App opens door for digital stockpile measurements

By |  November 5, 2014

Measuring stockpiles can be a complicated process, from accurately measuring the piles to recording and storing data.

“Tracking inventory is a hard problem and an inexact science,” said David Boardman, CEO of URC Ventures, at a session during the 2014 Trimble Dimensions User Conference.

After signing an agreement in August 2012 with Knife River Corp., a company with hundreds of sites across nine states, URC Ventures decided to create a solution for accurately measuring stockpiles.

Boardman wanted to create an outlet for measuring stockpiles that required minimal training, was completely automated, and met accuracy and consistency requirements of the company.

This outlet was the iPhone.

Using its 3D computer vision technology, Boardman designed an iPhone application called Stockpiles, which allows users to determine stockpile volume data.

In order for the app to work, users must place two solid orange traffic cones 25 ft. apart in front of the stockpile. Then they record the stockpile while walking the perimeter of it.

Stockpile size doesn’t matter, Boardman said. Based on data, it takes about two minutes, 13 seconds to measure small piles (0 to 1,000 tons) and about seven minutes, 11 seconds to measure large piles (piles 30,000-plus tons).

After completing one trip around the pile, users stop recording and sync the app with, where they can view information regarding the pile, including cubic yards and tonnage.

The site also provides full reports of the stockpile, including cubic yards, tonnage, tonnage conversion and collective time. Users can view videos of the pile being recorded, as well as an overlay of the site.

In addition, the app has the ability to reveal the history of the stockpile, which includes the movement of the pile on the site, the change in size of the pile and photos of the pile.

Measuring the stockpile is easy, Boardman said, and the measurements are within 2 to 4 percent of LIDAR data collections.

The app is only compatible with iPhones, but Boardman plans to expand Stockpiles as he progresses with the product.

“Going on one dedicated platform allows us to move a lot faster and give customers good solutions,” Boardman said. “We’ll eventually support a Droid, but we are going to grow as much as we can with the iPhone.”

The company has been solely marketing in the United States, but people around the world have been finding the app and using it at their sites.

“Right now we’re marketing in the U.S., but people are finding us all over the world,” Boardman said. “Since there’s no inventory, they just download the app in the app store, which is already global. We are supporting customers in nine countries, but we’re only getting the word out and focusing on the U.S.”

In future years, Boardman hopes to integrate drone technology to the stockpile reporting system, as well. Right now, though, Boardman’s biggest challenge is getting people to believe in the simplicity of the product.

“Historically, it’s been something that just two or three people in the company can do or they have to go pay an outside service to do it,” he said. “People just can’t believe that they can do it themselves.”


For more articles from the conference, click here.

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About the Author:

Allison Kral is the former senior digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Portable Plants magazine, GPS World magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.

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