Augmented Reality and Public Works Emergency Planning: 3 Ways to Prepare for the Next Natural Disaster with AR

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Learn how our augmented reality visualizer, the Argis Lens, can be an effective tool in planning for the next natural disaster.

 By Alyssa Grant

As our climate shifts to greater extremes, natural disasters have increased in frequency. Floods, hurricanes, bomb cyclones, and tornadoes, including the recent ones that devastated Missouri, are the worst-case weather lottery that no one wants to win. Public works emergency planning is vital and being well-prepared before disaster strikes can save lives and prevent millions of dollars in damage. Many municipalities and counties, like Roanoke County, VA, are shifting to public-facing apps to keep the public informed about potential issues related to extreme weather. Augmented reality (AR) paired with GIS data can be an effective tool in ensuring your municipality and citizens are prepared well in advance.

1.     Quality-Check Your ArcGIS Data

Viewing ArcGIS data through our mobile augmented reality (AR) visualizer provides you with immediate, real-world context. When ArcGIS data is downloaded to our mobile app, the Argis Lens, users can easily visualize underground infrastructure and various flood scenarios. Looking at a 2D map requires translating two-dimensional data into a three-dimensional world. With the 3D visualization capabilities of the Lens, the work of translation is done for you, giving a clear picture of how GIS data exists in reality. The Lens allows you to double-check your data and see discrepancies between it and the 3D world in which we live. Use the Lens to confirm your GIS data’s accuracy so that your municipality can respond to emergencies with more precision.

 

2.     AR’s Utility in City Planning 

Yearly flooding is a way of life for many communities in the United States. As weather events continue to break historic records, areas vulnerable to flooding have expanded. Utilize the Argis Lens as part of your building planning to visualize different flooding scenarios. See with your own eyes, in the field, how 3, 6, or 12 feet of floodwater interacts with the topography and elevation in your city and make city planning choices that can withstand historic weather events. 

 

3.     AR’s Usefulness in the Aftermath

After a tornado, flood, or hurricane, visual landmarks can be obliterated and elevation altered. If you have proactively improved your GIS data’s quality with the Argis Lens, it can also help locate infrastructure that might otherwise be difficult to find because of terrain and landmark changes, for instance, a natural gas valve that needs to be closed to prevent a potential explosion, because natural disasters create scenarios where response time is of the essence. The Lens could also be used in assisting in determining the last known location of people or facilities that have been affected, especially when the physical landscape has been changed beyond recognition.

 In the aftermath of extreme weather, a multitude of dangerous situations are created. Manhole covers can dislodge in flooding, endangering anyone nearby trying to maneuver through flood waters. The technology of the Lens can allow first responders to quickly determine where that danger might be present so that citizens can be warned to keep clear of the area.

 

Be Prepared with AR

“Expect the best, prepare for the worst.” Give yourself the advantage in public works emergency planning. Don’t be caught off guard. Harness the visualizing power of AR and see your data in a new way. Bring your GIS data to life with the Argis Lens.

Sea Turtle Solutions: Using ArcGIS to Protect an Endangered Species

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Partnering with Quantam Spatial, Argis Solutions uses a JavaScript web application developed with the Leaflet library to minimize adverse impact to sea turtles during dredging. 

By Alyssa Grant 

Watching footage of baby sea turtles struggle out of their eggs and clumsily head for the ocean, you find yourself holding your breath, cheering for them as they face daunting odds of survival. An estimated one in 1000 to one in 10,000 hatchlings reach adulthood. There is even more to root for—some sea turtle species have incredibly long migrations that take them several years and thousands of miles. These statistics underline the challenges the sea turtle faces and why it is endangered. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has been working with scientists and the dredging industry to identify ways protect endangered sea turtles while still allowing the important work of dredging to continue. Dredging, a form of excavation, offers valuable environmental benefits: beach reclamation, flooding prevention, as well as contaminant remediation. The question to answer: How could dredging operations safely co-exist with minimal harm to sea turtles? Recognizing the value of a digital approach in answering this question, BOEM approached Quantum Spatial (QSI), partnering with Argis Solutions, to assist them in solving this unique problem.

