Mapping Underground Assets

The vivax metrotech system for mapping underground assets like pipework and cable runs with a relatively high accuracy.

The equipment that has inspired this idea is the VIVAX METROTECH vSCAN range which can be viewed here. https://www.vivax-metrotech.com/

Like many utility detectors, It locates wires and buried metalic objects but what is so great about the direction of this product range is that it can combine with locating a sewer Inspection camera head which brings the ability to reality capture, with photogrammetry, inside of pipework or cable runs. Not the best result as it is only in one direction but there is nothing stopping this being developed into fore and aft cameras.

To do this, you send the vCamMX camera up the pipe or chamber  which records all the image data while someone walks above the ground with the vLocCam2 Locator. This will provide the depth relative to the locator which records it geolocation.

It is also handy to be able to Geolocate all detected power lines and utility services like CATV, telephone and pipework over 50mm. I think thats a safe bet as the diameter of the smaller head is 18mm so might be able to be used in smaller bores to confirm the laying of a water pipe for instance but the manufacturer states 50mm.

There really is not much to say about this process as it is just amalgamating a current CCTV of sewers process with an upgraded utility detector with GPS but it is more the tool that makes it easy to process the data in an automated fashion.

Having said that, with the potential to 3D model the video, it can also aid non destructive computer based testing and defect detection of underground utility services.

The geolocation aspect of this also provides a way to satisfy much of the financial risk of PAS256 and the geographic linking between non-infrastructure assets.

 

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VISUALISATION WITH PANOPTIKON

PANOPTIKON – It is Swedish,  and as far as I can remember the translation means ‘to observe’ but comes from the Greek ‘all-seeing’ and in English refers to ‘a Prison with cells arranged around a central point so they can be seen at all times’ – Very Colonial, I prefer the Swedish as it is simply clear and just looks cool which is much the story with the PANOPTIKON visualisation software.

I saw these guys at the GeoBusiness 2019 and was blown away by the potential this has to engage with communities in an open and clear method across any language barrier. In short, it is a really good Video/Augmented Reality Communication/engagement tool for BIM.

We have all seen videos of proposed construction sites ‘this is what it will look like if we have the OK’ in dry architectural drawings but this incorporates all BIM model data so it releases all the power of the digital age to show a vision of exactly how it is to how it will be built exactly.

It Does this buy combining Drone footage with BIM Data and combining the two. The following 2 screen shots are from their video but it shows the effect. You can view the video on their website www.bjorkstromrobotics.com

The next applications I see are in farming and infrastructure development to aid positive engagement of communities to develop their land.

Imagine a community or utility has a sudden issue with over development i.e. too much home building (postage stamp houses) and blocks development, maybe there is no parking spaces or playgrounds. You need to address their concerns and convince them that there is a plan to resolve the issue.

This is the communication tool to do just that.

They also have another really useful tool for a tablet which shows where all the utility services run and will visualise in real space (on the tablet) everything that is proposed with accurate GNSS derived positioning.

So now if we combine the 2 products, we are looking at the ability to show a video demonstration of the project life cycle, at the build location, and then after the video you can engage with the audience in live augmented reality to answer any of their questions – maybe discover new ones but it is a full engagement system. They can even walk around with the tablet to see what the new area will look like and get a feel for it. I am hopeful that they will develop for full Mixed Reality soon but they seem keen to develop the product to fulfill their partners need – and I like that Partner attitude, not just customer, customer just sounds disposable to me.

The other use, I see, is in forensics, Health and safety or engineering to reconstruct events on site whether it be an accident and you need to investigate view points on site or an augmented reconstruction, or maybe you just want to maximise your aircraft parking in your hangar.

OK so I am not on commission so I will now refer you to their website for further information and videos www.bjorkstromrobotics.com/

I will however say that it was an insightful discussion I had on the day and they seem like a very helpful and positive group to deal with.

UGEE M708 GRAPHICS TABLET

I always wanted an all singing and dancing Wacom Graphics tablet for my 3D modelling but the thought of paying similar to a new laptop got me thinking about the Lenovo Yoga series of laptop, with the foldable screen hinge, as you can see and interact directly with your model or digital art.

