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Field Experiment of Road Facility Management Support Systems with RFID and GIS Integration

Hidemi Fukada
Graduate School of Software and Information Science,
Iwate Prefectural University
152-52 Sugo,
Takizawa, Iwate, Japan
[email protected]

Nobuyuki Maita
Graduate School of Software and Information Science,
Iwate Prefectural University
152-52 Sugo,
Takizawa, Iwate, Japan

Akihiro Abe
Faculty of Software and Information Science,
Iwate Prefectural University
152-52 Sugo,
Takizawa, Iwate, Japan

Recently, government construction agencies are focusing their asset management resources on the planned management of public infrastructure. In performing asset management for public infrastructure, gathering and storing inspection data is essential to properly maintain infrastructure such as road facilities and bridges. Uploading and recording daily inspection data into a database is important to understanding the degree of deterioration of a facility. This research proposes a road facility management support system architecture that integrates Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and evaluates the effectiveness of such a support system. The design goal of the proposed support system is to enable the efficient inspection of road facilities; it comprises (1) road facilities enabled with RFID tags, (2) mobile phones with built-in RFID readers, (3) ITAG (Integration server of e-Tag Application and GIS) to integrate the RFID functionality with GIS servers, and (4) a database to store road facility inspection data and site photographs. A field experiment prototype system was developed based on the proposed system architecture. The field experimentation of this prototype system was conducted with the Morioka City Office Road Administration Division as the experimental subject. A survey questionnaire administered after the completion of the field experiment showed that the system was effective in enabling the unified administration of inspection history. In conclusion, this paper proposes a new type of system architecture that integrates RFID and GIS for GIS-based applications that will be required for the advanced space information societies of the future.

1. Introduction
The construction of public infrastructure in Japan was at a peak during the high economic growth period from the 1950s to the 1960s. However, post this era, Japanese economy entered a period of stable growth and the superannuation of the public infrastructure was advanced. The administrative and maintenance expenses of public infrastructure and facilities became superannuated, and this trend is expected to become increasingly pronounced in the future. Therefore, it is desirable for these facilities to operate under a limited budget, utilize talent effectively, and be secured properly while controlling the overall cost. The mechanism by which the above stated goal is optimized is referred to as asset management.

A significant amount of damage is caused to any social activity if the road assets maintenance tasks of certain public infrastructures are left incomplete. With regard to road facility management, the needs of various users with respect to road pavement maintenance are varied. Therefore, technological development activities are being actively undertaken to meet these needs. However, because controlling the maintenance of road facilities such as bridges and signs depends on human resources and businesses, the introduction of excessively advanced information systems is avoided. If information systems can be introduced into road facilities management and the check and the repair histories of facilities be recorded in a database, it would be possible to realize the unified management of the state and deterioration data of these facilities. Further, this would also allow us to record the basic data describing these facilities efficiently.

If a system supporting the road facilities management business is developed, it would be crucial to acquire location information because the target facilities are widely scattered in any given region. Some systems that support road pavement and road facilities management by using location information have already been proposed. One such typical system is the groupware GLI-BBS that combines GPS mobile phones with an ASP-type map service [1]. An implementation of this approach on a site where this system has been deployed revealed that the efficiency of intelligence sharing among the administration—the road administrator and the company to which the administration of the road was assigned—had been improved [2].

The study done by Abe, A., et al. [2], clarified the limit of the GLI-BBS system that used the GPS mobile phone. The error margin is attributed to the acquisition of the location information by using GPS mobile phones; this is because the measurement result changes for each measurement. If a rough position is acquired, the repair of the road pavement can be undertaken with a fairly reasonable error margin. However, road facilities management requires highly accurate location information. This is because it is necessary to manage the several road facilities in an urban area individually. The positional accuracy necessary for individual management cannot be provided by a GPS mobile phone.

In order to solve this problem, it is necessary to provide each road facility with a direct RFID. This approach can provide the high-accuracy location information that is required by road facilities management businesses. A system supporting urban road facilities management can be developed by displaying this information on a basic GIS map. A previous study developed a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)-based system wherein RFID and GIS work in tandem [3]. In this system, RFIDs were assigned to each target communal facility, and the check results of the records stored in a PDA were transferred to a GIS management database at the administrative office. However, because this system does not utilize the mobile communication function of PDAs, the check data from the sites cannot be transferred to the management database in real time. Moreover, the ledger information required during the checks cannot be obtained at the sites. Therefore, activities such as the confirmation of ledger information from the office and the registration and acquisition of other important information require a considerable amount of time.

In this study, therefore, we focus on making mobile phones with built-in RFID readers and GIS cooperate. We propose a system that can identify individual operation and maintenance facilities by matching their RFID numbers to the road facilities attribute data based on a basic GIS map. This system is based on the basic road facilities management support system experiment that the author’s group conducted earlier [4].

