4DMapper is a DIY platform where users can manage, share, deliver, visualise, measure, digitise, animate and collaborate with their data. High resolution 3D data users want to “see” results, and this software allow them to visualize spatial information readily. Typical user group are UAV operators surveying assets such as mines and quarries, but survey departments, environmental agencies and the police with forensic and accident recording also use use 4DMapper. 3D Visualization World Magazine interviewed Robert Klau, Director at 4D Mapper Pty Ltd. in Australia to learn more about this product.
3DVW: Could you tell us what interested you to become involved in surveying? How did you become involved in 4D Mapper – what prompted your interest?
RK: Surveying has been and continues to be a fantastic career for me. Geodetic project work took me to all sorts of places around the world, with the challenges of solving problems in remote locations with minimal resources.
The geospatial world continues to throw up challenges. The current one, I realised through my UAV business, is the big data bottleneck. On flying photogrammetry over a waste management site, to generate a high resolution 3D model, the client asked how they could “see” the results of our work, other than the CAD drawings with contours we produce to send to EPA. Good question…
3DVW: What does 4D Mapper do and can you tell us about the services you provide?
RK: 4DMapper is an automated streaming service for geospatial data. Technology in the geospatial industry is incredible with drones, laser scanners, high resolution satellites, etc, all creating massive amounts of rich, visual, powerful, 3D data. The challenge is getting this data to the people who need it. 4DMapper makes big geospatial data “fluid”, available to anyone with a web browser.
4DMapper is a DIY platform where users can manage, share, deliver, visualise, measure, digitise, animate and collaborate with their data. They upload their files and 4DMapper automatically ingests the data to make it available to stream. This data can then be shared immediately to the browsers of those they choose.
3DVW: Please explain the value proposition of 3D and visualization in terms of your business.
RK: 4DMapper adds value to an already valuable sector. Geospatial. End users no longer need an expert operator running expensive software on a powerful computer, waiting on the data to arrive in the mail. We’ve solved that problem.
In doing that, we’ve also opened up a whole new audience for these powerful products. Anyone can see them now: executives, managers, field personnel, sales people, stakeholders, government agencies, the general public. We enable users to leverage their visual 3D data and put it in the hands of those who need it, the decision makers.
3DVW: Could you share a few stories or examples where your company is delivering solutions? What particular problems has the solution resolved?
RK: We have such a broad range of users, from drone operators to satellite imagery companies, with data for asset inspection, agriculture, mines and landfills, environmental monitoring, even crowd sourcing of geospatial data for disaster management.
One typical user group are UAV operators surveying assets such as mines and quarries. Where previously the client would come back to the surveyor for stockpile volume measurements, they can now organise and measure their data themselves. Survey clients actually prefer using 4DMapper compared with their usual desktop software as they can see in 3D what they are measuring.
One application we keenly support is data crowd sourcing of drone mapping and inspection data for humanitarian projects such as disaster management and environmental monitoring.
Government agencies see 4DMapper as a better alternative to their expensive desktop systems in disseminating their data. This includes survey departments, environmental agencies and the police with forensic and accident recording. We have a proposal with the USGS to manage and publish their 9 PetaBytes of LiDAR scanning of the US, a data set that is continually growing.
The insurance industry is another excellent example. Assessors can now have a drone operator bring them accurate, high resolution, 3D data. 4DMapper makes it easy for them to visualise, measure, markup and collaborate on 3D models and asset data, to share annotations and markups with colleagues, to help make the right calls.
3DVW: We hear many people talk about the problems they are having with big data issues. They all seem to indicate that data volume and interoperability are major issues. How does 4D Mapper help this audience?
RK: That’s true, big data has traditionally required big data handling and big processing hardware and software to manage and access. Sharing and collaboration was unimaginable.
What we do is “stream” these massive files, to browsers. A bit like Netflix. You don’t need to go rent that DVD or have a hard drive full of movies, or the software on your computer to run it. You stream the bit you’re looking at, that’s all you need. Take that analogy to terabytes or petabytes of data, satellite imagery, LiDAR laser scanning of entire countries, 3D models of mine sites or urban infrastructure. Now, anyone can access this data on their browsers, with limited resources and skills.
We’re not just helping an audience, we’re creating new audiences as well.
3DVW: What do you consider to be the major challenges that 3D and visualization applications encounter today?
RK: The main problem as I see it is the imbalance between the development of data acquisition technology and visualisation technology. i.e. the big data gap is growing. 3D survey data gets bigger, better, in higher detail over greater areas, and as a result it gets harder to access.
Mobile laser scanners, for example, can drive down the street and capture 1 million points per second, in 3D space, positionally accurate, in full colour. Spectacular. But the ability to access this data gets harder and requires more resources.
By streaming this data to browsers, we have let the genie out of the bottle, made this data immediately accessible to anyone.
3DVW: Can you describe how 4D Mapper is involved in 3D City Modeling using an example?
RK: 3DCity Models are in our current development run and by the time your visitors read this article it may well be deployed. This opens up a whole new level of applications. Terrain modelling is one thing, but City Models have huge applications to all levels of government, security, planning and domestic applications.
With 3D City Models integrated with our measurement tools and other user data such as point clouds, streaming video, inspection data and so on, the possibilities are endless.
We are very excited about this development run and the markets it will open up.
3DVW: Do users need special training to use 4D Mapper?
RK: That’s the whole point of 4DMapper, to make big geospatial data accessible to the widest possible audience, so we have made every effort to keep it simple and effective. Even on the data ingestion side we have automated everything to make that part easy as well.
There is a serious block that users have with most mapping software products; their complexity is overwhelming and it comes back to just skilled personnel being able to use the software and access the data.
We want anyone to be able to upload and share their data, with effective levels of functionality balanced with a simple, logical user interface.
3DVW: Do animations and simulations connect with 4D Mapper – could we show a rising ocean or mining sequence for example?
RK: You sure can! The Timeline feature we have is an imagery animator. Users can select any number of imagery layers in their project, order them and label them as they wish, then play the timeline animator to transition between layers with a slider and video-player controls. This is very effective for time related data and also transitioning between different data types, on agricultural data for example.
3DVW: Can users edit or markup maps and other data that is visualized using your product?
RK: Absolutely! With just a web browser, users can measure points, lines, areas and volumes, mark-up (digitise) and export those annotation layers as dxf or csv.
We built these tools based on early customer feedback, then realised that we can turn that whole process into a live collaboration platform. As one user draws mark-ups on a shared project, all others sharing the data see the changes as they happen! A Google Docs of geospatial. We’ve created a powerful tool with collaboration functionality that nobody had even thought of.
4DMapper is an entirely new concept for moving big geospatial data. It is a game changer, not only solving a problem but creating a whole new approach to the geospatial industry.
Robert Klau (BSurv, ES P-AP SSSI) is Director at 4D Mapper Pty Ltd. He has worked in the geospatial industry in geodetic control, mapping, exploration and engineering for over 25 years, on almost every continent. In the past decade, Rob has focused on surveying in Australia with his surveying companies, Klau Geomatics Pty Ltd and UAV Geomatics Pty Ltd. Through the UAV mapping work Rob saw the problem of handling and visualising massive geospatial data sets. In partnership with another geospatial expert they built a strong team of software engineers and developers and formed 4DMapper Pty Ltd.. Rob is a certified professional member of the Surveying and Spatial Science Institute in Australia.
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