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Transforming Geospatial Data: The Power of Geomatics

Technology is revolutionizing and transforming geospatial data. Going far beyond your typical data point collection and measurements, we can use evolving geospatial tools such as LiDAR, GPS/GNSS, and remote sensing to collect comprehensive and multi-dimensional geographic data. This data is extracted and analyzed to make data-driven decisions in the development of transportation asset management plans. 

The incorporation of these technological tools has created some confusion in the geospatial industry causing the coining of a new term, Geomatics. Geomatics has entered our lexicon to cover the multiple ways and uses of the data derived from these geospatial tools by various disciplines.

Pillar uses these advancing technologies to yield enhanced efficiency and results. Read on to learn more.

The true and sometimes subtle differences between geospatial differences create confusion. Today, those differences grow even finer as mobile mapping, asset management, and unmanned aerial vehicles become integrated in daily operations.

Defining Geospatial: More than an object

Surveying Device

Using the term geospatial indicates that an object or object set has a geographic component to it. Typically, this geographical component is identified in terms of coordinates (latitude, longitude, altitude). However, it can also relate to an addressed location such as a house number on a street in a specific city in a specific state or zip code. Most of the time the geographic component is attributed through global positioning system (GPS). However, satellite imagery or photogrammetry can be utilized to derive the geographic component.

Defining Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Controlling Ever-Growing Geospatial Data

Surveying Device Folded

Geographic information systems (GIS) manage, store, and integrate geospatial data collected from:

  • Satellite imagery
  • Demographics
  • Statistics
  • Road networks
  • Historical maps
  • Investigation, etc.

The information systems cataloging these data points helps professionals manipulate, analyze, and map their geospatial data. Through GIS, you can view, analyze, and house multiple layers of information to perform various volumetric and area calculations, create maps, and perform various types of modeling.

Since geospatial data is ever-growing, GIS becomes an essential tool for the management of valuable data for project planning and improved efficiency of research. But, when one goes beyond the collection and storing of important geospatial data, they enter the multidisciplinary science of geomatics.

Defining Geomatics: Going Beyond Geospatial Data with Interdisciplinary Science

Pillar Mobile LiDAR Screen in Vehicle

Many people describe a wide selection of geography-relevant technology and disciplines as “geospatial.” However, “geomatics” involves more specifically the sciences of:

  • Surveying
  • LiDAR
  • Cartography
  • Satellite navigation
  • Photogrammetry
  • Mapping, etc.

While these are all excellent geospatial methods with formal procedures, geomatics also includes other sciences seemingly divorced from geo-inquiry such as:

  • Computer science
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering

To put it more simply, geomatics synthesizes spatial information with scientific application. It concerns the measurement of the Earth and technologies that help you act on that information. Geomatics goes beyond mere data to solve complex infrastructure problems with the latest technology.

Pillar is a dedicated transportation asset management firm focused on collecting, analyzing, and turning data into decisions for transportation infrastructure.

Our proprietary CAPE approach for asset management integrates geospatial data with geomatics to optimize and execute operations and maintenance plans for infrastructure organizations.

Asset Management Experts

PILLAR is the only asset management firm whose core business is dedicated to maximizing the lifecycles of your assets – delivering asset data that informs operations and maintenance decisions at every step of the process. We use your existing data to extend the life of your assets for roadways, bridges and tunnels. We assess data availability and accuracy to give you an operations and maintenance plan developed to optimize budgets and timelines.

At PILLAR, we’re ethically and completely committed to the safety and satisfaction of the public. We give unbiased and evidence-based recommendations and solutions for the improvement and maintenance of roadways.

Contact us at or (276) 223-0500 to get started with the only asset management focused firm merging industry expertise, next-generation technologies, and commitment to public safety.

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VDOT Awarded Pillar Statewide Maintenance Consulting Services Contract

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) awarded Pillar the contract for Statewide Maintenance Consulting Services for the third consecutive time.

The Statewide Maintenance Consulting Services contract was established so VDOT can call on experienced firms for Roadway Maintenance Consulting and Staff Augmentation related services. It provides for additional support for Maintenance Contract Development and Management, Roadway Inspection Services, the Development of Manuals, Standard Operating Procedures, Reporting, Quality Assurance and any other non-professional service of Virginia’s Roadway Maintenance Planning and Development Program. While it is administered by the Maintenance Contract Management Program section in the Maintenance Division at Central Office, the contractor is expected to work at any location statewide.

