It’s been nearly two decades––the year 2000, to be exact––since Amsterdam’s city government discovered that replacing aerial imagery with 360-degree geo-referenced images would deliver more precise, more detailed views of the city’s land, buildings, and infrastructure. That year, the Dutch government hired a contractor to collect nationwide street level imagery, allowing Amsterdam to license the appropriate images for its own use.
While city officials were pleased with the results of mobile mapping, the contractor’s agreement became a source of frustration. For one thing, Amsterdam had little control over when the data was captured, a problem that could affect the quality of the imagery.
“We'd receive a timeslot for the coming two months from the contractor. If the weather was bad during that time, it would show on the street level imagery, diminishing its usability,” said Ries Visser, Senior Advisor, Basic Information at the City of Amsterdam.
The arrangement also restricted Amsterdam’s use of the geo-referenced images, creating a pay structure that was unfair to taxpayers.
“To me, it seemed exploitive to grow a business by making governmental agencies use tax money to pay for the same product over and over again. Paying for the data collection with tax money is one thing, but doing the same for each separate use is simply too much,“ said Visser.
In 2016, Amsterdam city officials took the most obvious step: They bought their own Trimble mobile mapping system.
The Amsterdam Solution
After extensive market research, the City of Amsterdam chose the Trimble MX7 Mobile Mapping Imaging System, which includes:
· Trimble MX7 Mobile Mapping Imaging System
· Trimble POSpac Mobile Mapping Suite
· Trimble Business Center Software
In fact, Amsterdam became the first global user of the MX7 Mobile Mapping Imaging System, and it fit the city’s needs perfectly. The integrated system mounts easily on the roof of a car or can be used in a boat, which is essential when navigating Amsterdam’s famous canals. The system is also mounted on a Port of Amsterdam boat to monitor the port.
The MX7 is an open system, which makes it accessible to both third party vendors and single viewers. That allows Amsterdam to capture street level (or water level) imagery anytime, anywhere, and share it with anyone it chooses.
Today, the city uses the MX7 almost daily. Three drivers capture the imagery. Once the drivers complete their work, Amsterdam’s internal team uses Trimble POSpac Mobile Mapping Suite to quickly and accurately georeference the imagery. Trimble Business Center (TBC) Survey CAD software enables easy, precise delivery of GNSS data.
After processing, the images––with faces automatically blurred for privacy––are transferred to a server. Then, through a web app, the imagery is published and shared with external users.
By owning its own system, Amsterdam can now capture the entire city twice a year, instead of just once a year. This is critical, because the city changes rapidly. The system’s panoramic imagery provides a current view, enabling firemen and ambulance drivers to view their surroundings before they arrive at a fire or accident scene.
The in-house mobile mapping system also saves taxpayer money. Panoramic imagery is captured once and used multiple times. In fact, anyone can use it.
“The imagery is paid with tax money, and we think citizens are as much owner of the imagery as we are. This is why the imagery is accessible to everyone through our web portal,” Visser said.
When Amsterdam is not capturing images with the MX7, they share the system with nearby suburban districts.
Now that Amsterdam has taken the plunge, other Dutch cities have expressed interest in mobile mapping, which is exactly where the national government had imagined would happen.
To explore the City of Amsterdam's map with panoramic images, visit: data.amsterdam.nl/data/panorama.
To see how the street-level views were created from the MX7 imagery, see Mapillary's blog post here.
To learn more about the Trimble MX7, visit here.