IE2: Innovative Technologies with Tom Earp
On this, episode of inside, engineering, we talk with Tom herb about, the cool things he gets to do in his role as innovative, technologies, manager and how he stays, on top of what's, next in the industry. Inside. Engineering. Untold. Stories and fascinating. People from, the world of civil, engineering, this, is episode, 2 recorded. In September 2019. Innovative. Technologies, with Tom are. Inside. Engineering, is brought to you by our KNK. Learn, more at rkk, calm. Welcome. Back to another episode of, inside. Engineering. We're. Here this week with a good, friend of mine the, innovative. Technologies, manager, at arcane K Tom. ARP Tom, welcome to the podcast we're excited to have you here today thanks, to him I'm excited to be here okay, so innovative. Technologies, manager that sounds, it. Sounds like a cool title, so. Walk. Us through what. That means because there's, a lot of things that sound like they could fit under that umbrella what, does it mean to be the innovative technologies, manager it, means I get to play with all the fun toys see, I knew, it was a good title I. Know. It's uh actually. It is a lot of fun, so. That's that's the first part, so. Part of what I do involves. Working with with, the GIS side of things so geographic. Information systems, for, those of you don't know also, I'd get to play around the drones again, that's part of the fun toys. Augmented. Reality and, virtual reality. So getting to explore, those technologies. But. Really the, biggest part of what I'm doing now is making sure, that firm-wide. That. We are looking, forward and we're looking ahead at kind. Of what's next I, mean. That's a big part of what we do have to constantly, be moving, forward. You. Mentioned a few different, technologies, there in the description of what you're doing can you break down. Some. Of the technologies, that you've. Had a chance to work with over. The past couple. Years few, years and and. Maybe even some things that looking, forward are technologies, that, you. Know might be under evaluation or, anything like or so. We'll. Start with GIS that's that's kind of what I started doing GIS. Has been around for a long long time. Since, the mid sixties actually, but. In the last let's, say five years. The, move to cloud so. Moving into, the cloud has. Been a huge, game-changer. So, we we hear rkk moved to the cloud about four or five years ago and. And really that's helped our field staff get. Their work done in the field using. IPads and. Then just that cloud, can action kind, of real-time, GIS. Has has been a really big. Technological. Innovation, so. So, that's one and that's again that's something that's constantly evolving. More. Recently, drones. So, that's a hot topic. We've, been working with drones for about two-and-a-half years so. Again. We started off kind, of looking at some. Different uses how we might use that kind of in marketing, and. Then it's. Slowly becoming more and more adopted. In other areas so. We're using it for construction, inspection. Management, type things so we're we're documenting, sites but. We're also using it to provide, some survey like. Information so point, clouds. Developing. Surface models so. That's really kind. Of starting to take off we're. Looking to do. Some bridge inspection, work so, structural. Inspections things like that it's obviously a big safety issue. When, we're talking about getting people up on rigging. And on snoopers, so. Being able to fly, drone to. Do that I, think, will be more and more common as we kind of we go to the future. Something. Else we've looked at augmented. Reality and virtual reality, so. Again. This is kind of something that we're just starting to look at so. We've we've actually taken this technology, out to some, trade shows where we've been able to demonstrate, to, clients.
And People that these shows kind. Of how we're, using this right now and, then what, the possibilities are so. It's really exciting maybe. To look. At how you. Know those technologies, might really help our clients cuz, I think our clients don't really know yet kind, of how they they want to use these technologies so, so. So those are things we're working on right now. Down the road we're looking at. AI. And machine learning, so. This is another kind of hot area everyone's, everyone's, talking about AI and and, how how machines are gonna kind of take over so. Skynet. Yeah. So we're looking at how we could possibly use these technologies, here. You, know there's, there's, definitely an. Application, of this technology computer, vision. Looking at images and classifying, what, what the images are so. So there's a lot of opportunity, there as well that's. Some cool stuff let's, walk through a couple of those things because maybe. We can we can talk a little more in depth about some of the specific, applications, so he talked about drones. You. You've inspired me to get my drone, pilot license recently, so that's that's, exciting, but one of the opportunities that we have and you and I have been out on a bunch, of different. Flights. Together, but, one of the opportunities we had recently was to test. Out you mentioned inspections, and to, test out some drone technology, that. Would help increase, the safety and efficiency, of bridge, inspections. You. Want to can you tell us a little bit about that, opportunity. That we had and sort of some of the challenges that those. In the those, inspectors, face, compared. To, what. The drone brings to the table sure so. So. Obviously, getting people up on a bridge that maybe 150. Feet off the ground which this one was it was you. Know there's a there's a safety issue there right there we've, had here, are KNK people who have been in danger during, inspections, so. So. That's part of it is a safety thing the, other is for. This bridge inspection, it took them over a week to do it so they had to have maintenance. Of traffic out for, a whole week closing, a lane down closing lane down a bridge on, a bridge and you. Know I, think if we were able to use the drone to to. Do maybe some initial inspections, or some some initial condition fly through and. Then evaluate where we need to to actually get our hands on the bridge that might, help eliminate, some of that that MOT that we needed for a week and you know on very, busy roads that could be a huge time, saver money saver and. An increase in safety for sure absolutely, any time there's there's traffic. Management happening, there's always an increased, risk to to. The. Workers, and the. Travelers have another roadway. Yes, that was a that was a really cool opportunity I mean we, had guys we.
