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’ newsletters and blogs. She writes on a number of topics, including but not limited to geospatial, architecture, engineering and construction. As many technologies evolve and occasionally merge, Susan finds herself uniquely situated to be able to cover diverse topics with facility. « Less
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 »
OrbitGT Acquired by Bentley Systems
October 31st, 2019 by Susan Smith
Belgian company Orbit Geospatial Technologies (Orbit GT), specialists in 3D and mobile mapping, was recently acquired by Bentley Systems at the Bentley Year In Infrastructure 2019 thought leadership conference in Singapore.
Road mobility digital twins converge cities’ digital context (including 4D surveying facilitated by Orbit GT for drone-and vehicle-mounted mapping), and digital components (included from Bentley’s OpenRoads engineering applications) with CUBE simulations – to model and assure real-world throughput capacity for proposed and existing roadway assets.
An interview with Peter Bonne, former CEO of OrbitGT and now with Bentley, and Bob Mankowski, vice president, Digital Cities for Bentley, shed some light on the OrbitGT acquisition and how it fits into the big picture for Bentley Systems.
“Initially Bentley approached us to see if we can do something more and that resulted in the acquisition,” said Bonne. “This is fantastic for our team, it’s very promising now with Bob running the new entity, Digital Cities. That’s where we belong rather than construction because we are GIS people. We fit more in the cities idea. The new Digital Cities entity of Bentley Systems feels like a good spot to grow and to spread out our ideas in the organization.”
“From Bentley’s perspective, we were very interested in what they were doing,” said Mankowski. “Our talks this week were all about Digital Twins and the importance of the digital context. The digital context means understanding. Digital twin is the virtual replica of the physical asset, or process or system, and in order to have that virtual representation, you need to have the geometry and its appearance and everything. That’s digital context. Peter’s company has deep expertise in that, decades of expertise in creating digital context and managing the data associated with digital context, and so that’s what we looked to add to our portfolio, to add to our mapping and surveying expertise from Bentley. We have a deep history of making maps and we have ContextCapture and the reality modeling there, so then we have this data management platform and the tools and capabilities there and more importantly we have Peter and his team. They have all this expertise they’re bringing to the table going forward.”
Customers who were already onboard with OrbitGT will be coming onboard with the acquisition. The people who are using it today will continue to use it and will enjoy more opportunities with also being able to have a copy of the physical asset available.
“There is always going to be more data to handle, and handling that big data is an essential element for our current customers,” said Bonne. “The niche we have been focusing on for the last couple of years is 3D mapping. We go from mobile mapping specifically with mobile sensors, and reality capture. This remains untouched, as the market and need are there with big data collection and management. Most of them understand that because they have that challenge and it’s why they sought us out to manage that. Big data management has a different meaning than in IOT. It’s also really big data, so now we understand we have more leverage to help the customers to help those users to grow in the ever-growing challenge of more data consumption, more data usage, data organization, making real use of it. It is not just small portions of work but the full concept of having a 4D management of reality in a virtual state.”
OrbitGT brings to the table mobile mapping, a name for mapping based reality capture. “The cameras used are spherical 360 cameras, then add laser scanning, so you can get exact measurements, and bring the reality into it, depending on the equipment you’re using,” said Bonne. “If you drive a car for one day you can come home with one terabyte, per car per day. In a city like Singapore, they had that job done to get 50 terabytes uncompressed, and can compress to 30 terabytes.”
If you collect raw data while driving your car and other cars are driving, Bonne said all the data you collected can get a bit messed up because of proximity to other moving objects. “You have to clean it out and make sure that people downstream can rely on that data and bring it into their workflow, and make the right decision with Mobile Mapping.”
There are hundreds of different features available like feature extraction, with curb size, ADA ramps and other specific features. These features become extremely valuable in a digital twin, along with data from other methodologies that collect reality data, such as drones, backpack mounted rather than vehicle mounted methods. For automated driving this is a valuable feature. The mobile mapping van will collect all the information of the road, extract that information that needs to be fed into the ADA maps for automated driving. “It can be management of trees, space, management, cities, assets and streets, plans, telco operator who wants to know where all our poles are, where to run another fiber or where do I have to dig a trench, paved or grass, etc.”, said Bonne. “By bringing reality inside, the value of this data is almost not being calculated, and we see that it is becoming the norm in surveying and all kinds of contracting jobs. Instead of sending the surveyor to make individual assessments of the situation you send out a van to bring the reality to the office, and then make decisions or have algorithms and do the asset database from there.”
