BUILD YOUR SMART CITY SMARTER

THE FUTURE IS ALREADY HERE

What does the not so far off future have in its store? Take the following scenario: it’s Monday evening, people are returning home after a long day at the office. They’re boarding the train or joining a car share. And the lights? They direct and navigate the people driving home, so that they can take the shortest route home. Within the residential neighborhood, sensors warn against leaks, air pollution, fire hazard and other dangers, plan out garbage collection and even share this important information with the locals.

As of today, Singapore is the world’s smartest city, thanks to a system of cameras capable of monitoring traffic, as well as the level of cleanliness on the streets. Barcelona has implemented smart parking technologies, smart street lighting and street sensors that monitor air quality and noise levels.

The following is a film clip produced by LinkedIn documenting the comings and goings in the smart city of Palo Alto:

3D INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A SMARTER CITY

To become a smart city, there is a need for a smart three dimensional base map, upon which new layers of information can be loaded through applications. Replacing traditional maps with GIS layers is a simple, inexpensive process. Examples of apps and tech that can be loaded onto a map include: infrastructure data, sensors location and data, electricity usage analysis, public transportation, city congestion analysis, city tax information, assets, transportation, building discrepancies, municipal services, waste disposal management, municipal parking management, citywide billboard management – and much more.  And This is just the start of a smart city’s development.

In essence, many applications already exist in most cities, but without a three-dimensional map as a platform for their implementation, they can only be seen in two dimensions (x,y) and thus miss the height dimension (Z), which adds to the analyzed data all the elements in height and depth. By combining the X,Y,Z information the decision makers can draw conclusions by most accurate spatial geographical information and make the city a truly smart hub.

Upon loading the applications and technologies onto the three-dimensional map, you are privy to a new and exciting world! The advantage of this kind of a map is that you obtain a clear, intuitive visual image and the ability to create models of buildings and any object that has a z axis (height), a critical dimension to measure in cities.

When the foundation is made precise (to the centimeter), it is clear that any layer placed upon it will be accurate as well, so that the observer will understand what he is seeing and will be able to use the model with ease (to to visualize and analyze the desired urban area ).

The result: a smart city (map) with the necessary height and depth dimensions and infinite other modelling possibilities that can be implemented – today and in the future… For example, using the model you can virtually enter any structure, view its plan, the interior of its floors and place sensors according to need, so you can gather information or complete actions.

Enjoy your smart city

Who are the people who will benefit from a smart city? In truth, nearly everyone, but for the purpose of this article, we chose to divide them into three main groups:

The municipalities – The platform enables various municipal stakeholders to manage and control their services by using a multi-layered, three-dimensional system, which operates as a decision-making tool and enables decision-makers to effectively and efficiently fulfill their public duties. The platform can also be used to promote the city’s offerings and services to its citizens, tourists and visitors.

Relevant business and service providers – The platform can also be used by commercial and real estate stakeholders as a method of augmented reality, to make their products and services more accessible to potential clients and partners. Additionally, service providers can use the platform to apply for licenses and obtain permissions from the municipality (for business licenses, building permits, billboard permits, etc.).

Citizens, visitors and tourists – The platform is very easy to use, requiring no prior knowledge to operate it. As such, any citizen or tourist can acquire a large amount of information through the municipal system, including the location of urban events, security event, a 3D view of hotels, city attractions and more, right through the smartphone. The 3D platform enables viewers to learn a lot about the city via innovative, user-friendly technology.

SWITCH TO 3D, IT’S SO EASY!

The future is already here! True, this we already said, but now let’s show you a live example. Here it is:

Who’s with us?

We would like to offer you the opportunity to switch your two-dimensional map for a three-dimensional one. It’s easy, quick and affordable. Three-dimensional modelling will enable you to visualize your dreams, as well as any app or technology you desire, in the most precise, visual way.

The correct infrastructure is what will determine how well and how fast your city will grow into a smart city everyone will enjoy.

We would like to help you on towards the next step and present you with our product in greater detail. Kindly leave your details and we will contact you as soon as possible.

The way mapping promotes Developing Countries

It is well known fact that proper land administration management can boost developing country’s economy. Thus, the international financing organizations like the Word Bank, EU, ADB and others are encouraging the developing countries to conduct land reforms and land registration.

