IMQS, a supplier of market leading asset management software to more than 100 South African municipalities, has launched a new mobile application designed to make municipal asset register data capture up to ten times faster and more accurate than conventional methods.

Until now, municipalities and their data collection agencies captured asset information on paper, transcribed to Excel spreadsheets, verified the resulting information and then manually uploaded it to the IMQS database.

IMQS Asset Capture, developed in partnership with software and services specialist DVT, is a native Android tablet application that circumvents this lengthy, costly process by allowing operators to capture detailed asset information on location in real time, in the correct format, and sync it directly with the IMQS database.

“Assets can be anything from a provincial highway to a water pipe under a single residential block, and asset information is normally collated into the municipal asset register in the course of routine maintenance, construction or dedicated data capture projects,” explains IMQS CEO Rob Knight.

“Whereas a single operator can manually capture around 200 assets a day, up to 2,000 assets can be captured by one operator in one day using IMQS Asset Capture and a compatible tablet,” says Knight.

“What’s more, the app makes use of additional tablet functionality like imaging and location services (including full Google Maps and Google Play services support) that provide much richer data and overcomes the problem of proof-of-existence of assets that local authorities struggled with in the past.”

South Africa is currently building a massive database of municipal assets on a scale rarely seen in other parts of the world, even in more developed economies. It is one of the only countries in the world where municipal asset registers are required by law to be GRAP (Generally Recognised Accounting Practice) compliant.

Asset management systems like IMQS have advanced significantly in the past decade, to the point where data on millions of individual assets are captured across the country every day (IMQS is the only asset register in the country that’s is fully geo-referenced), and with the addition of new technology like IMQS Asset Capture, clean, compliant information is now captured at source.

Johan Pieters, business unit manager for enterprise mobile solutions at DVT, says the app is a critically important piece of software, not only for IMQS but, on a larger scale, for the industry as a whole.

“Mobile applications are typically designed to meet niche functionality as part of a broader ecosystem of software and services,” says Pieters. “For this particular app we had to overcome some interesting technical challenges, such as integrating the app – through a dedicated cloud-based server – with the central IMQS database, and accounting for the interrupted connectivity users would experience in areas with limited Internet connectivity.”

Pieters says these issues were mostly overcome by the collaborative approach to development between the two companies. “We had two DVT developers on site at IMQS for the duration of the project as part of a so-called ‘joint scrum’ team, and this close collaboration meant we could collectively ensure the project was completed, start to finish, in under three months.

“It helped that we limited our focus to one platform (Android) and a narrow set of compatible devices. This meant we weren’t hamstrung by long release cycles and could distribute regular builds of the app for testing. Now that the app is published, we’ve shifted into a maintenance role, and will continuously support the development and modification of the app through its lifecycle.”

Formed in 2000 as a joint venture company by two of South Africa’s leading Civil Engineering firms, IMQS has grown rapidly in response to the escalating demand for detailed management reporting on infrastructure assets.

IMQS software is used to report on multiple asset classes, from detailed component level information to high-level management information, and is marketed as a desktop GIS-based infrastructure asset management software solution to customers in South Africa, Namibia, and more recently Europe, South East Asia and the United States.

Even with powerful software like IMQS, Knight says the quality of data input into the system determines how effectively it performs, and capturing quality data is both time consuming and expensive.

“IMQS Asset Capture changes the game,” he says. “There’s little to no delay between the capture and availability of data on the system, and the app’s offline functionality means there’s no downtime in areas with limited Internet access.

“Just think of the impact that a tenfold increase in data collection efficiency will have on the size and quality of municipal registers going forward.”

IMQS Asset Capture is available for immediate download from the Google Play Store.