4DMapper Emphasizes the Importance of Cloud-Based Data Management and the Role Global Mapper SDK Plays in Their Processing Platform

4DMapper is a cloud-based geospatial platform for enterprise, providing customers with workflow tools for asset inspection, virtual surveying, photogrammetry, and geospatial analytics.

The Global Mapper SDK has empowered countless software developers to create a wide array of powerful and innovative geospatial applications and none more so that Australia-based 4DMapper. Recently, Blue Marble teamed up with 4DMapper to produce a video illustrating common workflows in Global Mapper and how they can now be performed in 4DMapper’s cloud-based platform. We also chatted with COO, Paul Douriaguine about the company why they chose the Global Mapper SDK.

What is the story of 4DMapper? What products or services do you offer?

4DMapper is a cloud-based geospatial platform for enterprise, enabling customers’ 3D maps and models with workflow tools for asset inspection, virtual surveying, photogrammetry, and geospatial analytics. It lets you manage, visualize, process, share and collaborate on your geospatial data… all this with just a web browser!

From its early days, 4DMapper’s mission has been to make geospatial data readily accessible to professionals and non-technical decision makers alike. By doing so, we are helping our customers unlock the value of their geospatial data for their enterprises.

4DMapper Pty Ltd is an Australian technology company formed in early 2014 by highly experienced geospatial professionals Rob Klau and Adam Chabok. At the time geospatial data was processed on desktops, required expensive hardware, highly specialist skills to interpret, and was very slow and unwieldy to move around (typical delivery was via hard drive in the mail). The duo recognized a void in effective delivery of geospatial data to people who need it. Joined by a group of elite software engineers (ex-Google lead techs) they’ve developed a platform for streaming these massive files without the need for expensive software or hardware. The First version of 4DMapper was released in July 2015.

4DMapper environment
The 4DMapper environment with tools on the left. 4DMapper offers tools for photogrametry, LiDAR analysis, terrain analysis, and image analysis powered by the Global Mapper SDK.

Can you explain the name? What are the four Ds?

4DMapper is a set of tools and workflows to accurately map our physical world and bring it into the powerful world of virtual surveying and 3D asset inspection, geospatial analytics, artificial intelligence, and big data.

As for the “D”s – the first three “D”s are the dimensions of our physical world, accurately represented via absolute geospatial coordinates. The fourth “D” is to capture the change or variability of the world, being as it changes over time (e.g. repeat inspection of a mining site or building rooftops), change of a particular attribute of real-life objects (e.g. corrosion or fault detection on cell towers) or some other variability of metadata about the real-life object (e.g. pattern recognition in mineral exploration, NDVI analysis in agriculture, geospatial analytics in mapping and surveying applications)

4DMapper's Layer Manager
A 3D model of a crash site in 4DMapper’s layer manager environment.

Why do you think it is important to be able to manage geospatial data on the cloud?

There are many reasons for cloud’s growing popularity. The three most important ones in our view are:

  • The Cloud empowers – elastic computing and infinitely scalable data storage removes the need for expensive software and hardware driving significant savings for the businesses
  • The Cloud connects – it’s ability to facilitate business transactions creates numerous win-win opportunities and drives growth for geospatial providers and their customers
  • The Cloud enables – it makes data readily available to people who need it when they need it, thus unlocking the value of geospatial data and insights for enterprises

When did you first become aware of Global Mapper?

Like many other geospatial professionals we have grown with Global Mapper, first came across it at university when doing surveying / photogrammetry / remote sensing degrees many years ago, have been using it ever since.

Why did you choose the Global Mapper SDK to provide 3D data manipulation tools to your users?

Global Mapper provides a set of powerful tools, and it has been a de-facto industry standard and a tool of choice for many professionals for decades. When we looked at the options – the choice was obvious.

Processing Services in 4DMapper
The Processing Services dialogue box in 4DMapper shows the photogrammetry, LiDAR analysis, terrain analysis, and image analysis tools that are powered by the Global Mapper SDK.

