Innovating with Interoperability: Kartorium's Role in a Data Sharing Initiative

The impact of collaborative data capture and data sharing on community infrastructure

The Kartorium digital twin cloud platform provides two distinct advantages that we consistently highlight to our clients: enhanced collaboration and the reusability of imagery and data. Whether it's drone footage, laser scans, or high-quality 3D renderings, these assets often remain underutilized, even by firms that invest heavily in creating them. The crux of our approach is understanding that a single data capture effort can serve multiple purposes across various departments including operations, engineering, planning, training, and even communications. Moreover, these advantages are not just confined to the organization that commissioned the data capture; they can also benefit external entities, especially in projects involving community-scale digital twins.

Drone image of the Galena school

The same view in Kartorium, along with the power grid data

In 2023, during the summer and fall, we participated in a project that perfectly illustrates these concepts. Building on our previous collaborations in Kotzebue, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power engaged us to map the power distribution system in Galena, Alaska. This project was a segment of ACEP's initiative to assess use cases for digital twins in support of military base power systems, funded by the Engineer Research and Development Center under the Army Corps of Engineers. Galena was an ideal choice for this study, partly because it encompasses a decommissioned Air Force base, providing a unique and relevant setting for our work, and also because of the University of Alaska’s pre-existing ties with the community.

Our goal in this project was to collect imagery and data that would be versatile and valuable for multiple stakeholders. Dayne Broderson and Vanessa Raymond of ACEP were instrumental in steering the project towards creating data that was both realistic to gather and interoperable and reusable for various parties. To cater specifically to ACEP's needs, we involved non-project-team researchers prior to the site visit, ensuring the data collected would additionally align with their diverse modeling and research objectives. This was our way of maximizing the value and applicability of the data, ensuring it could not only meet the immediate needs of the project but also serve as a valuable resource for ongoing and future research endeavors.

Our field trip to Galena in July 2023 was an overwhelming success. We completed the asset inventory using open-source tools, a task where Vanessa, along with ACEP interns Cathy Chou and Sarah Andreanoff, played a pivotal role. They meticulously walked several miles of power lines, braving 80-degree heat and mosquitoes to capture images and document details like lean angles and phase changes. Simultaneously, the Kartorium team used a drone to capture comprehensive aerial views of the entire community. We conducted two separate sets of flights, each with a different focus: one aimed at creating a cohesive orthomosaic map and the other for generating detailed 3D models.

Vanessa and Cathy of ACEP documenting power poles (photo credit to Vanessa Raymond)

ACEP and Kartorium teams receiving a tour from City Manager Shanda Huntington

From the outset, the ACEP team was not only focused on their internal research priorities. We engaged in active collaboration with the City of Galena, its power utility, and Sustainable Energy Galena Alaska (SEGA), a non-profit organization, with the objective of sharing our findings to improve their operational and planning processes. The city's power system, operated by only two technicians, had been depending on outdated imagery and asset inventories. Our newly captured data provided them with an updated baseline crucial for their daily decision-making. As for SEGA, currently developing a solar farm on the outskirts of town using an innovative independent power producer model, the detailed grid mapping will be helpful to identify potential system upgrades needed as they plan future expansions.

ACEP and Kartorium teams receiving a tour from SEGA's Tim Kalke

This project also brought to light some unexpected yet significant benefits, demonstrating the far-reaching impact of a comprehensive reality capture initiative. The first example was the result of our relationship with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). Our connection with ANTHC, established through early projects and maintained over the years, played a key role here. Cy Two Elk, a well-connected figure at ANTHC who has time and time again demonstrated his dedication to technology innovation and community impact, particularly among promising young people, saw an update we put out about the Galena project. Recognizing its potential value, he shared the information with his colleague Elena Navas. Elena's team, actively involved in enhancing Galena's water and sewer infrastructure, was facing challenges with outdated maps and the reality that their project budgets rarely include new surveys. We were able to share the updated map with ANTHC and it provided them a helpful reference for their ongoing and upcoming projects in Galena.

Print-out that ACEP provided to the City of Galena upon project completion

The involvement of the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) is another testament to the project's success. AEA has long been committed to employing reality capture and asset assessments throughout the state. Their efforts began with virtual walkthroughs of power plants in supported communities and have since expanded to encompass tank farms and power distribution systems. They've developed ArcGIS surveys and are integrating these with drone imagery to conduct thorough assessments of distribution systems statewide. We shared our imagery and data with AEA, providing them with a full layout and overview of Galena's grid. However, this was just one piece of their puzzle. AEA is also collecting detailed LiDAR and per-pole imagery to evaluate aspects such as line sag and the condition of pole tops. To date, AEA has completed 10 such assessments and aims to complete between 50 and 80 by late fall 2024. Their program stands as a strong and inspiring example of how reality capture technology is being harnessed for effective planning and asset management.

Reflecting on our Galena project, it's clear how valuable interoperable data and collaboration can be. By sharing our data and insights, not only did we enhance the operational capabilities of the local power utility and contribute to the success of SEGA's solar farm project, but we also extended our impact to organizations like ANTHC and AEA. These partnerships show the real impact that shared knowledge and practical technology use can have, especially in community-scale projects. It's experiences like these that keep us excited about what we can do in the future, and we're looking forward to bringing this approach to more projects.

ACEP and Kartorium teams at SEGA's solar farm

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