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SGM Data: Affordable Point Cloud Data

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By: Paige Parker, VP of Sales

At my previous job, I was an international business development associate for a LIDAR processing software company. One of my duties was to establish a global customer base. While talking to potential clients, I discovered government budgets were being cut overseas. Several government agencies were switching to a new type of affordable point cloud data also known as SGM (Semi Global Matching).

In 2005, German Scientist, Dr. Heiko Hirschmüller released his research on the process of Semi Global Matching and its results. From then on, this type of data has gained popularity across the globe and was even featured in an ISPRS presentation written by some of the best known companies in the GIS industry.

In layman’s terms, Semi Global Matching is the process of matching pixels from a series of high resolution photos in order to derive a DSM or DEM. This process creates point cloud data, similar to LIDAR. Since the SGM point cloud data is derived from imagery and not from a laser scanner, each data point includes an RGB value, giving a nice visual of an area in real color. Laser data does not usually have RGB values, and in order to get real image color an image overlay usually has to occur or a fusion process.

In most cases, SGM is less dense than LIDAR data. LIDAR provides a better ground model most of the time because of its ability to penetrate vegetation. This gives LIDAR the ability to create more accurate ground models which are essential to processes such as hydrological modeling. SGM can still be a logical alternative for other processes, such as building extraction and working with elevation values, in essence making it a real cost saver. So, depending on the application, SGM is definitely worth considering as an alternative to LiDAR.

Dr. Heiko Hirschmüller stated, “The main power of SGM can be demonstrated on aerial images of urban scenes. A study compared SGM based digital surface models from images of different commercial aerial cameras with each other, with a laser model and ground control points. Very precise DSMs in the ground sampling distance of the images were computed, especially on datasets with sufficient image overlap.”

From a business and sales perspective, SGM offers an affordable alternative solution for people in the industry wanting to work with point cloud data. The cost of SGM is far less than LIDAR for a few reasons. Aerial imagery is typically needed by local county governments. Since they are already investing in imagery they do not have to pay for any extra separate flights to collect point cloud data because the data is directly derived from the images, whereas, LIDAR would be a separate flight. Laser scanners can also be quite expensive adding on to the price of LIDAR along with longer flight times for the acquisition itself, also bumping up cost. So if your budget is tight, considering SGM for your point cloud needs might be worth your time.

If you are interested in getting a cost estimate for your county in regards to SGM data, please contact us at sales@contralcam.com.

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Optimizing Your Use Of ControlCam.com

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by: Lauren Kane, VP of Marketing & Customer Engagement

ControlCam.com was created not only to market our products but to better meet the needs of our clients and address any questions our existing or potential customers may have. Our website offers a unique view of our products and services, a look at upcoming events and webinar sessions, educational information on aerial imagery and cumulative leakage index services, and a chance for you to to provide feedback.

ControlCam.com

At our homepage, you can find a quick video to guide you through who we are and what we offer. On this page, you can navigate through some of our products and services; aerial imagery, ControlCam mobile application and our unique image viewing software Control Central. You can also familiarize yourself with the broad range of industries that we serve. In case you were curious about events that we attend or how you can get in touch with our team, there are specific tabs on the homepage that allow you to do just that.

ControlCam.com/Products

ControlCam’s product page will provide you with additional information on our various products and services, including our aerial imagery, viewing software and mobile application. The page contains a slideshow of our aerial imagery, templates of our mobile app as well as snapshots of our Control Central Viewer. You can learn more about each specific product by clicking on “learn more” to gain a better understanding of our products

ControlCam.com/Events

Interested in learning more about mobile solutions for your county government or streamlining your cable field operations? Visit our events page to sign up for upcoming free webinars, request new webinar topics, or view past webinars. ControlCam’s events page also highlights upcoming conferences and seminars that the company will be attending. We invite you to join us at these events to learn more about our company services.

ControlCam.com/About

So you’re interested in purchasing aerial imagery but not sure what resolution you need? Visit ControlCam’s About page to view the wide scope of resolutions available and gain a better understanding of the aspects of each range. This page allows you to navigate to our blog, newsletter and press releases page which will keep you up to date on ControlCam and industry news, new products and services and sometimes just a funny story to lighten your day.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the industry from within the company, visit our Job Openings page to see career opportunities currently available.