A massive aggregation of data related to the turtles' behavior on the Atlantic coast was gathered from publicly available data sources and scientific turtle studies conducted by QSI. BOEM’s goal was to use this data to determine the best locations and times of year to dredge.

QSI and Argis Solutions worked together to standardize the data for use in the solution. Recognizing the adeptness of ArcGIS at communicating GIS data quickly and clearly, they created a JavaScript web-based application developed with the Leaflet library in which users could actually view the estimated population of any given species, in any given area, at any given time. Now BOEM is able to plan dredging projects based on data rather than using arbitrary dredging windows.

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It is a simple, intuitive solution that protects endangered sea turtle populations while allowing dredging companies to continue their work. Even better: Users with little experience operating technology of this kind can easily interpret the data, assess the risk, and adjust accordingly. Protecting endangered species like sea turtles will continue to be a  complex global challenge, but creative digital solutions like this one are a big step in the right direction.

We've Been Featured Again in DP-Pro Magazine!

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DP-Pro, a publication for damage prevention professionals, has highlighted Argis Solutions’ collaboration with Indigo Beam and the City of Houston to create this cutting-edge system of data analysis using machine learning (ML) and computer vision (CV).  

The City of Houston’s investment in the developing technologies of CV and ML has streamlined their process for determining the pavement conditions of their massive 15,000 road lane miles. The use of CV and ML reduces the need for human analysis of large data sets, continuously improving itself as more data is captured. 

 The system continues to be fed thousands of images and videos, allowing operators to make quality decisions regarding their roadways. 

The benefits for the City of Houston include better cost analysis and quotes for resurfacing projects and a more sophisticated evaluation of various needs, like neighborhood assessment, allowing for better operational efficiency, citizen satisfaction, and potential for predictive planning. 

Recent CO811 Changes: Improving Excavation and Digging Safety in Colorado

Utility Notification Center of Colorado, CO811, an organization created to protect the underground infrastructure of the state and promote excavation and digging safety, has changes in effect for 2019. 

Electric lines, gas lines, cable lines, fluid pipelines—all are part of the complex underground world CO811 manages in partnership with utility owners. The CO811 call center is the point of contact for anyone who wishes to dig near or on public property. Anyone can call and request that underground assets be marked, a necessary step for any construction or maintenance project involving excavation. 

Once CO811 is notified, notifications are sent out to utility owners who might have underground utilities in the area. Then locators hired by each utility company come out and use different methods (mostly radio detection wands) to mark with either spray paint or flags where these underground assets are situated. This is a vital-- no one wants to accidentally hit a power line or a gas line. The Heather Gardens gas explosion in Aurora on November 16, 2018 demonstrates the tragic outcome that can occur during an accidental pipeline strike. This gas explosion, caused by workers striking a gas line while digging underground pathways, killed an 82- year-old woman who was a resident of the Heather Gardens senior community.

Accidents in the past have prompted the federal government to take a closer look at damage prevention procedures. According to a 2016 report on the protocols surrounding the Utility Notification Center of Colorado:

“The United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) conducted an adequacy evaluation of Colorado’s enforcement of its excavation damage prevention law, and determined that the enforcement is inadequate, which may eventually result in the withholding of federal funds from Colorado.” 

No doubt there is room for improvement, and without some changes, funding is on the line. 

Colorado took action in 2018 to address these issues with Senate Bill 18-167. On May 25 of 2018, Governor Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-167 into law that created a new commission, changed things up for Tier Two members, and changed things for Home Rule cities. 

Effective August 8, 2018, the Underground Damage Prevention Safety Commission was given the authority to review complaints and fine for infractions as defined by the new One Call Law. This is new. Until now Colorado has not had the authority to fine anybody. This will hopefully incentivize utility owners, locators and diggers to pay better attention to safety protocols. The commission will also have the ability to review complaints. 

What does this bill mean for Tier Two members? Tier Two members have until January 1, 2021 to convert their membership status to Tier One and update their underground facility registration with CO811. Conversion is mandatory on January 1, 2019. 