Public and private property, mining concessions, forestry and natural resources cannot be managed without updated maps and spatial Information. In Ghana, which has a total area of about 239,000 square kilometers, there has been no comprehensive mapping conducted since the 1970s. Considering the population growth, the fast urbanization and the massive immigration, is this old data relevant for any decision making? Furthermore, the available data regarding property is referring to four different coordinate systems, a source for disputes and confusion. How can one buy land without being sure regarding its location and legal status?

The base for good decision, almost in any field, is realistic understanding of the situation. Without up to date and accurate spatial information about existing structures, population size, land use, utilities, climate hazards and more, it is almost impossible to plan and control the economy, demography, education and governmental services for the public. Such planning can begin only after a thorough and reliable mapping of the country.

Ghana received a loan from the World Bank and selected OFEK Aerial photography to perform the project by competitive bid between some of the leading actors in this field. Ofek management and staff, derived by their operative culture, were enthusiastic to meet the challenges waited for them in this lovely West African country.  

Ofek’s aircraft first landing in Kumasi

Establishment of a New Geodetic network

In most of the modern countries, property is delineated and registered by the coordinates of its limits. Thus, it is critically important to have a uniform coordinate system that can be apply by every modern survey method (GNSS, digital maps etc.).  Ghana has used 4 different coordinate systems including old admiral maps since it was a British colony, 50 years ago.

When the project started, resources were invested into building a new geodetic grid for the country. To achieve this, a complex fieldwork was needed, including the assimilation of GCPs (Ground Control Points) and benchmarks to the system, which needed to be placed on the ground. These GCPs are the base for the entire mapping.  

This task involved joint forces with a local team that assisted us, amongst other things, to communicate with the local communities and chiefs in order to explain the residents the mapping campaign importance for the country and its habitants. In some cases, the surveyors arrival carrying their strange digital equipment, perceived by the local community as a sign for progress and modernization arrival to their small village.

 

meeting the community and explaining them the importance of our work for their future life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the Complete Picture: It Is Now Possible to Plan for the Country’s Progress

As part of the mapping process, we had to identify the public buildings and facilities, attach their names and utilization in order to include it all as part of the newly created Geodatabase. Isolated communities public facilities located at the bush are not always easy for interpretation from vertical imagery. The public buildings have no significant element that helps identify them. The foreign interpreters couldn’t distinguish between a residential house and a school, or between a church and a mosque or between a police station and a clinic. This task required arrival to each community and get assistance from the local inhabitants. The local people were very cooperative and helpful. Their great desire to improve their lives and adopt creative solutions for up scaling the poor facilities usage to accommodate needed public services were emotionally touching. We learned from this exercise, that in Africa, if you really want to understand what you see, you have to experience it. Be there, See it with your own eyes.

The outcome was mapping of 13 large sectors, including heaving information regarding the existence of big communities which required government attention, public services and economic development. This information make it possible to strategically plan for the population’s progress and safety. The government now have the basic data that is required for promoting few major national tasks.   

Establishment of a Proper Educational System for the Village’s Children

The analyses of the map products will serve, among other things, to plan the locations distribution of schools and education centers. Sometimes, a small school originally planned for a small village was, in practice, providing services to a whole city. This was because the education planners had no idea how many people lived in each area. The outcome was that the population did not receive basic services, such as education, which harmed their development. Following the survey, the government started the development of properly sized educational structures for the village children.

School mapped under public property survey in community near Volta river

New Jobs for the Residents

The mapping pointed out were the working people located and what is their main occupation. For example, In Ghana’s north area there is a Shea butter industry. An entire village wanders far and wide to gather the kernels and crack them manually to produce the oil and butter. In such village, a new and advanced manufacturing plant can be built to assist the production of Shea products in a more advanced and industrialized manner which will enhance the traditional occupation while create jobs to the inhabitance.  

North ghana’s shea butter industry

How mapping increase public safety?

Environmental risks are not typical only to industrial countries. Natural disasters risks life and property also in the developing countries.

Natural Disasters Mitigation requires above all risks awareness. Updated maps and accurate topography analysis is the base for demarcation of the risks areas, taking preventive and protective measures and planning first respond actions in case worst scenario happens.

