A Forensic Geospatial Conversation with César Almeida
César is a reality capture specialist here at Leica Geosystems, and he’s part of our team that supports police forces across the country
César, can you tell us about your role?
Sure! I started out as a geospatial engineer, building up 15 years of experience in technical sales environments, and came to Leica Geosystems seven years ago. I’ve worked in monitoring, mobile mapping, and pre-and post-sales support for all of our total stations and GNSS equipment, plus the corresponding software. This means I can ‘connect the dots’ across all of our many different products.
One of the things I enjoy is finding solutions for clients and making things simple for them. Once I know what their challenge is, I can find the right combination of products to help them become more efficient and productive, establish a workflow and training plan, and then make it all happen.
How do you help police officers get the most out of their forensic mapping kit?
For me, the journey begins before they even invest in the equipment. I make the analogy to the sales world, where a consultancy process is mandatory. With training and support, it’s the same for me: we need to start out by understanding the client’s requirements and challenges, their workflows, and where they’d like to get to in future.
So I’m there to facilitate their journey, right from helping to specify their IT requirements through to software installation and licensing, creating tailored training, and delivering that training plus assessments. I do regular follow-ups to make sure things are going smoothly afterwards, since competence assessments are all included.
An important thing to note is that all police feedback gets acted upon. Whenever we get requests for software enhancements, I take them back to our product managers and developers and talk about how best to implement them for the UK market, which I believe is something unique.
What do you like most about the training you do?
As a geospatial professional, clearly I understand ‘button presses’. However, the exciting challenge for me is to work backwards! I ask myself, “What would be the best possible user experience for this particular client as they interact with Leica Geosystems, our people, and our products and solutions?” From there, we develop how the training should look, how it should be delivered − and most importantly, how it should feel for the client.
Your motto is, “I like it simple”. Can you tell us a bit about that?
The whole point of tailoring every training programme is to enable people to get exactly what they need, and to be as productive as they possibly can from day one. So I refer to the old maxim in sales, which goes: “If it’s not adding value, it’s taking it away”.
If we put in too much information, it will just complicate things and make for a less than optimal user training experience. So keeping it simple is the key. And let me tell you, that’s not easy! It’s very difficult to show restraint when we’re so enthusiastic about what you can achieve with our solutions.
Is there a dedicated place where police forces can get training and tips?
Yes, we have a whole suite of e-learning training plans which our clients can use. And obviously, we’re always happy to take their phone calls and emails. WhatsApp has become quite the support tool in the last few years, too!
What challenges come up when mapping crime scenes, and how can they be avoided?
I think the biggest challenge can be the complexity of using different types of sensors for rapid scene-harvesting. Say an incident happens in the middle of the night: the on-call officers have to go in and capture everything they can, without making any mistakes.
For this type of work, it’s absolutely paramount for us to strip out as much human error as we possibly can. That’s why our combination of really strong products shines through, offering the minimum number of button-presses plus optimised workflows.
Which products do you think are most suited to forensic mapping?
Our scene-to-screen software, Map360, is the essential hub that takes data from all our Leica Geosystems sensors − from terrestrial laser scanning to mobile mapping.
In forensic collision investigation, the RTC360 is currently the gold standard for scanning, with the GS18T GNSS plus the TS16 total station coming in as close seconds. It makes sense to have the seamlessness of all of your sensors, software, development, training and support coming from a single supplier.
What role will Leica Geosystems play in forensic mapping in policing in the future?
I believe the future will be two-fold for us. Firstly, we’ll continue developing new instruments which focus on sensor integration and more autonomous capabilities, since this reduces errors in capturing data.
Secondly, we’re developing immersive technologies, like virtual reality, as well as cloud-based services. And clients want to be able to access accurate forensic data on their mobile phones – as simple as that. I do like things simple; have I mentioned that?
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When it has to be right…..it can still be simple; Leica Geosystems in Forensics.