The vision thing

Earthcam CEO Brian Cury on construction camera technology

Cury's film roots shaped EarthCam's progress
Cury's film roots shaped EarthCam's progress

Speaking at a recent conference outlining the possibilties afforded to the construction industry by adpoting Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the Middle East was Brian Cury, CEO and founder of EarthCam. His presentation, which took place towards the end of the Turner International's event, brought proceedings to a close with an impressive display of construction camera technology.

Monitor, document and promote

During his presentation, Cury outlined the main benefits to be gained from having high-definition devices professionally installed at construction sites. Such technology allows users to view jobsite activity via live-streamed video links, or to capture megapixel photographs that can be used for documentation and marketing purposes. As Cury explained, construction camera technology enables construction professionals to monitor, document and promote their projects.

A growing number of project managers across the Middle East are beginning to make use of high-definition, on-site cameras because of the wide-ranging benefits offered by the devices. Among the sites on which EarthCam's technology has been adopted, for example, include the new King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah (above), Msheireb's Downtown Doha (overleaf), Qatar's Learning Center and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Users are able to monitor sites from remote locations, cutting down on travel costs and reducing carbon emissions. The technology also negates the need for multiple parties to meet at the same physical location in order to discuss a project’s progress. Secondly, by accurately documenting the construction process from beginning to end – with panoramic photographs consisting of up to one billion pixels – the technology allows project leaders to avoid potential disputes over when particular tasks were completed.

However, perhaps the most appealing – and visually arresting – features of construction camera technology are the promotional applications offered by high-quality panoramic photographs and time-lapse videos.

“This is one of the biggest reasons why people want to use webcams on their projects,” Cury told his audience. “They want to be able to promote their work. Nowadays, a company’s Google rating is extremely important, and nothing increases your Google rating better than a live camera feed from your project site to your website.”

Long-term vision

Immediately after the final presentation of the conference, CW was given an opportunity to question Cury on a one-to-one basis. Despite coming straight off the back of an exhausting tour of the Middle East – with presentations in Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai – the EarthCam CEO spoke enthusiastically about his company’s past, present, and future.

“EarthCam originated from a combination of interlinking ideas,” Cury began. “My background is in television and film. When I founded the company back in 1996, I did so because I was intrigued by the possibility of connecting cameras to the internet. In 1995, there were fewer than 500 cameras connected to the internet. Moreover, at that time, transmitting in this way required a satellite and tens of thousands of dollars. Even so, the broadcast potential of this emerging field fascinated me.”

It wasn’t until the turn of the century, however, that the market really began to take this technology seriously, he said.

“After 9/11, people started to recognise the potential applications of webcams.

“Users realised that they could save time and money by viewing things remotely, but in real time. That was when this technology ceased to be a novelty and became a serious business tool. There were clear applications within a huge number of sectors, including construction, transport, and tourism. A picture tells a thousand words, but more importantly, it doesn’t lie. It is what it is; it’s live.”

EarthCam has come a long way since 1996. The company now broadcasts millions of images daily from its global network of cameras. Did Cury always envisage that webcam technology would progress to its current level?

“If I thought that it would take as long as it has, I might not have done this,” he conceded. “Originally, we were dealing with dial-up modems and receiving an image approximately every two minutes. However, I was convinced that the internet would become faster and more prevalent in society. In turn, I was confident that webcam technology would improve.

“Fast-forward to 2013 and the technology is barely recognisable,” continued Cury. “Our GigapixelCam can take 100 close-up, high-definition shots simultaneously, and crunch all of that data together to make a single, billion-pixel panoramic photograph. What’s more, it can do all of this in a matter of minutes.”

It’s difficult not to be impressed with the rate at which technology has progressed during this relatively short period of time. Images provided by EarthCam’s high-definition megapixel cameras with 4G connectivity are a far cry from the grainy pictures that were transmitted in the mid 1990s. Just how much further does Cury think this technology can progress?

“Oh gosh; there’s so much more that can be done,” he replied. “It sounds trite to say, but this is the tip of the iceberg. Construction camera technology really is in its infancy. We’ll be able to generate higher quality images within shorter periods of time. I also think that unmanned aerial vehicles could offer exciting applications within this arena. The ability to fly a camera over a project, document it, and transmit that data remotely, could prove incredibly useful.”

More immediately, Cury is committed to creating greater value for his customers.

“I want to deliver these tools to a wider audience in a professional and customer-oriented manner,” he concluded. "Our first priority will be to grow the business. As such, EarthCam will open a number of new offices to get closer to its clients.Secondly, we will continue to innovate within fields such as the robotic camera technology.

“Finally, we have a new, no-frills device called Work Zone Cam. This is a simple ‘do-it-yourself’ system aimed at those looking for a low-cost way to experiment with construction camera technology”

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