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The new technological challenge of underground networks: TransparenSee, the augmented reality application

The contribution of new technologies for augmented reality visualization is one of the pillars of the strategy to reduce damage to structures: tomorrow, it will be possible on the construction site to visualize buried pipes in augmented reality and in real time from a smartphone or tablet, with sub-centimetric precision. These data would be taken from the Geographic Information System (GIS) of the various network operators, and from the sensors used to locate the pipes. It is the combination of all these technological bricks on which RICE is working with its partners that will make it possible to achieve this ambitious objective.

The TransparenSee application

TransparenSee is an augmented reality application that allows you to detect and visualize buried networks realistically and with great precision. Tested at RICE in the network detection test area of the Villeneuve la Garenne site, it was designed in partnership with students from the Arts et Métiers of Angers and the AMVALOR laboratory. The application takes advantage of the most advanced visualization and relocation technologies, merging SLAM(simultaneous localization and mapping), LIDAR and GNSS data.

By scanning the detection area in three dimensions, the development teams located the buried pipes and generated a digital duplicate. The interest of the system lies in the visual rendering of these pipes within the application. This tool is particularly useful for public works companies in order to locate, to the nearest centimetre, the multiple buried networks and thus ensure the safety of earthmoving operations and avoid damage to the structures.

Augmented reality, an asset for visualization

Pipes are buried elements, of great length. It is a challenge for augmented reality to represent them, because we have to be able to manage the perspective effect and therefore be able to know the real topology of the ground to take it into account in the display.

This is where the Lidar, a kind of 3D scanner integrated into the tablet, comes in. Indeed, it makes it possible to calculate the distance of a point of space by the emission and the reception of a light wave. This depth information allows the application to map the environment around the structure in 3 dimensions.

Finally, rendering algorithms have been developed to allow the visual occultation of walls or objects filmed by the tablet.

The application also allows a 2D visualization of the pipes, which simplifies the marking of the zones on a building site, a long process (data recovery, mapping of the networks, complementary investigations on the ground, analysis of discrepancies, report…) and source of nuisances for the neighbourhood.

Visualization of digital twins of buried pipes with the TransparenSee application
Simplified use for the operator

The user has the possibility to visualize the pipes and obtain information about their constituent material or the fluids they carry.

The application works by default with a configuration saved on the device. If the topology of the site changes, a new relocation configuration can be created to ensure the continuity of the experience.

Field sampling at a biomethane injection station by RICE teams
Promising prospects for the prevention of damage to structures

For the time being, TransparenSee requires the downloading of positioning data provided by the operators for their structures. Still in the development stage, large-scale application will be made possible by :

  • the availability of information from operators, for example in open data
  • connection to operators’ GIS databases with, ideally, a conversion algorithm between heterogeneous GIS
  • standardization of the data format for pipes (pressure, altimetry, diameter, location, etc.)
And soon I-Clou

In addition, Transparensee is the first technological building block in a larger project called I-Clou.

Some geographical areas in the city do not have access to GPS because of the presence of buildings that mask access to satellites. The I-Clou project should eventually allow geolocation in an urban canyon thanks to beacons made of communicating nails. It could therefore interface advantageously with a high precision visualization system such as TransparenSee.

Network detection: a regulatory and safety challenge
In the French subsoil, there are hundreds of thousands of kilometres of gas transmission and distribution pipelines. These buried pipelines are not immune to incidents caused by external actions, drilling or pulling-up during public works, for example. Keeping control over the integrity of networks is a major challenge and the first condition for...
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Carine Lacroix, Program Coordinator
Carine Lacroix coordinates the "Ensure the Integrity of Distribution Works" (Industrial Safety) and "Developing New Materials, Monitoring Systems and Construction Technologies"(Energy Transition Domain) programs.
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