Category Archives: Positioning Systems

What Does Pokémon GO Mean for AR?

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few weeks (July 2016), you can’t have helped but notice that Pokémon GO has somewhat taken the world by storm.  In doing so it has also brought the term “augmented reality” (AR) to the masses with everyone including Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg weighing in with comment and opinion.

Pokemon GO

Linknode use AR as a technology to provide real-world, real-time visualisation for planning and development, so what does the conversion of a technology into a consumer application mean?

The Google Maps Connection

Within the geospatial business, we have seen a similar transition previously.  Back in the day, when digital mapping meant high end desktops and expensive software, the introduction of online mapping had a disruptive effect on the industry.

A startup called Keyhole was acquired by Google in 2004 and the founder John Hanke went on to enable Google Maps.  This was the first time that most lay-people had had access to mapping beyond the street atlas in the back of the car.  It was a revolution.

Within the geospatial industry, initially it caused a dilution in the “value of GIS systems” message.  Why pay big bucks for something you could get for free from Google?

But long term the understanding that the consumer offering is not the same as professional solutions has created a market, provided a route to understanding and clarity over the limitations.  Pokémon GO does not manage occlusion, real-time lighting, complex models, or precision coordinate system management for engineering accuracy.

And what happened to John Hanke?  Well, he went onto develop a clique AR game called Ingress and then his studio Niantic developed Pokémon GO – the guy has form!  You can read more detail with a search, example Forbes article here.


So the future is AR.  But Linknode’s real-world AR (GIality) solutions VentusAR and UrbanPlanAR are as different to Pokémon GO as ArcGIS is to Google Maps.  Still, at least people have an idea what we do now!

Mario Kart GoImage Courtesy of News Thump – Release of Mario Kart Go! for Satnav ‘hopefully won’t cause too many accidents’

Drone Visualisation

An obvious extension to the first-person visualisation experiences that Linknode deliver is using the same technology to deliver remote visualisation. By that, we mean to take the visualisation solution (mobile tablet) that our existing users hold in the field, and change the camera location. This could be to get a different perspective on a project or to place a point of view in a location which may be otherwise inaccessible or dangerous to access.
In theory, all the technical platform requirements (location, real-time sensors, 3D modelling, camera metrics and AR integration) that Linknode specialise in are the same as VentusAR and UrbanPlanAR. However, instead of the mobile platform being packaged into a consumer tablet, containing all the hardware we need, just like the best chefs we need to do some deconstruction of the product to create a new experience. Continue reading

Linknode and Heriot-Watt University collaboration to visualise urban developments

Linknode Ltd in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design at Heriot-Watt University have commenced a two-year long research and development project.

UrbanPlanAR will create a “Mobile Architectural Visualisation Platform for Planners and Communities”. The project received funding from the InnovateUK funding board, following a successful bid in the ‘Innovation in Location Based Services’ competition.


The business proposition for UrbanPlanAR is to revolutionise communication and engagement within urban design and master planning. UrbanPlanAR will deliver an augmented reality solution for visualising proposed urban developments.  All stakeholders, including architects, developers, planning authorities as well as communities and citizens, will be able to picture planned developments within their actual urban environments in real-time.

Existing architectural visualisation solutions are mainly desktop based, limiting reach and engagement, preventing robust assessment and decision making by planners and communities where it matters. Other visualisation systems (such as Linknode’s VentusAR for onshore wind planning) use GPS positioning, which is just not precise enough for many urban environments.  The solution will implement state-of-the-art urban location tracking, harnessing the value of increasingly available city 3D models to create a unique experience.  The system will also integrate technology to enable a smooth workflow with Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Dr Crispin Hoult, Director, Linknode said “The opportunity to extend Linknode’s business in AR solutions, in collaboration with the academic input from Heriot-Watt University will create a world-leading solution and a fabulous partnership for further opportunities.”

Dr Frédéric Bosché of Heriot-Watt University added, “UrbanPlanAR is about delivering a modern solution to transform stakeholder engagement in the construction sector, including engagement with the general public.  We are delighted about this project and the prospect of collaborating with Linknode, as our expertise and interests perfectly align and complement each other.”