2. Proposal of Road Facilities Management Support System
2.1 Concept of the Proposed System

Figure 1. System concept.

Figure 1 shows the system concept chart of the proposed road facilities management support system. An RFID is assigned to each target road facility. Mobile phones with built-in RFID readers read the RFID numbers. In this system, RFID and GIS establish this identification number as a key and cooperate. Thus, obtaining the necessary attribute information on-site by employing this mechanism and referring to a road ledger becomes possible.

The check data and site photographs are transferred from the site to the GIS database via the Internet. The road administrator at the office confirms the site information registered in the database by using a administrator PC and shares this information. The check history and repair instructions information are recorded in the database; this makes the unified management of information possible.

2.2 Design Policy of System Configuration Elements
2.2.1 Road Facilities Enabled with RFID tags
Each target facility is individually identified by an RFID. When a two-dimensional code is used instead of an RFID, it is likely to be deteriorated by wind, rain, or other external factors. Moreover, there exists a possibility that it could be counterfeited by someone with malicious intent.

2.2.2 Mobile Phones with Built-in RFID readers
Mobile phones with built-in RFID readers are used for reading the RFID tags. There are two reasons for this: First, road facilities personnel always carry mobile phones during road patrolling activities for reporting purposes. Therefore, it is not desirable to add further to their equipment load by making them carry devices such as PDAs. Second, because there exists a possibility that the proposed system may undergo expansion in the future, a prototype of mobile phones with built-in RFID readers has already been developed [5].

2.2.3 Cooperation Server
A cooperation server integrates RFID and GIS; further, it provides server functions to manage the attestation to generate RFID numbers. The usage of mobile phones with built-in RFID readers makes it possible to retrieve the attribute data of road facilities and match it to the corresponding RFID numbers by accessing the database stored in a GIS server.

2.2.4 GIS Server
The GIS system used by the road administrator in this study is assumed to be an integrated GIS system, which is advocated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) in Japan. A basic map of the integrated GIS system comprises common spatial data constructed based on the guidelines provided by the MIC. The usage of such an integrated GIS makes it possible to display maps with a largely reduced scale, and the high-accuracy map data required by the road facilities management businesses can be obtained.

2.2.5 Administrator PC
The road administrator accesses the integrated GIS via the computer network in the administration office using a managed PC. He/she can thus inspect the check history data, etc. Efficient, exclusive-use PCs need not be newly manufactured for the introduction of this system.

3. Experiment
A prototype system was constructed based on the proposed system concept, and the field experiment was conducted using actual road facilities management. The experimental site comprised a part of the road facilities managed by the Morioka City Office Road Administration Division. The duration of the experiment was four months—December 2006 to March 2007.

The construction of the integrated GIS system was started in 2005, and it was operational in October 2006 in Morioka City. It would be difficult to mount the entire information system at the proposed level in such a real operational environment. Therefore, the proposed system and the integrated GIS in Morioka City that had been developed by the authors’ groups thus far were combined; thus, an experimental system for proof of use was constructed.

3.1 Composition of the Experimental Prototype System
The RFID reader used in this experiment is a prototype mobile phone equipped with a passive-type RFID reader (hereafter referred to as “RFID mobile phone”) [5]. The attribute data for the experimental road facilities was stored in a PostgreSQL database (experimental road ledger database). The check history data and site photographs were recorded in an electronic bulletin board and were accumulated as history.

The integrated GIS uses a system that is actually operational at the business sites in Morioka City. The connection from the RFID mobile phone to various databases is realized through the ITAG to integrate the RFID with the GIS server. The person in charge of Morioka City Road Administration Division can confirm the check data by using the managed PC in the office. This experimental system demonstrates the cooperation between the RFID and integrated GIS by using a PC-based browser for management.

3.2 Field Experiment on Business Site
3.2.1 Road Facilities enabled with RFID tags
Table 1 lists the names of the road facilities and the corresponding number of installed RFID tags. There are six types of target road facilities. They were further classified into two groups of three each—road structures and road attachments. A total of 30 locations were considered as sample sites from among these facilities.

The type of RFID tags used was the ultra-micro RFID (μ-chip), which is supported by the passive-type RFID mobile phone. The method of sticking RFID tags was a method similar to the basic experiment done by the author’s group [4]. Moreover, the practicality of the μ-chip in winter was verified by this basic experiment, and it was confirmed that it offers good low-temperature resistance and is water-proof.

Table 1. Road facilities with installed RFID tags.