Nasia Nabogo, a large sector in Ghana’s north area, is crossed by the Volta River, one of the biggest in West Africa. 6 countries are sharing the Volta basin and utilizing the water. But, the river which gives life, can also take it. Each time the Upper Volta dam is opened in Burkina Faso, the water rises to a level of 5-to-6 meters and floods vast amounts of land in Ghana. Only in Nasia Nabogo alone it floods approximately 1,300 square kilometers. In these flooded areas, the water will meet human communities, cattle and crops that the non-aware farmers area trying to grow. As the effect of these floods can be predicted, Ofek was asked to conduct accurate mapping of the area’s topography to define where communities have to be warned, crops can be grown and harvested by the poor farmers.

Ofek performed a very high accuracy LIDAR coverage of this area and implemented sophisticated hydrological models that enabled identification of large area that is suitable for farming, for the benefit of all the region population.

LIDAR coverage of the Volta river area

Conclusion

Today, Ghana leaders have better decision making tools. Following the mapping, a process of planning land utilities have been started. The village’s residents have better chance to earn their living in a manner that it is just peddling the streets. New areas useful for cultivation were found. Public services that found to be unsuitable for the population size of those areas can be better planned and developed. Ghana’s government started acting on this matter and benefits the conclusion generated by the mapping process.

How can Azerbaijan provide its own wheat consumption and become independent of import?

At the end of 2016, the government of Azerbaijan wishes to provide to their citizens independently the majority of their wheat requirements, in order to reduce their dependence on import. Wheat is one of the main staples of the Azeri national nutrition. The policy leaders believe that Azerbaijan has enough land, rain, and water to grow most of the national consumption of wheat and barley.

Azerbaijan has suitable agricultural land occupying about 50 thousands square kilometers. But despite the government investments of millions of Dollars in agricultural subsidies, procurement of agricultural machinery, and impressive irrigation infrastructures, the amount of wheat yield has not met the expected targets. Therefore they still have to import almost half of the country’s wheat requirements.

The governmental team who were assigned to determining the country’s economic policy asked for information that might spread a light on many unanswered questions that they had:

Why, despite the considerable financial investment, we have been unable to grow sufficient amount wheat?

Are the subsidized farmers are growing wheat or something else?

How much of the land seeded with wheat has actually yield? And in what productivity?

Ofek experts started investigating the issue of wheat cultivation in Azerbaijan, with main challenge: How to distinguish between wheat, barley and the other seasonal grains?

Main task: How to differ between wheat, barley, and other grains within a short season in enormous areas?

Azerbaijan has a variety of climates and topography, from the mountains that reach 4,000 meters in height, to the flat terrain that descends to sea level.  Every area and valley grows different varieties of wheat and other grains using different techniques, in hundreds of small fields which are often adjacent and mixed with each other.

wheat mixed with barley and other grains

The solution was found in the development of a special technique for interpretation the satellite images. The inspiring idea was to try to separate the wheat from the barley and the other grains by examination of their unique way of growing during the season (Crop Phenology). This method, which has been formulated for the first time, based on the assumption that if we successfully manage to monitor the behavior of every field crop in Azerbaijan during its growing season, we might be able to identify its unique development patterns. Knowing that, we will manage to delineate the fields we are looking for.

The first stage was to separate the wheat and barley from the other plantations by identification of the features that are unique to these crops.  For this purpose, we made field surveys and collected thousands of samples by a combined team of Israeli experts and local Azerbaijani surveyors.

field survey is needed for perfect identification of wheat

For the second stage, we recruited the best brains from the Israeli academic community in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), image processing and computerized interpretation of agricultural data. Their challenge was to develop a complex and unique algorithm that can find and download the relevant images that were captured by a variety of satellites over Azerbaijan during a given period, cataloging them to the enable season oriented process, removing the cloud and shadow effect, and dispersing the fog to make the hidden visible. The result surprised us with its accuracy: The wheat and barley fields were very finely and clearly identified from multilayered images.

Following the success of separation between wheat and Barley to other grains we now faced the main challenge.

The impossible task: how to differ between wheat and barley?