Your website talks about how 4DMapper was conceived in response to the lack of affordable and effective ways to deliver geospatial data to people who need it. What are some of the challenges you faced in the GIS industry leading up to the first release of 4DMapper in 2015? And what challenges are you facing today?

4DMapper was conceived to tackle a major problem of efficient delivery of large geospatial data to people who needed it. When the first version of 4DMapper was developed and released in 2015, we quickly came to the realization that it was some years ahead of its time and the market wasn’t quite ready for it. The cloud offering was immature slowing its adoption by conservative industries such as mining, building and construction, insurance, and government. At that point in time, most of the serious geospatial software was still available on desktops only, cloud processing was a novel idea with no major vendors offering cloud-based photogrammetry or analytics services. 4DMapper’s team has worked with some of the major vendors assisting them with the development of their cloud offerings.

The world of geospatial has moved on since those days. Cloud is becoming well accepted not only for data storage but for processing alike. However, a new challenge has emerged in that the advancements in geospatial data acquisition technologies seem to be outpacing data management and processing capabilities creating a so-called data deluge. Now the penny has dropped, and the fast-growing demand for information is driving the increased requirement for keeping geospatial data management tools simple and intuitive.  Luckily, 4DMapper’s approach to working with geospatial data was exactly that – usability has been a primary concern to keep the tools simple and intuitive yet sophisticated and powerful. These days there is a proliferation of point solutions, multiple unconnected tools, highlighting a need for an enterprise-grade geospatial platform.

Contours Generated by Processing Service
Contours overlaying this 3D model were generated using a service powered by the Global Mapper SDK.

What Global Mapper SDK functionality do you think is, or will be, most useful or popular among your users?

The whole suite… that’s the nature of Global Mapper, it’s not just one tool – it’s a professionals’ toolbox. 4DMapper would like to make most Global Mapper functionality available on our platform. So far we only released a small subset of Global Mapper tools as a pilot. We are looking for feedback on what you would like to see prioritized for the upcoming releases.

Can you share an interesting or surprising project that you’ve seen your platform used for?

We don’t get to see the data our customers host on 4DMapper. Our customer data always belongs to them, we recognize the importance of data ownership and take data security and privacy very seriously. Unless our customer’s share their projects with us, we don’t have visibility of them.

Having said that, one of our recent projects that went viral when the customer shared it on social media was a beautiful 3D model of a Fire Department training center. The mesh model was created using Bentley Context Capture, a data format natively supported by 4DMapper (we also support Agisoft, Autodesk, and soon Pix4D models). When posted on LinkedIn the project instantly gained a lot of eyeballs for its accuracy, elegancy, and a visual appeal.

We have many other interesting projects that have been shared with us by the customers from all walks of life – large mining sites, agriculture farms, rooftop inspections, powerlines, bridges, offshore oil and gas platforms, critical infrastructure, and large scale high-accuracy 3D models of major cities. 4DMapper is a scalable enterprise platform for managing a wide variety of geospatial data.

How do you see the integration of the Global Mapper SDK into your online platform impacting your future business development?

Integrating Global Mapper SDK is a major step toward realizing our vision of building an ecosystem that would connect geospatial professionals and facilitate business transactions. Only launched as a pilot, Global Mapper tools already generating interest from our existing customers. We can only imagine what it will be like when more Global Mapper tools are made available on 4DMapper.

What do you think the future of geospatial data processing and delivery looks like?

Geospatial is again a rapidly evolving industry. We don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, but there are some trends we are seeing that are likely to continue and accelerate:

  • 3D is rapidly becoming a new norm, so is cloud-based delivery and collaboration
  • majority of geospatial data will be stored on the cloud, data processing will undoubtedly follow suit and move to the cloud too
  • simplicity and usability will be a major requirement as geospatial data gets higher adoption and becomes more relied on by non-technical decision makers

Blue Marble and 4DMapper Collaborate

Recently 4DMapper and Blue Marble Geographics collaborated on an online webcast. A recording of this presentation is available here.

For more information on 4DMapper or to sign up for a free trial, visit http://4DMapper.com

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