- THE MAGAZINE
By now, you should know the value of carrying a thermal imaging camera in your restoration toolbox, as it allows you to see exactly where the water is and exactly how far it has spread in a particular water loss to better assess the situation.
Traditionally a hard sell due to the price of thermal imaging cameras, lower prices and better technology are making the products more popular items for restoration professionals. And today’s IR cameras do much more than just detect. Not only do many of today’s cameras offer easy-to-use touch screen features, but many are equipped with Wi-Fi technology, which allow such devices to work with mobile apps to connect with iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. This can be an impressive tool to use with the customer, as well as the insurance adjuster.
“(On) inspections with customers, you can actually give them an iPad, iPhone or Android device and actually walk through and they can physically see exactly what we’re seeing,” says Tom Rochenski, building segment manager, FLIR. “I can hit report, I can send an e-mail with the report and send the images right off to the insurance adjuster. Everything is real-time. You can send it back to your office, you can send it to a homeowner if they want to see pictures.
“You can do video… with certain cameras you can do voice annotation. Take your picture and you get 60 seconds worth of talk time. So you can say ‘I’m in Mrs. Jones’ attic, I’m seeing elevated moisture levels, my grains per pound is x, my relative humidity is x’ and you can say that right on the image itself. And that can be stored in your port as well.”
Ultimately, the advancements seen in today’s IR cameras help increase efficiency and relationships with the customer and insurance adjuster.
“Insurance companies love documentation and you can cover yourselves with this,” Rochenski says. “Documentation is huge in the industry – we all know that.”
ATP stands for “adenosine triphosphate,” which is the energy molecule within all living cells. So, simply put, such testing measures the amount of ATP on a particular surface using bioluminescence, a type of bio chemical reaction. To carry out testing, a luminometer and test swabs are necessary.
“The presence of ATP indicates that there’s some life forms present – anything from microbial presence to large animal cells – and there are nutrient sources there that support life as well,” says Slade Smith, Bio-Reveal. “No ATP present means there’s a lack of these residues or contamination present. No ATP means that the surface must be biologically clean.”
While ATP testing originally emerged in the 1980s to detect microbes in food processing, it has been utilized in cleaning and restoration applications for some time now. But today, as the industry has shifted from simple to scientific and sophisticated, it is perhaps more valuable than ever. Here’s why:
- Easy to use: In the early days of ATP testing, a person needed lab tech-like skills to successfully carry out a test. Today, anybody can do it – there are no specific skills or formal training required.
- Fast: You can get ATP results in less than a minute, allowing you to take immediate action in a situation. For comparison’s sake, consider that it could take several days to take test samples and send them to a lab. Time is money.
- Cost effective: Don’t think you’ll break the bank picking up a luminometer or test swabs. Luminometers are durable and cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. Test swabs are less than $3 a piece.
So just what types of jobs can ATP testing be used with? Water losses, mold remediation, trauma and crime scene situations, carpet cleaning – even HVAC cleaning.
“Everything that we do that’s cleaning, it’s good to have some way of verification that your cleaning process is working,” Smith says.
ATP testing helps determine the conditions you’re working with and verify cleanliness, all while building trust with the homeowner and insurance adjuster, as well as giving you the peace of mind that your work was a job well done.
RFID: Next-Generation Asset Tracking
Think about the last trip you made to the supermarket. Probably the most tedious, yet most necessary, part of the trip was having your items rung up by the cashier. Store items work on a barcode system, where products have to be individually scanned in order to be tracked. In the grocery store example, this is what determines how much you owe the store. It also helps the store determine inventory needs, as management can monitor what and how much is being purchased and what needs to be restocked.
So just what does the aforementioned barcode system have to do with RFID? Simply put - while the two technologies are somewhat comparable, RFID takes barcoding to a whole new level. Think of RFID as the barcode system on steroids.
“When an RFID tag is placed on any number of assets, then hundreds of items or assets can be detected all at once,” says Aminur Rahman, Invisi-Tag, LLC. “No individual item needs to be scanned directly, nor does the system require a line of sight to detect these tags. It will detect all of the tags within a 20-foot radius of the reader in a matter of seconds and display the information on your tablet or smartphone.”
So where does RFID come into play in the cleaning and restoration industries? Explains Rahman: “As an owner, your net worth is tied up in your assets. As for cleaners and restorers, that primarily means their equipment. You want to make sure all your equipment is accounted for (so you’re) not leaving equipment behind at job sites.”
That’s the big advantage of outfitting equipment with this technology – it allows equipment to be accounted for on job sites and for inventory to be completed in a matter of seconds, which thereby increases productivity, saving time and money.
“(The system) eliminates all the paperwork and human errors involved in keeping track of your equipment and inventory,” Rahman says.
“Being able to see all your vehicles on one screen, see if they are moving or stopped, how long have they stopped at any one location, check who is speeding, who is idling, is the driver doing unauthorized work?”
According to Paul Vergara, GPSnvision, those are just a few of the benefits that GPS tracking offers those in ownership and management roles in cleaning and restoration industry. Here’s a look at some more benefits of implementing GPS tracking with your vehicle fleet:
- Real-time alerts sent via text message.
- Viewing the history of any vehicle.
- Reports giving arrival and departure times from storage locations.
- Automatic daily reports delivered via e-mail.
- Ability to see when truckmounted equipment is in use.
- Ability to analyze truckmount usage, making it easier to create maintenance schedules for such equipment.
And, of course, there’s also the benefit of making sure that trucks get from Point A to Point B correctly and on time. But perhaps the most important benefit of GPS tracking is that it allows business owners to keep tabs on just exactly what their employees are doing. There’s arguably nothing more crippling to a business owner than not knowing exactly what is going on out in the field – the detailed GPS tracking systems completely take the mystery out of this, so employees are better able to be held accountable.
“Users love the control they can have with the system,” says Vergara. “They learn who is speeding, idling, harsh braking, rapid acceleration, etc.”