I wanted to also make sure it was what I wanted so thought ‘Go Cheap import to test before investing huge wedge’ and found this UGEE M708 Graphics Tablet for £60 2 years back and it is still going well. I have the older battery powered pen version but the one from amazon below has a self recharging pen which is cool, having said that the battery normally lasts me 2 months which is ok for a single AAA battery. I will also mention there are others like XP PEN which are cheaper still and look the same but that’s all I can say.

Click Here to See the UGEE M708 on Amazon

Ok so after wanting one of these for ages, I now have it. Its A4 ish paper size so quite large so I should be good to go. I mean, I can use Blender and 3DS with a mouse, right, and this was supposed to be more natural. That’s the problem, I have no natural art skill so thats my first thing to say – you can have all the tools but don’t expect to be pulling a Van Gogh in 5 minutes. Now I am glad I only spent £60 and not £400 on its equivalent Wacom.

Ok so I never give up and slowly started to see what I can do with simple spray can art which was great and I managed to make some beautiful coloured boxes in Blender. Without knowing I slowly started replacing my mouse with the pad and pen, for normal computer use, as you can do all 2 button mouse operations with it while not having the Mouse click RSI as it effectively makes a normal computer gain the benefit of a Tablet at a fraction of the cost.

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The Tablet itself is easy to use as the pad corners (white Brackets) are mapped to your screen so there is no dragging and scrolling like on the old tablets you just hover the pen over where you want the cursor to appear on the screen and when it is close enough to the tablet, about 15mm, sure enough the cursor appears on the screen. Sure it would be great to have one of the £700+ tablets with a screen underneath but then we go back to my original buying a Lenovo Yoga. Amazon also have them Lenovo Yoga 720

The Following Video shows how easy it is to use with Blender in Plug and Play. I am only using the Pen here but there are 6 more configurable buttons that can be tailored as you desire but you will have to load the Driver Disk (supplied) to configure them. You can also download the driver from the UGEE website if you do not have a Disk Drive.

As you can see it is very easy to use and all of this via USB plug and play. Talking of which, the pen is compatible with windows 10 ink so is customisable in Windows 10 too.

In short it is a cheap and cheerful tablet that can give you an extra few years out of your old PC when you want to expand your skills into 3D modelling / Paint / Photo Editing / Drawing / Handwriting or even just want to add some signature functions.

Ok the nitty gritty:

  • Active Area – 10″ x 6″
  • Resolution – 5080 LPI
  • Report Rate – 230 RPS
  • Accuracy – +or- 0.01″
  • Pressure sensitivity – 2048 Levels
  • Connection – USB

 

Autodesk Recap Photo – part of Recap Pro

This is a much underrated product in the AEC community but it has its strengths and is great for those that need good results that can be exported into most mesh formats.

Ok it costs £42 a month as a subscription to Recap Pro which also handles registering of laserscan data from many manufacturers. With this you get a certain amount of Cloud credit for processing your images or pointclouds into mesh models. This is not great as at last check 1 cloud credit was $1 and upto 300 photos will cost you 12 credits so even though you pay that £42 a month, every project will cost you between £10 to £50 depending on how many images you use.

This brings me on to the next issue, Photo models or closeups can only be 20-300 images and UAV / Drone Models can only be derived from a maximum of 1000 images. Considering photogrammetry tends to need at least a 30% overlap of image data to create tie points between images, you are not going to cover a great deal of area for you £50.

Ok thats the negative and why it quite rightly gets a slam from the AEC community over the costs but there are so many good things about it like:-

  • It is fairly accurate time after time
  • You only need a standard cheap laptop so there is a cost saving.
  • It has a simple GUI system to upload your project images to the cloud and download the result.
  • Once uploaded to the cloud, you no longer need to tie up your computer with processing images to models and can get on with other aspects of your business which is the strength of cloud based solutions as if you stop work, you probably lose 5 or 6 times more money than the processing cost but if it is not as expected then you have to pay again to process another project – no refunds for bad models.
  • You can optimize the export format of the model to many bits of software including Blender so no lock into autodesk products.
  • Autodesk supports students and education facilities with free access to many of their products on a Education Licence.
  • It ties in seamlessly with other Autodesk software like Maya and 3DS which are used extensively within many Industries so it adds to a great workflow.

