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GeoXphere's Year in Review - 2017

With 2017 drawing to a close, we’ve been reflecting on the past 12 months, GeoXphere’s first full year in operation.

As with all new companies it’s not been without its challenges, but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved and have seen our technology being used in new and innovative ways. Here are some of our highlights.

 

XCAM Circle Path in Action

Back at the start of the year, the circle trajectory method of capturing aerial photography with XCAM was still very new. It had migrated from theory into a working prototype over the previous Winter and was ready to be put through its paces. The GeoXphere and WaldoAir team made some big breakthroughs, including the concept of capturing only oblique aerial imagery to produce true-orthophotos and photorealistic 3D models.

By March the new software and hardware was put into production. We found that pilots and navigators got accustomed to the survey method in a matter of minutes and by pushing the imagery through the likes of Photomesh or Pix4D, the results were stunning.

Throughout the year we’ve seen XCAM users break new ground producing 3D datasets in a fraction of the time and expense than ever before, yet we were still met with resistance from some of the more traditional aerial surveyors. The method of dense-image-matching still to this day doesn’t go down well with the photogrammetrists that claim it isn’t a ‘proper’ way to produce geospatial data. Any disruptive technology will cause divisions, especially one like XCAM that challenges many of the aerial survey norms, but history is littered with examples like this and it will soon seem silly to think there were arguments about it.

Jefferson Air Photography operating an XCAM

To attempt to allay the cynics, in July we established the Data Showcase on our website to show off some of these new circle path datasets. We included the raw data straight from the XCAM, included our processing methodology, and showed the results. This allowed people to independently download, interrogate and process the data themselves. We received some great feedback and it helped show what XCAM is really capable of.

The rate of improvement in the commercially-available processing software has been incredible this year. To put it in perspective, in November we re-processed a dataset captured in April to see the difference in the output. It was so stark we wrote an article about it.

 

Ground-breaking Projects

Throughout the year GeoXphere have been involved in some fascinating projects that have relied on the XCAM and XCAM G technology. As some of the concepts are quite different to traditional survey, we’ve been collaborating with our partners to help them get the best from their projects. This achieves two things; we have a successful project with a happy customer, and our partner gains more knowledge and confidence in using XCAM.

In February we collaborated with Ramani Geosystems in Nairobi, Kenya to pioneer the use of systematic 360 imagery capture using the XCAM G. The system was fitted to a local vehicle and a few days and over 600,000 panoramas later, Ramani had the most comprehensive street-view style map of the main routes and towns in Nairobi and Mombasa.

In April, in partnership with Skeye, we conducted an XCAM survey of the entire Bath UNESCO World Heritage Site for Bath & North East Somerset Council. The 40 square kilometre area was captured using the circle method and Photomesh was used to produce the 3D model and true-ortho. This was the first production circle survey conducted in the UK. B&NES now use the data in their planning and transport activities and love the fact they’ve got an up-to-date aerial photography layer for their city.

In July, in partnership with Grup AirMed from Spain, we carried out ‘mission impossible’! We’re soon to do a full write up on this project but we’ll share an overview now. The client wanted over 100 quarry sites spread over a 5,000 square kilometre area captured in 3D in high resolution. Their original specification was for it to be carried out using a drone/UAV. But to capture over 100 quarries would have taken… well… over 100 days. That was way too long so we proposed capturing the sites using XCAM. We arrived on site in beautiful Northern Spain and completed the job in less than 4 days! This project really highlighted how XCAM sits in the sweet spot between large format camera systems and UAV. Needless to say, the client was very happy.

Flying over quarry sites in Northern Spain

And this December, our partners WaldoAir completed an incredible feat, surveying the Osorno volcano, one of the most active volcanoes of the Southern Chilean Andes. The project was for a group of volcanologists GeoXphere made contact with in New Zealand who have previously operated (and crashed) UAV. They’re still finishing the processing and writing up the study, so we’ll bring you the full report soon.

Osorno volcano in Chile

In all, our survey technology and methodology has been able to adapt to a range of varied and interesting projects. We’re looking forward to doing the same again in 2018.

 

Parish Online makes strides in UK Local Government

Away from the world of survey, our GIS products have been gaining momentum. Parish Online is one of our cloud-GIS products, based on XMAP and designed to give Town, Parish and Community Councils access to mapping data and tools. It helps them conduct Neighbourhood Plans and improve the running of the Council.

This year we implemented a brand-new website with new sets of tutorials and a revamped support section. Our aim was to improve the self-service nature of the product so that Clerks and Councillors could get on with their parish business without needing help from us. Parish Online is making GIS intuitive, cheap and beneficial to Parish Councils, and that’s great for increasing awareness in the power of geographic information.

Parish Online in action at a recent training event

We have also been working hard on lobbying central government and national associations to publicise the benefits of using digital mapping across all levels of government. Working with County Councils such as West Sussex has been extremely productive in making sure mapping is used as an essential decision-making tool across a variety of fields, including; planning, housing and environment. We’ll be continuing this drive into the New Year.

 

XMAP out of Beta

Staying on the subject of GIS, in November we were proud to release XMAP from Beta into a full production environment. This new service has been built from the ground up with the aim to provide our customers and partners with an adaptable, cloud-based GIS toolkit that can be tuned to meet a range of business needs.

GIS has changed over the last decade from a specialist desktop application, the reserve of GIS geeks, into a commodity that can help people find the answers they need. That’s what we’re going to be using XMAP for; building bespoke apps and functions that fit within people’s existing business and decision-making process.

We also made huge improvements in the security aspects of XMAP. Back in November, independent assessors carried out a penetration test to assess the software for any vulnerabilities. XMAP passed the tests which means our clients can be confident their data is safe and secure.

 

Growth in Partner Network

One of GeoXphere’s aims is to partner and collaborate with companies as much as possible. This expands the use of our technology and at the same time creates a two-way knowledge transfer network. Throughout the year we’ve made many new connections and developed a number of strong partnerships. Building these partnerships increases the capabilities of both parties and as we’ve seen from the some of the projects highlighted above, have produced some great results. We feel that this partnering mentality fosters trust and integrity, and is certainly a great way to work with people.

The Ramani team at Intergeo

One of the things we’ve been surprised by is how quickly our name and brand has spread. This time last year we were practically unknown, but through the events we’ve attended and the projects we’ve worked on we feel like we’re much more established now. Attending Intergeo in Berlin with our partners Ramani Geosystems, CompassData, SRDP Consulting and Col-East was certainly a high-point. It was great to see the creative juices flowing on how all this new technology can be used for real-world problem solving.

 

Thanks

It’s been a busy year so the GeoXphere team had an afternoon off last week to have our Christmas meal together. Our Christmas cake showstopper, courtesy of Fancy Pants Cakes, went down a treat!

The GeoXphere office will be closed from the 23rd December and reopen on the 2nd January, a short but much-needed break.

Finally, we’d like to thank everyone we’ve worked with this year. It’s been a real pleasure and we hope to work with you again in 2018.

 


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