A Mapping Success Story

by Alex Frazer-Harrison

Magazine  |  Fall/Winter 2018  |  In the Field

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It was the rescue mission that fascinated the world: a race against time and the elements to save 12 teenaged soccer players and their assistant coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand.

Although a rescuer tragically died, the team was recovered safe and sound — thanks, in large part, to 3D-mapping data provided by Intermap Technologies, a Denver-based company with strong UCalgary connections.

Ivan Maddox, BSc’96, has been with Intermap for 18 years, and was one of the last Faculty of Engineering grads to receive a Surveying Engineering degree before it was renamed Geomatics. 

“They called us because Intermap’s been active in Asia for its entire existence,” recalls Maddox, Intermap’s executive vice-president of commercial solutions. “We created the data on demand and delivered it to them three hours later. Not just the cave, but everything around it, so they could plan their rescue mission.”

The data was based on Intermap’s NEXTMap One, a high-resolution map dataset offering resolution down to one metre.

“It was nice for it to [be recognized] that there was a use like this for the product,” adds alumnus Stephen Griffiths, BSc’89, chief technology officer and executive vice-president of data solutions, who came to Intermap from UCalgary with a background in astrophysics. “Humanitarian aid wasn’t really on our radar, so to have that pop up was quite humbling. But the only thing that was important was rescuing the kids.” 

We created the data on demand and delivered it to them three hours later. Not just the cave, but everything around it, so they could plan their rescue mission.

Ivan Maddox, BSc’96

Griffiths says NEXTMap One was awarded its patent on June 19 — less than a week before the incident. “It was truly an international effort: [research and development] was in Calgary along with the engineering team; development in Prague; implementation in Denver.” He adds at least 10 other UCalgary alumni work in the Calgary office.

So, how did the Intermap team feel as they saw the teens rescued? “Just happiness — we were so glad we were able to get those kids out of there,” says Maddox. “The second emotion we felt was appreciation for the teams on the ground.”

Adds Griffiths: “I would wake up and turn on the news and it was all we talked about in the office … good news all around.”
Both Maddox and Griffiths have fond memories of attending UCalgary.

“The geomatics [program at the Schulich School of Engineering] is a world leader that’s also defining the industry,” says Maddox. “I thought I would be a land surveyor in B.C., but … I’m doing things I never thought I’d 
be doing.”

One of Maddox’s undergraduate professors remembers him as “consistently attentive, technically curious and passionate about the subject.

“[These were] key characteristics of a future innovative technological leader,” says Dr. Gérard Lachapelle, PhD. 

The Intermap team and its UCalgary alumni members are embodiments of this university’s goal of impacting the world beyond the campus, says UCalgary President Elizabeth Cannon, BSc’84, MSc’87, PhD’91, who instructed geomatics at Schulich at the time Maddox attended and served as dean.

“I am full of pride at Ivan Maddox and Stephen Griffith’s readiness to come to the aid of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach,” she says. 

“What is the purpose of higher education if not to give back to the world?”

Magazine  |  Fall/Winter 2018  |  In the Field

💬Share this:  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn


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