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Web-based cameras keep Walmart’s sustainability projects on track

BY Marianne Wilson

Sustainability is a top priority for Walmart, and energy efficiency is central to its efforts. One of the chain’s three primary long-term objectives is to use 100% renewable energy. Walmart is actively working to meet that goal with projects that employ a wide range of technologies, from solar power to fuel cells, in development across the country.

“We have a large number of retail-store and distribution-center projects, often needing to be monitored simultaneously,” said Marty Gilbert, director of renewable-power and energy-efficiency projects, Walmart, Bentonville, Ark.

To monitor its multiple renewable-power and energy-efficiency projects and help them stay on track, Walmart uses Web-enabled construction cameras on the job sites. The cameras, from Atlanta-based OxBlue Corp., give Walmart’s teams 24/7 virtual job-site access. The teams are able to monitor projects moment by moment simply by accessing a Web-enabled construction camera interface from their desktops and mobile devices.

Gilbert’s department manages up to 40 projects in a month, and monitoring capabilities — whether remotely or in person — are critical for every project milestone. The sustainability initiatives overseen by the chain’s energy team often involve highly technical installations with compressed time frames.

“Solar panel installation projects, for example, take place on a roof over 10 to 20 days,” Gilbert said.

The OxBlue camera system is cellular-based, which is important, according to company president > Chandler McCormack, because > construction sites often do not have good Internet connections.

“Because we don’t have to worry about an Internet connection, our cameras can be deployed anywhere on the job site,” he explained. “This allows the camera to deliver the best-quality image from the best location and angle.”

Walmart also uses OxBlue’s monitoring platform. The supplier hosts all the components of the platform, including hardware, data transmission and storage. Walmart users can retrieve archived images or view up-to-date time-lapse videos of a project. All the images are archived and managed in the off-site data center.

“We provide the software interface for all the devices a team member is likely to use, from iPads and other mobile devices to desktop computers,” Chandler said. “We take care of all the logistics and technology, and provide whatever interface they need.”

Detailed images: The OxBlue camera systems provide the flexible viewing capabilities required for effective project management because they are designed specifically for construction sites, according to McCormack. They take very high-resolution images and provide close-up shots that allow for detailed inspection of solar equipment installations and other projects. Broader views are used to confirm environmental and safety compliance, and monitor workflow.

“Because I can zoom in and out, I can see details immediately,” Walmart’s Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he encourages Walmart’s external contractors to access the cameras.

“Archived and real-time camera images enhance team communication and training, both internally and with suppliers,” he added. “You can always struggle to walk someone blindly through a Gantt (a tool for planning and scheduling projects) chart. But when you can show them photos at the same time, the understanding is better and the learning curve is shorter.”

In another advantage, the cameras eliminate the need for the various members of the project team to travel together to the site.

“Seeing it on the screen is an efficient and effective management of time,” Gilbert explained. “You get back the time that would be spent out of the office. Plus, it saves money. Eliminating the need for just three trips can justify the price.”

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