Had Some folks own a Snooper, on the bridge and so anyone, who doesn't know a Snooper, is a truck that has a big boom arm that booms a bucket, under the bridge so, they're on the bridge looking at that and then we had some other guys so. Suspended, from a wire, sort. Of on a chair with, a winch. Yep and it would take they would literally just go up and down the. Appears. And and. Look at them real in-depth and with, the drone we were able to take. A high-resolution camera sit, back a good, distance from the from the pier and capture. Imagery. That, can be used to make an evaluation of, that yet. So the other thing with. The particular rigging for this pier, that we were looking at the. The, bridge inspector couldn't get the. Full width, of this pier so they couldn't get out to measure a. Defect. That was out towards the edge they could don't make noted it but, they weren't actually able to measure it so, you, know we were able to take photos of the entire structure the Thai pier structure stitch. Them together and measure the. Actual size of the defect and, we were also able to do it much, much faster yeah, so. Time savings, is. Another great way and using drones could could help these inspections where we're not spending as much time kind. Of in the rigging on the bridge right. There's, also some cool. Technologies. That you can attach to drones in terms of different, kinds of cameras. And stuff you want to talk about some. Some. Of the different. Uses. For those sure so, one. Of the for, this particular bridge inspection that we were just talking about we. Were testing out a zoom camera, so this. Camera had I want. To say 30x, optical zoom 6x digital so. In our testing we were able to see, objects, over a mile and a half away like. And know kind of what cars they were and and things like that so really, high-end zooming we. Were able to when. We're on the bridge to see individual, bolts, way. Up we, were again we were 150, feet below. The bridge so. Just using that zoom capability. Allows. Us to be farther away from the structure and. Then get really high detailed. Resolution. Images so, so, that was part of our testing obviously. We have regular, cameras that we can use and, we did, some of that while we were out there and that's. Just a regular. Regular. Camera that's on most consumer drones. And, we still like to do some more testing on other sensors there's thermal sensors that we could we could look at we. Have a drone right now actually. Growl flying it today it. Has a multispectral. Sensor, so it's doing. Infrared. So, we can look at plant health and things like that so and that's that plant health in particular that's we've had some work. Around. Relocating. Seagrass, that. I think we've used that technology we looked at it this hat this seagrass happened to be under water so. It we, were a little bit too far under water to actually make, it work for this but that was the intention but, with the right with the right level of depth for that seagrass a but this would be a good ending and potentially yeah. You. Also mentioned, a our, augmented, reality, there's, a lot of talk around hey R and V are these days for a bunch. Of different uses. What. Can you give an example of what a use case, might be for, augmented, reality inside. Of civil, engineering sure a, one. Great use is, getting. Shareholders, so or stakeholders, involved. In the process so you, can take a design, and. Then we could get around a table and you can have multiple. Devices, kind. Of looking at a model and interacting, with it so. An, example that we've done is we've. Done some bike lane alternative. Development so. We were able to take a few different bike lane alternatives, put. Them into the AR goggles in, this case of microsoft hololens. Put. It out on a table we can kind, of cycle through them and discuss them in front of you, know potential, stakeholders so, that's. One great use case for it, there's, lots of others that we're also exploring, so. At the tradeshow we were, some. Of the trade shows we've been going to recently have been water/wastewater, type trade shows, so. Pump stations were able to to, show a design of a pump station we. Can scale, at the model so it you, can see all the details inside, and. Then, again place that either, on a table to discuss it or actually we've we've. Shot video where we placed it on a site, full. Size so, you could potentially go out to the site where that pump station would be and actually. Visualize, it and walk around or, through, yeah the site absolutely, all, in augmented reality, it's. Pretty cool yeah so again. A client could see what something, might look like in, the, in the field before. It before it was even four was constructed, or was constructed, at all that's really neat. Okay. So we're. Doing all this stuff there's.
