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Photo Management For Pole Data Collection

The first question most people ask about Katapult Pro is: "how do the photos get to the right locations?"

This is an important question, especially considering our methodology is based on defensible photo data and uses cameras that operate offline. Further, a full day of pole surveying often yields a few thousand photos. Manually associating large volumes of photos is a challenge, particularly if taken by multiple crews or taken over multiple days.

To avoid manual association, we use something called "Time Buckets."

Time Buckets are attributes that are added in the field that let our software know which pictures to look for when automatically associating photos. In the field, the SLR Operator presses "Mark Done" on the mobile device after he/she and their crew mate have finished taking photos of a pole. This closes the Time Bucket for that pole and starts the clock on a new one, which can be placed anywhere on the design (typically the next pole or span of the job).

Katapult Pro mobile interface

At the end of collection, each pole and span will have Time Buckets with start and end times, which will be necessary for automatic association back in the office.

Node information Time Bucket

Here's the kicker: most cameras have internal clocks that have to be reset when they lose battery, or get off by a few seconds every week. This is problematic when trying to associate photos, because a difference of a few seconds could mean that many of your photos end up in the wrong spot. It would also be a major pain to require each camera to be synced (to the second) with a universal clock, so we developed a simple workaround.

Before beginning collection a new job, we take a "sync shot" of the Katapult Pro clock on both cameras.

Field details for Sync Shot

Back in the office, the software will look at the Sync Shots to know what time the camera thinks it is, then apply a standard fix to the rest of that camera's photos to align them with the universal clock. When you press "Associate Photos," the system will look at the correct times and sort all photos into the correct Time Buckets.

There are things that can cause this association to fail, like forgetting to take a sync shot, switching cameras or phones, or not setting the camera clocks. While these issues are entirely avoidable, mistakes happen. In fact, we've messed up Sync Shots and Time Buckets so many times that we have terrific strategies for manual association and solving Sync Shot issues.

Call Katapult HQ for assistance if you make one of these mistakes and need our expertise.


KATAPULT TIPS FOR PHOTO MANAGEMENT:

1. When should I take a Sync Shot?

  • At the beginning of each new job, take Sync Shots of the phone being used to place Time Buckets with all cameras

  • If you have to switch phones, take another set of Sync Shots with all cameras

  • If you have to switch users, take another set of Sync Shots with all cameras

  • If you have to switch cameras, take a Sync Shot with the new camera

  • If you forgot to take a Sync Shot at the beginning of the job, take them as soon as you remember

2. The Associate Photos button isn't working. What happened?

Nine out of ten times, the issue is the way the sync shots were entered in katapultpro.com/photos. Here is a brief list of different situations, and how to handle them:

  • You collected on multiple days, and there are sync shots that haven't been entered. In this scenario, our software is applying the same correction from the first day of collection to every other day those cameras were used. This means that by day two (and especially week two) association may be off for many poles and spans. Run through your photos (katapultpro.com/photos) and make sure that you have entered a "Sync and Job" chip (keyboard shortcut "j") for all Sync Shots. Then, try associating your photos again.

  • Somebody entered incorrect information into the Sync or Job chip in katapultpro.com/photos. The most common issue we see is that information is entered incorrectly, causing issues with automatic association. Make sure that the time, date, timezone, user, and job were all entered correctly for each Sync Shot.

3. Every time my team goes to use the small camera, the clock needs to be reset. Is there any way around this?

We store our small cameras with a battery inside to avoid resetting the clock each day. You can also use a mobile device to take photos, which will not require the clock to be set at all. If you decide to use a mobile device in the place of the traditional small camera, you will still need to take a Sync Shot of the phone being used by the SLR Operator.




Adam Schmehl