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|  MapXact (VolkerWessels)

For decades, ground radar has shown great promise when mapping subsurface infrastructure to prevent damage to cables and pipes during excavation. Interpreting these radar images, however, is such a time-consuming exercise that MapXact almost stopped using ground radar altogether. This all changed once they discovered the power of Digital Inspectors and how it could be used to augment their workflow.

|  Challenge Statement

Time is a critical element in exploration and development projects. Operators need information derived from data to allow decisions to be made on time. Often the extent and quality of the available information is constrained due to time pressures on the team conducting the geological analysis, which can lead to decisions being taken with imperfect information. At best this is frustrating, but in worst case it can lead to a catastrophic result, either from a safety or economic perspective.

Once a MapXact employee has spent hours driving a ground radar scanner over a site they will typically spend up to three days interpreting the images, before they can see exactly where cables and pipes are running. Tens of thousands of low definition radar images must be viewed to distinguish cables and pipes from disturbances caused by stones, tree roots and other materials. While an expert can review an image relatively quickly, the huge quantity of images means it takes days to prepare the overview map in preparation for excavation.

MapXact’s management team searched extensively for a solution that could effectively interpret their images. Even in India, known for outsourcing labor-intensive work from the West, they were unable to find the required level of knowledge and capacity for this task. MapXact considered stopping using ground radar altogether until it started talking to companies active in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. After speaking with several parties it selected BRAINCREATORS because of that company’s Digital Inspectors on the BRAINCREATORS AI Platform.


|  Approach

According to MapXact’s Managing Director, Gerben Roseboom, BRAINCREATORS turns the training into a type of memory game. “The first time you scan the images collected from the ground radar on the platform, you have to validate maybe a thousand images. Digital Inspectors provide two options: do I see this, or that? The expert has to make a choice and thus tells the computer step-by-step what he sees and how the image should be interpreted.” The Digital Inspector will then base its future conclusions on this interpretation. As a result, the expert will be presented with a hundred images next time, in a comparable environment with similar soil condition, and perhaps only ten the next.


“The speed at which experts can review the data in the BRAINCREATORS Platform is incredible,” according to Roseboom. “At MapXact they now have a map back at the office within five minutes of the completion of the field research. This map is equally reliable and accurate as the map that used to take three days to complete depending on the type of soil, the amount of cables and the situation of the surface. MapXact employees can now be deployed to more productive tasks including further optimization of the system.


|  Ground Penetrating Radar

  • GPR is a nondestructive technique
  • Send radio energy pulses into the surface and record objects response/reflection
  • Main applications in construction, military, environment and archaeology

|  Way of working

“Intelligent automation for asset monitoring with Digital Inspectors”

The BrainCreators team first ingest MapXact’s data in BRAINCREATORS AI Platform to visualize the ground radar images collected by technicians in the field. Next, ground radar domain experts use BrainMatter to annotate a large number of regions in each image to distinguish the various underground assets MapXact wants to detect. These assets include pipes that may be present at the excavation site including electricity, gas, and water. BRAINCREATORS then exploits the domain experts’ knowledge to train state-of-the-art Digital Inspectors to automate their decision making in detecting various pipe assets. These Digital Inspectors are integrated into MapXact’s workflow to enable automatic detection when a new site is scanned, greatly increasing the efficiency of the process.

|  Solution

The end product is a Digital Inspector that automatically detects various underground assets from ground radar scan images. This consolidates all data acquired throughout MapXact’s historical scans into one consistent and intuitive view for the experts to review.


Detections overview


Detection detail


Manual detection of hyperboles

  • Several hours of work
  • Subjective assessment
  • Operator fatigue

Automated Digital Inspection of hyperboles

  • A few minutes of work
  • Objective assessment
  • Continuous improvement of dataset

|  The results

  • Automatic analysis of ground radar images in minutes instead of days with higher accuracy than previous approaches
  • Transfer of MapXact know-how hyperbolic signature to the data through expert annotations
  • Remote annotation by radar experts
  • AI-assisted labeling

“The Digital Inspector, which is based on our proprietary knowledge, belongs to us and our users. Anyone can use Digital Inspectors quickly and safely to continuously add value to the business. I guarantee you: it will significantly reduce excavation damage and make the work much safer.”

- Gerben Roseboom, Managing Director, MapXact


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