Beyond Reality. Digital Reality’s Next Frontier
Author: Monica Miller Rodgers
Hexagon’s Geosystems Division President Juergen Dold presented Beyond Reality. Digital Reality’s Next Frontier at Hexagon’s digital solutions conference, HxGN LIVE, 12 June at the Venetian Ballroom in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
In this main event for the Geosystems Track, Dold explored the limitless opportunities available for digitalisation. Presenting ideas and case studies where the entire planet can be digitised, he unveiled a never-before-seen world of possibility where all things are machine readable and subject to the power of algorithms.
Dreams do come true
Using the famous quote by Walt Disney, Dold kicked off his keynote with a discussion on inspiration. Where does it come from? How can inspiration be turned into reality? What is possible?
If you can dream it, you can do it.
Examples included Leonardo DaVinci’s dream of flight and NASA’s dream to reach the moon.
“At Geosystems, I’m very fortunate I’m working together with quite a number of dreamers that not only challenge the status quo but also make dreams true,” said Dold.
With transformation taking place in the airborne mapping business, 5D digital realities are not only possible but becoming accessible to everyone. Dold exemplified this by providing a historical timeline, detailing the century it took to convert from film to digital cameras, from analog plates to pixels.
“This transformation unleashes the power and potential to think in different dimensions and completely new scales,” said Dold. “Data sets have taken over, fostering not only new levels of automation but also new business models, providing the opportunity to expand the ecosystems.”
As an example of this expanding ecosystem, Dold showcased the HxGN Content Program. Providing quality airborne imagery data on a subscription service, the Program demonstrates society’s move to a sharing economy through Content as a Service (CaaS). Dold provided three reasons for this transformation:
- Accurate, high-resolution and updated data tailored to specific needs
- Online streaming to improve access
- Affordability of the service through the sharing business model
Moving forward, the airborne imagery in the Program is being provided to startup companies to further develop and test Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms. This drives added value to the mapping process, enabling applications such as autonomous vehicles and available parking throughout cities by way of high-definition 3D digital models.
“We don’t know how far AI will take us, but we’re convinced that higher resolution data with ever more powerful algorithms accelerate the accurateness and results these algorithms will bring us,” said Dold. “For those who are in mapping, they completely understand how much automation we can get in these mapping processes.”
Dold expanded on these processes with a focus on sensor fusion by unveiling datasets of Las Vegas, Seattle and Lucerne, Switzerland. With most realistic flythrough, the cities were captured with the Leica CityMapper, fusing LiDAR and imaging technology to provide detailed cityscapes down to the exact imaging of the trees. Underneath the city streets, pipes were also revealed in the datasets with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology.
Moving from a bird’s eye view of cities, Dold dived into the depths of mines to speak on technologies increasing the safety of sites around the world. By digitising mines, they become more reliable, effective and efficient. With a 50-year history in the mining industry, Geosystems has developed digital solutions to advance the business and keep miners safer.
Launching one of those solutions onstage, Dold unveiled the HxGN MineProtect Operator Alertness System Light Vehicle (OAS-LV) and explained how 65 per cent of all open-pit mining incidents are related to fatigue, the inspiration for this new safety-enhancing technology. Sensing the openness of a driver’s eyes in the cab of a vehicle, the OAS-LV sounds a real-time alert, both inside the cab and back at the control centre, if signs of fatigue are detected. By digitising the driver’s face and using analytics, the data is fed into an Internet of Things (IoT) environment with location-based information to reduce fatigue-related accidents by 85 per cent.
“[The OAS-LV] is the perfect example of when we speak about making the world machine readable and creating critical information with analytics … saving lives and costs,” said Dold. “Every mine should be efficient, and that’s what we foster with our digital solutions. In addition, we go beyond efficient mining by improving safety dramatically.”
Returning to middle earth, when discussing the construction industry, Dold focused on the ecosystem of buildings. Seeing the opportunity in the challenge, he explained how digitalisation can take this underserved industry to the next level with digital solutions for the entire lifecycle of a building.
“Construction is not a one-man job,” he explained. “It’s not about digitalising your employees; it’s about digitalising the entire process that brings perfection and efficiency for your project.”
Dold went on to share several new technologies that are supporting the whole process, the entire lifecycle from planning to renovation. He started with the Leica DSX and IDS GeoRadar Opera Duo utility detection solutions in the planning phase. Using GPR technology, the DSX and Opera Duo make the invisible visible. With an array of software selections to use in combination, safety and efficiency are increased when construction and utility professionals can precisely locate assets below the ground and plan operations to avoid striking them.
Next in the construction phase, the Leica iCON iCT30 construction layout tool was showcased by Dold for its seamless connection of design to real-world building. The unique technology predicts the path of the construction professional, preventing errors and increasing time savings.
In the commissioning phase, Multivista imagery has now been integrated with the Leica BLK3D handheld imager. The construction progress documentation workflow of these merged technologies increases awareness of the construction crew and the contractors needing to better understand and verify the developments on site.
For renovation, the C-Thrue concrete scanner enables construction professionals to see through walls for cables, rebar and other potential strike risks. Increasing safety and efficiency, the C-Thrue converts the insides of walls into digital models using Augmented Reality (AR) to display results.
Finally, for the operation phase, launching on stage, Dold shared one of two of the newest members of the popular Leica BLK family. With a focus on expanding the ecosystem in the building market, the new Leica BLK247 is an autonomous surveillance solution to make buildings machine readable and subject to analytics. Providing continuous edge computing enabled 3D reality capture capabilities, the BLK247 provides 3D situational awareness for in and around buildings. With applications in also public safety and smart manufacturing, this new digital solution creates awareness whether objects are left behind, moved from one location to another and many more 3D change-related events in the observed space.
“It’s a beginning of a journey …. And we are very excited to extend this reach and new ecosystems we may have not touched before,” said Dold. “These are exciting times.”
The year 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Geosystems serving the surveying field. From the 1819 beginnings of the company Kern to the 1921 founding of Wild Heerbrugg to the 1990 formation of Leica Geosystems to the 2005 acquisition by Hexagon, the organisation has a long history of revolutionsing and innovating the world of survey.
“Today our portfolio is a rich, full suite of infinitely connected survey solutions that puts data to work,” said Dold.
He then went on to explain how Leica Infinity software connects all the Geosystems survey solutions from field to office. Users are able to expand their business capabilities from traditional, accurate survey practices to advanced, reality capture techniques based on merging sensors across total stations, laser scanners and imaging instruments.
Reviewing a history of fusing technologies, such as LiDAR and imaging, laser scanning and distance measurement, wearable and Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) technology, Dold unveiled the second newest member of the BLK family. The Leica BLK2GO handheld imaging laser scanner rose from the stage with the BLK series signature green light band as if by magic.
“With this BLK2GO we fulfill a dream to place reality capture in the palm of your hand,” said Dold. “Is this not a piece of art? A piece of art our engineering and design team performed to give this high-tech solution a beautiful appearance truly unmatched in our industry … so much technology into such a small device.”
The Leica BLK2GO handheld imaging laser scanner brings four key elements together in one instrument:
- Sensor fusion
- Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping
- Simplicity-driven design
Combining technologies, such as visual inertial navigation with LiDAR-based navigation, the BLK2GO orients itself as it is moved throughout the most challenging environments to create a 3D map. This instrument further democratises reality capture to enable more professionals to digitalise their own worlds and, in turn, making them machine readable for limitless possibilities.
Returning to Disney’s famous quote, Dold closed his keynote with a charge to the audience to become inspired, move beyond the realm of what is thought possible, and achieve the impossible. When the world becomes machine readable and subject to the power of algorithms, the potential of thousands of new companies and millions of new ideas will be unleashed.
“We have found … ways to break through limits, to go beyond today’s reality, to create a new reality,” concluded Dold. “Dream your dreams, how you can foster digitalisation in your businesses. Never forget, if you can dream it, you can do it.”