In 2004, following successful testing and use of the initial product by SRK Consulting, ARANZ Geo was formed to begin the marketing and further development of the product to the mining industry. Leapfrog Mining was born.
But in the early days Leapfrog® struggled to be accepted. Says Rick Fright, “People didn’t take it seriously because it was just too fast! And it was too isotropic, it didn’t take into account folding strata.”
By this time Dr Richard Lane, another fellow ex-engineering student began working for ARANZ Geo on the underlying research algorithms. Hughan Ross lead the software development team of Tim Mitchell, Tim Mclennan and Tim Evans, who were all paramount in the creation of Leapfrog Mining. Any development work during this time was referred to as ‘Tim time.’ The development team was devoted to better understanding the geological market and how geologists worked and thought.
The input from SRK and the early adopters of Leapfrog proved invaluable in shaping the development of Leapfrog.
Says Senior Developer Tim Mitchell, “We needed to move the product from scientific to providing better workflow. We had to change from a software company to a company that really understood geology.”
Research grants allowed the investigation of new markets for the technology and extend Leapfrog’s application to modelling hydrology and geothermal reservoirs.
As ARANZ’s knowledge of geology grew they realised that RBFs were actually well established in the mining industry and already used as a way of interpolating in Kriging, used by geo statisticians. In fact, the two approaches, Kriging and Leapfrog, were very similar. Says Rick, “We realised we could help gain acceptance if we explained that Leapfrog worked in a similar way to Kriging, just much faster! What Kriging does on a few thousand points Leapfrog does on a million points. What we call ‘fast’ we could really call ‘large’ as Leapfrog works with large data sets.”
Richard Lane along with Hughan Ross, developer of the original Leapfrog Mining product, spent considerable time meeting and talking to customers and collating knowledge to help identify features to move the product forward.
Says Richard, “The product had reached the stage where it was using hundreds of RBFs and users could really do what they liked, a bit like wielding an excel spreadsheet but it all became too hard to track. There are tools in computer science to help deal with this complexity. We wanted geologists to be able to operate at a higher level.”
Says Rick Fright, “A change in approach was critical at this point. Working with SRK had proved Leapfrog could work but the team took Leapfrog and transformed it into something more realistic, how a geologist would produce a model if they were doing it by hand.” New layers added to the software allowed for how the ground twisted, curved and distorted, making Leapfrog much more credible.
This customer research began the development of the workflow solution Leapfrog Geo. Continues Rick, “Leapfrog Geo is more intuitive workflow software, responsive and results driven. The early version, Leapfrog Mining was like a toolbox, you had to know what you were doing. Geo is much more intuitive, it asks where do you want to go and let’s help you get there.”
Says Richard Lane, “Leapfrog Geo also appeals to a wider audience. You can use Leapfrog Geo to provide outputs for mine engineers, outputs that consumers of models need.” Leapfrog Geo was officially launched to the mining market in February 2013. The majority of the users have now moved over to Leapfrog Geo, with a handful of ‘power users’ choosing to stay using Leapfrog Mining.
During all of this development ARANZ Geo and the original company, ARANZ, were sharing office space whilst serving two very different markets, mining and medical. Rick Fright, “Trying to control both companies with one management team wasn’t doing either justice.” In 2011 and 2012 significant earthquakes hit ARANZ Geo’s home city of Christchurch and finding office space for the growing company in a damaged city became a major issue. The companies were separated and began to focus solely on their unique markets.
Next – our next blog in this series looking back at the history of Leapfrog looks at the team behind the product and how the product continues to evolve.