'iSilo' App Mobilizes Data for Missile Sites' Demise

iPad Technology Helping Document Decommissioning

Chain link fences, antennas and modest buildings scattered across the barren landscapes of Montana, Wyoming and California only hinted at the latent Armageddon below: dozens of nuclear warheads and the massive intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped to carry them, at 15,000 mph, to assigned coordinates for detonation up to 6,000 miles away.

For decades the massive concrete silos and missile alert facilities would stand ready during the Cold War, steadfastly deflecting scans from overhead satellites and rebuffing spies anxious to peer underground.

Such caverns containing secure computers, fail-safe doomsday systems and the steadiest of personnel — all tirelessly trained to carry out the most grave of orders — would be all but off-limits to the outside world and its mounting threats, protected every minute of every day by a 110-ton launch door capable of absorbing a direct missile strike.

Turns out they're no match for an iPad empowered with a new information-absorbing app.

"It can be pretty powerful," says Perry Ryan, a project manager in Aviation & Facilities at Burns & McDonnell.

Ryan relies on such mobile technology as he leads the company's assigned mission to prepare for, document and design the decommissioning and demolition of 103 launch facilities and 10 missile alert facilities — bastions that had spent decades as part of the United States' nuclear arsenal.

The sites — 50 in Montana, 50 in Wyoming and three in California — are part of an extensive package being developed by Burns & McDonnell for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which plans to seek bids from demolition contractors in early 2013.

Documenting for Destruction

Helping document the specifications, site conditions and others factors is iSilo, a proprietary iPad app developed by Burns & McDonnell. Its purpose: Arm the company's on-site personnel with a simple and seamless system for compiling easy-to-understand information about what once had been some of the most sensitive operational data in the U.S. military.

To chart access roads and document gate conditions, erosion-control features and everything else still waiting below ground, Burns & McDonnell personnel simply follow instructions on their iPads — checking boxes here, snapping photos there, adding notes when necessary.

The app assigns GPS coordinates to every photo, drawing or notation regarding pumps, switches, pipes, cables, wires and anything else a demolition contractor might be interested in. That way, a prospective bidder will be able visit a few sites to see things firsthand, then review reports containing detailed observations for the others before making a solid proposal.

"Say a dozen contractors are looking at it," says Ryan, whose colleagues Jennifer Ross and Jason Picka typically spent an hour gathering information at each site. "The contractors can't all go drive out and look at more than 100 sites to see all the structures, to see all the access points, to see all the conditions of all the sites."

But they can see all the fresh, up-to-date and comprehensive reports for each and every site, telling potential contractors just what they need to know, Ryan says. Such disclosures will be expected to lead to better proposals, better schedules and, ultimately, better project execution. Read more about using mobile technologies on projects >

Work by Day, Upload Overnight

"We can remove a lot of the unknowns on the project," he says. "This is good for the government. This is good for the taxpayer."

The app also proves effective for professionals putting the documents together. Instead of writing notes by hand, shooting photos with a separate camera or relying on personal memory for noting site-to-site differences, the iSilo app makes it easy on the user, Ryan says: Just follow the prompts, shoot the pictures, fill in the blanks and upload the data automatically overnight.

Wake up the next day, and the information is waiting in a Word document for each site, detailing everything in a common format that both invites and enables easy comprehension and comparison.

The hard data, gathered on site and in person, is available at the touch of a button.

"It's a great tool," Ryan says.

For more information, contact Perry Ryan, 952-656-3644.

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