SOFTWARE THAT checks geotechnical data files in AGS format is now available free of charge from the internet.
Data management system developer Key Systems is to make a basic version of its KeyAGS software available on its website (www.keygeotech. co.uk).
The company has taken the step chiefly because it believes the AGS data format is misunderstood.
The company's technical director Dr Roger Chandler, who is also a member of the AGS steering group for electronic data transfer, says: 'AGS format is theoretically such a brilliant idea. It has so much potential to improve efficiency and save both cost and time, but it is being abused - and as a consequence it is not being used.
'Our observations suggest that only some clients ask for AGS data, even fewer actually get it and when they do it is late and often not correctly formatted. The concept is simple, but our evidence suggests that it is not properly understood.'
Key Systems has a clear interest in improving use of the AGS format, since it greatly increases the benefits of geotechnical data management systems such as the company's Holebase.
According to Rodney Hutchison, chairman of the AGS working party on electronic data transfer, the industry should be using AGS format throughout a project, rather than attempting to convert data contained in finished reports after the job is done - which tends to be the way companies operate at present.
'There are two golden rules to data input,' says Chandler; 'it should only be done once, and someone else should do it.' By this he means that from site exploration through to archiving, a process that may involve a number of different companies, there should be no need to re-key data.
This is where KeyAGS comes in. The program will run checks and highlight data within AGS files that is not correctly formatted.
Furthermore a fully licensed version of Key AGS will convert an Excel spreadsheet to AGS format.
This means that there is no excuse for non-compatibility between producers and users, says Chandler. Producers can easily check their output is in correct AGS data form before they pass it on, and users can check that when they ask for AGS data, they
An additional advantage is that data entry in a spreadsheet environment will be much more familiar to an untrained data inputter - there is a perception that to input data into any of the commercially available data management systems requires special training and a certain level of geotechnical familiarity.
Instead a typist with a basic knowledge of Excel will now be able to input data with confidence, not only reducing the cost of outputting data, but also freeing up engineers' time for more constructive use.
AGS is about to launch version 3 of its guide to electronic data transfer. See feature page 13.