In Ofek’s initial studies during the preparation for the project, we found that up to date, no solution was proved to successfully separate wheat and barley crops. Furthermore, it appears that even when an expert stands in a field in the beginning of the season, he will find it difficult to distinguish of one grain from the other. If that is the case, how can we trust separation made by images that were taken by satellite from a height of hundreds of kilometers?

The solution found: A field visit to meet local farmers and obtain their help in learning about the minor differences in cultivation practice, which we can train the computer to identify.

wheat and barley classification

After overcoming the natural suspicion towards uninvited foreigners that come around asking questions, something that doesn’t happen often in these areas and thanks to the assistance of local team that speaks the language and was trained by Ofek staff to ask the professional questions, the farmers in the field were convinced to cooperate. With their help, we had the full picture relating to the wheat and barley growing procedure and realized which kind of differences our algorithm should be trained to look for.

Information worth its weight in gold

Agricultural mapping is being conducted for decades worldwide. Currently, higher accuracy can be achieved due to the ability to download satellite images taken every 10 days, to process it automatically and create a clear picture of the seasonal status of crops.  Following the adjustment of the special algorithms to identify the changes in the field, we succeeded in separating the wheat and barley crops from the grass and other grains and even from each other.

This exercise enabled not only to quantify all the wheat and barley areas seeded all over  Azerbaijan, but also to learn how much of these areas yield by the end of the season.

grains distribution in Azerbaijan

Based on this we could also identify how much area has been seeded, the state of crops in the planted area, identify irrigation problems, understand which areas are not productive and estimate how much wheat and barley are being grown in the country at a given moment.

After physical verification of the results by another visit to the cultivated areas, we were able to present to the government our conclusions from the project:

1.Less than 70% of the areas seeded with wheat reached with the required yield for harvesting (!).

2.The study discovered many areas that had been seeded with wheat and barley but the farmers lost hope to see yield at the end of the season and replaced the wheat with another crop, in order to try to save their season.

3. An important observation was that in areas smaller than 5 hectares, which are cultivated with a lot of effort and hard work by thousands of farmers, the yield that is harvested at the end of the season is less than 50% of the areas that are planted.

So…how can wheat yield be improved?

The secret of success in the agricultural practice relates to precise activities and excellent timing.  Monitoring growth, early identification of irrigation and drainage problems, pests and weeds and other cultivation faults, enables alerting farmer’s attention to those problems, taking immediate operative actions and gain hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat.

The success in analyzing the behavior of the grain crops across the last season now allows Ofek to propose actions that will help to improve the yield of wheat during the next season.

Ofek continues to work closely with the Azerbaijan government in pursuit of its objectives. We hope to expand the lesson learned and the use of the developed tools to other countries and organizations that are facing similar challenges.

 

Mapping of mountainous terrain for the construction of Hydroelectric power plant

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of inhabitants and in the volume of tourism in northwestern Georgia close to the cities of the Caucasus and the Black Sea. Quite naturally, the need has arisen for increased supply of electricity, and therefore it was decided that a Hydro-Electrical power plant should be established in the region. The plant’s location, the required dams, the water channels and strength of the water’s flow are critical factors influencing the effectiveness of the electric power production.

The planning of the drainage of the region rivers and the channeling of the water through the use of precise topographical mapping has supplied answers to the following questions:

What will be the power plant’s precise location? Where should the dams and the drainage canals be located? What is the optimal waterfall height and location needed for the maximization of electricity generation? What is the precise velocity of the water flow? What can strengthen/prevent the water flow?

A detailed aerial mapping of the terrain of the basin, approximately 450 square kilometers, has enabled the determination of the optimal location of the power plant and the location of the network of dams and water channeling needed for the creation of powerful, effective energy generation.

Green energy is in the house

In order to increase the supply of electricity to the region, it has been decided to produce electricity using green methods with the utilization of the immense natural resources that the country has been blessed with. The proposed plant’s location is a basin through which the Rioni River passes – an ideal location for the construction of a system of dams and establishment a Hydroelectric power plant, because of the significant height differences in the water drainage.

