Exploring New Revenue Streams with Mobile Mapping

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Mobile mapping technology has the ability to provide information-rich data that supports new revenue streams far beyond traditional surveying and GIS collection activities–while still providing significant cost reductions in traditional surveying by moving the work from the field to the office. No longer is the user required to make multiple passes with different equipment and struggle with incompatible software. With a single integrated mobile unit, data can be collected simultaneously with cameras, LiDAR scanners, and other sensors that can be combined with existing GIS or known survey data to meet the needs of a variety of applications.

The Leica Pegasus:Two is a mobile mapping sensor platform that provides comprehensive feature acquisition capabilities using multiple data sources that support a broad range of analysis and decision making in numerous markets. Those who have been involved in early applications of the innovative mobile mapping solution have recognized the potential to create even more value than what has been thought possible in the past. Through continuous exploration and innovation, Leica Geosystems and its customers are breaking new ground in mobile mapping.

Partnering to Explore New Markets
Mobile mapping is a natural next step for Transcend Spatial Solutions (Transcend), a 5-year-old GIS consulting firm based in Sarasota, Florida. Its expertise lies in the transportation industry, integrating and effectively reporting roadway data to facilitate Department of Transportation (DOT) activity. Transcend’s comprehensive Road Analyzer solution is a straight line diagramming application capable of integrating mobile mapping data along with other transportation information, such as number of lanes, crash statistics, average daily traffic, etc. Having worked with approximately 35 DOTs and numerous other government and transportation agencies, Transcend has insight into the challenges and data needs of these organizations.

Transcend expanded its services to include data acquisition with its purchase of two Leica Pegasus:Two systems in March 2015, becoming the only dual system owner. Transcend is partnering with Leica Geosystems to explore the feasibility of collecting large volumes of data on spec, uploading the dataset into a data warehouse, and offering content as a service (CaaS) to new markets. The Pegasus:Two is a key part of this proof of concept, due to its efficient data acquisition capabilities, multiple data sources, wizard based post-processing, and seamless integration with Esri ArcGIS. Valtus, part of Hexagon and a pioneer of industry-leading content as a service and cloud solutions, is participating as the data warehouse. Through Web-based data distribution tools, Valtus customers are able to access LiDAR data, and aerial and satellite imagery collected by multiple vendors. The San Francisco project fits into Valtus’ initiative to add survey-grade ground and city data to its product line for use around the world.

"We are following this project closely to understand how we can improve volume processing on the scale of Google Street View, but for survey and engineering firms," said Stuart Woods, VP Geospatial Systems Division at Leica Geosystems. "Fast and accurate data acquisition and intelligent content extraction with advanced software is a necessity to make the business model work–while at the same time supporting our current installed base of Pegasus:Two users directly."

The pilot project consists of 100 linear miles of downtown San Francisco collected May 26-28, 2015. "The Pegasus:Two system collects data very efficiently–the dataset is less than 1TB, including imagery, LiDAR, camera log, annotation and trajectory," said Bradley Adams, Vice President at Transcend Spatial Solutions. "In one week we collected the entire target area, processed the data, and were ready to present at HxGN LIVE [Hexagon’s global technology conference] on June 2."

The advanced IMU technology of the Pegasus:Two is advantageous for fast and accurate data acquisition. The low noise, 200 Hz system tracks the vehicle path to ensure data is positioned accurately. "We were very happy with the results, especially in such a dense downtown area with tall buildings and vehicle and pedestrian congestion to deal with," continued Adams. "We achieved our accuracy goals and successfully processed the final product in an ArcGIS environment."

Adams described the potential revenue streams generated by the Pegasus:Two. "In the future when Transcend accepts a contract for a city model with particular specifications, I envision collecting extra information. We would deploy the pavement camera along with all the other cameras. A full suite of data, especially with the number of consumers in a metro area, provides multiple opportunities to leverage the data. Utilities, cable lines, rights of way, traffic flow–the data is so rich that anyone who has a need can find value in the data we’ve collected. When the San Francisco data becomes available for sale online, we will see how well volume-based push processing works on a commercial basis."

Lessons Learned
Already Leica Geosystems and Transcend have learned important lessons from the San Francisco project. "The number one requirement of a big project is upfront mission planning," said Adams. "Be sure to understand the traffic patterns and have a plan to facilitate collecting the necessary data. While driving 100 miles within the city limits of San Francisco, we encountered numerous disruptions, especially civilian pedestrian traffic. Our schedule didn’t allow enough time for pre-planning, and we ended up missing a few roads that were inaccessible at the time."

