LARA: A location-based and augmented reality assistive system for underground utilities’ networks through GNSS

LARA: A location-based and augmented reality assistive system for underground utilities’ networks through GNSS
Efstratios Stylianidis, Elena Valari, Kostas Smagas, Alain Pagani, Jose Henriques, Alejandro Garcia, Elisa Jimeno, Ivan Carillo, Petros Patias, Charalampos Georgiadis, Anastasis Kounoudes, Konstantinos Michail
Proceedings of the International Conference on Virtual System and Multimedia International Conference on Virtual System and Multimedia (VSMM-16)

Abstract:
In everyday life, in advance to an excavation project, there is an actual prerequisite and a by regulation in many countries, to pinpoint all the underground utilities located in the project’s area. In addition, it is so crucial for the clients, the public and private utilities, to have a real representation of the water, electricity, gas, sewerage, etc. underground networks. As the practice shows, there is a constant and growing demand for the accurate positioning of the underground utilities in order to facilitate both the utilities’ and the construction companies avoid damages to the existing infrastructure. Such a damage may cause a loss of thousands of euros. It is true that many problems may arise when the digging machine operator starts digging the ground, but the most dangerous is the gas line explosions, fires or even electrocution in electric lines, water lines bursts, etc. This can be very dangerous for all the field workers in the project’s area but also for the property owners; even for the people just passing nearby the area. At the same time, such a development is extremely costly either for the public or the private company or for both. For years now there is a tangible market request for solutions that are able to effectively handle underground utilities’ geospatial data and support the missions of utilities and construction companies in the real working environment. Innovative and edge technologies such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), sensors, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geodatabases, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) can be used for monitoring, documenting and managing the utility-based geospatial and other data. In addition to this, these technologies are able to offer an intuitive 3D augmented visualization and navigation/positioning environment that can support anyone interested in the field. LARA project, a H2020 co-funded project by the European Commission, eavesdrops these market needs and now is developing a software and hardware-based system called LARA. Understanding the real market necessities of the utilities and construction players, a group of partners, from academia and research, SMEs and end users, is implementing this multidisciplinary project. Within LARA project, the consortium partners are evolving a mobile (tablet) device to support the utility management professionals and workers on the field and under real conditions. The LARA hand-held and mobile device is incorporating state-of-the-art technologies in the domain of positioning and sensors (GNSS), AR and 3D GIS geo-databases. The vision of LARA system is to guide the utility field workers in their daily business; to help them ’see’ beneath the ground by rendering the complexity of the 3D models of the underground grid such as water, gas, sewerage and electricity. The notion is to integrate the novel components of existing technologies so as to develop an integrated navigation/positioning and information system which coordinates GNSS, AR, 3D GIS and geodatabases on a mobile platform for monitoring, documenting and managing utility infrastructures on-site. In practice, the first prototype is ready and the forthcoming period it will be tested in the real environment. The ability and profits from the LARA system use, will be tested in two case studies scheduled during project lifetime. The two pilot applications are scheduled in Kozani (Greece) and the United Kingdom (Birmingham) with various underground utilities. The methodology for system testing has already been defined while the first results from the pilot application (Kozani, Greece) are coming the forthcoming period.