High-powered magnifier tool enables detailed image analysis for Matrix Solutions
Matrix Solutions is a Canadian employee-owned multi-service environmental and engineering consulting company providing scientifically sound, pragmatic and innovative solutions worldwide. The company has more than 450 professional, technical, and administrative employees strategically located in 19 offices across Canada, and delivers integrated services in the areas of: assessment, remediation, reclamation and monitoring; environmental planning, assessment and approvals; and water resources.
Matrix Solutions has been using Third Light since 2015 to manage millions of images, initially choosing the software because of its adaptable Application Programming Interface (API), its user interface, and its capacity to handle a demanding load. More recently, Michelle Dyason, Matrix Database Analyst, asked for a magnifier tool to be built into the software to enable staff to see minute detail in the images, essential to project decisions, without leaving the Third Light platform. We caught up with Michelle to find out how it was done and how it's helped the team save time and manage their images more effectively.
API critical in supporting third-party applications
In May 2015, Matrix Solutions was searching for a new image management system. Their Director of Digital Integration suggested Third Light, and so the software was subjected to intensive load-testing in a project led by Michelle.
At the time Michelle reported:
"We knew that the system we had been previously using would fail under load, so we wanted to know that Third Light could handle it better. We spent six weeks trying to crash Third Light. We threw everything we could at it, and it continued to stand up. The API is critical to Matrix’s work because of the suite of technical third-party applications that the company already worked with, including Prometheus, OrientDB, AngularJS Leaflet, Iconic and Reconyx."
Previously, all images were stored in folders according to site and project numbers, which was fine if staff knew where to look. But if a team was working in the same geographical area, but for a different client, they wouldn’t have known those images existed. So the need to have all those images in one system was crucial, and Third Light's powerful metadata function solved the issue of "findability", as staff could search for images using simple keywords or geo-location tags. Everything is now sorted, found and retrieved using metadata.
The Third Light API has been the platform upon which Matrix has built a clutch of sophisticated in-house wrappers and service layers to coordinate many cross-application processes. For example, when a Matrix site image is first uploaded into Third Light, its GPS location metadata is also synchronized with a web mapping tool. A custom-made uploader facilitates the organization’s unique uploading and metadata-tagging workflow, and a logger enables Third Light users to apply Matrix design standards to specified InDesign document templates. All this innovative integration logic is marshalled via a Go service layer, running tasks between systems with a Rabbit message queue (RabbitMQ).
Magnifier tool saves time and improves workflow
Having been using the software for several years, Michelle discovered that some of the staff were uploading their images to a corporate hard drive, and doing their image analysis using the standard windows image viewer in order to see the detail they required. When they had finished their analysis, they were uploading to Third Light. This seemed to be a waste of time, and on further investigation, Michelle discovered that the magnifying glass on the small image they got in Third Light didn't provide enough detail for the analysis required.
"Often our scientists are using an image that is of a fairly large area and they are looking for a particular small detail such as colour in the soil or a particular species of plant or bird etc. They really needed a quick way of blowing the image up so they could make project decisions based on what they can see. So we commissioned Third Light to build a custom magnifier tool into the software, which works very well and it also means the images are going where we want them to be – straight into Third Light."
Simon Freytag, Third Light's Professional Services Principal Consultant tells us:
Further to the addition of a magnifier tool, Matrix have also written some of their own applications that interface with Third Light through the API. Their clever uploader does various things during the upload process. It updates external databases with a reference to the images for specific projects so that client reports have direct URL access to the relevant images. If an image has GPS data image references are automatically added to an in-house database that is used to show all our projects on a mapping system where the images are a layer that can be turned on to show all images as icons on the map. The user can then find an area they are interested in, click the icons to see what pictures we already have of that area and what project or client they were for. This has proven to be really insightful and saves lots of time when setting up a new project in an area already worked in.
Michelle goes on to say:
"We also hijacked the template inside Third Light that will take some options then submit images to the 'Contact Sheet'. We use it to send images out of Third Light, into an application we wrote, that uses the images chosen to create a standardized PDF report for submitting to our clients. This is probably the most valuable tool we have for images as it saves our users a lot of time when creating reports and it means our reports have a consistent look and feel. My favorite feature is definitely Third Light's 'Fetch file to URL'. We use this all the time to get images into other applications and reports. In fact – this is by far the most common method for our users to see images, and we even use this method for sharing videos."
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