Over the past two contracts covering the previous nine and a half years, we have developed a trusted partnership with VDOT by bringing maintenance consulting and staff augmentation services in eight of the nine VDOT districts with over 96 task orders completed throughout the Commonwealth.

We look forward to working at length with VDOT as our new contract spans for 3 years, with a 2-year renewal option. The entire Pillar team is eager to support and enhance maintenance operations throughout Virginia in our valued partnership with VDOT. Discover what Pillar can do for you and contact us for a comprehensive program review.

Photo Source: VDOT Instagram

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Work Zone Safety Week 2020 – In the Time of Covid-19

Despite the sharp drop in traffic volume, work zone activity does not relent. And it remains as dangerous as ever. Distracted or impaired drivers are still on the road. In our role as highway workers, the risk is clear and unmistakable.

We have tried to educate and inform our staff about these risks. Most of us have a distinct appreciation for the hazard. It starts with basic Defensive Driving and Defensive Positioning. When we are outside the vehicle in a highway setting, the risk is amplified exponentially. We know that a protective distance and position is our best defense when boots are on the ground.

Achieving this protection is easy to say, hard to practice. Each year there are triple digit fatalities in and around work zones of all types. They are uniformly preventable by workers and motorists.

Our society is basically suffering from two illnesses. The Covid Pandemic is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room right now. But it will recede eventually. The other illness is more insidious – poor driving skills by motorists, focused on all kinds of things, except Defensive Driving.

 This illness is going to be a lot harder to control. In the rather sterile parlance of the US DOT, the class of “Unprotected Highway Users” includes pedestrian, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and US. Highway work zone ‘boots on the ground.’ The statistics for this class of ‘highway users’ are heading north at an eye-popping rate.

Symptoms of this illness include: oversized vehicles, cheap gas, distractions, generous speed limits, and poor driving skills. The result is pretty hair-raising for a pedestrian. Most of whom are not exactly blameless in this picture: wearing dark clothing, looking at their cell phone, bikes encroaching into travel lanes, etc. The end result is not good.

In summary, we know what the cure for this illness is. Defensive driving, high-visibility apparel, defensive positioning, focused attention on the driving equation, and a few other situational survival skills. Boring as they are, that’s the medicine. We can beat the Covid. That’s already in the works. The other illness is going to a lot harder to treat.

This week we remember the Highway Workers who sacrificed their lives in the interest of keeping roads safe. Their memory should inspire us to practice safety skills in all walks of life.

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O&M IS Critical Infrastructure

During these times of uncertainty, we have all heard the call from our respective Governors about “critical industries” such as healthcare and first responders. Our infrastructure is also “critical”. As for Maintenance: Rust doesn’t stop, potholes still form, debris doesn’t stop building up, trash and debris continues to accrue. As for Operations: the trucks, busses and automobiles that keep it all moving are still out there. Motorists will need our help, meaning the Safety Service Patrol (or whatever it is called in your state) must continue – all while maintaining our “social distancing”. Electronic tolling is increased, as most states have removed human toll takers due to the obvious concerns with viral transmission.

We have noticed that while automobile traffic has subsided, truck traffic is still present, if not increasing. Our clients have seen this lower traffic volume overall and decided to take advantage of the lower traffic volumes by INCREASING the amount of preventive maintenance by extending or lifting lane closure restrictions.

While future state budgets will undoubtedly be affected, we must continue to maintain our assets, even during an impending budget crunch. If not, as we have seen time and again, the cost to play catch up will be multiple times the cost of doing it right while we can.

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Pillar Partners With Rose-Hulman Ventures

Rose-Hulman Ventures recently featured PILLAR and reviewed our patented salinity measurement device, SAM. PILLAR President Mark Boenke, shares his expertise on how SAM will reduce harmful salt usage on public roads and highways. Boenke partnered with Rose-Hulman Ventures back in 2017 when PILLAR was trying to find the best materials to use for the SAM device that would not be damaged by the highly corrosive saltwater. SAM was first developed by Mark’s daughter, Bridget, as her high school senior year science fair project!

SAM is a salinity measurement device that reads the salt concentration, via electrical conductivity, in the water spraying off of the salt spreader’s back tire. If the salt concentration levels are too low to prevent the forming of black ice, the driver is notified to apply more salt. If concentration levels are adequate, the driver is notified that no additional salt is needed.