The collaboration presents an exciting opportunity for Linknode who see this as a way to cement their position as leaders in the exponentially growing professional AR marketplace. Heriot-Watt University will benefit from this project through the generation of new and improved knowledge and expertise. The project will also likely raise new research questions that will drive future research projects.

This first collaboration between Linknode and Heriot-Watt University creates a strategic partnership that will leverage the research skills of Heriot-Watt University with the development and commercialisation expertise of Linknode.

Positioning in Geospatial Systems

For geospatial applications, to understand where you are, and what is around you, there is a requirement to have a representation of your location and the location (or relative position) of other nearby objects. In this post we will look at the format in which your position is received from a GPS or other location sensor, how it can be converted to a format consistent with other data sources and how that position can be used in a 3D environment (which could subsequently be used for visualisation, for example).

This blog is written to give an overview of the conversion process of Latitude and Longitude positions to Cartesian coordinates that can be used in a 3D gaming engine. It is not going to go into the maths of how the conversion from geodetic to planar systems works or the related aspects of accuracy and precision. A future blog will address these in general, with specific references to the situation in the UK.

Location Sensor on the Device

Getting the location on a mobile device is a bit more than just turning on the GPS. Location information requested from the location sensor can be derived from the mobile cell your device is currently in, nearby Wi-Fi networks or, satellite positioning systems (such as GPS or GLONASS). There are pros (accuracy, speed of obtaining a fix etc) and cons (battery life, accuracy) of each type. I will assume we are getting a satellite fix for the rest of this post and commonly refer to that as GPS.

GPS gives positions in the World Geodetic System (WGS84) as this provides a unique location (co-ordinate) for any point on the planet. Valid GPS values are between -180 to +180 longitude and -90 to +90 latitude. Let’s have a look at an example, our office is at 3 Wellgreen Lane, Stirling in Scotland and when I request a value from a GPS sensor, I get:

Latitude: 56.1154620496249
Longitude: -3.93572384820349
Altitude: 80
Accuracy: 32

This has represented our position in three parts: latitude, longitude and altitude with an associated horizontal accuracy.

Geodetic and Projected Cartesian Coordinates

The maths required to work with geodetic coordinates such as WGS84 is difficult because you are not working on a plane. Specifically there are issues relating to convergence as you get nearer to the poles. At the equator a box 1 degree latitude by 1 degree of longitude is essentially square. As you get nearer to the poles, convergence of the longitude lines occurs and your “box” changes shape. More details can be found here.

For mapping, measurement and visualisation systems, it makes sense to convert geodetic coordinates to a planar projection. In the UK we have a well defined coordinate system (projection) defined by the Ordnance Survey and commonly referred to as the National Grid or OSGB. This is also handy as the points of interest feeds and spatial data we use in the UK are mostly published using positions on OSGB.

It is fairly easy to find examples of conversion from WSG84 coordinates to OSGB coordinates, Moveable Type have a handy online converter to show the process. When we put in the values taken from the GPS sensor at our office in, it converts our position to OSGB:

National Grid conversion

An OSGB representation of the position of our office could be (given the caveats in the introduction above):

Eastings: 279736

Planar Cartesian projected (eg OSGB) positions are easy to understand because a local, relative frame of reference represents the number of meters from an origin. The OSGB origin is somewhere southwest of Land’s End in the Atlantic Ocean. So our position says we are 279736m (280km) East and 693100 (693km) North of this origin position.

More information can be found from the OS interactive Guide and OS A4 Guide

3D World Coordinates in a 3D Gaming Engine

CoordinateAxesNSEW.WhiteBackgroundThe 3D Gaming engine represents positions using a 3 dimensional Cartesian system. Positions are represented by given an (X,Y,Z) coordinate.

We use Vector3 structure to represent positions within our 3D system. This position is taken from the OSGB location where X is the Eastings, Y is Altitude, Z is Northings. The location of our office would be represented as:

Z: 693100

This allows us to make use of the same origin as OSGB and makes the logic simpler to understand.

Summary: WSG to Vector3

We’ve seen a worked example of the position of our office in Stirling in the three different coordinate systems we use. Below is the summary.

GeoCoordinates Example