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WSP delivers surveying and mapping solutions for the entire project lifecycle with speed and certainty. Our crews are first on the ground supporting some of the largest projects in Canada. Regardless of the project size or location, we are there, from field to finish.


Geospatial Data: Inspiring Innovation

September 07, 2016

The business of Geomatics has undergone continuous evolution to get to where it is today. The tools and technologies used are far more sophisticated digitally than what was used in the past. While many now think of Geomatics as a mature and well established profession, the reality is it is still evolving, perhaps faster now than ever before. Over the past couple of decades, the business and science of Geomatics has collided with modern digital technology and information and is one of the largest sources of “Big Data” on engineering projects. It is through the production and delivery of these large volumes of highly precise and detailed spatial information that Geomatics produces opportunities for innovation within the broader engineering project life cycle.


In mapping out the flow of Spatial Data across the engineering project life cycle we can better understand the Spatial Data Value Chain and see how innovation is enabled.

Geomatics data through the engineering project life cycle. Click image to enlarge.

Digital technology has provided Geomatics professionals with new tools that produce new types of data and streamlined delivery channels that can reach an unprecedented number of stakeholders, without the need for those stakeholders to be technical experts in spatial information or have special software and tools. Geomatics professionals, as the creators of this data, remain involved with spatial information long after data is collected in the field. The often large and technical nature of modern Spatial Data also requires a unique set of skills and understanding of the extracted data so that it is leveraged to its fullest extent. The Spatial Data experts in Geomatics have the unique skills required to assist in the processes whereby Spatial Data is transformed into information and intelligence that supports informed decision making throughout the entire project life cycle.

Digital delivery mechanisms like GIS and web portals provide new ways for Spatial Data to be accessed, analyzed and combined with non-spatial information, producing new levels of insight and understanding. In an era where engineering projects face increasing risk mitigation pressure from a multitude of angles (cost overruns, scope creep, timelines, health, safety and the environment), the ability of Geomatics to transform Spatial Data into business intelligence is a valuable resource on all projects.

The following examples provide some insight on modern digital Geomatics technologies and tools currently available within the WSP Geomatics group. These examples demonstrate how new types of spatial data are being used to support innovation in engineering workflows within some of the different sectors that WSP serves.


GIS: Electric Utilities & Smart Grids

The smart grid is all about situation awareness and effective anticipation of and response to events that might disrupt the performance of the power grid. Since spatial data underlies everything an electric utility does, GIS is the only foundational view that can potentially link every operational activity of an electric utility including design and construction, asset management, workforce management, and outage management as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management systems (DMSs), renewables, and strategy planning.” - Navigant Research 

WSP Geomatics has an award-winning GIS (geographic information system) team that can provide effective solutions for obtaining, analyzing, managing and distributing spatial data in support of solving engineering problems.


UAVS: Topographic Surveys & Volume Calculations

Conducting topographic surveys and calculating volumes used to be intensive and manual hands-on field process involving several measurements, evenly spaced grids and numerous measurements. In many cases, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, also referred to as drones) can now be used as an alternative to quickly map an area. The magic really happens in the office: using specialized software tools and photogrammetry techniques, a much more detailed model of the terrain can be produced from overlapping aerial images. The same data can then be used to extract very accurate dimensions and volumes for virtually any feature on the ground. 3D models of features, buildings and structures can also be created using the overlapping images. These models can then be distributed to a wide audience using web based portals and GIS or CAD platforms.

Mapping terrain detail and calculating stockpile volumes from UAV data

WSP Geomatics has integrated the use of UAVs into day-to-day operations. We routinely assess the use of UAVs on survey work as a more efficient tool that can provide much more detailed information than traditional survey techniques in some situations.


Mobile Mapping: Transportation

Mobile mapping involves the use of sophisticated 360° high resolution optical camera systems in combination with LiDAR data acquisition sensors that can be mounted on almost any type of vehicle. Terabytes of high resolution, high precision data can be collected rapidly with mobile mapping platforms. Like UAV data, the magic with mobile mapping data happens in the office when the raw data is processed. Advanced Geomatics technology uses sophisticated software to process the imagery and LiDAR data and assemble it into a virtual desktop based on the real world. Any number of features on the ground can then be captured and recorded from the data and stored in GIS and/or CAD-compatible formats for use in other workflows and/or distribution to wider user groups through web portals and GIS. Comprehensive and detailed asset management databases are often created from mobile mapping datasets.

WSP Geomatics has conducted mobile mapping surveys for various clients and through collaboration with colleagues in Sweden, has access to specialized equipment and workflows that have been developed for mapping both roadway and rail-related infrastructure and creating comprehensive, geospatial asset databases.

WSP’s Mobile Mapping Unit in Sweden

Building a transportation asset GIS database from mobile mapping data

3D Laser Scanning: Building Sustainability

Using precision tripod mounted laser scanners, any building or structure can be mapped to mm accuracies. The data is collected completely remotely without the need to physically touch anything. From a safety perspective, this can be very effective in mitigating risk as the mapping is done without the need to climb and take measurements by hand. With a laser that measures millions of points, 3D Scan data can then be integrated with other information in CAD, GIS and web platforms where it can be used by engineers make informed decisions. The data can also be integrated into the engineering design workflow to identify design conflicts and to test design feature ideas.

3D Laser scan inside an industrial building

WSP Geomatics has conducted numerous 3D laser scans on a variety of man-made and natural features and can provide 3D laser scanning services. The data from 3D laser scans has been used by engineers to help with decision making throughout project life cycles in nearly every engineering sector including buildings, transportation, infrastructure, rails, aviation, energy, utilities and oil and gas.


Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR): Rail

WSP Geomatics is currently conducting Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) studies in different rail corridors:

Mapping the location of subsurface features that were detected with Ground Penetrating Radar

The GPR data will provide design engineers with preliminary insight on the location and presence of infrastructure buried beneath the ground in the planned construction zone. This data will be used in the design workflow to identify areas of concern for foundation designs where further excavation and confirmation of underground utilities and infrastructure will be required prior to the start of construction. The GPR data will also be loaded into a web GIS portal to provide the many different engineering disciplines and teams that would be involved in a rails project with easy web based access to this information. This will enable all project stakeholders to make more informed and cross-disciplinary collaborative decisions as they progress through the engineering design workflow and planning processes.

WSP Geomatics regularly conducts GPR surveys in support of a wide range of engineering workflows for clients from a wide range of sectors including rails, utilities, pipeline companies, transportation and infrastructure.

Within the WSP Geomatics group there are geospatial data experts available to assist engineering projects across the globe. The convergence of traditional survey techniques and Geomatics knowledge and tools with digital technologies, the internet and integrated IT systems provides access for spatial data driven, leading edge innovative solutions. Leveraging geospatial data throughout the engineering project life cycle will facilitate innovation, increase competitiveness and improve upon what we are all able to offer.