PILLAR hopes to bring SAM to the market by 2021. Be sure to check back in for updates on SAM’s release and all of PILLAR’s projects!

Read the full article.

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Perfomance Based O&M Webinar Recap

In the AIAI’s recent webinar: Performance-Based O&M, PILLAR joined forces with Claudio Andreetta from Johnson Controls and Alistar Sawers from ATHS Consult to discuss performance-based O&M. With over 90 attendees, this was a hot topic among industry professionals!

View a recording of the full webinar!

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Are You Prepared?

The Boy Scout Motto “Be Prepared” keeps popping up in my mind with the recent COVID-19 virus and corresponding fallout. Looking beyond the COVID-19 crises and towards your industry and business opportunities; leaders of today need to be prepared in a multitude of ways. From hiring new young talent to managing various demographics in the workspace to looking towards future business opportunities and growth – to being flexible enough to bend and shift with the influx of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning – being prepared is synonymous with success.

One of the key podcasts I listen to is How I Built This by Guy Raz. At the end of every interview Guy asks the owners and entrepreneurs of the profiled business, “How much of your success is built on hard work and how much is built on luck?” It’s always interesting to hear the answers and almost everyone inevitably banks some of their success on luck. Whether that is being in the right place at the right time, catching a break via some generous offer, or getting a helping hand at a critical moment.

Reflecting on Pillar, I know a lot of people have worked hard to place us in our current position, with great generosity from individuals both inside and outside the firm. What about luck? I would argue it isn’t luck, but rather being prepared enough to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Whether this preparation is financial, relationship, location, or confidence driven – being prepared to take hold of opportunities is what will define that opportunity as successful.

Looking back at our “failures” as well as our “successes”, both are defined by how prepared Pillar was to tackle the assignments. In fact, it is rather obvious when reflecting and analyzing the end results of either case. The challenge remains to be forward-thinking and positioned in such a way as to be prepared to seize on the correct opportunity and avoid the distractions.

Pillar is prepared, are you?

To learn about how Pillar can help more efficiently manage your Operations and Maintenance projects contact Mark Boenke, President, at

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P3 Market Outlook for 2020 in USA & Canada | Inframation News

PILLAR’s Dan Dennis, Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships was quoted on the positive trend of risk allocation in the P3 model. 

Read the full article to see Dan’s comments on risk allocation.

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Keep Control of the “Fatal Four” At Your Jobsite

John Meola, PILLAR’s Safety Director was recently published in Construction Business Owner Magazine providing insight on the fatal four dangers that plague your job sites & how to avoid them.

Read the full article here.

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Delivering Maintenance Cost Efficiencies in P3/O&M Projects

If you are performing an outsourced O&M project, it is very likely you have a fixed budget based on your contract price. Your cash flow is known upfront, the day you sign the contract. As the Maintenance Manager, your job is to meet the contract performance requirements as efficiently as possible while meeting your budget. How do you do this? Simple: Spend resources wisely and efficiently. Basic planning can help you do this.

A typical example could be: The roadway shoulder has accumulated dirt, weeds, etc. in the longitudinal joints on a narrow shoulder next to a barrier wall. Simple enough to clean up, right? But the work area is three feet wide and adjacent to the left (high speed) lane on a 75-mph urban interstate. MOT requirements called for a full lane closure – in both directions.

What does this all mean? Before any work starts, you have already spent $2,800 for the two lane-closures. To save money and be efficient, how many other tasks can be done in that lane closure?

  • Burn out the roots with a propane-hot lance torch.
  • Seal the joints with hot or cold-pour asphalt joint sealer = no more weeds for five years.
  • Jet-vac all the drop inlets within the lane closure.
  • Install barrier-wall mounted delineators.
  • Repair any potholes or crack-seal the longitudinal joint
  • Sweep/vacuum the dust and debris.

These additional tasks will be required at some point. Why not do it all at once? The additional labor is minimal, and you likely have all the small tools; if not then rent them. By combining the activities, you have saved multiple lane closures and perhaps up to $10,000. This adds up.

This is basic preventive maintenance. And all it takes is – a little planning.

To learn more about how Pillar can help more efficiently manage your P3 project, contact Mark Boenke at