ControlCam.com/RFTesting

If you are one of our valued cable customers, you can find almost everything you need at our RFTesting page. This page provides information on CLI testing and FCC reporting requirements, upcoming free webinars as well as training events and information on new services such as digital testing. You can also login into your account to view and download reports. Don’t forget that if you have trouble accessing your account you can select “Forgot your password?” or emailsupport@controlcam.com. Our mission is to allow for a smooth experience for our customers on our website.

ControlCam.com/GetInTouch

Didn’t find what you are searching for or need more information? Fill in your information on our Get in Touch page and someone will contact you as soon as possible.

Don’t forget that throughout the entire ControlCam.com website you can view high resolution aerial imagery or request a customized demo! ControlCam prides itself in delivering exceptional customer service; our website is a demonstration of that promise. We work towards providing our customers with a platform where they can search for answers to their questions and find the help they need.

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Understanding The Big Picture

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By: David Freedman, CEO

We live in an age of specialization. As you work your way through school you develop a major, maybe marketing or computer science or accounting and then you’re on your way to becoming a specialist. Once you join the work force you are pushed to further specialize; the accounting major goes in to tax, or financial planning, general accounting, budgeting or a host of other specialized areas that require greater in depth knowledge of one specific area. Marketers go into online advertising, website design, TV ads, etc. While having people with this level of specialized knowledge is important in today’s complex business environment, I believe it is equally important for everyone in an organization to understand the big picture. Why do you need to understand the big picture? That is a really good question.

The big picture encompasses all aspects of a business. It includes costs; things like aviation fuel, aircraft repair, computer and camera expenses, software, insurance, rent, and of course people costs. Those are things that everyone can conceptualize and understand but there are literally hundreds of other items that affect cost that you might not think about when you consider what drives your company. Some examples include; employee training, attendance at trade shows, the cost of government filings, aircraft maintenance manuals, etc. Any one of these items can cost thousands of dollars and could be the difference between making money or going out of business.

Cost is just one aspect of the big picture. Another critical element is revenue. Our business earns revenue from three different business lines; Imaging, CLI reports, and Aircraft Maintenance. In order to figure out what to charge our customers, we need to calculate our costs for a project and add enough to cover the big picture in related costs so that the project is profitable. Pricing for the imaging business includes things like; estimated flight times, computer related costs, and people related processing costs. If we estimate that a project will take 20 hours of flight time but issues around weather and reflights actually drive that time to 30 hours we could end up losing money on that project. Another element of pricing is what competitors charge. In many cases, market price also drives pricing. If the average aircraft repair shop charges $80.00 per hour for labor, it is hard to attract customers if you are charging $140.00 per hour. How do you know if what you are charging is enough to make a profit and at the same time bring enough revenue in to support the business? That is another really good question.

The answer to that question is The Bottom Line. When looking at a financial statement, all of the components of the business are reflected in the revenue, and costs show up in the bottom line. If you continually lose money the business will not survive. If you charge too much to be competitive your revenue will erode and the business will have to cut back. Having the right mix of profitability is critical to the long term health of the business and also to having adequate funds to invest in the future of the business. Without investments in technology, business development and people, there can be no growth. That is why it is critical for all employees to understand the big picture and to do that they need to understand the bottom line.

So when I hear someone say all you care about is the Bottom Line, I am happy because they understand that I care about the entire business and the people that work there. I am focused on the growth and survival of the business, the protection of their jobs, and the creation of new ones.

