Sensors for a multi purpose world - armando guevara - sensors and systems
Sensors & Systems - Sensors for a Multi-Purpose World
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Sensors for a Multi-Purpose World
Jul 15 2013 by Armando Guevara Hits: 2021
A lot has changed in the geospatial industry since I started my career back in the
early 1980s. GIS software today has a level of sophistication that we could have
only dreamed of back then. Digital technology and the Internet have transformed
how we do business and how customers utilize imagery. And the geospatial
industry has grown tremendously. Most importantly, geospatial imagery and data
is everywhere today, used in countless applications by private companies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and the public. That is deeply
rewarding to people who have devoted long careers to advancing the technology
and promoting the use of geographic information.
The world has changed a lot over the last three decades and the use of geospatial information has grown
exponentially, but in many important ways sensors have changed very little over that span of time. No,
sensor technology has not been static. There have been important advancements that make them more
powerful. But in a very fundamental way, sensors have not changed much since “E.T.” was the biggest
movie at the box office and Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” was playing non-stop on the radio: Sensors
today are predominantly monolithic, single-purpose, proprietary devices, just like they were 20-30 years
ago. That would be fine if the world we live and work in was single-purpose world, but it’s not. We live in a
multi-purpose world, and that requires a new approach.
A New Direction for Sensor Design
Our industry needs a new generation of sensors that are designed to move beyond that monolithic
approach. Some people might contend that the traditional sensors are OK as-is, arguing that the longevity
of these traditional sensors prove that they work fine and arguing that a new generation of sensors is
unnecessary. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” some might say. But the truth is that the monolithic approach
is broken and has been for a while. Companies that use the sensors have been incredibly creative in
working around the limitations of those sensors, and they have shown saint-like patient with the
frustration of working with those outdated devices.
Traditional sensors are too limited in functionality, too hard to work with, and too costly to operate and
maintain. Their design drawbacks and inflexibility impact geoimaging companies’ bottom lines every day by
imposing unnecessary hard costs, soft costs and opportunity costs. The companies that use these sensors
to collect imagery and data need better equipment in order to increase their productivity, increase their
margins and grow their businesses. And I firmly believe that our industry will not achieve its true potential
and advance the “science of where” until sensor technology evolves in a way that overcomes those
limitations and drawbacks.
The Next Generation of Sensors
Sensors & Systems - Sensors for a Multi-Purpose World
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So what are the key attributes that the next generation of sensors needs to have in order to meet the
technical and business requirements of geospatial companies for the next 10, 20 or 30 years?
Flexibility and Multi-Purpose Capabilities – As the use of geospatial data has grown, the
specifications of collection projects have grown in variety and complexity for geoimaging companies. On
a given day, the collection company often needs to do radically different projects using the same plane
or helicopter. Single-purpose sensors are an obstacle to the variety of projects they are doing, forcing
companies to do tedious and time-consuming set-ups in between flights in a business where time on the
ground is money lost. The next generation of sensors must be highly flexible, multi-purpose devices
that can easily adapt to the needs of each project.
Standards-Based Design – Traditional sensors are typically built on proprietary designs that create
interoperability issues between sensors that need to work in concert with one another. The lack of
standards-based design has also inflated maintenance and repair costs for geospatial companies who
must deal with the chaos of so many different platforms, maintenance programs, etc. Standards-based
design would dramatically simplify things and reduce costs in the process.
Oblique and 3-D Capabilities – One of the biggest market opportunities for geospatial companies
going forward will be oblique and 3-D imagery, which will require sensors designed to support those
collection capabilities and that are designed to work in sensor arrays that are integrated to deliver the
necessary precision. The next generation of sensors will be able to do ortho, multispectral, stereo,
oblique, 3D, point clouds and geoinformation product generation, all in one pass.
Miniaturization – The future of sensing will include deployment on a larger range of aircraft and
locations than in the past, and sensors will need to be optimized for rapid deployment on not only
aircraft and helicopters, but also miniaturized airborne devices and other mobile applications.
These are the key design principles that are shaping the new generation of geoimaging sensors, and they
will provide a powerful foundation for the geospatial industry as we continue to grow and as we continue to
support new applications of geographic information.
About Armando Guevara
Dr. Armando Guevara is the President and CEO of Visual Intelligence
(www.visualintell.com), which provides geoimaging solutions for airborne,
terrestrial and mobile applications including the iOne family of sensors. Prior to
Visual Intelligence, Guevara held leadership positions at many of the most
influential companies in the geospatial industry, including Esri, Intergraph and Gtt
NetCorp. He has long been a respected thought leader and technology innovator in
the geospatial industry, and he has written a number of significant papers that
have been landmarks in the industry, including: “On the Spatial Enabling of Information”, “AdaptableScalable Spatial Architectures”, “The Science of Where”, and “Geoimaging the World Online”.