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Catching up with LARA: A second, better quality prototype to take on the market

The LARA project was set up in 2015 to develop a mobile device which, by combining technologies such as GNSS, Augmented Reality, GIS and geodatabases, could enable utility workers to visualise underground infrastructure related to supplies of water, gas, electricity, etc. This ‘x-ray’ type view would enable workers to be more precise in their tasks, bringing down overall costs, maintenance time and disruption to traffic.

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After testing the first prototype in the Greek city of Kozani, Mr Konstantinos Smagas, project deputy coordinator of LARA (LBS Augmented Reality Assistive System for Utilities Infrastructure Management through Galileo and EGNOS), in a research*eu Magazine interview last year, anticipated market entry for their product by the end of 2017 – so what has happened since? Mr Smagas continues the story: “Towards the end of last year we already had two clients from France and the UK ready to adopt our technology, but despite the product itself being market ready, we realised that we did not have complementary services such as product support and distribution channels fully in place.” The decision was then taken to delay the launch and use the time to make system improvements. As Mr Smagas elaborates, “Since the project’s end, we have been improving accuracy and usability for the end user, especially in relation to the software.” Giving an example of hardware improvements, Mr Smagas cites the system sensors which had been selected over two years ago, and so were now also eligible for an upgrade with the latest iterations. With these improvements, the team is now considering making a second, better quality prototype. “Even though all our testing and prototype performances have been successful, and we have been market ready with good feedback from clients, we still believe that there is room for improvement,” Mr Smagas adds. “We want to make sure that when we do launch, our product will truly get a great reception by the market.” Indeed, the LARA team’s attention to detail has so far paid off, winning them the European Satellite Navigation Competition, ESNC 2017 Award for the Madrid Challenge, in November 2017. At the time of writing, the team were planning to launch a full demo of the system at the premises of an interested party in the UK.