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The Pilot Lifestyle

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By: Rigo Gonzalez, Chief Pilot
5:30 A.M.  Wednesday:  As I reach for my phone to turn off my alarm, my impossibly bright screen confirms that it’s Wednesday, shortly after 5:30 A.M.  I dim the screen and swipe over to my weather app. Cold… really cold; snow and overcast skies early morning; scattered clouds and gusty winds by mid-afternoon; clear skies and wind advisories by early evening.  Yesterday, 100 miles to the North, these conditions would have resulted in a day lost to weather over Jefferson National Forest’s wooded mountain range.  Today, however, I look forward to the challenges of winter flying, the opportunity of getting another day crossed off my schedule, and being another day closer to home, friends, and family.Scenarios similar to this play out almost every week for our team of 14 dedicated pilots at ControlCam. In my very biased opinion, flying for us is one of the most rewarding and exciting careers in the workplace. You get paid to operate a machine that soars through the air while exploring new cities and meeting new people in your free time. It’s just about as far away from a regular 9 to 5 work day as you can get. The lifestyle of any pilot demands constant flexibility. Aside from the airplane, most factors pertinent to a pilot’s day such as weather, client punctuality, airspace availability, etc. are outside any normal locus of control. For example, as a company that works year round our pilots navigate around and through winter weather. At times, this brings productivity to a grinding halt leaving an adventure seeking, task minded individual trapped in a hotel room with little to no entertainment or food options for days at a time.Moreover, any aviation lifestyle is not without its personal sacrifice and risk; flying is incredibly safe yet inherently dangerous. Being away from family and friends for weeks at a time can certainly take its toll, but at times it’s shamefully easy to forget it all when, hours later, you’re flying over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and crossing the Mojave Desert. You don’t have to be a topography expert to marvel at the changing landscape from Fresno’s valley at sea level, to 14,500 ft Mount Whitney, to barren Death Valley all within the driving distance of Jacksonville to Orlando, or flying through Arizona’s Painted Desert just before sunset when the sky turns true turquoise blue. The job and lifestyle go hand in hand. In my opinion nobody becomes a pilot and realistically expects to come home every night or know where next month is going to take them; it’s part of the draw. The memories I’ve made on my flights are every bit as good as the pictures I’ve taken and in some strange way make the longing to be home and crazy lifestyle just tolerable enough for me to come back from my time off ready for the next adventure.

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Changing a Culture to Promote Customer Engagement

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By: Lauren Kane, VP of Marketing & Customer Engagement

As many of you may already know, Mar-Tech a division of ControlCam, has been around for over twenty years. Over those twenty years, the company has established itself as a leader in cable leak detection. In the past five years, the company, along with Northeast Aircraft Maintenance, became ControlCam, adding aerial imaging and GIS services.

Mar-Tech has always worked with its customers to ensure they receive a quality product, but it wasn’t until recently that the company began to realize the importance of customer engagement. It’s not that the company shunned customer service, rather it was focused on how customers acted in the past and what had always seemed to make them happy. The new company-wide customer engagement initiative was started to examine what customers might need in the future and how ControlCam and its divisions can build a mutually beneficial relationship with its clients both now and years to come.

Most companies offer customer services; a dedicated person or department to answer questions. What many companies miss is engaging with the customer. If you asked me what I consider good customer service, there’s a chance it may be completely different than what my colleagues consider good customer service. That’s because every customer has different needs. Implementing customer engagement means listening to the request of every single customer and understanding that no two will be the same.

In all honestly, that can become challenging. If you have several hundreds, or thousands of customers, you have to ensure you are thoughtfully listening to every single one. In our company we have found that, just like anything else, change can be challenging. Transitioning your employees to move beyond traditional customer service and learning to embrace customer engagement can be difficult.

Our efforts to enhance our engagement and move beyond simply answering a customer’s call has taken time and creativity. Over time, our employees have come to understand that the needs of each customer are unique. The first step was listening, truly listening, to what our customers were telling us. Our customers seemed to be ready for change, yet we hadn’t changed in almost twenty years!

So, we worked to improve and update aspects of our business, like our website and social media. Our online presence became a new way to gauge what our clients needed and to actively provide them with new information. As time went on, we continued to survey our customers via telephone and online. We actively communicated with our customers and found that there was so much more we could offer them. We have started creating unique interactions with each customer, such as customizing the way and when we deliver their flyover schedules. Our free educational webinars have also allowed us to, not only provide a unique and engaging service to our customers, but to also better understand what our customers are looking for in the future. We’ve also made plans to improve our CLI reports and update our fleet of aircraft.

By no means do we think that we’ve successfully accomplished our customer engagement initiative. If we did, we would end up right where we started, offering average customer service and not understanding what will benefit our customer in the future. We see customer engagement as an ongoing improvement methodology. Just like the needs and goals of our customers will change, so will our engagement with our customers. ControlCam will strive to make sure all of our customers continue to want to stay with us, not because there is no other option, but because we are the best option. We have a strong investment in our customers and we want them to feel that same connection with us; we want them to be invested in our brand.