There is also a 30 day trial available on Autodesk products so it is worth trying out for yourself.

On test it produced a model better than that of non CUDA Open source software to the extent of picking out the Cigarette Butts that had been discarded in the trough which is pretty good for that set of images. Please have a look at the video below which illustrates what you can expect. Do also note how much extra background imagery has been converted too.

I did also like how it computed a bottom for the trough even though there were no deliberate images of the bottom. 

 

 

For a complete look at this software go to Autodesk Recap Page

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Geospatial Modelling For Free

This Post has been really fun to research and what a sense of satisfaction I had when I found out how to do it but I apologise to all that follow as it has taken all my time up dedicated to this one issue so lets crack on as I am so excited.

So what did I want to prove?

  1. I wanted to prove that you could Geospatial model straight from a game engine like Unity or Armory3D
  2. This could be done for free without having to hard code – spreadsheet is fine as most that read this will be able to use basic spreadsheets but few will be able to go off writing Translation programs so it had to be a solution for all.
  3. No Proprietry Lock in to a platform.
  4. It also has to be able to make the Modelling program geospatial so you can tie the world together.

Where Did I start?

First I wanted to see what was possible with what I had, a FARO S70 Laserscan, FARO SCENE LT 2019 (yes its free and meshes point clouds beautifully if you have the hardware), Blender 2.8, Meshlab.

I will first say that the Laserscan I had was Geolocated as a project, If you are inserting a non geolocated laserscan, you can adjust the geolocation in the properties section. Even still, this is not a problem as I will also explain how to geolocate a standard mesh too so you don’t need a laserscan, its just this software makes it a cleaner process.

So I meshed out the laserscan in FARO SCENE and exported as OBJ,PLY,STL etc but none of the formats could show up in the viewport. With so much saying about Blender 2.8 Bugs at the moment, I just dismissed this as an option so I opened up in Meshlab and voila, it was there, a lovely Laserscan of the building. So I saved it and made a new OBJ file which was almost twice the size of the first and imported into UNITY which on completion was nowhere to be seen.

After much faffing with this and that and trying this, standing on one leg with fingers crossed and arms – anyway you get the picture, while exporting or clinching at any last notes from the net, I thought OBJ – its an old format, I wonder if I can open it in Notepad.

Sure enough it is a text file format and the first thing I recognised was that the X,Y,Z looked an aweful lot like Decimal Degree co-ordinates for the area but out of range.

Now while researching GNSS Systems I had to get familiar with different Historical systems of mapping in use and origins as well as the Technical aspects to the satellites themselves – Good Times :-), The point is that I was reminded of not looking at the world as a globe but as a flat paper map. Flat Land Maps, not Naval Charts, Used to be and often are still in a system using Cartesian Co-ordinates commonly known as Eastings and Northings.

So I went to the Ordnance Survey Site and inserted the

  • X value in the Eastings Field,
  • Y value in Northings Field,
  • Z value in the Height Field.

BINGO exactly where the scan was Taken

So if it is here then why cant I work on it in my modelling suite, i.e. 3DS or Blender. Thats simple now, we know Eastings and Northings are in meters like Blender and 3DS so an Eastings of 583947.75m would be 583.94775KM East of the 0 point on the X axis, a little way away so of course you will see nothing.

In Blender, you can correct this easily by first Selecting the Imported Object in the Heirachy, Move the Cursor over the Viewport and Right Click. This will give you a menu where you can select ‘Set Origin’ which opens a sub menu and select ‘Set Origin To Geometry’.

You should now see the Transform Component have a huge number in X and Y but Z hopefully will be the Altitude so much smaller.

MAKE A COPY of THIS AS YOU WILL NEED TO PUT IT BACK.

OK now go into Edit Mode (push tab) and set the Local Median co-ordinates to 0 ( it will not allow Zero and will go to some smallish number). This only sets the centre of the model to 0 or in the middle ish but close enough for this as it is all relative from now on.

Go Back into object mode and hopefully your Transform component numbers have not changed, now set them to Zero. Your model should now be there.

Do your modelling and once finished, put the old Transform co-ordinates that you copied, back into the Transform Component to Re-locate the Model back into its Geolocated Space.

