‘There is a need to educate the Middle East geospatial market’

‘There is a need to educate the Middle East geospatial market’

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Louis Darko, Sambus Geospatial, Ghana
Dr. Mohamed MR Mostafa
President and CTO, Navmatica, Dubai

Since its inception in 2003, Navmatica has been offering quality geospatial engineering consultancy services to its clients across North America, Europe and the Middle East. Dr. Mohamed MR Mostafa, President and CTO tell us about the organisation, its current projects and more…

Please tell us about Navmatica and its activities.

Navmatica was established in 2003 in Toronto, Canada with the aim of providing geospatial engineering consultancy services to its clients in order to empower them with the know-how to develop new procedures, new workflows, new frameworks and new systems in order to give them an edge and do their business in a better, more efficient, more productive and faster way. What helped us achieve our target of offering quality geospatial consultancy service to our clients was our experience that we had built through prior consulting work with different scientific organisations in the western world, such as the ASPRS (American Society of Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing), the FIG (International Federation of Surveyors), the IAG (International Association of Geodesy) and the ISPRS (International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing). Through our wide network, created over time through working with these organisations, Navmatica had access to people around the world in the domain and could build up its clientele and delivered a number of empowering technologies in the form of software or software hardware integration. In 2009, we started to secure projects in the Middle East region. The projects started to increase gradually in the region and therefore, a decision was made to establish a branch in Dubai to better serve our clients and to effectively operate in the region. Our sole aim of opening Navmatica Middle East was to better serve our regional clients.

Navmatica offers a diverse range of services. Tell us about some of your key services and offerings.

Since its inception, Navmatica’s focus has majorly been on offering geospatial engineering consultancy services, which includes Aerial Surveys, Mobile Mapping, Photogrammetry, Laser Scanning, Geodesy etc. However, since the last few months we are preparing to come up with a full gamut of engineering consultancy services, but that is still an idea and is yet to take shape. So, as of now, we are into geospatial consultancy, but down the line we are looking to include the full range of engineering consultancy services under our purview.

Apart from your existing geographic areas of operation, do you also have plans to expand into other regions?

At present, we have offices in Canada and the UAE. As of now, we are not looking to expand into other regions but are mainly focussed on serving the market and our clients in our existing areas of operation.

Tell us something about your major ongoing/recently completed projects.

We are working on a major project for the Government of Abu Dhabi in the city of Al Ain. The project is called the Real Time Basemap Update Project. Al Ain Municipality is developing a new technology which involves collection of survey data from the field and transmitting that data back to the office through wireless means. The project helps Al Ain Municipality staff to stay in the field and receive tasks through mobile technology on their tablet computers, so that they can work seamlessly even when they are hundreds of kilometres away from the office. And once they collect the necessary information, they can process and send it back to the office instantly. At the office, there would be a manager who would control the quality of the data received from the field. Then, the manger would effectively use the data to update the existing high precision mapping products. The project started a couple of years back and we are very close to completing it. Encouraged by its success, the Government of Abu Dhabi is now considering implementing the project in the rest of the Emirate as well.

We have another ongoing project in Al Ain, which involves the acquisition of a mobile mapping system. A mobile mapping system is a vehicle with a number of sensors mounted on it including cameras, lasers, GPS, inertial, odometers, etc. All of the sensors are integrated in a way to allow drivers to drive down the road without touching any equipment while the sensors will collect data automatically. The collected data on-board the vehicle can then be downloaded into office computers. The system will give you access to data from the actual scene and thus makes it possible to build the necessary geospatial database required to create the basemap. Such a technology is absolutely necessary for the city of Al Ain due to its proximity to the Omani border which prohibits producing map updates easily from Aerial photography due to the extensive paper work needed for flying close to the Omani Border.

We are working on another project with Sharjah Municipality for aerial photography and map production. The project is progressing very well and we are now delivering mapping products such as maps, orthophotos, elevation models etc. We were awarded this project a couple of years ago by the Sharjah Directorate of Town Planning and Survey. The project involved starting with establishing a first order Geodetic Network and then acquire the aerial photography for mapping purposes. We are also working on a similar project for the Department of Planning and Survey with the Umm Al Quwain government. The government there is working aggressively towards building up their infrastructure in order to cope up with the modernisation taking place in the country. Therefore, we are currently working on the Umm Al Quwain first and Second Order Geodetic Networks. Furthermore, we have also delivered a few projects in Oman.

Tell us about your capacity building activities.

Capacity building is an integral part of all technical projects delivered by us. Besides, it is something that we are considering seriously to offer in the future, provided that we have the required time and resources. We plan to offer training in the geospatial business at the entry, intermediate and advanced levels. In order to do so, we have to collaborate with one of the education establishments, which offer geospatial education in the form of certification. We would be looking into provide certification programmes so that people who attend our courses would be able to acquire a diploma or certification. This will help advance their professional careers. Our main interest would be in enabling the geospatial professionals around the GCC to understand the theory and practice of the currently available geospatial technologies.

How would you rate the Middle East geospatial market, its growth potential in the near future and market maturity level?

The maturity level of geospatial industry in the Middle East is fairly low. A major reason for the low maturity level is the market confusion, which needs to be tackled. One of the means to avoid the market confusion is to have more and more people with the mandate to educate the market, which is somewhat missing in the Middle East region. A prominent feature of the market here is that it focuses on quickly building up the infrastructure required to cope with the mandates that have been put up. So, it is out of necessity that we turn towards geospatial technology. Thus, we can say that the main issue with the geospatial business in the Middle East is that geospatial is not done as a mandate but out of necessity, which is the notion that leads to immaturity. So, lack of policies, workflows, procedures, standards, certifications and specifications is the primary reason that leads to an immature market. To mitigate the confusion, it is recommended to hold panel discussions, and forums to educate the market better by subject matter experts (SMEs).