Nearmap is making three dimensional imagery of towns across Australia and the US available to explore in its web application, MapBrowser.\nThe firm has been offering such imagery on request since 2017, but is now giving subscribers access to all its 3D content on demand.\n \nThe browser also offers tools to easily measure the distance between two points in a 3D space \u2013 for example the height of a tower or the distance between two buildings \u2013 and to export the imagery for use in industry standard CAD and GIS software.\n \nNearmap 3D view of Sydney\n\u201cIt\u2019s like switching from DVDs to streaming services, like Netflix versus what Blockbuster used to be,\u201d said Dr Tom Celinski, Nearmap\u2019s executive vice president of technology and engineering.\n \nSince it was founded in 2007, Nearmap has been taking high resolution photographs of Australia from above using multi-angled, proprietary camera equipment carried on light aircraft. Capturing the world beneath from multiple angles, means the images can be stitched together to construct a 3D model.\n\n\n\u201cIn very simple terms, it all amounts to triangulating points on the ground. Given any point on the ground, you have multiple views on it, you can triangulate, you can figure out the distance from the plane to the point, you do that across the whole landscape, you then get a 3D model,\u201d Celinski told CIO Australia.\n\u201cWe're doing that on a massive scale,\u201d he said.\n \nMore than 25,000 square kilometres \u2013 home to around 88 per cent of the population \u2013is capturedin the imagery, which is updated up to six times a year. The ASX-listed firm also has a rapidly expanding US dataset, comprising 3D images of 99,000 square kilometres, covering 53 per cent of the population.\nNearmap 3D view of Perth\nThe 3D view in MapBrowser allows users to select any area covered, and"just like that fly around like a superhero".\n\u201cWe managed to make [accessing the 3D dataset] easy. Easy hides lots of pain and blood and sweat and tears across the engineering team,\u201d Celinski said.\n \n\u201cFrom a technology perspective, we've built the entire technology chain to be scalable from the get go. So our pipelines are elastic, our storage is elastic, we work with large compute and storage providers across the key geographies. So we've got the capability to scale about as far as anyone else at this point in time, and probably have,\u201d he said.\n \nScalability is part of Nearmap\u2019s ethos, says the company\u2019s director of AI systems Michael Bewley.\n \n\u201cIt's really how the company is set up, at a fundamental level, you have to set yourself up for doing these things at massive scale. You don't go \u2018oh let's play with a little bit of data here and then let's make it a bit bigger\u2019. From day one, you say \u2018how is this going to work across petabytes of data?\u2019 and design with a very much a systems perspective on how you going to cope with that,\u201d Bewley said.\nThe closest representation of reality\n \nIn March, Google made available its 3D imagery of Sydney, via Google Earth. Google follows a similar process to create three dimensional models although unlike Nearmap retouches many of its buildings manually.\n \nWhile specific sites likeSydney Harbour BridgeandBondi Beach had been available for some time, capturing the broader central Sydney region had been hampered due to the city\u2019s \u201cbusy airspace\u201d Google said.\n \n\n\nGoogle used to offer a tool for businesses tobuild and host private versions of Google Earth and Google Maps for internal geospatial applications, but shut the service down in March 2017.\nApple and Nokia also offer 3D mapping. Those alternatives, however, are lower resolution, less regularly updated and are not compatible with industry preferredCesium, Esri, Autodesk, and Bentley platforms, Nearmap says. Nor do they allow export of the imagery as textured mesh, point cloud, DSM, or true ortho, it adds.\n \n\u201cWe live in a 3D world, we think in 3D, and so we have to ensure that our products give the closest representation of reality as possible,\u201d Celinski said.\n \n\u201cIt\u2019s not just \u2018hey there's a pretty 3D image\u2019 \u2013 you can click and measure and actually change what you do for work,\u201d Bewley added.\n \nNearmap appears set to add more tools to its 3D browser-based application, such as line-of-sight or coverage \u2013 hugely useful for network deployment planning and signal propagation analysis for 5G.\n \nThe firm \u2013 which describes its business model as \u2018Reality as a Service\u2019 \u2013 is one of the ten largest aerial survey companies in the world by annual data collection volume. In its last results it reported more than 9,300 customers, signalled expansion into Canada, and revealed it would increase the headcount of its internal technology capability.\n \n\u201cIt's a massive global imaging enterprise that we have going on here. Not too bad for a little Aussie company, I guess,\u201d Celinski said.