Handheld computers assist in recovery efforts
Since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the number of building inspections undertaken by the New York Department of Buildings has increased substantially. Many damaged buildings need to be inspected and subsequently re-inspected as repairs are completed. In addition, timely access to building inspection information is necessary for various agencies involved in the recovery effort.
Before Sept. 11, the department used paper-based processes to record building inspections. Once inspections were completed, the results were entered manually into a variety of electronic formats. There was no standard approach to managing the building inspection information across the city’s five boroughs, and inspectors did not have any way to access the electronic information in the field.
Following the collapse of the towers, the city worked with Norwalk, Conn.-based LinksPoint to develop a wireless, handheld product that would automate the building inspection process. The company’s software integrates information from NYCMap, New York’s GIS system, and displays it on handheld computers manufactured by Houston-based Compaq.
Using the handheld computers, inspectors can access information such as building footprints, curb lines, subway stations, power lines, parks and more than 20 other geographic features as well as the back-end database that houses the department’s data. In addition, an inspector can input all of his inspection results on the handheld computer and upload them to the department’s database. In the event that a wireless connection is not available, the data is stored on the handheld until a connection is detected.
Giving the inspectors remote access to data allows them to inspect damaged buildings quicker and more accurately, which improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the department. Inspectors can evaluate more buildings, thus improving all processes of the World Trade Center recovery effort. Additionally, by eliminating paper forms and manual input steps, the department has reduced its administrative costs and has improved the integrity of its data.