The link between the XYZ to Eastings and Northings is really powerful when we now import our model into a Game Engine like Unity or Armory3D as we can use a simple script to read the player or model current xyz and convert it into a Global Decimal Degree which can be linked out into all mapping systems, Smart Phones and everything Geolocatable thus creating the link between Virtual World and Real World.

This New XYZ can also become an Assets Identifier.

Ok but I have a non Geolocated model, How can I merge this into the GeoSpaced Game.

Idealy you would have GNSS Equipment Like SPECTRA SP20 GNSS Device for BIM or one of their other High Accuracy units but if you are at home, you could use a web map to derive a Rough location (still might be better than your phone) Google Maps (Left Double click Location to drop a pin, Click on the decimal degree output at the bottom pop up, Copy and paste from the left hand sidebar)  or Bing Maps (Right click location, select copy below the decimal degree co-ordinates, pres CTRL + C)

Put these co-ordinates in the Transform Tool Decimal Degrees section at Ordnance Survey (If using maps, you will only get Lat and Long without a height value, set Elipsoid Height to 45.734 to pin on the ground at 0m height) which will give you an easting and Northing.

Ok This is your reference position. We can simply enter them in the Global Transform Component (Object Mode) after setting the Local Median (Edit Mode) to the location of the object that is to locate at that geolocation.

If not using Blender, then at worst case to apply your vertex points we need them in a spreadsheet for editing.

Open the OBJ file in Notepad (rightclick -> open with other apps -> select notepad)

We need to copy all lines beginning with a ‘v’ and there might be a few thousand. Each line has six values, position x,y,z and colour x,y,z(the colour is ranged from 0-1).

Select the first line and scroll to the end of the ‘v’ lines and hold shift and click at the end of the last line which will select everything inbetween.

Open your spreadsheet editor and paste. You need to chop and divide the text into seperate columns, there are lots of youtube videos on how to do this, and you can use the space to identify the place to seperate.

Once you have seperated the values into seperate cells, write a formula to add the reference easting to the first value, reference northing to the second value and reference height to the third value. Then copy cell all the way down for it to autopopulate the new figures.

Now concatenate (join) the values back into one single line of text with the spacings and colours added back in. Again lots of youtube videos on how to do this.

Copy the new data into the OBJ notepad file replacing the old ‘v’ values and save as a new OBJ. If the file extension is not available, select saveAs, type the filename followed by ‘.obj’ without the quotes.

now this obj will open in its new geolocation in eastings and northings, sorry I mean XYZ, co-ordinates.

Just to conclude that now we can write a script that tracks the xyz of anything we require to track either its movement in the virtual or even be effected by the movement of something in the real world to give a truly real time virtual simulator.

Imagine if a bridge was raised prematurely, you could not only see a visualisation of what is happening but also use AI to aleviate the problems as it can read and control the virtual easier than the Real but with full control of the Real by Proxy.

VIRTUAL WORLD IS POSSIBLE EASILY, CHEAPLY AND RELIABLY

NOW!!!!

Please Share and Like as I do not have a virtual Billboard, That will be the next big thing, Immersive Advertising – I can Hear George Carling now.

BIM – The OpenSource method

Ok so today is all about creating a Virtual World without spending too much money although I would always advise donating and supporting the OpenSource projects because we all benefit from them and they tend to have great imaginative and ethical origins which remain strong throughout the lifecycle of the project. Throughout this post I have added the links to the websites which will open in new tabs, if clicked, and you will see that they all have ethics and a dream at their core.

So to Generate the Virtual World / BIM solution – What do we need? (aside from a little training – all documentation is available on the websites)

Domain (£20 per year) – to have a web address like http://www.vulcansrealm.com, you need to buy it and register it on a Domain Name Service. Its all done for you and is as simple as buying a computer on Amazon.

Next we need some serious Hardware which can be upgraded slowly as required. A cloud network allows us to do this brilliantly and to surprisingly use low cost equipment to do this. So for instance you may want to spend a £1000 on a nice refurbished all in one server 64bit, 16GB RAM, 2TB disk with dual network cards — but this is not a traditional server service – its a cloud service and maybe you are starting from more humble origins

So as a cloud service, in the not too distant future, we will need a cloud resource handler. This is, In Laymans speak, what makes all the servers talk and co-operate together seemlessly. There is no reason why we can’t incorporate that from the start and use OPENSTACK and now we can change our hardware requirements to something more humble like a Raspberry Pi3B+  and I believe this is the way.

