Sean Graglia Azure Mixed Reality Lead (Canada)
Feb 25,2021

The future of Brampton in sight with vGIS

City of Brampton, Ontario breaks ground with vGIS, the leading GIS augmented reality visualization solution powered by HoloLens 2

Towns, cities, districts, counties, regions, and other municipalities looking to digitally transform their operations need to keep an eye on the City of Brampton, Ontario. Brampton’s exciting work with vGIS, a Microsoft partner and the creator of the world’s leading GIS visualization solution, enables the municipality to realize new efficiencies and puts them one important step closer to achieving their bold 2040 Vision of the future.

What happens when one of the fastest-growing cities in the country collaborates with one of the fastest-growing augmented reality visualization companies?

Brampton, Ontario is a flourishing Canadian municipality located northwest of Toronto. Home to more than 700,000 residents and nearly 80,000 businesses, the Flower City is one of the nation’s most diverse and fastest-growing cultural and economic centres. Brampton’s 2040 Vision shapes their economic, cultural, and digital future, and provides the impetus for their work with vGIS.

vGIS is the revolutionary augmented reality visualization platform for BIM and GIS data powered by Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Azure. vGIS finds design errors and enables users to see hidden underground assets using holograms and other advanced visualization technologies. Companies and municipalities around the world use vGIS, including cities in Canada, the US, Australia, and the EU.

HoloLens 2 is a self-contained computer comprising a mixed reality head-mounted smartglass display unit. Its ergonomic design provides improved comfort for longer wear, an enhanced immersive experience due to easier text readability and superior resolution of visual details, instinctual manipulation of holograms, and freedom to easily move with Wi-Fi connectivity. Additionally, every HoloLens 2 benefits from Microsoft’s world-class AI and cloud security, reliability, and scalability.

The Challenge

It takes a lot to manage a healthy city that is safe, sustainable, and successful.  The municipal government delivers essential services and diverse programs that everyone relies on to live, work, and play. The needs and wants of countless stakeholders, from businesses and community groups to real estate developers is a collaborative approach, strategically managed by local administrators. And, the city’s vast above and underground infrastructure of assets, including roadways, water, gas, and sewer systems, streetlights, lampposts, and the broadband network require active day-to-day maintenance and management.

“Brampton has many buried assets; it’s like an underground city. And with so much development happening, vGIS allows us to see and understand where things lie.” – Philip Franze, Smart City Team Lead, City of Brampton.

Unfortunately, managing those underground assets involves a lot of digging. During the early stages of the Bramptons vGIS journey our goal was to expose a few of our geo-located assets, such as our street lights, to the platform and use the tool during the process maintaining our street light infrastructure. Until vGIS, that excavation process involved a crew digging and searching to locate objects by following maps on phones and looking for evidence from old digs. This inefficient workflow combined with the safety issues of digging and working underground make excavation very costly.

“The cost of excavation is approximately CAD $1,000 per linear foot. A basic repair by the city can cost $20,000 to 30,000 in digging costs alone.“ – Alec Pestov, Founder & CEO, vGIS

Brampton’s strategic approach

With so many demands, interests, and assets to manage—and only so much money in the city’s coffers—Brampton invests strategically in new technology to find efficiencies, improve the delivery of stakeholder services, and to help ensure the safety of its employees and vendors in the field. vGIS represents one such technology.

“We see vGIS technology as an extension of our existing GIS systems with the potential to help our workers deliver vital city services.” – Eric Pulnicki, Senior Manager, Solutions & Smart City, City of Brampton

vGIS enables Brampton’s staff on the field to get an augmented view of world by visualizing Geographic Information System data (GIS). They combine their data with Peel Region’s (the regional municipality that includes Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon) to deliver a robust, real-time digital model of their infrastructure assets, current and planned.

Data at your fingertips

With vGIS, a crew, tasked with repairing an asset such as a street light, was able to validate our GIS street light data and visualize the data spatially with the surrounding environment.  The data could be validated using a City-issued phone or potentially using a HoloLens2 to see the location of unground street light infrastructure  and the other underground assets through superimposed holographic imagery.

While designed and purpose-built for a hands-free HoloLens 2 experience, vGIS also works on flatscreen devices, like smart phones and tablets.

HoloLens 2 enables employees to remain hands-free as they work, increasing their productivity and providing a dramatically more intuitive user experience. Field personnel gain an augmented view that includes holographic infrastructure objects, improving their environmental assessments and increasing their situational awareness.

“Our company exists because of HoloLens. When it reached the market in 2016, we saw the future. We saw a revolutionary solution with the potential to change the world. So, we built a solution specifically leveraging its capabilities and never looked back.” – Alec Pestov, Founder & CEO, vGIS

Faster and more accurate field work benefits everyone, including residents living with construction delays. From delivering real-time, in-field holographic visualizations of underground pipes, valves, cables, and other utility objects to visualizing ground-penetrating radar scans, vGIS estimates it saves 12 to 20 hours per person, per month.

Safety benefits alone make vGIS a compelling solution for any team doing excavations. The company reports its solution prevents up to 50 percent of excavation-related accidents resulting from human error.

Visual planning platform

Asset management is just part of what Brampton does with vGIS. As part of next steps with vGIS, Brampton is looking at using the tool to visualize, analyze, and discuss proposed developments and public works projects, seeing the plans come to life in real-time, including otherwise hidden infrastructure. Brampton is looking at working with the Construction and Engineering Design teams use the solution to communicate design changes more intuitively, preventing covert design errors that create cost overruns and delays.

“Our first step was to visualize our underground infrastructure. Our next step ties in that 3D model with reality capture. We intend to take a capital works project and use it to achieve proof of concept.” – Philip Franze, Smart City Team Lead, City of Brampton.

Integrating reality capture

As vGIS evolves, Brampton gains access to an exciting pipeline of innovations. For instance, vGIS recently partnered with a French tech firm specializing in reality capture to come up with a simple and highly cost-effective way to digitally archive projects and to preserve evidence. Using this solution, a team on the job can capture a video of an excavated site with their phone and send the file to have it 3D modeled using photogrammetry technology.

Fifteen minutes later, the team receives a 3D model of that trench, which they render in vGIS to within 5 cm accuracy, immediately gaining access to information about all the assets available. Five years from now, a team looking at that same trench can see it all—the pipes and all the assets—instantly.

“Adding reality capture is just one more step in the evolution of the vGIS platform. We see it as a universal toolkit, interacting with all kinds of data bidirectionally to dramatically improve more real-world user workflows.” – Alec Pestov, Founder & CEO, vGIS

Brampton’s 2040 Vision

Brampton’s innovative technology partnerships dovetail perfectly into the city’s ambitious vision of their future. The Brampton 2040 Vision defines the city’s commitment to the environment, urban centres, neighbourhoods, transportation, social matters, health, arts, culture, and economy. Critically, their vision challenges decision-makers and all stakeholders to think bigger and work differently. True to that vision, Brampton’s leaders have created a municipal culture that encourages collaboration and ethical technical innovation.

“The City of Brampton has a very strategic 2040 vision. Technology is a very important lens to it. We have a thirst here to use new technology any time that we can solve a real business problem.” – Kumanan Gopalasamy, Director of Digital Innovation & IT, CIO, City of Brampton

Links for more information:

City of Brampton website

City of Brampton 2040 vision

vGIS for HoloLens page

vGIS page on YouTube

HoloLens 2 Development Edition

HoloLens partner program