The following article is written by Angelene Bailey, Communications Intern at the RIC Centre.
Underground pipelines are known for being out of sight and out of mind. Their invisibility is intentional, however when a problem arises, it’s extremely difficult repairing what cannot be seen firsthand. This was an obstacle that fieldworkers, project managers and engineers often faced and was deemed unsolvable. However, Alec Pestov did not think like the majority and ultimately developed a solution to this common problem: a virtual geographic information system (vGIS). Since then, Pestov has grown this idea into the startup vGIS, which is operated as a subsidiary of his parent company Meemim Inc.
Mixed reality, a combination of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), pushes limits and makes the impossible seem a little bit more feasible. In the past, both VR and AR have been used as a tool to expand our imagination, for gaming, business, or simply transforming the world around us. But it doesn’t end there. Meemim’s vGIS product will be used to transform GIS data into either an augmented-, virtual-, or mixed-reality, for all the fieldworkers, project managers and engineers.
Exhibiting a display similar to the sci-fi movie Iron Man, vGIS combines and visualizes information from sources, such as ArcGIS, Esri maps, and inspection records, creating in-field holographic visuals of various infrastructures. With an app on your phone, you can experience the vGIS through augmented-reality; with the Microsoft HoloLens, you can experience the vGIS through mixed reality; and lastly, with a pair of virtual reality goggles, you can experience the vGIS through virtual reality.
Almost four years ago the IT and GIS director for the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority (TRMUA), Len Bundra, constantly faced issues in distinguishing underground pipelines and began his search for a solution. His passion for an answer led him to cross paths with Meemim. It was this moment that Pestov decided on a mixed reality experience as an efficient solution and soon after founded vGIS.
“Everything underground is expensive to maintain,” Pestov explains. “Fieldworkers cannot physically see pipelines before excavating, and there is a higher chance of hitting them, which can lead to costly damages. Fortunately, with the Meemim’s vGIS system all the pipelines are visible, as if they were physically exposed.”
vGIS Planning uses holograms that can be viewed by multiple users at the same time to help with infrastructure project reviews. 3D visualizations let you conduct a virtual tour of the project, highlight issues, and discuss “what-if” scenarios in real time.
There are three different products Meemim Inc provides: vGIS Utilities, vGIS Planning, and vGIS Exploration. vGIS Utilities takes GIS data, transforms it into holograms, and can be used as an app on your phone, tablet, or holographic headset. vGIS Planning contains holograms that can be viewed by multiple users at the same time for collaborations in projects. Lastly, vGIS Exploration allows users to visualize mining and exploration sites as accurate as a 3D hologram.
These products instill greater confidence in workers before they start to dig. With a visible guide, workers will understand the complexities of what’s underground, knowing whether there is one pipe, or several pipes overlapping. It’s not a complete guessing game anymore.
Pestov has known one of the RIC Centre’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Paul Barter for several years before joining the RIC Centre. Since joining the RIC Centre, Pestov has worked frequently with Barter and hasn’t regretted it since. “It has been a pleasant experience, and very helpful to us,” Pestov shares. “That’s why we’ve kept in touch with the RIC Centre throughout the years.”
Meemim and their vGIS product have fostered many partnerships. One impressed notable client being Promark-Telecon, however they also partnered with companies such as OHM Advisors, City of Auburn, and Toronto Water. Serving over 3 million residents, Toronto Water delivers safe drinking water, collects and treats wastewater, and also provides stormwater management services. Just over a month ago, they announced that they will be using Meemim’s vGIS to increase productivity, accuracy, and safety, and stating that its value is self-evident.
About Alec Pestov
Alec is the Founder, CEO, and driving force behind Meemim. Alec has held technical and senior management roles for over 15 years in industries including financial services, retail, and manufacturing. He is also an experienced entrepreneur with 3 previous successful startups.
Throughout his career, Alec saw a need for knowledge management and preservation that was not being addressed by any tools available on the market – so he decided to build one, becoming the principle design architect of Meemim.
Alec holds an MBA degree with specialization in Macro Economics and Strategic Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University. When he’s not working to improve Meemim, Alec enjoys martial arts, mountain biking and auto racing.