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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

2016: Through the Lens of GIS

 
December 13th, 2016 by Susan Smith

Reviewing 2016 through the lens of GIS, there has definitely been a lot of growth in certain areas. While we have had the cloud on our list of important technologies for a few years now, it is gaining more traction as more organizations take advantage of its fluidity, ability to house big data and allow teams to work together, and also roll out product releases with more ease.

Facebook's Aquila

Facebook’s Aquila

Indoor Mapping

One area industry experts have been watching for a number of years is indoor mapping. Each year I’ve heard “it’s a long way off,” but now this technology seems to be blossoming. Here I outline three products – each aimed at a different market: retail, military and construction – that target the indoor GIS market.

Just this week, TomTom (TOM2 announced a strategic partnership with worldwide indoor mapping leader, Micello Inc., extending its range of mapping products to include indoor venues.

The ability to Integrate Micello’s maps and venue content gives TomTom’s business customers access to accurate pedestrian friendly indoor maps with points of interest data in venues worldwide.

“The indoor mapping functionality means that step-by-step guidance can be integrated into daily life for a wide variety of venues, including shopping malls, airports and retail stores,” said Charles Cautley, Managing Director TomTom Maps. “By partnering with Micello our customers can now develop smarter apps and locations-based services helping users navigate with ease in and out of the car.”

“We’re excited to be partnering with TomTom, the global leader in navigation.” added Ankit Agarwal, CEO of Micello. “Our agreement means that TomTom’s business customers can use our indoor venue maps and incorporate the content into their automotive, online, or mobile solutions.”

While TomTom’s approach to indoor mapping appears to be retailed based, GeoSLAM, a British company specializing in SLAM-based indoor mobile mapping systems, has announced a partnership with Blackdog Robotics. The two companies merge their technologies to produce unmanned mobile indoor mapping solutions.

These solutions, based on Blackdog mobile platform, a modular system travels on treads with remote operation, will be used primarily by the military, law enforcement and first responders. GeoSLAM’s handheld ZEB-REVO LiDAR scanner will be mounted on top of the platform.

BlackDog-1-1-400x250

GeoSLAM and BlackDog Robotics

The autonomous robot can map difficult to access or remote locations for inspection and engineering purposes.

The robot will enable professionals to capture a 3D map of a dangerous indoor space without entering. Since the Blackdog platform supports a number of different sensors and cameras depending on the mission, it can gather a great deal of data to support high-risk applications.

Mark Reid, COO at GeoSLAM talks about how important “indoor GPS” can be to construction companies, who can gain a lot of information from knowing the location of their workers and contractors onsite. Knowing whether their worker is close to a particular valve, or electrical system, will make their job easier.

Redpoint’s Real-Time Location System (RTLS), uses Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, which makes use of short radio pulses to obtain locations–in a way very similar to radar.

Redpoint puts radio transmitters inside the building that is being constructed. These anchors transmit unique timing signals from modeled control points. Armed with UWB receivers, workers can receive those timing signals that calculate that calculate the 3D position within the building model. The model may reside inside Redpoint’s Sitewise software or popular softwares like Autodesk BIM 360.

Transmitters or “tags” can talk to each other, so that when you look at your mobile device you can see exactly where all your workers are on the jobsite immediately.

Facebook's Aquila

Facebook’s Aquila

Solar Powered Drones

While this isn’t available yet, it’s interesting to note that solar powered drones are on the horizon.

Facebook’s solar-powered, Internet-beaming drone named Aquila, passed its test flights this summer. At cruising speed, it consumes roughly 5,000 watts, which is “the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave,” wrote Facebook vice president of infrastructure engineering Jay Parikh in a blog post about the flight.

What does Facebook want from this drone?

The unmanned aircraft is part of Facebook’s plan to bring the web to parts of the world where internet connectivity is sparse to non-existent. Facebook wants to beam the internet down from the sky to these locations, equipping the drones with solar panels, batteries, and an electric motor that could keep them operating for several months.

A very minimalistic drone, Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and weighs in at a third of the weight of a Toyota Prius.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp are also developing solar powered drones, which they believe will be more useful than satellites for atmospheric use and can fly at altitudes of 20-30 kilometers.

Virtual Reality

One of the exciting developments that came out of the Bentley Year in Infrastructure 2016 Conference was the growth of Bentley’s ContextCapture reality modeling offering over the past year. Introduced at the 2015 conference, and derived from the acquisition of Acute3D, ContextCapture is used to process digital photos from a variety of cameras including smartphone cameras, and aerial photography, including UAVs, to provide engineering-ready reality meshes.

Reality meshes provide precise real-world context for design, construction, and operations decisions for use throughout the lifecycle of projects. The latest development in the offering is the ability to include point clouds from laser scans that can be combined with photos in a “hybrid” input to form a reality mesh.

At this year’s Be Inspired Awards, over 15 (out of 60) awardees and finalists used ContextCapture in their design processes. These participants used reality modeling in all areas of infrastructure: architecture, plant and process, facilities management, rail and transit, roads, smart cities, government and utilities, and much more. This year marked the first year for the Innovation in Reality Modeling category, with three finalists making impressive use cases for the technology.

Innovation in Reality Modeling Winner: City of Helsinki – Helsinki 3D+ – (Helsinki, Finland). Image Courtesy of Bentley Systems

Innovation in Reality Modeling Winner: City of Helsinki – Helsinki 3D+ – (Helsinki, Finland). Image Courtesy of Bentley Systems

The winner in that category, Helsinki 3D+, holds the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by the year 2050. Their goals were as follows:

  • To have an up-to-date 3D platform to city internal processes
  • A uniform city model to various developing projects
  • Be part of Smart Helsinki OS
  • Raise common understanding and interaction of new developments
  • Give analyzed de facto information to support decision making
  • Acquire tools to analyze and reach city’s environmental objective
  • Open 3D data to citizenry, companies, developers, and universities

Such ambitious goals required an ambitious undertaking. Presenter and project manager/architect/civil engineer Jarmo Suomisto showed how Helsinki 3D+ developed various city models covering the entire city of 400km2:

  • 3D semantic model CityGML textured LoD2
  • Reality mesh model with 50,000 oblique images/10 cm groundsample distance
  • Minecraft Helsinki
  • 3D spatial data infrastructure

Self-Driving Cars

Auto executives are anxious because the world is changing and these three things are part of the change: autonomous systems, ownership and powertrains.

The capability to be self-driving will be driven by geospatial location technologies. Already some newer cars have sensors that put on the brakes when there is an obstacle in the way, such as a car turning into the lane in front of you.

Self-driving cars are about creating a great experience for the drivers, so that it becomes more of an “ultimate passenger experience.”

“Cars will need software that responds to the world in milliseconds,” said Autodesk CEO Carl Bass. “These companies can’t just be building cars; they need to build drivers.”

Bass also added that we may not own our cars either. He pointed out that for a hundred years, car ownership influenced everything the industry did. Americans spent over $6 billion at car dealerships.

Makers of powertrains are dismissive of electric cars. Companies that have spent 100 years learning how to make transmissions have a hard time seeing a new thing about to become essential. Regardless of the scale of your company, you still need to innovate, be proactive.

Summary

All of these technology areas will continue to grow and develop, shaping themselves to the needs of consumers. Each demonstrate to us the way that GIS and geospatial have become more deeply embedded in the mainstream and are becoming integrated into a greater whole.

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Categories: Big Data, data, developers, emergency response, geocoding, geospatial, GIS, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mobile, NASA, remote sensing, resilient cities

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