While the World is Locked Down, Plex. Earth goes Free [Share Your Story]
Staff posted on May 25, 2020 |
Why we’re giving away our satellite-image AutoCAD plugin.

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By Lambros Kaliakatsos, Founder & CEO of Plexscape.

At first it seemed so far away, didn't it? Wuhan, China. Another MERS or SARS, bird or bat flu, pangolin flu? 

One would think, as we have seen it It felt we’d seen this all before, so why worry? We heard they were putting Wuhan under quarantine, so that would contain it. Then we heard a new hospital had been built there, in only 10 days. Wow. Satellite imagery is our thing, so we took a look at the very latest images of Wuhan. Perhaps we could showcase how up-to-date our images were, with a ‘before and after’ shot of the shiny new hospital?   

That’s when our thinking changed! 

Wuhan is huge, about 40 kilometers square. We learned it’s the most populous city in Central China, with a population of over 11 million people, so that’s like locking down the entire city of London or New York, into quarantine.  Nobody allowed in or out, businesses shut, schools closed. The whole city paralyzed.  

There was a lot of conflicting information - it was super deadly, it was just a mild flu, it was a man-made weapon, it was entirely natural - but we kept looking back at that huge city of Wuhan. We could see that the bigger picture wasn’t so much the tiny virus; it  was the governmental reaction to the virus, with only ‘essential services’ allowed. This was creating winners and losers. 

The lock-down reaction was spreading to other countries like a virus itself; would it reach us? It would certainly reach some of our Plex.Earth customers across the planet. Who would be winning or losing, and what would it take to win?  

We didn’t have long to think about it as more and more countries began declaring their own lock-down reaction. It was coming fast and we presumed we would be locked down as well, so it was time to be proactive.  

The Plexscape team in a more innocent time, when being in a group outdoors went as usual.
The Plexscape team in a more innocent time, when being in a group outdoors went as usual.

Around mid-March we closed our offices to work from our homes, and this was actually a surprisingly easy decision for us, because flexibility is in our company DNA. Why so? Because our infrastructure is 100% based on the cloud, and Plexscape has invested in that from the very beginning. We have always used cloud services to support our users, to develop and to deliver our software, so we thought we were ready for this. 

Back in 2009, Plex.Earth was the first hybrid cloud-based/desktop application in the AEC market, adopting the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model early. We had developed a special Disaster Action Plan to make sure that our frontline Support Team will never go down. Following that plan, we all just grabbed our laptops and were immediately able to provide full efficiency from home.  

And that’s when our thinking had to change again, as we had our 2nd wake-up call! Like other companies all around the world, we discovered there’s nothing quite like a live-test in the real-world to discover flaws in the most perfect of plans. With our Developers' Team, we spent almost three days struggling to move some old-school software applications in their new computers. It did not go smoothly at first. 

 Worse, we realized our customers all over the world would face a serious problem – their licenses were tied to hardware, meaning Plex.Earth would only work on their activated office workstations! They would not be able to use Plex.Earth on their laptops or computers at home. Video conference calls and emails flew fast as we asked the simple question “What will really help them?”  

 It was soon agreed that the most powerful, and simple thing we could do to help was to simply give every customer a free license, to use on any other machine they wanted. It was a simple and elegant solution, and looking back it now seems very obvious, but we had to totally break the mold of business-thinking, and literally “think the unthinkable.” 

Many of our clients have multiple activated computers, so following the theme of keeping it simple we will simply double the number of Plex.Earth licenses that each customer already has. As such upgrades must be done manually it is upon request rather than automatic, so we would send an email and ask customers if they needed this? There was to be no charge and no obligation with these extra computer activation. Even if they have to renew their subscription during this time, they can renew as normal and we’ll give them again twice the machine activation for the next 3 months. We hope that will be long enough to escape the pandemic. 

The response was immediate: an enthusiastic acceptance for our offer, and we received many heart-warming comments. Our next staff video-meeting was all big smiles as we read out some of the more touching and grateful emails we’d received. 

Plex.Earth was so important to these customers because it takes in satellite imagery, such as Google Earth and others, corrects the flat photographs for Earth’s curvature and perfectly aligns the imagery for AEC projects. As one customer put it many years ago, “It’s actually better than a site visit, because I can see everything, from every angle, from inside AutoCAD”. 

It’s such a perfect solution for civil engineers stuck at home and unable to travel that we joked it should be considered an ‘essential service’. In a Zoom meeting you’re all looking at little pictures but metaphorically-speaking, we all stopped and looked at each other. If remote-viewing could be considered an essential service for such engineers, what about the engineers who are NOT our paying customers? Could we think the unthinkable again? Could we actually give away Plex.Earth? 

More meetings, more memos and the word ‘”suicidal” but this is a world-wide problem affecting everyone, and so we reached agreement on what we could do, and how it could work. 

Starting immediately, anyone can register as a normal customer, download, install and run our economy-tier Plex.Earth Basic, which: 

  • Finds your Project Area in Google Earth, aligns the imagery and corrects for the Earth’s curvature, so you can use it as your AutoCAD background 
  • Imports 1,000+ Terrain Points as a mesh, showing how the terrain might affect your design 
  • Creates Google Earth Placemarks, Paths and Polygons from inside AutoCAD  
“It’s actually better than a site visit…” 3 months of Plex.Earth for free to fight the pandemic!
“It’s actually better than a site visit…” 3 months of Plex.Earth for free to fight the pandemic!

To avoid the risk of breaking live software and to keep things simple we’re giving one Plex.Earth Basic license per registered applicant.  

Readers can visit http://plexsca.pe/punchthepandemic to claim a license. Payment details are required to process registration but the discount is 100%, meaning it’s entirely free and an email will be sent out 7 days before any renewal, so there’s no need to pay a penny. This isn’t about business; this is about helping each other in the AEC industry! Thank you too to Engineering.com, for giving us space to tell our story. 

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