Organizations see many benefits in using RVI, such as fewer miles traveled from the home office to field sites, resulting in reductions in inspector time, costs, and vehicle emissions. Although RVI has many other benefits, there are important limitations to consider when establishing a program. Some of the benefits and limitations of RVI are highlighted below.
Help facilitate scheduling of inspections: Use of RVI can help ensure inspection related activities start and end on time by eliminating the uncertainties associated with travel time to and from the inspection site. How much time is wasted “waiting for a repairman” or “waiting for the inspector” or “waiting for the contractor” or “waiting for the homeowner or business owner” to show up?
Help facilitate “very” remote operations: With RVI, inspections can occur in very remote areas where it’s resource intensive or difficult to bring an inspector on-site; no local presence needed.
Safer inspections even in the midst of a pandemic: One short-term driver of RVI for some organizations was the COVID-19 pandemic. For many areas inspection activities remained a required activity as they were considered “essential services.” The use of RVI helped limit number of people at a building site, thus reducing the risk of infection from COVID-19.
Attract a younger workforce by using cutting-edge technology: Manipulating cell phones, tablets, drones and other electronic devices is likely seen by some potential employees as more interesting than traditional inspection activities and may contribute to attracting a younger, more diverse workforce. This may become increasingly important with many industries forecasting severe shortages of trained personnel of all types with the impending retirement of the “Baby Boomers” generation.
Integrates well with electronic permitting and plan review: Given the digital nature of RVI, it is a logical extension of the existing trends for electronic permitting and plan review. Electronic plan review replaces the paper-based review method, which is not conducive for remote verification and documentation.
May not be applicable to certain inspection types or verification measures: Certain requirements need trained operators of specialized test equipment (such as blower door tests for building air leakage and duct blaster tests for duct leakage). Such tests are likely to remain “on site only” for the near- and mid-term.
Intermittent or unavailable cell or Wi-Fi connection: Although cell phones are ubiquitous among the general public, cell coverage and/or broadband is not always available in rural areas or inside some buildings.
Training requirements for person on-site using the RVI equipment: Unless using sophisticated technology such as a drone or robot, RVI requires a person is on-site to hold a camera or phone and follow an inspector’s instructions. This person could be a builder, contractor, or homeowner and will likely require training or detailed instructions on how to capture all necessary information.
Potential for inaccuracy or falsification: Without robust verification measures, there is a greater potential for inaccuracy or false information with RVI than using a traditional on-site inspection.