After an understanding was reached of the natural conditions, the region and the demands, three desired products were determined:

  1. LIDAR mapping – Airborne laser system that creates a precise topographical mapping of the area by using special technique to separate between the relief and land cover.
  2. A high-resolution orthophoto.
  3. Mapping of man-made elements (such as structures, bridges, power lines, etc.)

DTM layer of the area, from the LIDAR system

In order to produce these products, two different kinds of flights are needed:

  1. A Lidar survey flight to achieve concentrated laser hits per m2 in a very steep and mountainous region, using the LIDAR system.
  2. An aerial photography flight mission to acquire geo referenced vertical images of the area.

A complex flight mission requires precise planning, advanced systems and experienced personnel

Due to the complexity of the project because of the complicated topography and very dense forested area, It was not possible to use a drone to perform the flight mission and only a designated aircraft for geo-surveys with unique LIDAR sensors could perform the mission properly. Moreover, the project took place near the border areas of Georgia, which required special attention in order to carry out the task properly, in time and with maximum safety for the crew.

The region is very mountainous and that fact will require flights at different altitudes, including flying at a very low altitudes in valleys between the mountains in order to achieve the required precision and resolution for this project (between 5 and 10 laser points per m2).

Ofek’s plain need to fly very carefully, in a complex area

LIDAR from the air and GPS from the ground = a winning combination for precision

The most critical goal in this type of projects is obtaining high level precision in order to determine the location of each significant component of the plant – the power generators, the dams and the drainage canals. It is important to see the whole, precise picture. An undesirable scenario that could take place (and has taken place in the past) due to imprecise planning at this stage would be the following: everything would operate smoothly but, because of the overly powerful confrontation of sediment with certain points in the dam, an erosion of the structure would begin and in the not too distant future the structure could collapse.

A 3D model of the Area

Therefore, an Ofek field team operated two GPS systems that were located at a distance of up to 50 km radius from the flying aircraft. These positions sent out precise differential GPS data that was entered, by means of a special computer software program, into our products. Thus, a very precise calculation of the location of all the LIDAR screenings was achieved.

The result: Resolutions that were much higher than the anticipated resolutions

Ultimately, the client received the LIDAR products at a level of density and resolution that were much more accurate to what was requested. Here are the four types of products that have helped the client to understand topography of the designated region for the power plant’s construction:

  1. Orthophoto imagery at two different resolutions, 5 cm and 20 cm, in specific regions.
  2. DTM grid of the topography of the land surface which enables to calculate the slopes and therefore the water currents.
  3. DSM grid that provides the height model of the land cover, providing a height value to each point of the land cover surface.
  4. A photogrammetric mapping at a scale of 1:500 of the land’s surface, structures, walls, bridges, fences and all other man made elements. this product is compatible to Autocad and GIS mapping layers.

Orthophoto of the area

In the end…

The mapping materials were presented to the client and were authorized for use. The precise relief and land cover that were supplied enabled the client to plan where to locate each component to be constructed: the power plant, the dams and the drainage canals. In the very near future, the detailed planning stage of the hydroelectric power plant will begin and the client can rest assured with regard to the calculation of the amounts of water flow and the stability of the structures for many years to come.

Zambezi River Basin Mapping Predicts Floods and Improves Water Management

In 2016 Zambia needed precise flood prediction along the mighty Zambezi River basin, as well as analysis of the possibilities to construct dams along the river trail and improve water supply and water management in the country.

It was a great opportunity for Ofek’s international team to experience the positive impact of its activities on the well-being of river side communities in addition to facilitating the improvement of water management and use for the welfare of the country as a whole.

The project delivers two major outcomes:

1.Water management of one of the largest river basins in the world – The Zambezi River.

2.Creation of Flood hazard maps and Geo-Information database for the development of hydraulic models to predict floods and mitigate flood hazards.

As part of the 12,000 km2 project, our 3D division created a beautiful 3D model which shows a precise and detailed topographical information of the current state of the world renowned Landmark: The Victoria Falls.

Click on the picture below and enjoy an interactive 3D model of the Falls:

Victoria Falls: An Interactive 3D Modelling

To obtain the geographic information data required for the project, Ofek launched an aerial survey campaign with an airborne Lidar system and aerial mapping camera, producing an accurate topographic 3D model of the current state of the river basin, including high-resolution Orthophoto map.

