Innovative Use of Mobile Technology for Environmental Field Data Collection

Changing the Paradigm for Water Pollution Monitoring
Oral Presentation

Prepared by K. Ochi1, J. Yorke2
1 - Accelerated Technology Laboratories, 496 Holly Grove School Road, West End, NC, 27376, United States
2 - Fairfax Water, 1295 Fred Morin Road, Herndon, VA, 20170, United States


Contact Information: kochi@atlab.com; 910-673-8165


ABSTRACT

Organizations in the environmental sector who routinely conduct sample testing in the field continually seek new and innovative methods to manage their operations efficiently while generating quality data and reducing costs. With advances in laboratory automation and mobile technology, some industries like drinking water utilities, have implemented solutions that leverage mobile technology to upload testing site data in real-time and eliminate the need to manually re-enter data and field measurements.

Fairfax Water is Virginia’s largest water utility, serving one out of every five Virginians. The Fairfax Water Quality Laboratory employs 24 full time staff including six field samplers that collect over 13,000 samples and perform close to 15,000 field analyses every year. One out of three tests analyzed by the laboratory are performed in the field and input into their Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).

The laboratory struggled with the time lag associated with paper forms and the manual transcribing of field data into their LIMS upon return to the lab. The process was cumbersome, especially as the organization continued to grow in service area and sample volume. The laboratory team investigated the use of electronic tablets and mobile technology to eliminate paper forms and import field data into the LIMS in real time.

The presentation will walk through the benefits of the automation, in terms of integration with the LIMS and end-user experience. Benefits to the laboratory, such as enhanced communications and real time data transfer will be discussed along with several other unexpected paybacks. Finally we will provide real return on investment (ROI) data that provides compelling reasons why other organizations conducting field data collection and analysis should consider implementing similar mobile technology solutions within their lab operations.