Mapping Italy with High-Resolution Aerial Imagery
As the leading aerial remote sensing survey company in Italy, CGR (Compagnia Generale Ripreseaeree SpA) is often contacted by municipalities and private companies alike to partner on cutting-edge projects requiring up-to-date, precision map data. Their high-resolution (20cm), orthorectified imagery captures the level of detail needed for critical decision-making, and the frequency of updates ensures end-users are working with an accurate representation of the real world.
Every year, CGR uses advanced automation techniques to orthorectify their imagery, model the terrain, and update their data for half of Italy. This means that every two to three years, CGR is producing an up-to-date aerial image repository of the entire country, data that is in high-demand for organizations that require information about Italian land cover and building footprints, and how they change over time.
While CGR’s customers were thrilled with the quality of the imagery data, they often expressed a need for digitized vector maps generated from the imagery. Vector features enable organizations to better interpret the data captured in aerial imagery, allowing them to isolate and analyze individual elements. For example, one telecommunications company contacted CGR for help rolling out broadband and fiber infrastructure in Italy, hoping to derive detailed vector features from CGR’s high-resolution imagery that they could then use to model and plan their networks.
Manually digitizing features from any image is a time-consuming task, requiring extreme attention to detail and a significant investment of time by a GIS technician. Many of CGR’s clients did not have the time or resources to digitize imagery, especially over large geographic areas. CGR realized that to further enable their customers (and increase their own revenue per pixel of imagery captured), they needed to partner with a company to digitize the data at scale without sacrificing the quality their end-users had come to expect.
Increasing Revenue Per Pixel by Partnering with Ecopia
When CGR learned about how Ecopia AI (Ecopia) was digitizing the world using artificial intelligence (AI), they decided to explore a potential partnership. They saw a unique opportunity to combine their high quality aerial imagery of Italy with the unmatched vector extraction services of Ecopia’s in-house AI-based technology to deliver a full geospatial data solution to their clients.
Ecopia and CGR first partnered together on a project-by-project basis, working closely with each client to capture imagery for the area of interest (AOI) needed, then digitize the specific features required for their use case with the level of precision that a human would. This resulted in CGR delivering exactly what the client needed to perform their own workflows without them having to worry about extracting the data themselves. Through this project-based partnership, CGR was able to win contracts with various organizations spanning multiple industries, prompting them to deepen the relationship with Ecopia.
“Now clients want to work with CGR because of our ability to provide detailed vector maps in addition to high quality imagery. Partnering with Ecopia gave us a tangible way to show added value to our customers.” - Massimiliano Rossi, Senior Account Manager at CGR
In 2020, after completing several successful projects together, the two companies partnered to map all of Italy using CGR’s automated image processing techniques and Ecopia’s AI-based mapping systems. This initiative allowed both companies to scale their work and expedite results for organizations requiring high-definition (HD) vector maps. Having up-to-date digitized vector data for the entire country of Italy allows both CGR and Ecopia to meet client needs more efficiently, especially as the previous project-based work received more attention and attracted new clients.
Together, Ecopia and CGR mapped the entire country of Italy - an area of over 300,000 square kilometers - in a fraction of the time required for manual extraction. This unprecedented timeline for extracting complex features in HD across such a large area provided the first comprehensive map for Italy, empowering organizations large and small with up-to-date information about the AOIs important to them.
“The Italian geospatial market is extremely varied, especially when it comes to government organizations” continued Rossi. “Some municipalities stay on top of technological trends and have already expressed interest in this type of data. Others are still relying on outdated topographic maps and spending valuable time and resources manually updating them. Ecopia’s and CGR’s nationwide Italian land cover dataset helps us reach both segments of the market.”
In addition to providing an end-to-end geospatial solution for their clients, CGR was able to double their revenue per pixel through their partnership with Ecopia. The added value of digitized vector features for every image CGR captures has increasingly led clients to choose them over other geospatial data and service providers, growing their brand recognition and revenue.
Ecopia’s and CGR’s fully digitized HD vector map of Italy provides detailed land cover classification for the entire country, including buildings, road networks, green areas, and more. Extracting these diverse features in high quality detail is complex, especially in European countries with ancient architecture and unique city layouts. Ecopia’s AI-based mapping technology has been refined over the past decade, adapting to be able to map diverse global landscapes with the highest precision. As CGR was exploring potential partnership opportunities, they knew they needed a partner who could correctly digitize the unique features their clients needed, such as the curvilinear streets and detailed churches common to Italian cities. Ecopia was the only provider they could find that could accurately digitize complex European features at scale.
Ecopia stood out as the ideal partner for CGR not only because of the quality and scale of the AI used for feature extraction, but also for the close, collaborative relationship fostered by the Ecopia partnership team. “Our dedicated Ecopia partner manager is just as invested in our success as we are,” said Rossi. “From the beginning, Ecopia has been committed to developing a tailor-made solution for us and our clients.”
The nationwide HD vector map of Italy is already empowering organizations across industries to make stronger strategic decisions. While telecommunications and insurance companies have leveraged the data for network planning and risk assessment, the biggest application of the data so far has been in the urban planning sector. Municipalities throughout Italy are now using the imagery and vector data from CGR and Ecopia to support transportation infrastructure planning, tax assessment, and energy use cases.
“Ecopia is thrilled to continue our partnership with CGR and enable municipalities and other industries to solve their most complex challenges,” said Abigail Coholic, Senior Director of Partnerships at Ecopia. “We’ve seen an increased need for extracting large amounts of data from higher resolution imagery, and are committed to evolving our technology to meet these needs and empower our partners.”
To further support these initiatives, the two companies are exploring the creation of additional next-generation mapping products across Italy. For example, with CGR’s deep knowledge of the Italian market, they have identified multiple verticals where Ecopia’s ability to produce photogrammetric-quality 3D vector maps from CGR’s best-in-class stereo imagery will enable both companies to offer more detailed data to their customers more efficiently and at larger scales than before.
“Ecopia is always adding new capabilities to their AI, which is another reason why we chose to partner with them,” added Rossi. “We know that our clients’ needs will evolve over time, but through our partnership with Ecopia we will be able to meet those needs.”
To learn more about partnering with Ecopia, please contact Abigail Coholic, Senior Director of Partnerships.