What’s been really special to me is that as the company has grown, it’s given us more resources to invest back into our staff through different training and development programs.”

Reveal recently celebrated its eleventh anniversary, and is beginning to push further into international markets, with key customers secured in Australia and Singapore, and a partnership agreement with a major US construction insurer.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Reveal. For more information, visit www.reveal.nz

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