Benefits of GIS (part 1): Improving urban planning and public services

2015-11-05, by admin

This is a first post in a 3-part series describing the benefits of GIS. There are endless ways how GIS can help improve a business and an environment: from making accurate representations of the world to geo-tracking and location optimization. Here we’re going to focus on the potential improvements for infrastructure and public services that GIS can have. Specifically, we will concentrate on 2 GIS topics: photogrammetry and creating smart cities with 3D modeling.


What is photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. It can make use of high-speed imaging and remote sensing to detect objects and points on a surface. The result of this practice is a map or a 3D model of the photographed object. There are different types of photogrammetry, such as Aerial and Close-range. The differences generally stem from the position of the camera (for example, in the air vs. close to the object).

Aerial Photogrammetry often uses orthophotos to create their end-product. Orthophotos are aerial images geometrically corrected so that the scale is uniform. Essentially, these aerial photographs have been corrected to depict true distances which can therefore yield accurate measurements of the surface. Because of size limitations these photographs are taken individually. Therefore, before a clear and measurable map can be produced, the aerial photographs have to be pieced together, a process called stereophotogrammetry mapping.

Another type of photogrammetry is close-range photogrammetry, often done conducted from vehicles, but can also from hand-held devices and tripods. This type of photogrammetry is generally used to understand space to produce drawings, 3D models, and point clouds instead of topography.

With the recent advaces in technology both types of photogrammetry can increasingly be completed with the use of unmanned technologies, such as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and driverless cars.

How is photogrammetry used?

Photogrammetry is a useful tool for accurately surveying a location without having to spend the resources measuring things on-site.

For example, we worked on a project where the Ukrainian Ministry of Transportation needed accurate maps to be able to efficiently manage and service their roads. They had aerial photos from a third-party, but they couldn’t turn them into usable, accurate maps. So first we used stereophotogrammetry to piece their aerial images together. Then we made sure that the images were geometrically corrected (a process called orthorectify), as a result of the orthorectification process we got an orthophotograph used to measure true distances, because it is an accurate representation of the Earth’s surface. Finally, we created the final maps customized for exclusive use by the Ministry of Transportation. The Ministry went from having pictures of the area’s surface to having maps that could be used to provide better road management services.

What else can you think of (or have seen yourself) that makes use of photogrammetry?

3D Modeling for Smart City

What is a “Smart city”?

What’s better than having an accurate map? Having an accurate 3D representation of an area. This idea is behind the term “smart city”: an idea that cities can use digital technologies to improve their infrastructure and respond to urban and global challenges faster and with better insight. It also strives to create a better relationship with its inhabitants, by understanding and catering to their needs. To visualize what such a model for a smart city looks like, watch this video.

What role does 3D modeling play?

Establishing smart cities first and foremost starts with the knowledge of the existing infrastructure and its use. 3D modeling of cities can be a very useful tool to get understanding of a city quickly, but also to maintain and amend that information in the future. Knowing which areas are under heavy use or not helps urban planners make better decisions in regards to physical infrastructure. It also helps support healthy and strong development of the city’s economic, social and cultural spheres. 3D modeling integrates and organizes the diverse amount of information a city has in one model: from current conditions, to building codes, to performing the calculations and analysis of urban indicators (such as Urban pollution, Overcrowding, Access to improved sanitation, etc.).

How it’s useful:

Let’s say a city has a master plan of the city, but the urban indicators are either scattered or missing altogether. Whenever urban planners look at the map, there is a gross amount of information missing: what are the building codes on this side of town, what are the major concerns of the population of this area, etc. Will they go find this information somewhere else? Will they have to make their plans without it?

Part of a city becoming a “smart” city is incorporating all this information into an efficiency 3D model. This can be done most efficiently with GIS tools. For example, when the City of Kharkiv came to us asking to update their master plan, we used ESRI’s ArcGIS for data processing and 2D master planning, and then ESRI CityEngine for 3D modeling. The result was highly accurate 3D model of the city that showed a very diverse amount of information in one place, from building demolitions, to landscape growth, to analysis of the urban environment.

What other uses can you think of (or have used) 3D modeling for?

If you’d like to find out more about these methods, feel free to contact us.

Or come visit our stand B11 at GEO Business Show 2015 on May 27th and May 28th to chat about GIS benefits for business and infrastructure.

Image via No changes were made.

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