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Format moves forward Rodney Hutchinson and Roger Chandler review the latest developments in the AGS format for electronic transfer of geotechnical data.

The most significant development within the third edition however, is its ability to include associated computer files. This recognises the need to incorporate items such as drawing files, scanned image files and even text files.

The Association of Geotechnical & Geoenviron- mental Specialists is responding to changing industry needs and increasing international use in the latest development of the now well established Format for Electronic Transfer of Geotechnical Data.

Development of the third edition of the format is now at the final draft stage with publication imminent. This follows consultation with wide elements of the industry including ground investigation specialists, consulting engineers as well as main works and specialist subcontractors. The AGS is also in discussion with a number of overseas authorities where AGS format is increasingly being used to ensure wide distribution of geotechnical data.

In parallel, the AGS is keen to see the geotechnical data being made more readily available to contractors tendering for construction works or preparing design and build proposals. It believes that access to the data in electronic form would enable substantial advances in their ability to provide appropriate and cost effective designs.

The development of the format to meet these requirements has been mindful of the need for compatibility with the previous second edition. The AGS has therefore been careful to maintain backwards compatibility, ensuring that anyone with data complying with the second edition document is able to use the same data within the third edition environment.

One of the objectives of the AGS format is to encourage industry standardisation. To assist this, the third edition will include a series of pick lists providing guidance on abbreviations to be used for items such as borehole type and sample type etc. These will be in a form which can be continually upgraded to meet ongoing needs. In a similar area, one of the main advances in the second edition was the incorporation of a list of contaminant test abbreviations to be used in the data sets. This has proven to be successful and the third edition will develop these further, again with provision for ongoing dynamic development.

Concern had been expressed over the use of various group and field entry codes without adequate definition. The new edition will address this with the inclusion of a table defining any group or field codes/headers which are outside published AGS codes. This will maintain flexibility of the format while keeping it clearly defined.

The most significant development within the third edition however, is its ability to include associated computer files. This recognises the need to incorporate items such as drawing files, scanned image files and even text files.

It is also intended to make access to details of the AGS format easier, with a view to increasing industry awareness. The AGS is concerned about an apparent lack of knowledge of what the format is and how it can benefit users. This has become evident from responses of various recent seminars attended by AGS representatives.

With the industry making more use of computers and data manipulation software, it is also increasing its use of the internet. The benefits in information transfer and dissemination through the internet are enormous and it is intended to make more use of this.

The third edition will contrive to match the needs of tomorrow's as well as today's electronic reporting. A future issue of Ground Engineering will include a review of the technical changes included.

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