With only weeks to go until the official launch of the latest version of the AGS format (AGS4), and having spent every spare minute over the last few weeks reviewing draft after draft of the document, I thought I would summarise some of the exciting new features that AGS4 has incorporated in my article this week.
A new version of the AGS format is a big event. There have only been three previous updates to the format in the last eighteen years. The last major upgrade was from version 2 in 1999 – an amazing 11 years ago. Since then only a minor upgrade to the data dictionary (AGS 3.1 – 2002) has been done.
So what’s changed?
On some of my reviewing days I often wonder if it would be easier to describe what hasn’t changed! But here are my top five things to look out for at the launch event on the 25th May .
1) Lab Scheduling.
The format will enable software programs to schedule Geotechnical and Environmental tests and transfer this information ready for the laboratories to import into their LIMS system. It will also allow the laboratories to use the same format to report back to the client on the progress of each test during the contract.
2) Sample Referencing.
You can now assign each sample a unique and non descriptive ID. The main purpose of this feature is to allow QA/QC samples to be sent to environmental laboratories without including any descriptive information about the samples. This is how many large environmental database systems   work
3) Eurocode compliance.
This has been the main driver for the new version of the format and has caused the majority of changes and additions. In AGS 3.1 a number of lab test results were combined together into the classification group and the rock testing group. However with the new rules for reporting and transferring QA data for each test all tests now have their own dedicated groups. This has resulted in the majority of new groups and fields.
4) Reworking of environmental testing.
The contamination group from AGS 3.1 has been removed from the format and replaced with a Field and Laboratory Environmental Testing group and a Geotechnical Chemistry Testing group. These two groups have been tailored to suit the reporting needs from these two different types of testing and have been completed with a large effort from the UK chemical testing houses.
5) New rules for creating files.
The AGS 4 rules have been reworked and a number of historical rules have been removed, such as the continuation rule and the restriction on the number of headers you are allowed in any group. There are also additional rules on the format of the data i.e., how many decimal places or significant figures is the data reported to, is the data item a text string or number etc? The specification and management of abbreviations has also been given a lot of thought and the AGS will be revealing new changes to the website to help administer new codes and abbreviations.
These are just five of the big improvements that have been added to the new AGS format – I could probably continue for another 10 points or so but I just wanted to give you a taste of the significance of the upcoming release.
Here are some statistics that I feel best illustrate how much work has been put into this new format (figures in brackets are for AGS 3.1).
Data Groups = 123 (75)
Field = 2018 (999)
Pick List fields = 174 (49)
Please note that everything covered in this article is provisional and may change before the launch. I will be writing in more detail about these changes on this site once the format has officially launched.
The launch event is going to be a very interesting day for anyone involved in geotechnical or geoenvironmental data management and I understand over seventy-five people have already registered. Please see the link below for registration.
I, and other Geotechnical Data Hub authors, will be at the launch – we look forward to seeing you there.
Roger is Technical Director at Keynetix and has served on the AGS Data Management Committee for 13 years. He is also product manager for KeyAGS  a toolbox of applications to help people check and produce AGS format data.