Sensis 'automaps' Aussie road signs


Partners with NICTA to update Whereis maps.

Location data provider Sensis has formally adopted NICTA's road sign detection tools to refine its information about 250,000 kilometres of roads in Australia and New Zealand.

To date, more than 500,000 signs have been captured by NICTA's AutoMap technology in accordance with a deal by the research organisation and Telstra-owned Sensis in 2009.

The technology scanned Sensis' video data for speed limit signs, manoeuvre restrictions, warning signs, as well as height, width and load limits (pdf).

Since Sensis' video imagery was geo-referenced, NICTA could also match detected signs to the physical locations at which they occurred.

AutoMap findings then formed Sensis' 'baseline database', with which any future video data would be compared.

"When we drive roads again and again, we undertake spatial change analysis from the new field surveys to determine if there is and add or delete for any sign previously captured," Peter Barclay, general manager of Sensis' Whereis mapping business, explained.

"This baseline comparison and update keeps our databases complete, current and up to date."

Sensis provided information about more than 1,100,000 kilometres of Australian roads through its Whereis digital mapping brand, which counted Google Maps, TomTom and Sygic as customers.

Maps were updated by a team of eight data capture vehicles that travelled a total of 240,000 kilometres per year with Australian Road Research Board video capturing technology in tow.

AutoMap, led by NICTA's Lars Petersson, was said to improve the speed and accuracy of information gathering and avoided fatigue, compared to previous, manual reviews by video console operators.

Barclay said the automated process delivered "efficiencies for Sensis, as well as improving the completeness, accuracy and quality of our digital mapping products".

He said Sensis had first made contact with NICTA about trialling the technology in 2008, striking up a "development partnership" that allowed NICTA to "cut its teeth" and validate the market potential of AutoMap.

A formal, long-term commercial arrangement was struck this year, Barclay said, declining to disclose the term and financial details of the contract.

Sensis laid no claim on NICTA's intellectual property, and imposed no restrictions on future commercial dealings with local and international businesses.

NICTA hoped to provide AutoMap as an industry-specific analytical service.

Videos to be analysed were required to have a minimum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, a frame rate of one frame per 10 metres or greater, and a minimum GPS resolution of one sample per second.

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Sensis 'automaps' Aussie road signs
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