It’s Tuesday morning and 20 people are gathered around a table, facing a large screen. What they are looking at is a 3D model of the new subway line in Stockholm, a massive and very complex project. They are all specialists with different expertise and they are discussing the location of a new emergency exit to the station “Odenplan”, in the centre of Sweden’s capital.
The Virtual Reality (VR) specialist then turns the model around to figure out whether the suggested locations might collide with the groundwork of the 110-year-old Gustaf Vasa church. He tags the issues on the screen so that immediately after the meeting, each assigned team member can take a closer look and propose a solution.
Thanks to 3D modelling and Virtual Reality, WSP’s team in Sweden can work within a synchronized multidisciplinary framework, and review adjustments and possible solutions with speed and effectiveness.
Integrating the latest technology solutions at work is standard practice in Sweden. With a population of less than 10 million people, the Nordic country has made innovation a driving force behind its global success. Stockholm is even competing against Silicon Valley as a dreamland for startups within certain IT-based disciplines.
What About Unicorns?
Sweden has a rich history of global business successes. Think of ABB, Electrolux, Sandvik, Atlas Copco, Volvo, Ikea, Ericsson. Now, the same is happening to tech companies and startups, which are turning their industries upside down through technological breakthroughs and innovative solutions.
Spotify (music streaming), Skype (online calling and video), Mojang (gaming) or Candy Crush (gaming) are all Swedish unicorns, a name given to start-ups worth more than a billion dollars.
What is the secret? Well, it is a mix of cultural traits, free enterprise and government initiatives. Innovation and exports have been in Sweden’s DNA for a long time, and the government subsidized home PC purchases in the 1990’s and invested massively in IT and fiber-optic networks. It is also easy to start a new business in Sweden; it takes less than a week and doesn’t require a lot of capital.
Others also point out to broader incentives, like free education that allows students to pursuit personal project, or a good safety net that provide for a stress-free environment. All these led to the creation of a tight-knit startup community, ready to take on the world.
Not everybody knows that the global standards for mobile telephony were all born in the Nordics, in an unholy alliance between Ericsson and Nokia.
Mobile Mapping in Singapore
What WSP in Sweden did was use this innovative and tech savvy mindset to tackle challenging projects, like carrying out the condition assessment of the entire Rapid Transit System (RTS) infrastructure in Singapore.
With 144 stations, 6 very large depots and 360+ kilometers of tracks, tunnels and viaducts, it represents the infrastructural backbone of the public transport system in Singapore. The client also wanted us to predict asset deterioration and recommend investment strategies for the future.
For this project, WSP Sweden developed unique data gathering methods, based on a version of the Mobile Mapping GeotrackerTM, which had been developed for successful asset inventory projects on Sweden’s highways and in the Stockholm Metro. That project carried out a full-scale data gathering and implementation of an Asset Inventory System, which was integrated with photography and mapping services.
This technology has been further developed and adapted to the specific conditions of the Singapore rail network resulting in a specifically designed road – rail machine based on an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). The method enables fast track scanning, geographic positioning and systematic gathering of infrastructural information at speeds of 15 km/h.
The Geotracker vehicle is equipped with dual 360-degree cameras and laser scanners (LiDAR), photographing and measuring the infrastructure in three dimensions down to millimeter-accuracy. Zoom-in and detailed views are available at the tip of the finger of the image analyst. The vehicle is further equipped with special track view cameras and third rail cameras, capturing the minute details of the track and power transmission systems.
In places where the Geotracker is not used, data is collected and assessed using location information preloaded iPads, for example when assessing rooms in MRT stations. Drones are also used for photography in hard to reach elevated places.
Modern technology (3D modelling, Mobile Mapping, drone stereo photography, iPad data gathering, cloud information storage, etc.) enables clients to control and optimize future maintenance as well as future investments.
When so much data and so many measurements are being done simultaneously, traditional inspections can be drastically limited, enabling a focus on maintenance activity where it is actually needed.
It’s no magic, Sweden’s unicorn background can help in saving both time and money.
True to this tradition, WSP Sweden leads the way in mobile data gathering in transportation systems.
This article was written with insights from Sara Hederos, Mats Önner, Fredrik Stenström and Tom Litzén and in collaboration with Sylvie Msellati and Anna Allert.
Photo Geotracker: Linus Myrbäck.