What’s different for Home Rule cities such as Aurora or Colorado Springs and the Safety Commission? Home Rule cities can opt out of the safety commission, but if they do then they need to create their own enforcement commissions. These enforcement commissions need to effectively help mitigate the risks involved with digging. 

The new bill will help promote excavation and digging safety as well as help to preserve Colorado’s infrastructure. Tier Two members converting to Tier Ones, the creation of the commission, the establishment of a penalty plan, and the ability to review complaints are steps in the right direction to improve the safety and surrounding procedures for all parties involved in the digging process. 

If you are GIS manager and want to know how we can assist you in improving your GIS data management, please contact us. Argis Solutions is the leading company for connecting GIS data with augmented reality, and we want to help you. 

 

Colorado | PHMSA. 2018. Colorado | PHMSA. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/safety-awareness/pipeline/colorado. [Accessed 08 November 2018]. 

Medium. 2018. A Look at Six Recent Oil and Gas Disasters in Colorado. [ONLINE] Available at: https://medium.com/the-colorado-lookout/a-look-at-five-recent-oil-and-gas-disasters-in-colorado-1ae0e3b8dee4. [Accessed 04 November 2018]. 

CO811. 2018. SENATE BILL 18-167 Signed MAY 25, 2018 - CO811. [ONLINE] Available at: http://colorado811.org/senate-bill-18-167-to-be-signed-may-18-2018/. [Accessed 04 November 2018].

Augmented Reality and Animation: Cosmically Engaging Museum Visitors at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center

Argis Solutions collaborates with Worker Studio to bring the Space Foundation’s interactive augmented reality character to life for education and engagement at the Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

By Alyssa Grant

Recognizing the engaging power of augmented reality (AR) and its value as an educational tool, the Space Foundation enlisted animation company Worker Studio and augmented reality experts Argis Solutions to develop an exciting educational tool for the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center. Worker Studio crafted the transmedia edutainment character, astronaut Eugene “Cosmo” Nutt, and Argis Solutions created the AR platform that brings Cosmo alive in app form so that he can interact with his audience in three-dimensional settings.

Cosmo had his augmented reality debut April 8-11 at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the annual gathering of space professionals sponsored by the Space Foundation. His mission at the Space Symposium was to host a prototype for a planned multimedia exhibit at the Discovery Center and demonstrate how AR can foster deeper educational engagement when paired with traditional museum exhibits. In the future, educators at the Space Foundation hope to use him in app-based learning, augmented reality, short films, virtual classrooms, and even as an animated talk show host that guests and audiences can interact with in real time. 

Worker Studio’s cosmically delightful character Cosmo has been in development for years. His AR capabilities were brought to life by merging Maya, a computer animation and modeling software, with Unity, a 3D game development platform. Chris Anderson, Vice President of Augmented Reality at Argis Solutions, said, “One of the hardest things to do is create amazing movie quality graphics and animations while keeping in mind the limited capabilities on mobile devices. With the new features of Unity 3D, and the always increasing power of phones and tablets, it is now becoming a reality.” These technological advancements give authenticity to the real-world interactions Cosmo has with his audience, fostering deeper engagement.

Speaking about the collaboration between Worker Studio and Argis, Anderson remarked, “It was an amazing opportunity to get to partner with animators who have worked on blockbuster movies and bring their creations to life through AR.” The feeling is mutual. 

Reflecting on the project, Jason Cangialosi, Partner and Minister of Propaganda at Worker Studio, added, “Working with the team at Argis opened up a new universe of possibilities in augmented reality. I see it like they helped us build the rocket that got Cosmo on the Moon, and now we’re ready to go to Mars!”

The Space Foundation isn’t alone in appreciating the benefits of AR. Increasingly, museums across the globe are finding creative ways to merge AR with their exhibits. In the spirit of Pokemon Go, the National Museum of Singapore’s exhibit The Story of a Forest allowed visitors to search and capture flora and fauna that were found in the exhibit’s botanical drawings. Jennifer Billock writing for Smithsonian.com notes, “With augmented reality, museums are superimposing the virtual world right over what’s actually in front of you, bringing exhibits and artifacts to life in new ways.” The interactive nature of AR combined with the flexibility of mobile devices allows museums to draw visitors from their living room to the exhibit or experience parts of the exhibit from the comfort of their living room. Younger generations, with their deeply digitalized childhoods, could also find more meaningful engagement when AR is merged with museum exhibits.

