Geographically Augmented: The emergence of Augmented Reality has ushered-in a wave of excitement and growth across different industries. AR has waved its magic wand to ameliorate various business domains, including travelling, media & entertainment, education and beyond!
Now, AR Is quickly establishing its ground as an effective solution for visualizing location data in the field, whether it be for navigational purposes or managing underground construction. But this potential of AR technology in the GIS arena was identified and leveraged upon by a company named Augview.
The journey for Augview officially started in 2012 when the development was first seeded by the company’s founder Mike Bundock and his small team of GIS technology specialists. Ever since then the company hasn’t looked back and has established a name for itself as the world’s first augmented reality asset management application.
Mike has been working in the GIS industry for almost 39 years. During this period, spanning close to four decades, Mike has worked with utilities, telcos, municipalities and governments, and has even analyzed requirements, architected solutions and delivered operational systems.
By 2010, desktop solutions were sufficiently sophisticated to support large databases, managing complex network topologies, and a large number of concurrent users performing complex analytical functions. However, in the field, the teams planning, installing and maintaining the network infrastructure were still operating almost universally with paper maps, tape measures and pencils. To compound the issues of the ever-increasing density of underground assets, the utility and telco industries had undergone a period of corporatization and privatization. This resulted in asset owners employing contractors to perform the design, construction and maintenance of the networks. Today, this is a deep hierarchy of subcontractors, where at the bottom of the hierarchy are poorly trained field staff, competing on price, with little training and short term employment expectations. The experienced engineers are long gone, the ones who boast a wealth of knowledge about the networks, geo-schematics, engineering drawings, etc.
“A new solution was required that was easier for the new workforce to use, one which provided rapid comprehension and eliminated the bottlenecks associated with hand drawn records and transcription processes,” Mike recalls. The answer was a mobile AR solution, which was primarily designed for online usage. Back in 2011, a prototype was developed and it was presented at GIS exhibitions to gain feedback. The general response was universally positive.
The journey of Augview can be characterized as a waiting game; the wait for hardware capability to catch up with the Augview software. Up until recently, smart phones and tablets have not had the technology to reliably and accurately determine location and orientation to operate precisely. The addition of the expensive, cumbersome GNSS antenna and processor was necessary to provide sufficient accuracy to the same. With the latest round of devices released by Apple and Samsung, this is increasingly no longer the case and Augview can operate unhindered.
Furthermore, development of Augview has now taken it to the point where it can track user movement without the aid of GNSS, thereby enabling it to function indoors and in places where GNSS signals are weak or unreliable.
“Now, after years of trialing and testing with prospects and clients, the Augview product is now largely fully developed.”
As a result of this development, there has recently been a surge of enquiries and demand for trials, from a range of organizations around the world. Augview is therefore poised for growth with early adopters, prior to the anticipated mass adoption forecasted in two to three years.
Augview is led by one of the market’s leading experts and visionaries in GIS, Mike Bundock. With an extensive portfolio of experience in the GIS market, Mike has led the company from its inception to what it is known as today. He holds previous experience with multiple start-ups and GIS product development, including Smallworld Systems. Mike was involved from its product inception in the UK, assisted in growing the customer base throughout Europe prior to establishing Smallworld within Australia and NZ.
Mike has been the key visionary and driver of Augview throughout the company life and will continue to be so. As the company seeks to strengthen its management team to cope with the global interest in the Augview product, Mike will be able to focus more on the technology without having to worry about day-to-day business administrations.
One of the most exciting and integral aspects of Augview is that it delivers benefits to a range of industrial sectors. The benefits depend largely upon who is using the application. For organizations contracted to carry out installation and maintenance of utility infrastructure, there are three clear benefits which are stated below:
- Augview provides the potential to reduce collateral damages, i.e. accidentally digging into underground cables or pipes when excavating. A study by the University of Birmingham in UK estimated the cost to be at £4,500 per strike in actual damage alone, plus unquantified cost in lost time and economic disruption. One contractor in the UK reports an average of one strike per day, which hold a cost of over £1.5m per annum.
- The second benefit provided by Augivew is time saving. Using paper-based plans to find underground cables is difficult and time-consuming and often leads to inaccurate excavation. Augview enables an operator to quickly and accurately identify where to dig. Using their GPS functionality, operators are able to know where they stand and can immediately see where the underground assets are relative to their location.
- The third benefit is improved health and safety, one which is hard to quantify. What price would you put on a field worker not electrocuting themselves? However, reduced insurance costs might be the best way to convince the accountants of the financial benefits.
The Market Competition and the Future
The company is believed to have a clear first mover advantage in the market, creating a gap which will take a potential competitor 18 months to 2 years to close.
“Remarkably, there are very few actual competing products on the market for immediate commercial use. This does not mean to say there aren’t companies working in this space or that there are claims of products that offer similar functionality,” mentions Mike.
At present, Augview’s greatest competitor is its existing methodologies and the inertia that accompanies it. The emergence of rival technology would actually be a welcome sight according to the company itself, as this would undoubtedly help them accelerate the conversion from paper to AR.
The simple biggest event that will encourage mass adoption of AR in the industry will be the launch of user-friendly augmented reality glasses. Mike claims that “These devices will allow the users to experience applications like Augview with their hands free, replacing smart phone and tablet technologies.”
Augview has already architected for AR glasses, and the company anticipates that appropriate devices will be available in the market later in 2018, while moving to mass market adoption starting in 2020.