By Rahul C. Thakkar, Director of Commercial Cloud, Insitu Inc.
PCAD stands for Plan, Collect, Analyze, Distribute—but it is much more than just an acronym.
A while ago, Jon Damush, the VP and GM of Insitu Commercial, and I were discussing fledging ideas about having an online platform catering to an enterprise audience that deals with remote sensing data. Designing yet another software portal for “drone data processing” wasn’t cutting it for us.
To be clear, consumers of the data that Insitu’s broad array of technologies are able to provide want to answer simple questions, some examples being:
“Is there corrosion or a potential for leaks for this gas wellhead? Is there water damage or vegetation encroachment? When I send my crew to fix things at the wellhead, who do I send and with what equipment so they best utilize their time with the correct resources? Add on that we have tens of thousands of these wellheads across the country.”
“We have hundreds of miles of pipelines and I need to locate one particular section. Our plans do not reflect reality and my pipeline is under the ground. How can I find the correct part of my pipeline?”
“Our above-ground pipeline needs constant monitoring for security, subsidence, movement, vegetation encroachment and a lot more. We care about the pipeline, not drones or software. What do we do?”
“This massive mound of ore is on our operational site. Is there subsidence? We don’t want to send a person to check but we also want to monitor it closely. We have hundreds of such mounds changing every day across tens of thousands of square miles.”
“We are collecting all this data in the Australian outback and our totally amazing data expert is in Costa Mesa, California. We need to get all of this data to her so that she can get to work. We need an answer yesterday! What can we do?”
For our INEXA Solutions team, the goal of employing processes is to work directly with our customers to answer questions like those listed above, but we would like our customers to continue developing solutions independently as well. So we decided to simplify.
As Jon Damush and I were talking about how we can be of use to our customers, we coined the term PCAD – Plan, Collect, Analyze and Distribute.
PCAD is a recommendation. The term acts as placeholder to help you organize your data while we organize our tools in order to enrich it. It is not a four-step linear process one follows to plan, collect, analyze and distribute data and data products that automatically answers your questions. You can perform PCAD tasks in any order based on what suites your need. You can go from any step to any step, knowing there is a path from one to the other. You can parallelize and scale. Our customers make the rule book. We help organize.
We have taken the questions I mentioned earlier and started finding answers to them. To do this, we have enabled INEXA Cloud to make our customer the master of their data and code.
My team and I do what we do best: Develop and deploy technology following Agile, Kanban and Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CICD) principles that you are used to expecting out of the likes of Dropbox, AWS, Netflix and Facebook. Instead of everyone having a login and password, we gave the customer their own portal and the ability to self-service with two-factor authentication enforced. We empower them with simple data management tools to upload, download, move, copy, rename and delete assets like files and folders. We enable them with standard photo and video site capabilities like preview and metadata. Since the teams working with our customers are GIS-aware, we made the previews and metadata spatio-temporally aware as well.
We are not afraid to take a well-established idea and iterate on it. We are deploying a growing family of PCAD apps – including those that enable flight planning and control for manned and unmanned aircraft, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that turn drones into Internet of Things (IoT) devices, permitting them to “stream” their data directly or indirectly via a Ground Control Station (GCS) into INEXA Cloud’s storage.
With the power that cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure offer, we can help the consumer and ourselves get derived data as if it was part of the original collected data. A user may capture and upload 4K video, but we’d probably want to stream it to our smart phone or tablet. So why not have there already? We may upload high accuracy photogrammetry payload datasets that tout 50 Megapixel or larger images with a cesspool of metadata. We can use our family of tools to generate a variety of datasets like 2D, 2.5D and 3D models and visualize repeating sequences online.
But that is just data processing. Now that we have this data, we can analyze the derived datasets and perform fun tasks like volumetric time differentials to find out if a mound of ore is facing subsidence.
Deep learning tools at your disposal can use this growing pool of our own data to grow its AI capabilities.
Humans and eventually machine learning tools will tag the data with potential risks, such as corrosion, snakes and vegetation encroachment and a lot more.
Beyond Yet Another Acronym—That is where we are heading.
We have created irreversible momentum. And with a fast-growing, capable team, we are working with our tools in the field to improve and grow. We are close to our users. Feedback is direct and simple – it takes one click to send your thoughts to us—and we see it instantaneously on the same Agile boards that we use to develop and better our products daily.
We are focusing on solving problems. INEXA Cloud is but a capability in our fast-growing pool of software and hardware competences. We have airframes, sensors, information transmission tools, data stores, app repositories, APIs for you to write your own code and highly skilled and trained folks who use these tools daily to better our lives.
INEXA Cloud is simple, fast and extensible. It is like having a geo-temporally aware file sharing service integrated with a growing repository of GIS, remote sensing, image processing, machine learning, and deep learning algorithms and apps.
INEXA Solutions and our customer teams can capture terabytes of data daily and then securely connect, and move it to INEXA Cloud using multiple paths. They can process it using our ever-growing family of algorithms, and visualize it in Insitu’s or their own exploitation tools. INEXA Solutions can provide specialized apps developed with our customers, for our customers that answer their specific business queries.
In that sense, we are beyond simply selling through fancy acronyms. We are breathing life into those processes as introduced via PCAD.
And we – the INEXA Cloud team – are having a lot of fun doing so.