The Geospatial Collective: Facilitating Data Convergence – Geospatial World

Whether a government agency or utility service provider, an engineering firm or earthworks operator, geospatial solutions sit at the heart of almost every action and reaction.
GNSS, GIS, Lidar technologies and the associated applications like mapping, scanning and monitoring, are firmly embedded into the construction of roads, bridges, dams, tunnels, the mining of critical resources, and even the structures in which we live and work.
While transformative geospatial solutions facilitate earth surface mapping, help interpret spatial patterns and document environmental accountability, they are also foundational to the emergence of smart city digital twins and our collective ability to enhance the quality and performance of services while reducing resource consumption.
As we look ahead to 2023, three areas of focus will be essential to the advancement of technology: sustainability, connectivity and autonomy.
Like many other leading businesses, Trimble has placed sustainability front and center, increasing operational and product sustainability with Science-Based Targets. We are committed to ensuring that our mission, solutions, and initiatives align with and support the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) — which serve as a globally adopted sustainability roadmap.
One specific focus for us and our customers is the Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure SDG target. Through technology, we can help our customers drive sustainability by increasing productivity, quality, safety and transparency. The widespread application of technology contributes to performance and efficiency gains while solving complex real-world sustainability problems.
Case-in-point, construction firm Ecovie sees itself as a sustainable company, one that is compelled to deliver quality solutions with optimized materials and lower carbon emissions. Meeting its operational mandates requires the right tools.
The project team used a mobile mapping system that combines precise LiDAR data and immersive panoramic imagery to map the demolished road’s conditions and map that model to design intent.
The point cloud was then used to create a 3D map of the roadway that was sent to earthwork machines, allowing the grader operators to deliver a well-compacted, stable and smooth pavement to a centimetre or better accuracy.
The US Federal Highway Administration program is also using digital as-builts, built from geospatial data from a variety of sources, to identify and rapidly deploy innovations to make transportation systems adaptable, equitable, safer for all… and sustainable.
Fostering greater connectivity, smarter workflows and more efficient use of resources is an essential piece of increasing technology-enabled workflows. The idea of a “connected workflow” is to minimize data conversions, particularly when sharing data with surveyors and contractors in the field.
Whether mapping roadways for inspection and maintenance or creating modern smart city digital databases, the challenge moving forward will be to securely store, manage and use the data gathered in a timely way. Success will certainly require some planning and considerable connectivity between various solutions.
Expect to see considerably more discussion around cloud-based common data environments (CDE) and collaboration platforms. These are ideal resources for managing a wide variety of data between multiple people or groups.
A CDE solution brings designs together from multiple sources to assess clashes and manage design changes, and perhaps more importantly, facilitates the transfer of that data across the construction continuum and into operations and maintenance.
A great example of the value of connectivity was demonstrated on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Highway 169 Redefine project. For this project, WSB, a national engineering and consulting firm, and Ames Construction, the general contractor on the project, teamed up with Trimble and Bentley to develop a 3D model-based collaboration platform. The idea was to assure the smooth transfer of digital data using an integrated data model collaboration platform.
Through this connection, Ames has the ability to perform quantity takeoffs in the design phase, and, ultimately, send models to machine control solutions.
In one case, the engineering team sought to raise one of the bridges by six feet. WSB and Ames used that same design file to balance earthwork quantities at the different stages, reduce the number of retaining walls and even minimize noise.
Some transportation agencies, including the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), now require all rights- way utility work be sent to the agency as a digital as-built.
They use the data to improve worker safety by identifying the exact locations of potentially dangerous underground utilities. Further, according to the FHWA, Iowa, Minnesota, and Utah DOTs are recording as-built information on assets during construction.
Michigan DOT is developing a digital as-built approach for utilities during permitting. Several states, including Oregon, Indiana, Montana, and California, are working to incorporate digital data into more effective construction delivery and management workflows.
DOTs in New York, Iowa, and Utah are providing contractors with enhanced contract documents using the 3D model as they consider more integrated and streamlined approaches to project delivery.
A cloud-based 3D-first approach allows users to adapt to any format, from drone-based imagery or ground-based mobile mapping data, create 3D deliverables and leverage full data traceability throughout a project’s lifecycle – and, of course, lifecycle data inform decisions leading to safer, more efficient, and more sustainable results.
From agriculture, mining and construction machines to the emergence of smart cities, autonomy continues to be a hot topic in the industry — and that trend will continue in the coming year with position, navigation and timing systems paving the path forward.
Autonomous solutions, together with precise positioning technology with centimetre-level positioning accuracy for cars, tractors, heavy construction equipment and more, are helping push entire industries toward a fully autonomous future.
At the heart of Trimble’s autonomous solutions lie core technologies that include object recognition, satellite positioning, path planning and machine control. Mobile mapping systems are being used to create the base maps that autonomous cars use to navigate.
In practice, these solutions mean users — from farmers to heavy equipment operators to regular drivers — can guarantee their machine or vehicle operates in a precise, defined area.
Trimble has a legacy in automotive and agriculture activities. For instance, in 2021 the company announced a partnership with HORSCH extending a collaboration for autonomous machines and workflows in agriculture.
Other collaborations are ongoing with General Motors, Dynapac, Qualcomm, Roborace and others to put Trimble positioning and autonomy technology to work automating vehicles, equipment and tasks of all kinds.
The ability to automatically control blades and buckets through 3D models and GPS is expected to become the norm in the construction industry, as manufacturers incorporate the functionality directly into the machines and technology providers develop necessary connections to add machine control capabilities in the aftermarket.
Manufacturers are working more closely with technology providers like Trimble to advance the technology on their machines from the factory.
But autonomy and automated data are also a foundation for the smart city — that ideal environment where sensors and IoT technologies manage the energy consumption and mobility of a community — and enable ‘living’ digital twins.
Digital twins incorporate aerial data, LiDAR scanning and mobile mapping systems. When supported by connected sensors, digital twins can become intelligent reflections of physical things in motion, duplicating physical orientation, shape, position, gesture or motion.
Spatial digital twins can be the foundation for smart city planning and measuring national and global carbon emissions.
By generating feedback loops of human-infrastructure interactions, these digital twins enable city governments and planners to make hyperlocal data-driven decisions, incorporate community and stakeholder priorities and evaluate policies and initiatives through “what if” scenario analysis and prediction. The digital twin is ideal for studying population growth or climate change.
A smart city digital twin is already in evidence in Singapore. Virtual Singapore is a 3D digital replica of the city with real-time dynamic data developed by the National Research Foundation, the Singapore Land Authority and the Government Technology Agency.
This whole-of-nation approach collectively maximizes the use of geospatial information and technology and makes authoritative geospatial data available for decision-making, public security and cost-effective businesses.
The full digital workflow transition will place more burden on geospatial professionals to have the right tools — these individuals will be the essential data managers, moving and managing data with ease and accuracy to digitally connect people, products and places with purpose.
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