Storage of reports can be a big problem for site investigation companies. Although they contain a wealth of information and represent the firm's cumulative experience, piles of documents are often consigned to a corner of the office, where they gather dust and are rarely used.
Microfiche solved this problem initially by allowing archiving of reports in miniature. But this is still not an easy system to use as any search must be done by a job number or name. And there is still the danger of the complete archive being lost or destroyed.
So a system that offers firms a chance to archive old reports on a computer database (that can be backed up on CD-ROM) at a relatively low cost, that can be updated with new data and allow a variety of searches to be carried out, is likely to be warmly received.
Software developer Key Systems' new package offers just this. At its most basic, documents can be scanned in page by page and archived using the KeyGeoview database to allow ease of access. But the option of bolting on a GIS and intranet function greatly increases the system's potential.
Key Systems technical director Roger Chandler says the idea was to make the system available to a variety of users, from the largest multi-disciplined consultant to the smallest contractor.
With this in mind, three packages are on offer. The entry level option is the KeyGeoview stand-alone database, which runs on Windows 95 and 98. Its £1,995 price tag includes the scanning of 5,000 pages of documents and referencing them into the software. This process is carried out by Key Systems in association with a scanning bureau.
The next level is to link the database with mapping software such as AutoCad Map or Autodesk World, to give the option to geographically locate data using different digital maps.
Top of the range is KeyGeoview IE Gold, which includes the features of the other two packages. This runs on Windows NT and uses Autodesk Mapguide, an intranet map browser, letting firms use their intranet systems to allow access to the information.
KeyGeoview is a simple document manager, Chandler says. Scanned paper documents are put into the system and then indexed using bookmarks to allow a range of searches, including by job number/name, location (by town for example), or by grid co-ordinates.
Site investigation reports and borehole logs can be called up and associated documents such as laboratory or insitu test data can be linked to allow the user access to a variety of information. Chandler says documentation in a number of different formats can be used, such as Word, Excel and AutoCad.
Importantly, the software can also store and read AGS data files if they are included in a report. This allows a degree of interaction by the user, allowing searches for specific technical detail such as, say, all the SPT data for London Clay from investigations stored on the database in AGS format.
By introducing mapping into the system, KeyGeoview can be used to search for a borehole or a project and then site plans or larger scale maps can be called up to show their geographical locations. Alternatively, a map of an area can be chosen showing all the boreholes or projects in that area. Data held for these can be called up by simply clicking on the map. Alternatively, areas of the map can be selected, including 'buffer selections' - for example, all boreholes within 200m of a stretch of road - particularly useful for desk studies.
Mapping information is on a variety of scales, starting from simple site plans up to full scale national maps.
The data shown on the maps depends on the needs of the client, Chandler says. Almost any sort of information can be put on, from Ordnance Survey to geological, geotechnical and land use maps.
Gary Morin, from sister company KeyGIS, who developed this aspect of the software, says that because buying map information can be expensive, users can start by just including the areas they typically work in or where jobs have been carried out. In this way, they can build up a patchwork of maps as and when they need them.
By putting the database linked with the GIS information on an intranet, firms can allow engineers access to the database from their desktop PCs using an internet browser. Morin says that the main advantage is that the KeyGeoview software only has to be loaded onto the server, because the way web technology works, using hyperlinks, bypasses the need to put the software on individual computers.