One of the next missions on the horizon for Cosmo is to connect with Space Foundation visitors at the upcoming Space in Our State exhibit this fall. Colorado is a national leader in school and business contribution to the advancement of space exploration. Space in Our State will allow visitors to bring Colorado to life as they learn about our state’s important role in helping space programs achieve lift-off. Interested in becoming a sponsor of this landmark exhibit?  Want to get behind something that demonstrates the importance of space exploration to communities throughout Colorado? Visit www.spacefoundation.org/donate to contribute to this exciting mission.

Addressing Aging Infrastructure: Make AR Part of Your Solution

GIS data shown through augmented reality technology can help communicate discrepancies during the remediation process for upgrading underground infrastructure. 

By Alyssa Grant 

The Flint water crisis highlights the consequences of aging underground infrastructure and the deeply negative impact it can have on a community. Remediation can be a daunting, complex process. The remediation efforts to replace Flint’s lead and galvanized steel pipes with copper piping will be winding down by the end of the year. As of September 2018, 15,031 pipes have been excavated and 7,233 pipes have been identified as requiring replacement, underlining the scope of this headline-making water utility remediation project. 

Flint is not alone—aging underground infrastructure is a nationwide issue. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gives America’s drinking water a “D,” communicating that communities across the country are in dire need of water pipeline upgrades. 

Outdated natural gas pipelines are another concern. Old pipelines can leak, damaging the environment, even resulting in explosions causing property damage and fatalities, like the Merrimack Valley gas explosions on September 13, 2018 that resulted in 80 fires and one death. 

Updating aging utilities can be a complicated task.  Gregory Korte’s investigation on the state of our nation’s natural gas pipelines for USA Today revealed that the aging gas pipelines in Merrimack Valley were acknowledged to be a challenge to remediate:

“. . . Columbia Gas warned state regulators that replacing pipes in places like Lawrence would be difficult. The pipelines were in densely populated areas dominated by paved surfaces. They're intertwined with other utilities in crowded rights of way. " 

Unfortunately, the explosions occurred before improvements could be fully addressed. The costs related to the resulting damage could reach $1 billion

The complexities of underground infrastructure and the delicate excavation that can be involved in remediation underline the need for a sophisticated way to view and share mapping data. Some companies and municipalities are finding that augmented reality technology meets that need. 

What is augmented reality (AR)? This technology interposes computer-generated images in a real-world setting. Imagine being able to see GIS data through a cell phone camera—a scene you might see through the camera’s eye with AR could be a sewer line below a sidewalk intersected by a natural gas pipeline that crosses underneath an adjacent roadway. 

With the Argis Lens, a mobile AR application, that imagined scene is reality. The Lens quickly visually communicates what lies beneath the ground because a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when the complex GIS data of water or natural gas pipelines and sewer or stormwater systems are involved. The Argis Lens dynamically translates GIS data into AR imagery on mobile iOS devices.  

Using AR, underground infrastructure stakeholders can project their GIS data on new job sites to show foremen and construction crews where underground assets are located in real time. In addition, with the Lens, they can confirm that all assets are marked appropriately before excavation begins. Leveraging this technology, these companies are seeing a new level of collaboration between their asset protection teams and contractors because they are using AR to communicate high-risk areas where particular care needs to be taken before digging.

Cities, pipeline, and utility companies can all benefit from increased productivity on the job site, improved communication, and data quality confirmation. As infrastructure below the ground continues to deteriorate and become obsolete, proactive stakeholders with underground assets will turn to new technology, such as the Argis Lens, for more effective solutions as they upgrade and improve what is hidden.

DevSummit 2019 Talk: Augmented Reality Paired with Computer Vision

Argis Solutions’ CEO Brady Hustad presented on computer vision and augmented reality and how to use the Open Computer Vision Library with ArcGIS at Esri’s 2019 DevSummit. 