All These really cool things that you get. To do I mean, but at the end of the day it comes, down to how. Does this help our clients, so, how, do the, things you do help. Our clients, or help our. People. Who. In turn. Help our clients sure he talked about that so. Let's. Talk internally, first. So. One. Of my roles is, to, kind. Of connect people that, have good ideas on things that we might be able to do technology. We should be using and connecting. Them with other. People in the firm that have, similar, goals we're already working on this so. That way we're not working in silos, so. Connecting, the right people is is a huge part of what I do facilitating. That kind, of startup. Of of. An idea, and. That's already happened, since. I started this role a great example of this is connecting. Some of our cm folks in, Florida who had a great idea for for managing photos, on a project with work, that's going on here in Baltimore so. We've been able to connect them and. Kind, of get a solution that works for everyone. So. That's one way. Internally. But, that also benefits our clients right because, we're. More efficient, in managing. Our workflows. We're more efficient managing photos we're. Able to perform, better on a project. So. So I think kind of that internal. Internal. Win is a win for our clients absolutely, yeah I mean. Media. Asset management is. Increasingly. A significant. Challenge of you, know where do you store this big media how do you store it how can you find, it easily, so. That you. Can spend more time helping a client unless I'm looking for, a picture or a video of something that's. A really, good example of of connect, in different ideas together. How. So. You're helping the clients okay but then I mean, you have to know that, what you're doing is a success. Or not so that you know whether or not to continue doing it I think that's always a challenge no, matter what field you're in how do you measure the success of, what, you're doing, yeah. That's. Kind of hard because sometimes. You. Know how do you measure. Efficiency. Sometimes you can measure it sometimes you can't so in. Some cases we're able, to do more work in less time so, if we go back to it to the iPads using them in the field to collect data right. Instead, of writing. You. Know all your all your information down on form and then coming back to the office and digitizing, that in some way you're. Collecting, it in that format right away so. You. Know obviously hours, spent that. That's an efficiency gain. So. That's one way that we can can measure kind of what we're doing but you. Know how do we measure, connecting.
People Internally. That that need to know about what. We're working on so, that's. A lot it's a lot more challenging and, I think you. Know we can we can measure that by. Just. Looking at the success, of a, project so. You know we're we more successful, in delivering this. Particular, project so so. That's one way you. Know if we're talking about drones, it. Could be you, know again, a time-saving, that's we're looking at but safety, you, know how do we measure safety. You. Know is it is it, fewer accidents is, it less. Time spent you. Know in a dangerous situation. You. Know that's it's. A challenge to sometimes to measure exactly. What we're doing but I think a lot of you. Know a lot of our technology advances that we're looking at are gonna, be efficiency, efficiency, savings, time savings, letting. Our staff work on the, things that they're really good at instead of wasting time on things that they, don't need to be doing. If. Efficiencies. Just spreads across. Across. Everything I mean we're always, always. Looking, for ways to be more efficient. With something and, do. It better than next time and constantly, learning that. Sort of continuous. Innovation, model. I think is really important, in an appliance in your. Field a lot. Tom. What. Big. Sort of big picture a question here what's, something that you are curious, about right, now oh, there's. Lots of things but I, think one of the the biggest things I'm curious about, is AI, and machine learning I think, this is. This. Is coming we all have to get used to it and, some of us are already dealing. With this now even though we may not know it. So. So. One example is you know like if you get if you get targeted by an ad if you're on facebook or something like that I'm not but there's. There's, algorithms in the background that's looking at your. History what you're looking at and it's presenting, you with things I. Think, applying. This to engineering, and. What we do here is super. Interesting so you, know figuring out how we can use this technology to improve, kind of what we're doing as, a firm to improve again. Our efficiency. And. Just. Working smarter, I'm. Really interested in that what, facet, of that technology, are you most looking forward to them is there any kind of big, broad. Brush stroke examples, that you can give so. One. Thing that I've kind of been interested in is is, kind. Of this computer, vision so, being able to to. Either in augmented reality or. Using drones to look, at something and then have have. The AI figure. Out what you're looking at classify. It in some way and, then kind. Of give you a result so you know maybe it's, changed detection or you. Know you, use the drone and you're flying the bridge and. Then it can detect defects.
