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3D goes global with eeGeo!

By [email protected] - 7th January 2016 - 17:37

Over the past five years, Dundee-based eeGeo has been quietly exploiting video gaming tools and techniques to develop a cloud-based SaaS platform that takes spatially-accurate 3D mapping to new levels of realism. With the company ( now bringing its offering to market, GeoConnexion met up with CEO, Ian Hetherington, and CCO, Jeremy Copp, to find out more.

GeoConnexion (Geo): What was the thinking behind eeGeo?

Ian Hetherington (IR): Rather like Ordnance Survey’s Minecraft GB map, the idea was to bring gaming into the real world, with users able to explore and interact with computer-generated landscapes. Along the way, we extended the work to incorporate spatially-accurate buildings and other features and enable seamless navigation between exteriors and interiors – in short, a representation of the real world in 3D … and on a global scale.

Geo: Presumably this opened-up possibilities way beyond video gaming?

IR: Indeed yes. Unlike an app, building a platform is a major undertaking and we’ve sunk around £12 million of VC and private funding into its development so far. The resulting platform and SDK positions it firmly in the Enterprise space for exploitation in applications and services that span tourism, utility and communications network operations, retail, property, smart cities and more.

Geo: What sort of territorial coverage are you currently able to offer?

IR: We’ve mapped and modelled the whole of the UK, the United States and Japan, so we feel the time is now ripe to officially launch the product.

Geo: And you’ve been quietly deploying and testing it out over the past two years?

IR: Quietly perhaps, but in a sizeable way. For example, it forms the basis of NTT DoCoMo’s 3D mapping app for iOS and Android cellphones and tablets. This is currently delivering 3D maps, routing, local search information and content to some four million Japanese subscribers. Working with developer ZENRIN DataCom, it took us less than a couple of months to ‘build’ the whole of Japan. Other blue chip customers employing the platform include Cisco Systems, Samsung and Arup, among others.

Geo: How does the service work in practice?

Jeremy Copp (JC): The eeGeo platform is hosted by Amazon Web Services which employs its CloudFront network to serve content in real-time. And despite the workload this entails – some 4.5 million downloads to date - we haven’t experienced a single outage. Internally, we handle everything from 3D mapping, modelling and graphic design to server side scripting, as well as writing embedded C extensions for mobile devices. We can also provide an SDK with the source code and all the tools needed for custom cross-platform development.

What the customer gets is full control of a georeferenced 3D model at a nation-wide scale, complete with terrain, buildings and landscape features, plus the ability to add Points of Interest; to animate objects in response to real-time events; to introduce lighting conditions and weather effects, and to populate and overlay the model with many and varied datasets. The same visualisation capability is available, regardless of whether the model is explored from an exterior or interior viewpoint. So as an orientation tool for, say, a visitor guide, it allows end users to understand where they are and where they are going in response to real landmarks. A novel use in this context is the ability to embed a story or guided tour which then ‘drives’ the 3D map.

Geo: What data and content are you employing to deliver the service?

IR: At the reference level, we are using TomTom, Ordnance Survey, ZENRIN, NASA, and OpenStreetMap geodata, But the way our pipeline works is that everything in the world is an object, whether a road, building, tree or underground sewer. If the data is available, we can ingest it, crunch it, put it in the cloud and stream it to devices.

The end goal is always the same: to make the model engaging to the point where end users just love to touch and play with it as they go about their daily business. In this sense, the commercial value of the platform becomes apparent, almost without people realising it, and we’re addressing new vertical market opportunities almost on a daily basis.

Geo: Next stop the world in 3D?

IR: Technically-speaking yes. The platform is infinitely scalable and, should the need arise, it’s simply a question of pressing the ‘build’ button, waiting a month or so, spinning-up 10,000 CPUs in the Amazon cloud to chew on the data, and ending up with a resident database on a global scale. But we’re a small team – just 30 people – and our real forte at the moment is our real forte at the moment is the ability to … something that is unusual in the mapping space.

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