It would be impossible to send out a surveyor for every pole on a highway of several hundred miles. Now, simply drive the car and have some algorithm change that, so users can now be smart with the way that they govern their assets, whether for a private or public organization.
“We work for ports, airports, etc. It doesn’t matter how you use the sensors, it is really the very fundamental view of reality that you get with this kind of 3D mapping,” said Bonne. “And further down the road you have the 3D meshes from ContextCapture, where you get more sense of reality. But mobile mapping gives you the immediate insight, there’s room for both techniques and both types of data, and the right processes for each situation.”
At Bentley Systems, openness has always been a key concept and the company has made sure interoperability was available between their products and those of other vendors. “We embrace openness at Bentley Systems,” said Mankowski. “We have our opening modeling and opening simulation.”
Utilities is a case in point. Mankowski pointed out that utilities are going to be using a GIS, whether it be water wastewater or electric or telecommunications. They may be using Esri, Smallworld or QGIS for electric utilities or Hexagon.
Mankowski said that the whole idea of Digital Twins is that it’s a federated system and that means the data formats and the data applications are going to be varied. “We’re providing technologies to link them together and create a wholistic view across the data and applications. We want to be where the users are. Peter and his company are very good at the large data management aspect of it, and serving it out to connectors to QGIS, ArcGIS, Smallworld and others.”
Bentley and OrbitGT have been of the same mind vis-à-vis the integration of workflow. “At the beginning and end of the whole workflow,” Bonne noted. “At the beginning it’s about digesting all the techniques that exist to capture data–reality, imagery, point cloud, etc., and bringing that agnostic data in. Also on the other end of the pipeline make sure you can exploit that data in whichever environment you are using.”
“ContextCapture, for example, supports the I3s format that Esri uses for distributing large volumes of 3D content across enterprise systems,” said Mankowski. “So Bentley has a relationship with Esri to create that format from our software because we know there’s a need for Esri users to have that reality mesh.”
In addition, Bentley’s iModel.js platform is an open platform and open source platform which opens the possibility for others to create connectors to other systems.
Good information about reality is a necessary element no matter what processes are used. Location is key. “IoT cannot work if you don’t have a 3D model of your city. Why? Because you need connectivity,” said Bonne. “Connectivity means something like 5G but to deploy 5G you have to have your line of sight and know that the connection will work. You’re not going to do that in a 2D map. You need a 3D map for deploying 5G. Everybody who owns an IoT business will rely on that for connectivity. This future cannot be built without having a 3D map. But it will happen.”
People using OrbitGT do not need to be GIS or construction specialists. If you have a GIS background, of course the learning curve is easier, but it is not a prerequisite.
“One of our products is our cloud-based viewing product, 3D Mapping Cloud,” said Bonne. “I like to say we have to move this complex data from the 10 engineers to 10,000 uneducated users. Make it as simple as it can be, but it has the quality and the right information and reliable information. It is measurable, construction data; you can measure it in your 3D environment and bring it back to your design. So get it into action but make it as simple as Google. Why not make it available to all the other colleagues who don’t have the engineering degree and can do fantastic work with that data available?”
The bottom line is, you need good information to make good management decisions.
The OrbitGT team continues to work in same offices in Belgium, offering the same products, with greater integration within the Bentley portfolio.
Check out the finalists, awards presentations and more at Bentley Year In Infrastructure 2019
Transportation, lodging and some meals for this trip were covered by Bentley Systems.
Tags: ArcGIS, Bentley, cloud, crowdsourcing, data, ESRI, geospatial, GIS, Google, Google Maps, GPS, imagery, Infrastructure, intelligence, LiDAR, location, mapping, maps, mobile, navigation, remote sensing, satellite imagery
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