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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Modeling and simulated environments using CAD software have been done for a long time. Three-dimensional viewing of proposed urban projects is not necessarily new either. In the era of viewing building models in Google Earth, it's now expected. However, the emergence of linking precision 2D map data and 3D asset models, such as underground pipes and engineering grade building models, is presenting new options for users to more precisely design and visualize information in an immersive environment.

Bentley Systems has asserted for some time that its suite of mapping and civil engineering software is not only integrated but completely geo-enabled. This offers a seamless way to integrate design drawings with geospatial information. Every pipe, every wall and every foundation could be referenced to a point on the earth. Bentley has recently strengthened this capability by creating a strategic alliance with Trimble, which was announced at the Trimble Dimension User Conference in early November. According to a press release from both companies:

In the resulting immersive environment, physical and virtual information can be used to improve and validate on-site construction processes. The seamless exchange of information between the virtual and physical can be achieved by utilizing a selection of Trimble's field positioning technologies, such as robotic total stations, 3D laser scanners, and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) positioning solutions, and Bentley's information modeling software – with work sharing and dynamic feedback being securely managed in ProjectWise.

In addition, in this year's Annual Report from Bentley, the company cited work by its Applied Research Group in the following areas:


  1. Mobile Augmented Reality, a way to visualize and query information models  that represent the virtual world in the context of the real world, which led to Bentley Navigator for the iPad app
  2. Virtual Excavation that allows users to "virtually" excavate a hole to visualize underground utilities. See photo at right as an example of stripping away the surface to peer into the substructure (click for larger image).
  3. Augmented Reality Hypermodeling that allows users to "immersively interact" with drawings in the appropriate 3D context

These are projects that may or may not be commercially viable but Bentley was demonstrating these technology prototypes and ideas, and they encouraged a lot of discussion.

In many areas, however, the years of investing in 3D development are paying off especially for projects that support massive urban construction projects. This ability to do 3D and provide "immersive GIS" visualization was illustrated in a presentation at the BE Inspired Conference in Amsterdam this week by Daniel Irwin, a GIS technical analyst with the Crossrail project in London. The project is immense. Crossrail is the largest infrastructure project in Europe spanning 90 km of surface railways and  46 km of parallel tunnels under central London. It presents extensive project management challenges not the least of which is tunneling 40 meters below ground spanning business and residential zones and understanding exactly where existing utilities are located.

The work so far has produced surface and subsurface models for the construction phase of the project. The goal at this time is to maintain data integrity while implementing a building information  modeling (BIM) strategy.

Tunneling commenced in May 2012 with the opening of the rail set for 2018. A set of disparate data repositories has been created to be used for a variety of applications including  GIS. Oracle is used for the database and Bentley's GeoWeb Publisher is the spatial information portal containing over 500 layers.

The project became a model of information management such that Bentley and Crossrail formed the Bentley Information Academy, a mirror system of the project to educate all stakeholders.

Bentley's other area of focus for GIS is primarily in utility maintenance for power transmission and distribution. To support non-GIS specialists in utilities, Bentley introduced Bentley Map Mobile for field workers. Bentley's Descartes V8i (SELECTseries 4) will be released in Q1 2013 with a stand-alone point cloud data processing feature.

From point clouds to BIM to augmented reality hypermodeling, Bentley is offering users of its GIS software more tools for precision modeling and an immersive geospatial experience.

Disclosure: Bentley Systems supported travel expenses to the BE Inspired conference.

by Joe Francica on 11/13 at 02:54 PM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports the chief designer or Russia’s GLONASS GNSS, Yury Urlichich, was fired. It seems the firing relates to recent fraud allegation that came to light earlier this month of GLONASS officials stealing 6.5 billion rubles ($200 million) of program funds.

- UPI via Ottawa Citizen blog

by Adena Schutzberg on 11/13 at 06:27 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Today we’re excited to announce MapQuest Discover. This early beta focuses on the inspiration piece of the trip-cycle by providing a photo-centric social and travel experience centered on places that people may want to explore, whether it’s for a night out, weekend trip, or vacation of a lifetime.

One description I read compares it to Pinterest boards and that sounds about right. Among other things, data from Vibe (remember that? APB review round up) is used to rate attractions.

To complement MapQuest Discover and add more depth to our user’s travel planning experience, we’ve overhauled MapQuest Local. These redesigned pages about states, cities, places, and neighborhoods now contain reviews, deals, travel guides, related collections, and all the new features from MapQuest Discover.

While I applaud the efforts to pivot, I wonder if going Pinterest-like when the flash of that network is fading, will work out.

- MapQuest Blog

by Adena Schutzberg on 11/13 at 06:13 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Waze launched a global advertising platform on Nov 8. The aim is to target its 30 million users based on their location.

- Waze Blog via Reuters

China Mobile has launched a new 12585 voice service hotline, which can provide real-time traffic updates and mapping for 15 cities in China.

The service can route people in 310 cities on bus lines and give traffic updates in 15 cities. It's not clear if there is a fee for the service.

- China Tech News

It's slow going in the indoor mapping world for Google.

Low adoption and insufficient research has slowed the movement of Google Maps indoors, a Google software engineer said today at the Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation conference held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. ...


However, gathering indoor maps presents unique challenges compared to outdoor because it requires acquiring building maps from building owners and because GPS coverage is frequently poor inside. Location can be triangulated without GPS by using multiple Wi-Fi hotspots. Kadous estimated that Maps can currently estimate a user’s location inside within 10 metres.

A major issue for indoor maps “is we haven’t yet reached the point where people really know about us,” Kadous said. It’s a “chicken-and-the-egg” problem where users won’t use indoor maps until more locations are supported, while businesses won’t provide maps of their locations until they see greater consumer demand, he said.

- Tech World Australia


by Adena Schutzberg on 11/13 at 06:07 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
  • I love the idea of Geography Awareness Week (GAWeek) and GIS Day. Over the years, the energy behind the two events has changed.  I asked my lunch table mates at an event on Sunday for geography educators who was doing something for GAWeek or GIS Day. No one was. Were they aware of National Geographic's great Mission: Explore tools they could use in the classroom? No. 
  • And, what's going on in Williamson County, TX? Per the Statesman:

County officials are hosting a map gallery Tuesday as a part of Geographic Information Systems Awareness Week. The gallery will showcase maps used by various county departments, with staff on hand to explain the maps and geospatial technology applications.


On Wednesday , National GIS Day, the county’s GIS council will conduct geospatial technology demonstrations for Georgetown school district elementary students. 

I hope that neither of these events are 100% "demonstrations." That would not be too interesting for adult or elementary visitors.

  • National Geographic put out a press release Monday titled Ten Things You Might Not Know About Our World
  • Are readers aware that now Geography Awareness Week is sponsored by the Geo-Literacy Coalition (aka Esri, Nat Geo, Google and CH2M Hill)? (Directions Magazine interview). I could find no website for the organization, expect a Google+ page.
  • A search of Google News for "Geography Awareness Week" returns 173 items. That same search for GIS Day returns 943. 
by Adena Schutzberg on 11/13 at 05:57 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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