DTM Layer: one of the Lidar outcomes

See for yourself..  Have fun!

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Aerial mapping of Cyprus presents a new opportunity to increase State revenues by collecting municipal rates

Image

The Government of Cyprus could, at last, breathe more easily. The country received financial assistance from the European Union, and in a controversial move, also from two major Cyprus banks, which it compelled to invest in the country. Thus, overnight, without being consulted or agreeing to it, major depositors in the two banks became its investors. Those investors, most of them seasoned businessmen, began to apply intense pressure on Government Ministries, because they only have one concern: “this investment must be worthwhile for us!”

Following the country’s financial breakdown, The Government of Cyprus tasked its various government branches with an urgent assignment: to find creative ways to significantly and rapidly increase government revenue.

The Cyprus Ministry of the Interior decided to assist this effort by providing the Government with the opportunity to increase Municipal Taxes collection. For this purpose there was a requirement to conduct a precise measurement of all areas and buildings on the island and to classify their use, which was not fully done before. The Ministry decided to create such a national database by means of high accuracy aerial photography survey, photogrammetric mapping and advanced LIDAR scans (use of aerial-borne pulsed laser to precisely measure ground ranges).  Such precise mapping will enable to calculate and determine the amount of municipal taxes that could be levied on a total area of 6,200 square kilometers, containing about 500,000 buildings.

The Cyprus Government Office of Surveys published a tender to locate the most suitable company to implement the solution proposed by the Ministry. “Ofek Aerial Photography” won the tender and began to implement the project.

The Mission: Little piece of heaven to expose

Cyprus Here We Come

In order to map the entire island and respond to the requirements of the Ministry, it was necessary to create 3 different flight deliverables:

  1. Vertical aerial photography (raw material for photogrammetric mapping) and generation of orthophotos (distortion-free vertical photography), and four-directional diagonal aerial photography (facilitating 3D measurement of every building on the island).
  2. Mapping of buildings.
  3. Production of DTM and DSM layers (height models of the topography and land cover, respectively.

The Geographical data was produced from two different flight types. The first type is implemented using a camera capable of scanning the area and providing the vertical and diagonal response, from 4 different aerial directions (a kind of beautiful interwoven photograph). The second type of flight is that of the LIDAR system that has the capability to cover the island with a cloud of laser points and to generate the layers of data required for the project.

The Airplanes results: Horizontal and LIDAR photographs

The flights planning stage had to take into consideration particulars such as, the location of the airfield, the location of regions with flight restrictions and locations with topographical fluctuations that affect the desired resolution. After approval of the flight plans from the Aviation Authorities of Cyprus, two Ofek aircrafts took off to Cyprus for the mission.

Problems Soon Appeared

Even at the planning stage a significant obstacle came to light: Greek Cyprus is separated from Turkish Cyprus, by a demilitarized, no-fly zone, under supervision of the United Nations. To obtain full area coverage it was necessary to fly in close proximity to the demilitarized zone. The Turkish authorities do not like the Greek Cypriots to photograph over the Turkish Cyprus borders, so much so that they might send up warplanes in response to such activity. Despite coordination of activities with the Cypriot Air Force, the United Nations and the Turks – there was concern regarding approaching this problematic area.

This is where Ofek’s A3 Camera System came to use. It was able to provide the appropriate solution to the problem. The A3 is an aerial photography system excelling in photography at great distances, far beyond the flight area. Thanks to the capabilities of the camera and ground measuring implemented close to the demilitarized zone, the coverage and mapping of the problematic and sensitive area was implemented in full.

Ortophoto from A3 camera

Cyprus is “On the Map”

500,000 buildings were exposed in their full glory in MultiVision, photogrammetric software developed by Ofek, capable of taking the diagonal photographs from four directions and present a 3D image that facilitates precise measurement – size of the roof, size of the garden, areas of covered patios, new “extensions” to buildings, building violations and more. It was now possible to begin to take decisions regarding the levying of municipal tax!

What’s the real size? Multivision gives the info!

As shown in the following video, here are DTM and DSM layers which create beautiful 3d modeling:

The author is Noam Schwartz, Manager of the Mapping Department at Ofek Aerial Photography