Management object Facility name Number of installed RFID tags
Road structures Road bridge 4
Underground pavement 4
Snow-melted device 4
Road attachments Road light 7
Curve mirror 6
Induction light 5

3.2.2 Maintenance of attribute data
In this experiment, the attribute data of the road facilities in the 30 locations listed in Table 1 was confirmed and transferred to an experimental road ledger database. Then, the identification numbers of the RFID tags and the attribute data were matched.

3.2.3 Experimental conditions on field
The experimental field spanned an east-west distance of about 6 km and a north-south distance of about 5 km; further, it coincided with the center of Morioka City. The 30 road facilities with installed RFID tags lay scattered within this area. When the person in charge of the road administration division usually patrolled this region, he/she carried the RFID mobile phone, and this field experiment was performed by registering the check data.

The experimental conditions for the duration of four months—December 2006 to March 2007—are described in this section. First, the experimental conditions for the observation of the road structures are described. The experiment on the road bridge was conducted by patrolling it at the rate of one degree per month, and the check frequency was four times per degree. The check on the underground pavement was executed by patrolling it at a rate of about one degree per week, and the check frequency was 13 times per degree. The check frequency of the snow-melted device was four times per degree. As a result, the total frequency of the checks executed by using the actual experimental system was 82 times per degree.

3.2.4 Experimental conditions in office
The person in charge of management, who registers the check data on field, confirms the registered check data by using a managed PC in the office. The road ledger chart layer and the road facilities layer are displayed superimposed on each other to confirm the check data against the site photographs registered in the electronic bulletin board; this makes it possible to promptly retrieve the required attribute data. Figure 2 shows an example of the screen.

4. Result and Discussion
4.1 Time evaluation

Figure 2. PC screenshot.

The processing times required by the earlier methods in the repair instructions business and the proposed system were compared. The purpose of this time measurement is to evaluate the time effect of the proposed system. Working hours to confirm on site damage and report repair instructions to the consignment trader for the induction light damaged while experimenting was measured. As the result, the time required by the proposed system was one-third that required by the conventional methods (the required time was reduced from 32 mins to 9 mins).

4.2 Effectiveness evaluation
To evaluate the effectiveness of the unified management of the check history by the proposed system, a questionnaire was prepared for the staff of the Morioka City Road Administration Division. The execution days considered were February 1 and March 20, 2007. The questionnaire was administered to a total of 17 people—7 currently working for the Road Administration Division and 10 who worked for the Road Administration Division in the past. Five people who participated in the experiment as in-charges were also included in this group.

First, the evaluation method explained the function of the proposed system and the conditions of the field experiment through a diagram. Next, each participant was allowed to experience the retrieval of the facilities attribute data and understand the function of the field experiment system sufficiently. Then, they were interviewed and asked to fill an evaluation form on the questionnaire at the end. Concrete evaluation of the following three items: “Uniform management of check history,” “Devising a long-term management plan,” and “Controlling illegal checks”, were conducted in five stages.

Figure 3 shows the evaluation results. Almost 77% of the participants voted for the “Uniform management of check history” option with choices ranging from “effective” to “Almost effective,” thereby making it an almost excellent result. However, only 65% of the participants selected the “Devising of a long-term management plan” option. Moreover, only 53% of the participants selected the “Controlling illegal checks” option. Thus, the system did not fare too well with respect to both these aspects.

The results suggest that the constant unified management of check history can be realized by introducing the proposed system. However, the results also indicated that the proposed system would have no immediate effect on the devising of long-term maintenance management plans. Thus, there exists a need for an asset management application covering all road facilities management activities; such a system needs to be introduced in conjunction with the proposed system.

Figure 3. Result of effectiveness evaluation.

5. Conclusion
We propose a futuristic asset management system for the road management facilities of local governments; the proposed road facilities management support system integrates RFID and GIS. In order to verify the effectiveness of this system, we constructed an experimental system based on the proposed system architecture and operated it in Morioka City, Japan.

The results of the experiment revealed that that the proposed system realizes the constant unified management of check history by assigning each road facility an RFID tag and matching its identification number to the facilities attribute data. However, it is necessary to introduce an asset management tool that is effective with regard an aspect in which the proposed system was found to be lacking—devising long-term management plans. Such a system needs to be introduced in conjunction with the present system to realize the efficient maintenance management of road facilities.

The development of an effective road facility tool to realize the unified management of check history is a topic for future research. In this study, we examine the effectiveness of the proposed system with regard to the check management of road structures such as tunnels, road drain pump facilities through a road bridge, underground pavements, etc.

This study was supported by the “Environmental research” project of the Iwate Prefectural University. We gratefully acknowledge the significant support lent by the staff at KDDI Ltd. in providing us with the RFID mobile phone prototype and the required technical support thereof. Furthermore, we wish to thank the staff of the Morioka City Road Administration Division for their help during the investigation and system evaluation.


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