The Story behind GISGRO: Meet the Surveyors Who Wanted to Help Their Customers to Really Use 3D Data

Pioneers in sonar surveys of vertical structures

When you have an innovative engineer’s mind and enough courage to try things no one has done before, you can get anywhere.

Kirsi Hänninen, a civil engineer and CEO, is interviewed about the development of online 3D data platform, GISGRO. She and her colleagues in VRT Finland Ltd have been vanguards of underwater structural inspection and the first in the world to use sonar scanners for detailed inspections of vertical structures.

“From the first surveys on we had enormous difficulties in delivering huge 3D data files to our customers. The case was that our customers never saw the 3D data themselves but just sent them to some other consultant or designer”, Hänninen explains the challenges with 3D data and adds that there is more than one occasion when a client called and said that their computer just crashed trying to open the .txt file. The problem was first docked with an in-house software designed just for the visualization of the point clouds.

“The 2D visualizations helped a bit, but it’s still quite a workload to take snapshots and create the report manually with dozens of pictures. We even printed out heavy booklets of 2D pictures and sent them to customers by mail -in this era of digitalization! It is quite amazing how much 3D data is collected but how little of it is really used”, Hänninen continues.

Even though VRT’s roots are in underwater data they also perform laser and drone surveys, and discussions with colleagues have revealed that other industries have also identified similar problems. To tackle the primary challenge VRT started to develop an online software for visualizing, sharing and utilizing 3D survey data.

From paper booklets to online 3D platform

GISGRO took its first breaths almost at the same time as when web technology enabled smooth viewing of 3D data via web browsers. It was a natural decision to start to develop an online platform instead of a desktop program, because there was nothing available as such, and because the experiences with customers showed a real need for easy-to-use software.

“In Finland we have excellent education and know-how on web technology, GIS [Geographic Information Systems] and BIM [Building Information Modelling], which is one factor of our success in developing proper tools for 3D asset management. With the help of our customers from different industries we figured out some of the most critical needs of 3D data management and have solved many of them with GISGRO”, Hänninen describes.

For several years the customers of VRT have already been able to view and utilize the 3D data easily via GISGRO and the feedback has been great. The survey team has also noticed the benefits; without manual reporting, the structural inspections are much quicker to perform and the reporting time has decreased by over 60 %.

A vision for easier asset maintenance and smart use of 3D data

Hänninen has a strong background in working with BIM and her team’s vision is to bring BIM into the longest period of the structures’ lifecycle: maintenance. She explains the idea behind GISGRO: “It is common to use BIM in the construction phase, but the models are then forgotten somewhere without updating even the as-built situation. In the building’s maintenance period we get the exact up-to-date information with 3D survey, and that information needs to be genuinely available for all the necessary stakeholders. We also think that the point cloud itself should be considered as building information model; it is unnecessary to waste information by modelling while you can add attributes straight to the point cloud, for example.”

GISGRO supports uploading of datasets from different times as well as IFC-models. The comparison between data is possible so you can monitor the changes or compare the as-built situation with planning. It also contains many features designed for everyday asset management, from work orders to vessel allocation, while many more features are yet to be added. All this in easy-to-use package without any installations. “GISGRO is the first online software for 3D data which is truly helping customers in their everyday work and we are constantly working on making it even better”, Hänninen summarizes.


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Tags: Port, Surveyor
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