Vivax-Metrotech Finds Success With Unique Tool
By Michael Downes
Launching a new product is always a challenge but doing so just a month into a global pandemic takes serous bravery.
But for one company, the result is revolutionizing the locating and mapping world.
Matt Manning, southeast regional manager for Vivax-Metrotech Corp., said their newest tool is garnering a lot of positive feedback — and not just with locators.
“The 811 industry wanted a tool with a utility locator and the ability to map underground lines with accuracy for a long time. We had recreational GPS for years, but that didn’t provide the accuracy needed for mapping underground facilities,” Matt said.
The vLoc3 RTK-Pro receiver is a first-of-its-kind handheld device that allows the user to both locate lines and input the precise location data into a GIS system, eliminating the need for two crews to visit the site.
“The new piece is a utility locator and mapping device in one,” Matt said, “that has survey-grade mapping capabilities in a utility locating device.”
Matt said that until the tool’s release in April 2020, the two separate crews that would locate and then map utilities were rarely in the field at the same time — and sometimes weeks apart. That led to miscommunication, missed marks and ultimately less accurate maps.
With Vivax’s new locating device, one crew can locate and map all in one visit, thereby creating a safer job site by decreasing trips and eliminating errors that typically both of which increases the cost of the project.
The tool comes equipped with standard GPS, but also has SIM card capabilities that allow it to receive real-time data to RTK base stations and forwards the data into the cloud. That allows someone at the office or other off-site location to review the data and move it into the utility’s GIS database for updating or building maps, he said.
Matt said the feedback so far has been excellent, although physically getting in front of potential customers in the last 12 months has been a challenge due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. But many of his customers are excited about the new technology and have made special arrangements to safely learn about the tool and try it out in the field.
Vivax has long offered the benefit of free online software updates to all their locating devices. The vLoc3 RTK-Pro is no exception. Software updates are often the result of customer feedback. When updates are made, they are easily accessible online and free for users of the locating equipment.
Early feedback from customers indicated an interest in expanded mapping capabilities for surface items and other features. For instance, if a crew was mapping a water line, they needed the ability to add the location of hydrants, valves, meters and other features. Customer input led to the development of additional software to do just that, without costly add-ons to the tool.
Another revision sought by customers was a walk-back feature to help identify the location of surface landmarks that may have moved or been covered since they were located.
“There’s an arrow that walks you back to a previously mapped point,” Matt said. “If you map a water valve in the road and they pave over the area, you can walk back to find the valve. Vivax is the only manufacturer who has this survey-grade system and locating device in one package.”
Once the data has been received in the cloud, customers can then export in the different GIS formats.
Vivax-Metrotech is a worldwide company, specializing in the manufacture of utility locators and inspection cameras, with several product lines from entry-level locating devices to professional grade equipment available across the US through regional distributors.