By Alyssa Grant 

At Esri’s 2019 DevSummit held in Palm Springs, CA on March 5-8, machine learning and ArcGIS REST JS created a big buzz. Another hot topic among DevSummit attendees was how developers are switching to 4X JavaScript libraries, which allows for more 3D capability and better functionality. This conference is the annual opportunity for Esri’s expert developers to share their technical knowledge with other software developers to help them write better code, build better systems, and create state-of-the-art apps that utilize ArcGIS mapping technology. While there are 8 rooms simultaneously hosting a full daily schedule of talks, there’s also a little time for dodgeball and beer! 

Argis Solutions’ CEO Brady Hustad had the honor of sharing how to integrate computer vision and Esri, explaining how to use the Open Computer Vision Library (Open CV) with ArcGIS. The presentation covered the technical setup of Open CV, some interesting tips on how to successfully connect it to ArcGIS, and coding tips that will help Open CV function properly for developers interested in using computer vision in their next project. Reflecting on his talk, Hustad remarked, “It was exciting to see how people are getting creative and how computer vision and machine learning are impacting the way they are doing business. People are seeing ways to go beyond doing maps and creating systems software.” 

Computer vision enables a computer to see something and make a decision that a human no longer has to make. For example, if hundreds of miles of roadways need to be analyzed for damage, computer vision could allow the computer to look through thousands of images and determine which images contain road damage. In robotics, computer vision has been one of the hardest problems for programmers to solve. Now with access to libraries such as OpenCV and some some finesse to connect it to ArcGIS, programmers are able to attempt to integrate this complex technology in ways that will shape the future of business. 

Big cities can be GPS black holes—their large volume of concrete and metal throws off GPS service and blocks signals. It can be difficult to get accurate geographic data. Using the rough satellite location of the mobile device, the computer can compare and compute location using two known points, giving improved accuracy in the city. Computer vision could enable the mobile device to detect an asset such as a manhole cover, storm drain, or hydrant. It just needs to be trained to see these known above-ground facilities, enabling the ability to generate accuracy where before none existed. 

Together, AR and computer vision could be used to document missing GIS assets. The computer could be programmed to be passively viewing in the background with the ability to notice an asset that is not documented in the ArcGIS data. The computer would then generate a basic record with spatial location. Its final step would be to ask the end user for further details, for instance: “This asset is not found in your data. Is this correct?” This would be an efficient way to quality check data. 

Computer vision could also be used to train a computer to look at an asset when a field worker is looking at it and then automatically pull up the right manual to work on that asset, streamlining field work. As AR visualizer improves with computer vision and image recognition this will all be possible. Computer vision is a game changer in improving accuracy and processes. 

How do we get there? Spatial referencing is required. Once you know where something is in space by way of dual cameras, you can extrapolate 3D space around it. Most mobile devices now come standard with dual cameras, paving the way for programming these functionalities. Argis Solutions has also made the code for Brady Hustad’s talk available on GITHub for developers interested in building projects using the OpenCV library and ArcGIS

What is needed to program computer vision? A knowledge of a modern programming language like Swift, C++, Java, Python, Kotlin, etc. A developer will also need to be savvy with mobile software like ARCOREARKitOpenCVEsri, etc. Lastly, a project using Open CV and ArcGIS will need decent software and high availability GIS data. If you would like tips and further information on programming, please visit GITHub, where our example is built in Android using Java and Esri’s ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Android.

ArcGIS and CAD Featured on Esri

ArcGIS and CAD Featured on Esri

Argis Solutions recent work with Silver Lake Construction Company has been highlighted in depth by Chris Andrews on Esri’s ArcGIS blog. Andrews recognizes the value augmented reality (AR) adds to GIS data, noting: 

 “As a product manager driving 3D, BIM, and other related software efforts at Esri, I’m always looking for applications of geospatial technology that can improve the lives of real users.  We get asked about AR a ton and whether through partner apps, such as Argis Solutions, or through development using our ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, it’s great to be able to report that real partners and customers are building AR applications that are transforming the experience of GIS in the field.  I expect to see much more like this in the future.”