You can start with 1 and as you develop you can slowly add them till you have a small  cluster of raspberry pi3B+’s. I say small, maybe you will end up with a large cluster in multiple Global locations or Hubs.

I need to test if you can just pull one memory card out of one RPI3B+ and insert into another so you can have your little RPI3B+ cloud service easily maintainable if a Component fails. I have no reason to doubt this could be the case as RPI3B+’s don’t appear to have a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip and use open source Operating systems which are not intended to prevent sharing. This is one of the aspects why you can’t pull a hard drive from one windows 10 pc and put it in another.

Ok so what software do we need to make my Raspberry Pi3B+ into a cloud server, Simply put UBUNTU server (free) and NEXTCLOUD which is free for home use and companies with upto 50 employees. When you become a big boy commercial, you will have a small support package to buy but if you have more than 50 employees, a few thousand pounds is merely a round of drinks. I should add, I am happy to tag along to an open bar if anyone is offering.

So we are starting small which means we probably do not have a fixed IP address on our internet providers connection and running this from a home Internet connection like SKY, which changes the IP address each time it connects or after a period of time, so we will need to have whats called a DDNS handler. Once your device is registered on this service, all traffic that was routed to your old IP address is routed to the new IP address automatically in real time. For more information Google DDNS but a service with noip.com will typically cost £25 a year – hold on why not the free personal use option with other providers, they are for personal use and they will know what you are upto. Its the equivalent of being caught with your hand in someones wallet and saying I didn’t know. If you believe in KARMA (not the drone) you will stay above board. you can also get a whole host of other services and even your domain name from noip.com too.

Ok so we have an always connected managed server(s) in our cloud network, we need an email service to be contactable with our users and for security reasons. For this we can use hMail server (free) or alternatively you can have noip.com provide this for you but we are going for less reliance on others so lets have hMail.

To handle all the Geospatial Information we can Incorporate QGIS server or other OSGEO server products(free) so we now have mapping. Its building up isn’t it.

So we really want to get to the fun stuff and walk around in virtual space but we need to identify with the technology and with this being industrial related, lets use OpenMaint for asset management and data maintenance.

One of the beautifull things with Cloud computing is Virtual Machines, they absolutely anhialate bandwidth but NextCloud supports them and it simplifies the process so for those updating and creating the Virtual Space. Lets Install XAMP vm server running apache. php and mySQL.

We can now load,submit and run pointcloud files using POTREE point cloud viewer (free)(see next cloud docs and using docker)

For converting point clouds into mesh to be modified as models for the Virtual World physics engines, we can run MESHLAB running on a vm instance (free)

We can process the models once converted using BLENDER 2.8 on a vm instance (free) (requires good graphics upgrade, suggest a good pc and transfer the data after processing in a separate render farm but not from the realms of do-able at low cost)

So we have a dumb Virtual World now. Lets add Physics and gamifi using ARMORY3D(free) (requires BLENDER 2.8 but this is packaged with the download)

So we have our world but how do we make it accesible. lets use AGONES (requires kubernetes) or GAMINGANYWHERE(requires windows OS) for online realtime hosted games/simulations (free).

Hold on – Kubernetes why not just use this to manage the cloud instead of OPENSTACK. It is more a preference to make them work together. In laymans terms Kubernetes is the operations manager of container ships where Openstack is the shipping company. Yes the operations manager will perform the work like the company but the company also has a finance department, customer liason, Welfare, Sales etc.

We should now have an online fully interactive cloud hosted virtual world for nearly no money, reliable and infinitely upgradeable.

So What about That Pint you mentioned…………..

DRIVERLESS/AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES – HOW?

Another great creative article regarding Driver less technology or Autonomous vehicle technology. Its not intended as a complete solution but more of a creative excerpt to think and accept there are alternative ways that, using todays technology, we can overcome tomorrows hurdles in a seemless transition.

https://vulcansrealm.com/driverless-cars-how/