Automatically. So. That type of kind. Of instant, feedback mm-hmm, is is really, really interesting and I think it's something that in. The future we're going to be doing more of I know. That in communications. We use a AI. Service. For, our, transcriptions. Of this, podcast in fact you. Know when we're done the, episode we want to have a script. Of the entire thing and so our first pass of that transcription, is through an. I system. And. It's it's good maybe, we have to clean it up obviously but that's the it, saves. So, much time, from. Having to go through and manually. Do it that. It is a real, big efficiency, and, so. I look. Forward to having kind of more of those things come, along and I'm really glad that we have. Someone. Who specifically, focused on keeping us on top of that. So. I don't, know Tom what what else what else do you want to talk about I mean what there's there's so many things that you do I feel like we could sit here all day what's. What's something that we haven't covered. We've. Covered drones, like again that's a big one I I think it's just gonna increase, ARS. Definitely to increase. What's. Something you're excited or something else you're excited about and we talked about curious about but is there's is there a particular, part of your job that you get really, really jazzed, for all, of it oh I. Know you said don't don't say all of it or. No. I you. Know what I love technology so. Finding. Ways for. For. Our staff and for people here to be able to use technology better, more, efficiently, to. Get their jobs done better, to. Kind of remove roadblocks to, getting their work done something. I'm really interested in so. I like having those conversations with, people and. Then just have them kind of you, know it doesn't always have to be about technology but, they're. Not thinking about a technology solution then I might be thinking about so so. I like hearing those things and then trying to figure, out how we work that into a technology, technological. Solution right and the, thing that I think is kind of cool about your. Job is that not, every, idea. It. Gets implemented but, it's the that's. The, good thing about it is that there's a process for, evaluating these ideas and and, seeing how we can apply them and hey maybe this thing here, over here didn't work out now, but, maybe there's an application for, it at some other point and and so it's not just a, yeah let's do that yeah let's decree this new technology, that new technology, it's it there's a very. Careful. Thoughtful, approach, to, these things it is and and and it's not just me sitting here by myself in, a room in a vacuum typing. Away or. Thinking, away all day it's it's getting those people to, the table that that, have a, stake, in kind, of what we're doing so and. I have lots of examples that you've been involved in in the, asset management thing that we're looking at digital asset management so. Really it's it's bringing those people together, to. Look at something you. Know figure out how, it works for us mm-hm, and then kind of moving forward with that, so. So it's a lot of fun I'm. Looking forward to doing more of it you have, a cool job I do have a culture. All. Right so we've arrived at the point now where Tom. Gets. To give us his Pick, of the Week this. Is where Tom recommends, something to us that he thinks we're. Going to enjoy and. I. Don't, know what it actually I do know what this one is he showed me what this one is iller so I'm, actually excited about this I think this is cool so Tom take it away Pick of the Week so.
One Of the things that I really like to do is is. Read I read a lot of leadership books and, just just other maybe. Like self-improvement type books but. A lot of them are focused on leadership. And. So, one of the ones I've read recently it's, been out for a few years the, author is Jack o willing, he, was a Navy SEAL and, his his, book is called extreme ownership, so. You. Know it's a it's a really great leadership book he he takes his lessons learned. Leading. SEAL Teams and applies that well he tells stories and then he applies that to business and. How you, know we might apply those kind. Of in a business setting cuz you know he's talking about being an iraq and and you know real. Life in, dangerous. Situations but. You can apply those in, the real world and and i've actually had to do it, here. At rkk you know using those leadership. Principles, to kind, of take ownership of something kind, of leading my team so, again. It's a it's a great great book and. I would recommend it to everyone extreme. Ownership, extreme ownership, all right we'll put the info to that in the show notes next, time that's a good books, are always a good thing, well. Thank you Tom for coming, into the studio we appreciate. You you being here and sharing your thoughts I, think. We'll. Probably have to have you back some. Other time to. Talk about the next cool thing that you're working on because it's always something it's always something it's always something cool all, right well thank you all for joining us for, this, episode of inside engineering, we'll see you next week. Everyone. Thanks for watching this episode I hope you enjoyed it inside, engineering, comes out every, Tuesday and we're. Available hopefully, on your favorite, podcasting, platform, we're trying to be in as many places as possible so, please take a minute to rate and review the, show you, can also stream, on demand, at our, website at RK k comm slash podcast, where, we also have just a real short survey, asking. For some feedback on the show because we want to make it as good, as possible and is valuable to you as we can so thanks for watching and we'll see you next time. You.