Assessment of commercialisation opportunities relating to augmented reality capability within mobile apps developed by the British Geological Survey

Lead Research Organisation: British Geological Survey
Department Name: Geo-Information & Systems


BGS have developed an Augmented Reality system to display and interact with information using mobile devices.
At present the BGS AR system is used to run our iGeology 3D augmented reality geological landscape app. iGeology 3D shows geological map layers over a live camera view of the scene, giving the visual effect of painting the map information onto the ground. Touching the scene brings up geological information for that point.

iGeology 3D and its companion app iGeology have been downloaded more than 300,000 times. iGeology 3D builds a 3D model of the landscape around you and drapes the BGS geological map over the surface. It creates a view of the 3D model matching the view through your camera and displays both on the screen with the geological landscape translucent over the camera view.

There is potential to re-use the BGS AR system for other purposes. We believe we have developed unique capability that has value far beyond the domain of the geological sciences. The ability to visualise live spatial data, on the move, in a mobile environment has potential uses in a wide range of industries e.g. utilities, environmental, heritage management, education. Some suggested ideas include:
-Archaeology / historical sites: View a site through your phone to see how it looked long ago. Add 3D reconstructed buildings. Add a "time machine" control to see changes through the ages. Add animations of people using the site. Add historical photos superimposed on current structures.
-Visual impact analysis for planning: Add 3D models of proposed structures. Look through your phone to see what the proposed wind turbines will look like from here.
-Virtual information boards: Add information and interpretation boards to a site without spoiling its appearance. Information boards only appear in the view through your phone. Proximity alerts and site maps guide you to them.

We believe there are commercial opportunities to be grasped from this technology across a wide range of industries from anywhere across the globe

Planned Impact

Our award winning mobile apps have engaged 400,000 people across 120 countries in geosciences, supporting industry, teaching and public engagement, inspiring them to actively participate in and shape scientific research. They have driven innovations in food and farming, supporting a £160m flagship government strategy designed to maximise the economic and environmental benefits of the UK agricultural technologies sector. They have provided property surveyors with more accurate identification of geological hazards to reduce risk of significant damage of health (radon gas) and infrastructure (subsidence). iGeology supports the renewable energy industry with site investigation and selection for wind farms and biomass energy facilities. Our apps have accelerated spatial information delivery across many organisations in the UK and overseas (e.g. UAE Ministry of Energy), enabling them to implement their open data strategies. myVolcano harnesses the power of citizen science in building resilience of local communities in the developing world to natural disasters.

Our apps have enhanced engagement in geosciences, supporting industry, teaching and public engagement, inspiring them to actively participate in and shape scientific research.

Significant BGS data resources have been released on open data terms through BGS mobile apps. Our geological data can now be reached 24/7 by a wider demographic including people who don't necessarily have specialist knowledge and software to be able to view and use geological maps. This enables the citizen and commercial exploitation of our data archives, bringing long-term advantages for the whole country by stimulating new commercial projects and businesses that will benefit the economy as a whole.

Our apps have also enabled more accurate identification of geological hazards to reduce risk of significant damage to health and infrastructure
Property surveyors have used iGeology to generate over 2000 site specific geological hazard reports. These relate to radon gas which causes over 1,100 deaths from lung cancer each year in the UK and shrink-swell related subsidence which costs the insurance industry over £400 million a year.

Our apps have also supported site investigation and selection such as within the renewable energy industry and civil engineering.

Commercial customers use iGeology each day to access geological map and subsurface borehole information in the field to support site investigation and structural surveying work. A Google search returns around 40 such users. Over 100,000 borehole records are accessed online each month. Previous manual fulfilment methods provided 2000 records per month. Our apps have liberated this valuable dataset, making it easily available for exploitation by UK plc.

Our apps have accelerated spatial information delivery across many private and public sector organisations. Other UK agencies such as the Coal Authority have asked us to reproduce our systems to deliver their data. We have also replicated our apps for national Governments, creating mGeology for the UAE Ministry of Energy. The UAE Government has a strategy to provide smart services to citizens which enable ready access to national data assets. mGeology makes an important and leading contribution to this strategy.

We believe BGS augmented reality capability and the apps we provide on top of this underlying functionality have applications far beyond the geoscience domain. We want to use this project to undertake market analysis so that we have the confidence to move forward with commercialising the BGS AR capability in the most appropriate way for both BGS and its customers.


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Robin Higgons (2018) BGS Market Assessment for BGSAR

Description - What were the most significant achievements from the award?

An increased understanding of the commercial viability of the augmented reality technology developed by BGS. key findings where that the capability is of interest to a range of differing users and domains, but this is nascent and as yet is not clearly understood. It also uncovered that emerging rival technologies are now coming on the scene that were not available when BGS first embarked on developing the technology. BGS should think very carefully about whether they should continue and whether they would be able to compete in the market. As a result of this research, BGS has been able to gather valuable knowledge about the commercialisation potential of the AR capability it has developed. This knowledge can be used to inform business decisions going forward.

- To what extent were the award objectives met? If you can, briefly explain why any key objectives were not met.

The award objective to gain insight into the commercialisation opportunities relating to BGS-developed AR capability has been fully met.

- How might the findings be taken forward and by whom?

The findings have led to the decision to suspend any further development activity. It is felt that BGS will be better placed utilising emerging rival open source software relating to AR. Where BGS should focus is in consultancy in the application of AR within the geoscience and related domains, creating applications for its own purposes that can act as demonstrators to win consultancy contracts. BGS should therefore focus on using alternative AR technology for the benefit of geoscience, rather than continuing to develop the technical capability itself.
Exploitation Route Others who might have had aspirations to develop AR will benefit from a better understanding of a range of technologies that are starting to become readily available as open source.Others might also benefit from confirmation that there is a significant interest in the utilisation of AR for science. The full potential of AR utilisation and its benefits are still not well known, but others will be encouraged that there is value in pursuing its utilisation further.
Sectors Agriculture

Food and Drink


Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)



Leisure Activities

including Sports

Recreation and Tourism



Museums and Collections

Description Market assessment of BGS AR capability 
Organisation QI3
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of augmented reality capability for use in Geoscience with potential for wider application in other domains
Collaborator Contribution Assessment of the potential application of the technology to other domains and the potential commercial value.
Impact A report assessing the commercialisation potential of BGS augmented reality capability.
Start Year 2017
Title Better understanding of the potential uses and commercial value of the BGS augmented reality software engine 
Description BGS have created an augmented reality software engine for visualising large spatial data sets on a mobile device. Instead of looking at a map of the spatial data, a user looks at the landscape through their phone's camera to see the spatial data and other information painted on the ground. The first mobile application using the AR engine is for surface and subsurface geological data, which is available as the iGeology and iGeology3D applications available on Android and iOS platforms. This award assessed the potential wider application of this software to other domains along with its potential commercial value and routes to market. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact BGS has ceased active development on the software as a result of the findings of this report and also other knowldege relating to the release of rival technologies. The report has therefore played an important role in steering BGS software development priorities and where best to spend its resources to maximise impact.