Introduction Design principles R & D G-EXEC format Datamine formats VMine formats G-EXEC Contacts

INTRODUCTION: 4dcoders: a new geoscience software development collaboration

RESOURCES COMPUTING INTERNATIONAL LTD is a founder member of 4Dcoders.

A group of software developers with experience and product development in the fields of geoscience, mining, and quarrying, have decided to pool their skills in a collaborative consortium called 4dcoders.

Taking a new approach in the industry, 4dcoders offers a wide range of software solutions. But, instead of a single software package claimed to suit everybody's needs, each member of 4dcoders operates as a separate independent business and has taken a strategic decision to make its products inter-operable with those of other members and with the wider software community. Using common data interfaces allows rapid and easy transfer of data among their different applications. For clients this means specific user interfaces tailored to specific tasks while maintaining easy collaboration between other departments using different packages.

4dcoders software solutions include geomechanical and geotechnical modelling, drillhole data processing, database management, exploration statistics, mapping, advanced three-dimensional modelling and visualisation. Their clients include all sectors of the minerals industry, mining technology suppliers, geological survey organisations, and consulting firms.

Forefront of development

All members of 4dcoders have been working at the forefront of technological development and pioneering software in the areas of mine blasting, database engineering, drilling and surveying and geological modelling, with a combined experience of over 100 person-years. This has already led to members of 4dcoders participating in a range of European funded research projects, and they continue to strive to be at the leading edge of technological development.

The four initial members of 4dcoders are:
  • Rockmate, developer of innovative solutions for surface mining operations including blast optimisation and shovel production monitoring as a value added reseller. This includes developing software to process raw data from a laser to create a model of a rockface which is to be blasted.
  • GeoReka! Software develops geological modelling software. Primarily, the software is aimed at minerals exploration, but it is also used in other areas like quarrying. GeoReka! Software provides affordable solutions without compromising on quality. Its top-notch visualisation is supported by ground breaking tools adapted from other industries to the geological sciences. With experience in engineering, medical science and geological science GeoReka! tries to provide new innovative ways crossing industry boundaries to provide the best modelling tools for the job.
  • GeoMEM both develops its own and supplies third-party geological and engineering software to the mining, engineering and construction industries. Software development focuses on control applications for industrial devices, in particular, borehole survey instruments and laboratory systems. It includes extensive experience of industrial communications using wired serial, wireless, IR, bluetooth and EtherCAT/CANOpen. Applications cover mathematics, graphics, data analysis, statistics, data export in a range of formats (including bespoke). Development languages include: C#, Visual Basic, C, Pascal on a range of platforms.
  • RCI (Resources Computing International Ltd) develops VMINE for a variety of geoscience applications, providing database management using an 'open-world' DBMS model; also including a variety of statistical, graphical, and 2D and 3D modelling applications. The principal purpose of VMINE is to be a platform for new research project applications. Software development is mainly in Fortran 95, to take advantage of the very large resource of numerical applications libraries that are available.
BACKGROUND

As one of the founders of DATAMINE in 1981, together with Peter Stokes, I was responsible for the design and development of the central database management and data handling functionality of the system, based primarily upon my previous participation in development of the G-EXEC system in the British Geological Survey during the 1970s, as well as the block and wireframe modelling, statistics, and graphics (the graphics in particular was based directly upon the G-EXEC graphics applications design and coding).

Since leaving DATAMINE in 1993, I have been doing many other things, mostly within the mining industry, which have included opportunities to carry out research with a longer time frame. This includes applications - in particular, new methods for modelling geology (including a very interesting and stimulating year working on predictive exploration with CSIRO in Australia) - and also, more recently, work on the underlying data model and database theory.

I have now started on development of a radical new product which although based on the ideas behind Datamine will look nothing like the current or any previous implementation.

Crucially, as far as the central database core is concerned, the new development would establish it as one of the first commercial relational DBMSs based on Codd's original concept of the "Open World Assumption", in contrast with all existing major commercial database systems. These all (at least) pay lip-service to the "Closed World Assumption" promoted by relational puritans such as Date, Darwen, and Pascal, but which explicitly was not supported by the late Ted Codd, originator and developer of the relational database concept. For reasons why this is important, please refer to www.g-exec.com and to various published and unpublished papers on this subject (please email me at the address below, for a list and copies). In a nutshell, an open world database allows for incomplete and imperfect knowledge of the data, while a closed world database requires tables to be filled with data and has no place for any 'nulls' or unknown values. Commercial databases built around the use of SQL do generally allow a 'null', but the SQL implementation is flawed and can lead to serious logic errors, especially in more complex databases. DATAMINE itself was designed to allow the use of nulls, but is not a full implementation of an open-world database management system.

This web site will chart the progress of these developments and could form the focus for new software development in the minerals industry and beyond. The database ideas have been developed with specific applications in mind but are of very much wider potential use.

A series of new geoscience/mining applications will also be included, fully integrated with the database. There is no intention of "reinventing wheels", but rather to produce applications which are innovative and different from those offered by CAE and other mainstream mining software suppliers - and complementary to them.

VMINE will also include conversion utilities to the new .VMDD/.VMDA file structure, and export interfaces for 2D and 3D graphics: JPEG, GIF, SVG 2D formats, VRML and VTK 3D formats, the latter specifically for linking with the powerful Geo-Reka visualisation system.

For more information, please email me at