RoadBotics Can Now Find Manhole Covers in Smartphone Videos

The company's new product, Image Logger, can recognize "assets" in and around roadways to help government compile catalogs of what they own, using video taken from vehicle-mounted smartphones.

by / June 22, 2020

A startup has created a tool to allow government to catalog things in and beside roads — things like traffic signs, guardrails, sidewalks and manhole covers — by automatically parsing through video taken on smartphones.

RoadBotics, a company spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2016, has mostly focused on creating software to allow governments to assess the condition of roads by mounting smartphones in vehicles, recording video of the pavement and then running it through software. Over time it’s honed those capabilities, but now it’s expanding out into further territory.

The concept is one tech companies have taken an interest in in recent years, especially when it comes to curbs. Coord, a startup backed by the Google-linked company Sidewalk Labs, recently undertook a project to help encode the rules of curb use with transportation forms like electric scooters and bicycles in mind.

Keeping track of the many “assets” in and around roads can be a pretty large and arduous task for local governments, who might normally do so through manual observation or outsourcing. The idea with RoadBotics is to make that process faster and easier, which would create better data to help identify what work needs to be done, where and when.

“The Image Logger is a great addition to our existing products and tools for road and infrastructure management,” RoadBotics Head of Product Matt Lucas said in a statement. “It helps our clients to better administer their assets while saving valuable resources.”

According to a video from the company, Image Logger will take video captured through the RoadSense app, then plot it out on a map. The interface allows a user to trawl through the images at their leisure, stamping every frame with coordinates and the time the image was taken.

It also offers the ability to create before-and-after comparisons so that a user could, for example, show what a street looked like before and after a city worked on it.

The product is the first officially released on the company’s cloud platform, RoadWay.

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