Ordnance Survey to help create a virtual 3-D image of buried infrastructure

Ordnance Survey to help create a virtual 3-D image of buried infrastructure


UK, 10 September 2006 – A national project looking to increase the visualisation of underground assets via 3-D mapping is being supported by geographic data and satellite navigation technology from Ordnance Survey as core components.

VISTA (Visualising integrated information on buried assets to reduce street works) is a collaboration of 21 organisations developing an integrated infrastructure to enable data sharing for all buried assets across Great Britain.

Ordnance Survey’s intelligent large-scale data OS MasterMap Topography Layer is the reference base underpinning preliminary trials by researchers at Leeds and Nottingham Universities to integrate disparate records of buried pipes, cables, ducts and wires.

VISTA will combine this information with in-situ survey observations using real-time centimetre-level services provided by OS Net, Ordnance Survey’s GPS correction network, and by Leica Geosystems’ SmartNet, which is enabled by OS Net. OS Net is a network of more than 90 GPS base stations that improves the standard accuracy of raw GPS readings to augment any application that requires GPS positioning.

The national mapping agency’s digital geographic information (GI) will reference this data to assets visible in the street to create a virtual 3-D image of buried infrastructure. The information will be dynamically merged to give utilities and contractors instant two- and three-dimensional visualisations of the underground pipe and cable network via a portable device. This would enable more efficient scheduling of works to help minimise disruption and potentially reduce their size and duration.

Utilities open up four million holes in the United Kingdom’s streets each year at an estimated cost of £1 bn, with indirect costs of £4 bn due to traffic delays and damage to highways, for example. With 4.7 million kilometres of buried infrastructure in the UK, there are large potential savings to be made in the rapid and accurate location of assets without inflicting damage to third-party equipment.

OS MasterMap Topography Layer contains around half a billion geographic features. Each is allocated a 16-digit Topographic Identifier (TOID), a unique reference that can be associated to data above and below the ground. This enables the consistent georeferencing of assets, streamlining the exchange of third-party data and referencing it to a definitive geographic base. Common encoding standards will help build a communal knowledge of all underground assets, removing potential guesswork into the location, nature and ownership of buried services.

VISTA’s data integration and exchange concept is being developed according to the Digital National Framework (DNF), a set of industry-wide principles and operational rules to provide a consistent, flexible way to identify, collect, exchange, reuse and record GI (www.dnf.org). OS MasterMap was developed in compliance with the DNF, facilitating the integration of georeferenced information from multiple sources onto this intelligent geographic framework.

Marc Hobell, Ordnance Survey’s Strategic Development Manager for utilities, says: “VISTA gives us the opportunity to help evolve common standards for the collection and reference of utilities’ information. Ordnance Survey is proud to be part of a consortium of expertise working to a common vision. VISTA signals a new dimension in the planning and implementation of underground works, building an enhanced 3-D mapping and referencing system with the potential to shape buried services across the country.”