Geo Week News

October 17, 2012

Newest Magelaan plug in grabs street signs automatically


LAVAL, France – As Viametris has built its MMS (mobile mapping system) and I-MMS (indoor mobile mapping) systems, it has along the way developed Magelaan, software designed to deal with mobile-collected point cloud data.

It has grown to accept data from a wide variety of mobile systems – Riegl, Topcon, Optech, TomTom’s internally created system – and Viametris have been working to add plug ins in response to customer request.

Recently, this reporter got a demonstration of the newest functionality: automatic sign recognition and cataloging. On sample data taken near the company’s headquarters here, it worked quite well.

“It uses the high reflectivity of the road sings for the first algorithm,” sales manager Eddie Cappleman explained during the demonstration, “and then the second algorithm is image-based. It picks up the shape of the road sign and we have a database of those.” Currently, that database includes signs from Italy, Austria, Canada, the Netherlands, France, and a number of other countries, but not yet the United States.

“You don’t have a uniform bunch of road signs in the U.S.,” Cappleman explained. They’ll likely have to go state by state.

In about 20 minutes, the software picks up the majority of the road signs and categorizes them for 10 kilometers of data. Sometimes, it finds a sign, but can’t classify it. “It’s about 95 percent finding the sign,” Cappleman said, “and then about 85 percent figuring out which one it is.” Obviously, that varies depending on the quality of the data and the set of road signs. In this case, Cappleman said the data we’re looking at was grabbed with Viametris’ own MMS system, which uses Sick scanners.

Each sign is georeferenced, and shows up on a map at the side of the GUI so you can watch your progress. When done, the sign data can be exported in a KML, SQL, or other format typical to GIS work. The GUI had a number of options for customizations to accommodate different workflow preferences.

“It’s never going to be 100 percent,” said Cappleman, “but it’s pretty good.” Certainly likely to be faster than manually extracting them by exploring the point cloud and imagery data. Although, Capplman said, the more dense the data – like that extracted by Riegl or Optech systems – the longer the sign recognition will take.

Magelaan has a similar plug in for road markings as well, and Cappleman said the four-person development team that makes up the rest of the Viametris employees is hard at work on further user-requested plug ins. One might count garbage cans left by the side of the road. Essentially, the code just needs to be written for matching images and shapes, and just about anything could be extracted from the data.

Currently, the Magelaan package as a whole sells for 35,000 Euro, with new plugs ins being added on a regular basis. Viametris is on the hunt for partners to help with distribution of the software, MMS, and I-MMS systems, particularly in the United States.

Viametris will be attending the SPAR Europe conference, November 12-14, at the World Forum, in the Hague. Learn more at

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