Augview: Making the Invisible, Visible

Augview, an augmented reality software company was formed after noticing a disconnect in the market. Despite a large number of the workforce carrying mobile devices for communication purposes, these devices were not being used to improve the productivity of field operatives working outside on location.

Businesses relying on geo-spatial information were, and to a large part still are, using old paperbased information when it comes to working on location, such as installing new infrastructure or maintaining utility network. They are not taking advantage of the smart mobile devices that their workforce already carry.

After much research and leveraging the founder’s in-depth knowledge of surveying and GIS systems, the company developed a new augmented reality GIS product. This effectively shifts access to digital GIS information from solely an office workstation environment into something much more agile and portable; smartphone and tablet computing. This shift coincided with the rapid development of the functional capability of mobile devices.

An AR based Solution for Businesses 

Augview is a downloadable application that enables utility and construction workers to view hidden underground assets or to-be-built assets, as a dynamic 3D model, on tablets, smartphones and AR (augmented reality) glasses, essentially making the invisible, visible. This discontinuous technology also enables civil engineering & design consultants and local government planners to view proposed constructions on location before committing to build.

Augview works by pulling asset data from both public and proprietary GIS databases, to create a dynamic 3D model of the network on-the-fly, based on the GPS location of the user. It then displays the model in the camera mode of handheld mobile devices, both iOS and Android. As the user moves around, so the model moves with them. Even when the GPS signal is lost, Augview’s surface tacking feature will enable the use to know where they are. Together with its multiple data capture and edit features, Augview can also be used to keep asset databases accurately updated in a timely and efficient manner.

How it was Developed? 

Development of Augview was started as far back as 2012, when its Founder and CEO, Mike Bundock observed subcontractors in hard hats and hi-vis jackets staring at maps and bits of paper, scratching their heads trying to work out where they were standing and where to dig. It turns out that they were working for a local utility and they were standing 200 metres from where they were supposed to start excavating.

The Augview product was developed to address this problem and an early version was released on to the market as early as 2014. However, arguably this release was premature. The hardware devices available at the time did not have the necessary GPS and orientation capabilities built in, to allow the software to function to its potential.

Throughout the journey the company also learnt that early adoption of the technology was driven more by a different target audience to that originally intended. While the utility and construction sector are now beginning to wake up to the benefits of AR technology, they were not the first to start embracing it. Augview initially gained more traction in unexpected sectors such as GIS consultancy and design companies, seeking to gain a competitive edge in their respective markets.

Another feature of the journey is the realisation that many organisations possess data but due to the proprietary nature of their databases, have difficulty doing anything with it. Therefore, Augview has been able to offer additional services in the form of data extract and data translation that complement the core Augview product.

Being Disruptive 

Augview completely leverages enterprise mobility. Most field workers out on location carry a mobile device which is suitable for using Augview. However, one of the reasons for the slower adoption rate amongst the utility and construction sectors in some countries is their current reliance on dial-before-youdig service. Technically, Augview competes head on with this service and in the long run will render it redundant. So, for this particular market sector, Augview is completely disruptive.

Customer-centric Approach 

The company believes that the best way to improve its quality is to ask for customer feedback and to act on it. Once it has made an improvement or added a feature, the best person to test the change is the least technical person in the organization. If it works for them, it will usually work for anybody.

Another key approach is to listen to, and understand, what prospect customers are saying about the problems they are trying to address in their own business. This has led to a number of new ways to configure data in Augview. For example, as a result of enquiries from the open-cast mining sector, Augview can now read their data and represent it in AR in a way that is meaningful and useful to those working on location on the mines.

Finally, it has been important that Augview remains a flexible product, adaptable to the needs of different customers and their data strategies. In this regard, Augview has been designed to read from multiple types of published data, both from proprietary and publicly accessible databases.

Augmented Future 

According to Augview, the single biggest event which will encourage mass adoption of AR in the industry will be launch of user-friendly augmented reality goggles. These devices will allow the users to experience applications like Augview with their hands free and remove the need for smart phones and tablets. Augview technology has already been configured with these devices in mind and the company anticipates that appropriate devices will be available in the market by 2020. Just recently Apple insiders have suggested a launch as early as late 2019.

This will result in shifting AR technology usage beyond just the innovators and early adopters, and into the hands of the majority of construction and utility organizations. Therefore, Augview sees significant growth potential over the next four years.