Leverage AR, VR, and 3D Capabilities That Transform Operations

Author: Ben Dwinal, Vice President
Geospatial solutions deliver the right tools and functionality to meet your virtual needs

Convergence needs to happen

As companies continue pushing the boundaries of innovation, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are taking off. Statista estimates that 98 million people will be using VR this year, while 23 million will begin using AR technology. By 2027? Both AR and VR are expected to have surpassed 100 million users worldwide.

This will include major business enterprises, particularly energy companies and asset-intensive industries. Combined with geospatial, AR, and VR solutions, it can seamlessly merge the physical world with digital data, including location. By overlaying location-based information with real-world objects, businesses can use locationally-aware immersive experiences to perform several tasks, from inspections to maintenance, repair, and construction. They can review, analyze, and update work orders, as well as monitor and track facilities, assets, and networks—all virtually with a 360 view.

Yet, data is the biggest hurdle to employing these solutions for many. Antiquated, incomplete, or low-resolution location and tabular information bog down AR and VR adoption. It introduces risk and reduces efficacy. And the cost of acquisition for critical infrastructure using surveys or remote sensing is often just too high.

The AR/VR data problem can be resolved by embracing geospatial solutions and easy-to-acquire terrestrial photos or video. GIS can deliver high-quality data that fuels business-related virtual environments. Companies can use geospatial tools, augmented with AI-related technologies, to capture, manipulate, and maintain information used for launching VR solutions.

Data matters more than ever for AR/VR and 3D

The benefits of AR and VR for businesses, particularly with assets and field crews, abound. While energy companies deal with increased demand and rising inflation, combined with net zero goals and distributed energy resources, they are turning to digital solutions to lower costs and increase productivity. This includes reducing site visits, which invariably involve labor and fuel costs.

Moreover, organizations are always looking to reduce risk, particularly regarding safety issues related to potentially dangerous gas and electric facility visits. Rather than continuously sending crews to sites to review or remeasure assets and facilities, companies will often rely on older information stored in traditional databases, CAD drawings, or internal employee knowledge because remeasure costs and time can be prohibitive.

Technicians performing as-built and new construction data entry often try to reconcile the paper-based design and pre-construction survey notes they take to the field with the reality of the environment around them. For example, when they get to a new job site, they discover previously unobserved obstacles, such as objects, vegetation growth, or debris. This leads to extended work orders, additional rework, and less-than-accurate decisions.

Utilities need an accurate view of related location, asset, and facility data across service territories, even in remote locations. This includes variables such as resource or equipment make, model, serial number, pressure or voltage of throughput, and x/y/z location. And that’s where geospatial solutions can help.

GIS tools and 3D mapping can be used to view highly locationally aware data in AR and VR environments. It provides the foundation to build better data—and supplant incomplete or inaccurate location data—that prevents AR and VR solutions from working. Geospatial-based solutions supply data management, enrichment, and capture capabilities at relatively low costs and high speeds.

Companies can connect paper-based surveys to design 3D structures and create a digital version of the work as a 3D model. Rather than relying on the traditional boots-on-the-ground work orders—always sending people onsite to facilities to capture data for equipment location, status, measurements, serial numbers, etc.—companies can augment staff with AR and VR to carry out tasks virtually in the office as well as in the field.

Geospatial solutions deliver better AR/VR and 3D

GIS-powered immersive experiences begin with data capture and modeling. This can involve specialized, unmounted cameras that allow staff to quickly secure high-quality, locationally accurate terrestrial photos and imagery processed into a 3D mesh that can be viewed in VR solutions. Companies can also employ computer vision (CV) to automate the identification and extraction of real-world assets to insert into your GIS, improving data quality and completeness, including attribution such as a serial number or precise pipe length.

Newly generated data can be merged with existing data to enhance the company’s understanding of its assets and their work to complete. These new data sets will be 3D enabled, which can include:

  1. z-value for GIS records
  2. 3D rendering of assets and designs to help people visualize in-field or in back-office
  3. Overlays of designs with point cloud renderings or real-time image capture

Fuelled with high-quality data, you can deploy a spatially-enabled AR/VR solution for your workforce, planners, designers, and engineers. The solution supplies better tools to do maintenance planning, retro design work in place, and equipment assessments that may need to be upgraded. For example, before heading out to carry out a work order, personnel can use VR viewing to check bolts or flange measurements or ensure they have the connected equipment and devices appropriately designed.

It helps reduce the rework and revisits staff have at a job site for a work order. You have the best available information upfront during planning that mimics the real-world facilities and assets you have in the field.

Users can access the solution via the web from their desktop or mobile device, as well as VPN into the company network before they head out to their work locations for the day to get a quick view of what’s on the ground to ensure they have everything they need.

For example, you could have a technician begin the day by viewing assigned work orders and looking at a 3D model of assets. They can view and understand where the work order asset is (perhaps in tight quarters, up against a concrete wall) and decide if it needs some unique tool or equipment to repair. In addition, they can use AR/VR to understand the conditions on the ground before leaving their home or office.

Field teams gain greater efficiency using better intelligence on assets and locations before getting to the inspection or maintenance site. And it ensures reduced rework. It makes teams safer by reducing facility visits and increasing regulatory compliance with more accurate and complete data sets.

With GIS-enabled AR/VR/3D, companies gain:

  1. Remote capabilities for inspections, maintenance, and construction
  2. Increased design, engineering, and field efficiency
  3. Improved safety and compliance
  4. Lower costs, fewer truck rolls, and reduced emissions

Leverage innovation combined with experience

Locana, a TRC company, can help companies looking to implement AR, VR, and 3D solutions in their organization. Locana has the geospatial and technology expertise combined with real-world experience to deliver a tailored solution.

Locana has served utility, government, telecommunications, oil and gas, and infrastructure clients worldwide. With world-class experts in IT/OT, GIS, AI, ML, CV, cloud, and other technologies, Locana maintains an in-depth understanding of how to build exemplary architecture, integrations, models, and prompts to ensure security, accessibility, adaptability, and more.

By adhering to a listen-first model that includes open communication and collaboration through all stages of the project lifecycle, Locana works diligently to ensure projects deliver on time and budget, with a rapid return on value.

By partnering with Locana, you gain:

  • World-class geospatial and technology knowledge
  • Proven AR/VR/3D data techniques
  • A track record of successful client projects
  • Full transparency and communication
  • Adoption and post-deployment maintenance best practices

Make your virtual worlds a reality

Trying to build AR and VR solutions using 2D maps of facilities doesn’t work. Trying to capture the right kind of data with drones or aerial sensors is expensive using traditional mounted, survey-grade sensors. Instead, companies need the ability to map and manage 3D assets using geospatial tools and technologies.

With GIS technology and advanced modeling that leverages CV and ML, organizations can generate 3D analysis environments that provide accuracy and insight. Organizations can perform tasks remotely in a VR/AR experience that overlays information and objects in the real world. Field and facility crews can review, compare, and analyze assets, resources, work orders, and terrain, reducing truck rolls and increasing performance.


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