The proof of concept reflects a shift away from traditional surveying and toward dynamic surveying. Traditional surveying is characteristically very high accuracy with updates only as needed–which is not very often due to the time and expense. Dynamic surveying means fast and efficient, with frequent updates from multiple data sources. "We look at Google Street View as supplying commodity low accuracy content for consumers, while Leica Geosystems has always been focused on supplying engineering-grade data," said Woods. "We have the ability to leverage the increasing demand for high value commodity content by applying our technology in new ways, for new applications, while meeting accuracy and quality requirements. We are continuing to learn about collecting and utilizing actionable content of any space– indoors, underground, everywhere."

Bright Future for Mobile Mapping
The utility of mobile mapping units will increase as additional sensors and scanners are integrated into the systems to produce a vast store of data that enhances the depth of knowledge for any number of applications. Ground penetrating radar is used to locate underground utilities and reduce damage to people and property. Thermal sensors provide a unique view of a building to aid with energy efficiency and preventive maintenance. Pollution and noise sensors aid governmental monitoring of regulatory compliance while also providing support information for property prices based on quality of life (no one wants to be surprised that they can hear a highway from their backyard after purchasing a home). These are only a few of the possibilities that are currently being investigated.

Leica Geosystems is continuing to explore new uses of mobile mapping data. "We recognize that just highway scanning isn’t always enough to justify the cost of mobile mapping equipment," said Woods. "Professionals need higher profit segments–like reference mapping for autonomous cars, or scanning for rail control signaling, and underground mapping of utilities. By combining multiple sensors within the one platform, a more complete dataset is created in the same amount of time, which can be used for numerous purposes."

"Transcend is looking at multiple levels of revenue from collecting large areas on spec, made possible by the great efficiency of the Pegasus:Two," said Adams. "We see many opportunities in the rail sector to increase safety, involving maximum speed controls, track conditions and maintenance. We’ll continue to heavily invest in the DOT market, and there will be international demand for all of these services as well."

Further development of software is just as important as the hardware to expand the uses of mobile mapping data. "One area that is very important is advanced batch extraction–further development of linear referencing systems (LRS) for managing highways, railroads, utilities, and pipelines relies on automated processing. For example, a DOT needs to know which guard rails are legally compliant for the entire state and view this as a simple map of the whole state," said Woods. "Everything we do in mobile mapping from now on will focus on multi-source data streams that generate greater revenue for the users."

Linda Duffy is president of Apropos Research, a Colorado-based consulting firm with nearly twenty years’ experience providing market research and writing services to the geospatial community. To learn more about Transcend Spatial Solutions, visit www.transcendspatial.com. For more information about mobile mapping, visit www.leica-geosystems.us/en/ Mobile-Mapping_103549.htm.

Answering Real-World Questions with Multiple Data Sources

Leica Geosystems entered the mobile mapping market in mid-2013 with the Pegasus:One, followed by an upgraded product in June 2014, the Pegasus:Two. Both systems met the needs of inventory-grade and survey-grade mapping projects; however, the Pegasus:Two offers several technological advantages, as well as more sensors that collect new types of data for increased flexibility and utility to the user.

Improvements in the Pegasus:Two include an advanced GNSS receiver that leverages global constellations (e.g., Japan, China) and a larger-capacity data storage unit. In addition to a LiDAR scanner, there are seven cameras, including a sky camera which gives a 360 x 270 degree view for city modeling and an additional eighth camera pointing to the pavement behind the vehicle for pavement assessment. Noise, pollution, and thermal sensors are optional and will be available in 2016.

"With the second release, Leica Geosystems really focused on improving the overall flexibility and usability of the Pegasus system," said Stuart Woods, VP Geospatial Systems Division at Leica Geosystems. "For example, we added convenience by placing WiFi and a USB hub in the battery, which typically is always closer to the operator, and we added handles all around the unit to make lifting it on and off the vehicle easier. By including additional tools in one unit, like the pavement camera, we’ve increased functionality and added more value, which makes it easier to justify the investment."

Woods continued, "We also developed a rotating plate so the one scanner could move around as necessary. This is a revolutionary design that is now copied by other manufacturers."

Woods explained the motivation behind changes in the product line. "Mobile mapping isn’t only about accuracy and point density anymore. Professionals need to make money in different ways, not just traditional surveying, and do more with the same equipment they’ve purchased, so our sensor platform supports new revenue streams without changing out the system–via an external sync and trigger port. The industry is moving toward multiple data sources to answer real-world questions, so that is our focus. This is the revolution in mobile mapping now."

Multi-source Mobile Mapping Data

A 1.717Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE