Paving the Road to Real-time Change Modelling


Author: John Welter

My job requires frequent travel, and one thing that becomes very obvious during my trips is that we are living in a time of rapid change. Cities are changing due to growth, rural areas are developing as transportation infrastructure evolves, farmlands adapt to feed a growing population, and our urban areas seem to multiply overnight to provide housing.

At Hexagon, we are fond of the saying: “You can’t manage, what you don’t measure.” In the context of these changes “measure” means “map.”

The challenge with such rapid change is that it breaks the way we map – we recognise that changes have occurred, start a lengthy process to secure a budget, tender, and acquire new data to capture the changes. The new maps are often too late to be useful to manage the change and simply confirm what we already know.

To keep up with our changing world, mapping also needs to change. To achieve this, the old model needs to evolve to programs that continuously capture and make updated map data easily available. These Content as a Service (CaaS) programmes collect data according to consistent specifications and continual refresh schedules, creating a standardised product, suitable for many applications. The users of these applications are collectively underwriting the collection cost and can, therefore, pay a significantly reduced price. Using the principle of a sharing economy giving everyone equal access to the same data, and as such, democratising high-quality aerial data, a previously highly exclusive commodity.

The second necessity is more efficient airborne sensing technology which enables the collection of more data in a single flight to reduce the time and cost of making maps. However, the sensor alone does not get the job done. With growing amounts of collected raw data, processing speeds need to be increased in parallel, allowing for the swift delivery of the processed data to the end customer. Hybrid sensors and workflows that capture and process imagery and LiDAR data simultaneously will be the driver to map largescale projects, more frequently.

At Hexagon, we have invested in making this a reality and will continue to do so. With our network of collection partners, the HxGN Content Program, our CaaS initiative, is now entering its seventh year of continuous collection. The program has captured 25 million kilometres squared of data in North America and Europe, which is easily available online via purchase or subscription models.

In 2016, we launched the world’s first airborne sensor that simultaneously captures nadir and oblique images and LiDAR elevation data, the Leica CityMapper and HxMap workflow. In 2019, we announced a 40% productivity enhancement with the CityMapper-2, allowing airborne mapping companies to collecting more data during every flight.

A version of this article first appeared in GIM International —

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