Data, data, data. Good information, collected from good measurements, can make the difference between a targeted approach that zooms right in on the source and full extent of a restoration job versus a standardized “throw everything at the problem” approach that can prove costly, ineffective, labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Making data on a jobsite work for you as efficiently as possible is a challenge for technicians everywhere. It is also represents a constant call to action for companies supporting the restoration industry with tools that organize findings more cohesively by integrating innovation found in mainstream devices like smartphones and tablets.
A number of tools and instruments have played a critical role in empowering restoration and remediation professionals with “actionable insight” to solve problems with focus and effectiveness. These tools include infrared cameras, moisture meters - both invasive and non-invasive types - as well as temperature and humidity data loggers. Let’s take a look at innovations in these tools and also step back to see how they’re working together:
Infrared cameras have become much more commonplace in the industry in recent years as more professionals adopt them to improve their work and document their findings better. A quick scan of a wide area using an IR camera, or thermal imager, will give you a picture of exactly where moisture is found. This is tremendously helpful for getting a fast start on a job, for literally giving a customer a tangible, easy-to-understand big picture of the scope of a job and its progress and for validating a complete dry-out before leaving a job. Restoration and remediation professionals are also using thermal imagers as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors.
Part of today’s innovation in thermal imagers comes from market dynamics. Competent point-and-shoot imagers are now available for less than $1,200, making it a more accessible tool and less of a technology reserved for specialists.
Other advances come in how infrared cameras make their images work for you. For example, many models simultaneously capture both a thermal image and visible image, the latter coming from a built-in “digital camera.” For years, a number of capabilities have worked to blend or fuse these two to offer a better image. Now, there’s a whole new level of it with advanced imaging processing technology. Such technology adds the detail of real-time visible spectrum images captured by the built-in digital camera to thermal spectrum images, providing extraordinary sharpness, contrast and clarity like you’ve never seen before. It instantly highlights where the problem area is for easier orientation to help customers and co-workers see what needs restoring. Things like signage, labels and other identifying features that previously disappeared in thermal images now jump out, adding tremendous context to images. This additional frame of reference is especially valuable when sharing thermal images with non-technical individuals like customers or insurance appraisers. The “a-ha” comes more instantly, and with it, the “yes” for repairs.
For restoration professionals, moisture meters often take center stage because they are invaluable for precisely monitoring moisture levels. Invasive meters that use penetrating pins can be used with a range of specialty probes to get behind baseboards and flooring or into walls. Non-invasive, or pin-less, meters scan surfaces without a scratch, measuring moisture up to 0.75-in. deep. Today’s more innovative spherical, or “ball probe,” moisture meter picks up where pin-less meters leave off - they start measuring moisture at 0.75 in. behind tile and other surfaces to an astounding depth of 1.5-in.
There is also a wide variety of instruments used to measure other relevant environmental factors such as humidity, air and surface temperatures, condensation risk, grains per pound, dew point and vapor pressure. All of these metrics can offer insight to the professional diagnosing and assessing of a jobsite. Some hand-held instruments display on-the-spot live readings, while others are data loggers, designed to sit on a table or shelf while displaying and recording values.
The latest generation of environmental meters includes data recorders as small as a USB thumb drive. Forgoing a display for small size, they collect data for download and analysis on a PC or laptop and are essential for collecting metrics around a site.
All of these tools are useful in providing pieces of the puzzle that, when assembled and interpreted correctly, provide a very good picture of water and moisture damage for the restoration professional. But sometimes, as with a child’s puzzle, pieces get lost or mixed up. How do you arrive at the big picture?
More Connectivity, More Results
Finding ways to make this mash-up of metrics work for you remains the perennial challenge. To tackle this problem, engineers have their sights set on the future with what they call a “diagnostic ecosystem.” As the term implies, this is a more big-picture approach to diagnostics, where data collected by different tools can come together and work together, not only to provide better diagnostics, but also to improve progress at a job site and enhance communication with customers and insurance companies.
It is a fresh new way of thinking about restoration testing and measurement. As we look ahead into 2013, companies are transforming moisture-damage diagnostics with technologies that accelerate and improve the efficiency of the diagnostic/restoration/approval workflow.
In addition to the use of touchscreens with intuitive menu controls that emulate today’s personal electronics, several thermal imagers use Wi-Fi technology and mobile apps to connect to Android and Apple iOS tablets and smartphones. Now, a jobsite manager can quickly transfer images, generate inspection reports on-the-fly on an iPad, and e-mail them to managers, customers or insurance representatives. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a thermal image may be worth a thousand dollars when it gets into the right hands in a timely manner.
Some devices also uses Bluetooth to connect to multi-function moisture meters to collect and cross-reference environmental readings like moisture, humidity and temperature with related IR images of problem spots. Environmental readings can be stamped right on the image. And wireless data streaming moisture meters can share readings with smartphones and tablets as well.
The goal of the diagnostic ecosystem is not only to improve communication among diagnostic and personal productivity devices, but also among restoration professionals and their customers, managers and colleagues on the insurance side. By leveraging accurate and coordinated readings from related tools, and by accelerating actionable communication, restoration and remediation workers spend less time on a job, customers get their restored homes and buildings back more quickly and with fewer call-backs, insurance adjusters have indisputable information and managers have a better sense of progress on a jobsite at any time.
In the end, today’s emerging diagnostic ecosystem is focused on helping you deliver increased customer satisfaction, improved insurance relationships and a state-of-the-art approach to your job that sets you apart from the competition.