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[PODCAST]: Shaping Smart Cities

This HxGN Radio episode explores the rising demand for airborne 3D imaging in smart city planning and how Real City modelling software from Leica Geosystems is meeting that need. To listen to more HxGN Radio episodes, visit our channels on iTunesSoundCloud or Stitcher.

Welcome to HxGN Radio. This is your host Monica Miller-Rodgers. Thank you for joining us for today’s podcast episode titled “Shaping Smart Cities” brought to you by Hexagon Geosystems. In today’s podcast we are talking to Ruedi Wagner vice president of airborne imaging at Leica Geosystems.

MM: Thank you Ruedi for joining us today.

RW: Thank you Monica. It’s good to be here.

MM: As the world population continues to grow and more and more people move into cities, local governments are making decisions about city management to support this epic growth. To help city officials better plan city layout and infrastructure. Leica Geosystems has recently released the airborne mapping software real city for 3D city modeling. Ruedi can you please share with us how these new software programs work.

RW: Yeah obviously smart cities strategies mean a lot of things to many people out there. Our focus is really to provide a geospatial base layer and this software, that’s actually not just software it’s an entire solution so it comes with the necessary hardware to acquire imagery and the data over the area. And then process the data and that entire solution is actually called RealCity by Leica Geosystems. And it really focuses on being able to process these large amounts of data over these highly urban areas in a very efficient way to cater for one thing and that is to monitor change over a period of time which of course is most notable in most large cities these days.

MM: And as a complete solution, what are the benefits of RealCity?

RW: It really focuses on the entire workflow on urban mapping. So we’re starting with processing base imagery, both nadir and as well oblique imagery to get facades in the buildings. And these specific data that’s acquired with Leica RCD30 penta oblique system can then be fully processed from 2D right down to 3D in our softer package. When we’re talking about 3D this means both meshing for visualization or for large areas as well as the building extraction that allows you to better plan in a GIS environment.

MM: There certainly is a lot of value to this program. So Ruedi how have they been received in the market so far?

RW: Well smart city is not an entirely new concept but certainly the technology instead of fielding… you know the geospatial foundation of what we call smart city strategies these days, is something that has been emerging again over the last couple of years. Mostly, of course, in various elements for instance you’ve seen oblique technologies coming along for quite some time so that you can visualize from a different perspective. Of course the traditional orthophotos have been there for quite some time but increasingly we’re looking at 3D modeling. There are new algorithms actually that have come together and I think what RealCity really does is bringing all of that together in a very highly productive environment. That means that you don’t have individual blocks that you have to do and have to go into a different software to further analyze the data but you can really have the RealCity platform to acquire the data and then really right down to 3D modeling to 3D visualization. You have it all in one platform and I think that makes it easier particular when you have in mind that you want to process very large areas and you want to have the data very quick at your hand, very up to date, very fresh to really fuel this smart city application. And that is something that the market I think very much appreciates right now. To really be able to have this in basically one package, in one solution from hand and really allows the speech to get down into the processing and to get the data into the hands of end user.

MM: Absolutely and with some of the largest city populations on earth, China has a significant need for smart city. How have you taken this software program to market in this country?

RW: This is an interesting question because China has not only a very big need for smart city strategies. China is, I think, probably on the forefront of creating smart city policies. Of course if you look at the structure of the country there are a huge number of cities with a large population and in order to provide better services for those people living in those conglomerates. It’s not only important to have to have those services and applications and processes and ready but you’ve got to go back to the base layer that provides and accurate foundation to build upon all the other services. And China has been at the forefront of recognizing that and to go back a couple of years this is basically where kind of like the seed of RealCity was formed because when we’re traveling to China at the time and we saw that more and more local institutes and governmental organizations are getting involved with smart city strategies also talking to us we realized that there is a need to really provide one platform, hardware and software to generate this space data in a very efficient way. But particularly if you’re dealing with large cities like Shanghai or Beijing that are growing by the day and that are changing very fast. You’ve got to be able to provide these updates reasonably quick. Imagine you would take a navigation system and of course the roads have changed, then you would follow the wrong roads. That’s not good and certainly not a smart service. So to have up-to-date geospatial data is an important part. China has recognized that and RealCity is our contribution to help the local authorities and the locals involved in those strategies and policies to make better decisions and be more efficient.

MM: We can certainly see the value that would be in China for this program. So can you share any major project examples with us from here?

RW: Yeah. We’ve been with our local partners here in China. We’ve been involved in employing and deploying the RealCity solution over Shanghai over the last year or so our local partners here have used our technologies to process Shanghai and I think, if you know Shanghai, with some very innovative architecture and of course strong growth in urban development. It’s probably the par-excellence example for us to deploy this and it’s been very successful over the years but I think there is more to come going forward, of course.

MM: And where do you see smart cities and 3D city modeling going in the future?

RW: I wish I had a crystal ball because I think this is always the big challenge and I think, as I said coming into this interview, we are probably right at the beginning of all of those things. So I’ve been thinking a lot about not only smart technologies but we’ve got to really have smart people as well to figure it all out, to figure out what are the best ways forward, what are the best to visualize this data? Is it a mesh or is it a 3D building that Jake Shackton can then handle in the GIS. There are advantages and disadvantages of the technologies that we have today and I think not all of them are very clear. I think there is always some things that you would probably describe as fad, something that kind of like is hot at the moment as a topic because it’s exciting and it’s interesting. But I think the real challenge particular with smart city application lies in the big question that we always have to ask ourselves, “Where is the value? Where is the value for the customer?” The question is probably, who is the end customer? Is it just the people or is it the planning departments? Who is our customer? Is it local authorities that provide the data or are we going one step further? And is it the people living in the city, the people using these data’s and I think when you follow down that trail you realized that that depends on… This question largely depends and leads back to the solution that we’ve got to provide. I think we’ve made a good start with RealCity in terms of processing and this is largely focused on generating that data but we’ve got to be looking forward and seeing how can we now deploy these data sets on mobile devices. How can we deploy these data sets with the end customer? How can we use it in GIS environment where you probably use it in a different context than if you be somebody on the street looking for a store or trying to make some decisions if you’re a worker on the street or so forth. So these various applications will feed a lot of the way we have to develop the technologies. Certainly one thing is for sure, in my view, is that smart city will develop a lot faster and further. As we have it right now it’s technology and approach that we need because as you said in many parts of the world urban populations are growing and putting strain on, of course, the urban development teams therefor smart city strategies are absolutely essential. And they add value because if you live in a city and you get real time information or you can make important decisions that avoid you wasting time or you know making easier decisions. Where to live? Where to send your kids to school? And so forth. So these are basic things that will play a role in the future and I think we’ve got to look at this whole thing holistically. Right now we are focusing at this very basic level of the data and I think that’s quite important but I think what’s really interesting is what’s there to come going forward? How is being used? How is it being deployed? And there is lots, I think, coming up over the next couple of years and I truly hope that we as Hexagon and at Leica Geosystems can play a vital role in providing value to the customers.

MM: There is certainly an exciting future ahead for geospatial mapping. Ruedi we really appreciate your time today and thank you for being our guest.

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