The smart city, once a cutting-edge concept, has now materialised with success in several urban centres around the world. However, some countries are now looking to push beyond city-level solutions to the connected smart country. In smart country initiatives, government leaders pursue data-based, sustainable planning, development and operations that will benefit urban and rural areas alike, giving the smart village as much importance as the smart city.
Azerbaijan is one of these countries, and President Ilham Aliyev is building partnerships to establish the digital infrastructure smart solutions need to succeed. One crucial part of the digital foundation for a smart country is accurate geospatial data.
EKM Global Consulting GMBH, led by Director Elshan Musayev, was the first company to bring a solution for capturing this data to Azerbaijan through 3D mobile mapping with the Leica Pegasus:Two Ultimate. Working with country-wide electric provider, Azerishig OSJC, EKM Global used captured data to create a digital twin of the utility network across an entire territory, enabling classification and cataloguing of all assets, development planning, and faster services.
Musayev’s vision, however, is one that extends beyond any single project into a future of connected, accessible data for Azerbaijan and other countries.
Solution-centred entrepreneurship leads to mobile mapping Azerbaijan
Musayev, a solution-focused entrepreneur, believes data can improve lives and is passionate about making this a reality in Azerbaijan. With a background in finance, business, public relations, and education and with roles as Chairman of the Board for the Azerbaijan Franchise Association and founder of a public relations company, among several others, he has developed a wealth of experience that informs his business philosophy:
“My job is bringing different people and solutions together. I am not selling products or individual services to customers, but the entire solution,” says Musayev.
EKM Global, founded 9 years ago and located in Baden-Baden, Germany, brings innovative solutions to customers through 3D mobile mapping, ground penetrating radar, and 3D laser scanning.
“Over the past few years, we started to work with virtual reality, augmented reality, and laser scanning. My first scanner was the Leica BLK360. We also use the BLK3D and are an official distributor of the BLK247 smart surveillance system. Our next step was 3D mobile mapping, which we began planning for in 2018 and 2019,” says Musayev, reflecting on his company’s growth and expanded services.
He consulted with Leica representatives in several countries to learn more about the Leica Pegasus:Two Ultimate, a mobile sensor platform enabling digital reality captures from cars, trains and boats with 360-degree 24 MP cameras. In addition to product knowledge, Musayev wanted to ensure good working partnerships.
“We trust the reality capture of Leica from our experience with the BLK360, and the Pegasus has a strong suite of specifications. However, the most important thing is the communication with people, and Leica has great people” says Musayev.
Deciding to invest in the Pegasus:Two Ultimate, Musayev found that just as EKM Global was growing their reality capture capabilities, President Aliyev was expressing interest in moving Azerbaijan towards a smart country. Certain that he had solutions that aligned with national priorities, he applied his approach for taking on any large goal:
“The first step is to trust yourself, the second is to learn, and third, to do,” advises Musayev.
He travelled to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to present 3D mobile mapping to President Aliyev and his pitch was a success, securing a pilot project to map the infrastructure of Şirvan, a city in east Azerbaijan.
Overcoming challenges to complete the pilot project
However, only two weeks after receiving this good news, a looming travel lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail the project. Musayev had an important choice to make and little time to decide: Should he stay and forge ahead without all the mobile mapping equipment, or leave to retrieve it, resulting in significant delays?
“I signed the agreement for the pilot project on March 18th, 2020, and we got started as soon as possible,” reflects Musayev. “I’m a good crisis manager, and I work very well in difficult situations. When there are challenges, I am not stopping, but solving the problems.”
Using a video recording-based system to map Şirvan, he navigated new technologies and the process of obtaining official authorisations to carry out the work amid general restrictions. Despite these challenges, the project showed the potential of mobile mapping and secured EKM GLobal a larger project to map the utility infrastructure of the whole region for electric provider, Azerishig.
Integrating Europe-wide resources to map infrastructure in Azerbaijan
The solution EKM Global brought to Azerbaijan was developed and executed with international resources and collaborations. However, Musayev planned to provide much more than captured data – he wanted to ensure its wider usability in the future with digital models and accessible software.
“We made the first capture together with an expert from the Ukraine,” recalls Musayev. “Then we imported this data into the 3D mobile mapping software to start making the layers. In the software, we categorised and catalogued the assets, enabling us to create an assessment and detailed inventory of the infrastructure.”
“The next step is to develop digital twins so that 3D data about the whole infrastructure can be accessed,” continues Musayev. “All services done through the 3D models will be much faster, projects can be done more efficiently and transparently. These are, in fact, the basic elements of a smart city.”
It was also important to Musayev that the data be usable and accessible for people in Azerbaijan, enabling them to work with and view the information in their local language. This led to a collaboration with a company in the Czech Republic to build a GIS software specifically for Azerbaijan called AzerSky.
“3D mobile mapping is not just for the electric provider,” says Musayev. “It’s for the full economy. Now we have captured the whole territory, including infrastructure for gas, water providers, and more. We can see it all in the data.”
Musayev’s future-focused philosophy
While EKM Global has already captured a significant amount of data in Azerbaijan through 3D mobile mapping, Musayev is still pursuing ideas for more extensive captures and processing capabilities.
“As a company, we continue to look for solutions to challenges,” says Musayev, “like finding ways to map places where the car cannot go, causing us to miss parts of the infrastructure details. We are planning to add captures with drones, create 3D mesh models, and working more with AI to take over post-processing tasks.”
The driving force behind his consistent pursuit of new solutions is the belief that this data is important for everyone, now and in the decades to come.
“We have a more detailed path to the future based on data, and we need to think about the next generation. This is good for strategic development, companies, infrastructure, and up-to-date action plans,” says Musayev.
“We are offering to store this huge amount of data for the government on one server, providing more efficient access through a geoportal and software,” he continues. “Private companies and entrepreneurs can also use this type of data to identify problems people have and find answers in smart solutions.”
“This project is not just good for Azerbaijan, but when we are finished here, we can use this case in other countries as well,” he predicts.
Overall, Musayev’s approach to business is sourced in a message that extends well beyond the professional sphere: “You must love yourself and the people around you. You must do good things for people, starting with yourself.”
For more information about the Leica Pegasus:Two mobile mapping solution, visit our product page. Alternatively, please browse our range of mobile capture on our website.