HxGN RadioPodcast

Using Hexagon Smart M.Apps to monitor ground surface changes in Italy

BK: Welcome back to HxGN RADIO. My name’s Brian, and thank you of joining us once again today. Hexagon Smart M.Apps are targeted, lightweight map applications that solve real business problems. They deliver a fresh and powerful way to gain insight into the shifts and transformations of our Earth, cities, business and our lives. I am here with Massimo Zotti today, the Head of Government & Security SBU at Planetek Italia, and in today’s episode, we will be discussing Hexagon Smart M.Apps and Rheticus. Thank you for joining us, Massimo.

MZ:Hi, good morning. Thank you for inviting me to this conversation.

BK: Absolutely.

MZ: Yeah.

BK: Well, thank you for joining us, it’s great to have you, and I’m looking forward to hearing all about this. So tell us about Rheticus monitoring services, let’s start there, and also about the application around the world.

MZ: So the Rheticus monitoring service, we have set up with the Hexagon Smart M.Apps. Our service aiming to monitoring changes on the Earth’s surface with the use of satellite data collected with a very high frequency all over the world. We are exploiting the benefits of the European programme called Copernicus. It’s a programme, one of the biggest programmes for environmental monitoring in the world. In the framework of this programme, the European Space Agency has launched several satellites, and these satellites are collecting data every week all over the world. And for us, there is a huge advantage, because these data are freely available. We can download them, use them to analyse changes all over the world and derive information that we offer as knowledge to our users, and we do this with Hexagon Smart M.Apps. So why Rheticus as the name for this platform? Because Rheticus was the unique assistant of Nicolaus Copernicus. And so we have given this name to our platform to maintain the strong connection between the Copernicus programme and our cloud-based platform for the exploitation of Copernicus data.

BK: Excellent. Excellent. So how did you get to the integration of Smart M.Apps and Rheticus?

MZ: The benefit of Smart M.Apps, the main benefit is in how Smart M.Apps can simplify the access to the knowledge that is very often hidden behind the complexity of geospatial data. So with the Smart M.Apps, we succeed in providing what we call “actionable knowledge” to our users through very simple web interfaces, through indicators, statistics, sometimes maps, but maps is really the last thing because what we want to provide is the understanding of what is changing, how this is changing and why.

BK: Okay, yeah that makes sense. I appreciate that. All right, so with the water network operators, does this provide a great advantage for them to be able to save time and money?

MZ: Yeah. For example, for the water and sewage network operators, we, thanks to Smart M.Apps, we are offering a service for the monitoring of ground displacements. You can easily understand that monitoring ground displacement is really critical for this kind of utilities operators, because getting information about what is happening in the area of interest in urban areas, if something on the ground is moving while it should be stable, that means that you probably have a problem there. Either because problems in the network, in the water network, in the sewage network are causing the ground displacement, or because ground displacement due to natural subsidence or any kind of natural displacement is causing damages to the water networks or the utilities networks. So whenever you have something that is moving while it should be stable, you probably have a problem there, and with Smart M.Apps, you can easily understand where you have the problem and where you have to address the inspections of your teams on the field to go and check what is happening and maybe prevent bigger problems like the so-called piping problems, where you have suddenly holes in the asphalt, creating bigger damages in urban areas.

BK: Understood. So going along with something as serious as a damage like you were mentioning, what other problems can occur from the movement, for example, if they don’t know about that because they’re not using a system like this, what other problems can occur? Cost, all of that.

MZ: Well, several kinds of problems due to the driving from the ground displacement that can also affect the roads; they can affect the railways, they can affect urban structures, and with continuous monitoring of these ground displacements you can really prevent these kinds of damages. So the advantage, driving from the availability of satellite data, collected every week over an area of interest, and our sophisticated algorithms for the analysis of this data, translated into something that is really easy to use for the operator of the network, this really simplifies and demystifies the complexity of the geospatial data, for something that is immediately and easy to use.

BK: Excellent, and having that right at their hands, immediately like you said, that’s very beneficial. Excellent, love it. A little bit more information on the further improvements, and there’s a new release coming out for 2018, and also how other Smart M.Apps will be used in Rheticus.

MZ: Yeah, in this moment we have this really exciting and fantastic application for the water and sewage network operators. We are implementing this monitoring service to the benefit of road managers, for the monitoring of railroads, of bridges, and for mining applications. We are also putting new services in the Rheticus monitoring platform for seawater quality monitoring, for urban dynamics. So, analysis of changes in urban areas related to imperviousness of soil, related to illegal buildings, and you can imagine a lot of other applications: forest monitoring, and changes. Weather is changing on our Earth, and to help people understand the impact of this change on the environment and for urban monitoring, for the smart city monitoring. With Smart M.Apps, we can create a dashboard in order to keep under control all these changes and be aware of what is happening in a city.

BK: That’s great. Now, so you’ve talked about some of the problems that can occur as well. Have you heard, I’m assuming there’s been great feedback, but what sort of solutions have you heard, specifically that this problem could have occurred, but it didn’t, for example?

MZ: I will just make an example. Three weeks ago, in Italy, we succeeded our monitoring for ground displacement; we were monitoring a bridge, a series of bridges in the motorway in Italy, and we succeeded to recognise a possible risk. We immediately communicated this to the road manager and they closed to bridge, so they possibly prevented risk and maybe they saved lives thanks to that.

BK: Absolutely, wow, that’s great. Great to hear that. All right, so Rheticus is already available globally, and Planetek is growing its customer base through re-sellers around the world. How have Smart M.Apps shaped your business?

MZ: Thank you for the question, because this is really what is exciting in this operation thanks to excellent geospatial and the global availability of this data. We are an SME, a small and medium enterprise in Italy, and today, thanks to the partnership with Hexagon, Hexagon Geospatial and its big network of resellers over the world, we can offer our monitoring service on a global base. And this creates a really exciting opportunity for us because we can address a larger market than what was the traditional market for Planetek Italia, only for Italy as you can easily imagine.

BK: Excellent, love it. And what’s the future looking like for you, going along with that? I know you sort of talked about that, but what’s your hopes for this?

MZ: Yeah, I really hope to succeed with our network of partners to solve real problems for our customers and make a real use and real uptake of these fantastic sources of information, that is the satellite data for monitoring changes on our Earth.

BK: Love it, love it. Massimo, thank you so much for this information. Thank you for being here today and taking the time. I love this. You can get more information about Rheticus over at, or at You want to go there. Spelling will be there. Be sure to tune in to more episodes on, iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher Radio. Thank you for listening!