BENGALURU, Karnataka — As Jaipur gears up for the state elections in Rajasthan, starting December 8, planes are criss-crossing the city taking pictures, while cars bearing sensors are gathering up data, and people toting LIDAR backpacks are taking range measurements in places where even cars can't go. It's all part of a process that started around nine months ago, to build a 3D model of Jaipur so detailed it can be used to plan out everything from road construction to firefighting, according to Om Hemrajani, Director of Genesys International, the company that's been carrying out the mapping work.
Although private companies like Google have not been allowed to make such detailed maps, citing national security, the Jaipur Development Authority has now hired companies to gather the data required to make a virtual twin of the city of Jaipur.
The Rs 200 crore project, which was earlier expected to complete by the start of 2019 has now been pushed back a few months, "because MOD [Ministry of Defence] took some time to give permission for overflights," according to Hemrajani, involves Genesys, along with Aurion Pro, which is the systems integrator which will take the data from Genesys and then integrate it into a final solution with software (called 3DEXPERIENCity) from French firm Dassault Systemes — related to, but separate from, Dassault Aviation, which is currently in the news because of the Rafale deal. Genesys had in 2013 launched its own version of Google Maps' Street View called WoNoBo, which shut down in 2016. The whole project comes under the Directorate of Information Technology and Communication (DoIT&C), Rajasthan.
Inspired by Singapore
The project's origin, Hemrajani said, lies in Singapore. "When the CM of Rajasthan [Vasundhara Raje] was on an official visit to Singapore, she was shown the 3D Experience Singapore, and saw that there could be a lot of benefit to bringing this project to India as well," said Hemrajani. "No other city will be mapped so thoroughly. We are creating a very accurate 3D model of the Jaipur Development Authority from the air, road, and backpack."
This data is then going to be ingested by Dassault, and used to create the final model, he explained.
Speaking about the model in Singapore, Bernard Charles, President and CEO of Dassault Systemes said, "we can 3D experience the city itself, to evaluate solutions, understand how it works, and understand how it can be improved."
In Singapore, the 3D experience was built with the National Research Foundation, Singapore, which explained that the 3D experience brought models and simulation from various agencies of the government on a common platform, so that all public agencies can make use of a common digital 3D model, for a range of projects such as fighting dengue, and planning solar panel distribution. In the future, the NRF suggested that data from IoT devices could be added to the model to make it even more useful.
"It's like many programs that we did in the past with industry, but it is multi-industry" added Sylvain Laurent, an executive vice president at Dassault.
Spend now, save later?
However, Apresh Dubey, System Analyst (Joint Director) DoIT&C demurred when Jaipur's 3D experience project was compared to Singapore. "3D Singapore is not a very good comparison because everything there is as per approval. So, any such activity there is easy," he said. "In India, the kind of public lifestyle and political scenario is a big challenge."
The goal of the project, Dubey explained, is to create a "virtual twin" of the city, which can be used to help government departments to do better planning and monitoring, and saving the costs of such activity.
"On whatever models you create, you can do all kinds of analysis," Dubey added. "Various government agencies will be able to visualise even under construction development to see the effect of such structures."
To carry out the mapping, Genesys is using 16 LIDAR vans, which have collected 20,000 kilometers of road data. In Old Jaipur, where cars can't go, Hemrajani explained, the company sent out people carry backpack LIDAR, ("which we also used to map the Bombay slums," Hemrajani said), and also utilised overflights to take "God view images" and aerial LIDAR.
This data can be used for various purposes, he added, such as safety and security planning, or for dispatching fire engines, where a 3D model could be useful in choosing the right vehicle.
"Right now, 2D maps are flat, but a road is not, so the length of the road versus what you see on the map will differ," added Dubey. "It can also be useful for tracking waterlogging, which can be a problem in Jaipur, which a map can not do because you can obviously just see where there is a low-lying area on the model. Or the map might show a road clear, but the model will show how the structures are on the sides."
This in turn, can be used for things such as planning a flyover. "Delhi has a lot of flyovers, Jaipur is also getting into that now," he said. "Right now, if you see a traffic problem, you will conduct a study, create a visualisation, and then a computer model to see if a flyover will help. With the 3D city model, this will become much faster and it will also save a lot of money."
Building business models on the model?
Beyond government use though, map data tends to be highly valuable for businesses too. Entire startups have been built from the ground up using data from Google Maps. The information that the Rajasthan government is collecting could well be useful for a number of purposes, and could encourage the development of startups in the city, but this doesn't seem to be on the cards.
"They are paranoid about security," said Hemrajani. "I'm not sure they will open this up to startups and so on."
Dubey struck a more cautious note, and said, "Right now we are still setting up the platform. In the future, it is possible that we will open it up as a Platform as a Service for companies, although it will have to be minus some sensitive data, at a lower resolution, for security reasons."