Recently, I was asked to do inspections of data devices in ceilings on one of our project sites, the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay. As an engineer, we are often tasked to identify the cables that are hidden in high and hard to reach places. In this inspection, we needed to verify if cables were terminated or not and determine if cables were placed in the location as specified in our drawings.
The PlanGrid App
On all of my site walks, I use an iPad with an app called PlanGrid. The PlanGrid app contains all the drawings associated with a specific project. I use the drawings to verify that the symbols shown on the drawings are represented by devices installed in the field. While in the field, I came across a few hurdles to get over in order to successfully inspect the cables and data devices. Since this task involves inspecting devices in the ceiling, having a ladder would have been useful, but not practical. It got to a point where my neck was sore after only a couple of hours into walking the site.
The Vividia Wi-Fi Wireless Inspection Camera
I knew there had to be a better way to inspect cables and devices in ceilings. My first thought was a mirror or a periscope, or attach a webcam to an extension pole that is connected to my iPad. However, there is no such device. I then came across an inspection camera, the Vividia Wi-Fi Wireless Inspection Camera, that is Wi-Fi enabled and sends a live video signal to an iPad. My project manager ordered this inspection camera to test out at our job site to see if the device would be useful in site walks and ceiling inspections.
Locating Terminated Cables
Having high hopes for this Wireless Inspection Camera, I anticipated that the camera would be a new tool to use throughout all my site walks. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed with the results. Sometimes the camera works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
The camera was successful in ceiling areas where there was a terminated cable based on our drawings. I was able to use the camera to help locate and confirm the terminated cable. Poking the camera over the ceiling grid provided a vantage point that would have previously been difficult to view without the camera.
Where the camera was unsuccessful was its short battery life, as well as its dependence on Wi-Fi. To help mitigate the battery consumption, I would only turn on the camera when it was in use. Because of this, the Wi-Fi would have to reset every time I turned the camera back on, which took more time than I would have preferred. The last time I used the camera on a job site, the camera actually ran out of battery life. For future site walks, having extra batteries on hand is necessary.
The whole purpose of using the inspection camera was to help eliminate the constant looking up at the ceiling. Although, out of habit, I still found myself looking at the ceiling instead of the iPad. So long for relieving that sore neck pain!
I still think it’s a “cool tool” when it works, but most of the time, it’s just a necklace when it’s not being used. I finished my walk with using the camera approximately only 10% of the time.
Lessons Learned For Future Site Walks
In the beginning, I was really excited about using this tool to assist with inspecting cables and devices in site ceilings. However, I found that I was still having to look up to place the camera in the ceiling, and the low battery life affected it’s use.
In addition to the technical mishaps of the Inspection Camera, the timing we tested the camera also affected the results. Because the project was in a later phase, majority of the ceilings were closed, and the inspection camera wasn’t nearly as useful. The inspection camera would be more useful at earlier stages in the construction phase while the ceilings are still open. For future site walks, we would make sure to use it at the right time in the project. For only a $160 investment, it is worth adding to your tool box.