Services for entreprises Rue St-Jean, Vieux-Québec - Crédit: Chantal Gagnon

Key sectors

Applied technologies

Visionary entrepreneurs = successful businesses

Benoît Raymond
President and CEO, Groupe Alta
A picture is worth a
thousand words—or databytes!

You can’t hide anything from Benoît Raymond, at least when it comes to the devices and software developed by Groupe Alta, the leading geospatial company he has run for the past two years. Founded in Quebec City nearly 50 years ago, Groupe Alta has hit its stride by specializing in aerial photography.

Groupe Alta
  • Founded in 1960 by Wilfrid Grenier
  • Leading geospatial company
  • Headquarters: Quebec City
  • Number of employees: approximately 200
  • 250,000 aerial photos/year
  • 150,000 km travelled/year (3,000 flight hours)—equivalent to five times around the world

In the early 2000s, technology spurred the company’s development into a major world player whose flagship software product—MyGeoWorld—is comparable to Google Earth.

Geospatial data

Groupe Alta developed its niche activities using geospatial data—the cornerstone of the company. When it was founded in 1960, aerial photos were used to produce maps used by a wide variety of industries.

Nowadays, photographs are valuable commodities for Groupe Alta, representing crucial sources of information that do not become obsolete with advances in technology. “With the advent of Google Earth, we were finally able to bring a large chunk of that data front and centre, which is extraordinary,” explains Mr. Raymond, whose youthfulness is a key factor in the company’s success.

More than just a photo

According to Mr. Raymond, Groupe Alta is more than a simple purveyor of aerial photographs—much much more! “Photos have no value unless you can interpret the information contained in each of the pixels. You have to determine which portion of the earth’s surface is pictured, in three dimensions, XYZ.”

When determining the geographic position of each pixel, the data collected is more important than the photo itself. “We sell data, not images. We also specialize in software and on-line programs.”

Mr. Raymond is also fond of quoting a recent description of Groupe Alta’s flagship software product: “MyGeoWorld is Google on steroids.” As the sine qua non of high-resolution accuracy, the program can be used to determine the colour of a roof or the type of car parked in front of a house.

“You can even see infrastructure elements like fire hydrants and telephone poles. In the engineering and energy transportation sectors, information like that is essential for day-to-day operations.”

Unlike Google Earth, however, MyGeoWorld is not available on the Internet. “We don’t supply mass-market data. Our clients are seeking higher resolution, accuracy and perfect clarity.”

Quebec City roots

Groupe Alta was founded in Quebec City in 1960 by Wilfrid Grenier, the first Quebecer to specialize in aerial photography. The company never relocated because local institutions such as Limoilou College and Laval University offer programs in geomatics, a key discipline for aerial photo interpretation.

Just as technology has evolved over the years, so too has Groupe Alta’s workforce. “Now we do lots of web programming and software coding. Quebec City has an exceptional talent pool in those areas as well.”

Major contracts

The company really began to take off when it landed a $4.5 million contract in Afghanistan to produce high-precision images for its client, a joint venture consisting of the Louis Berger Group and Black & Veatch. The contract involved providing engineering plans for the country’s reconstruction and project development. “I travelled to Afghanistan,” says Mr. Raymond. “It was an incredible experience and we really got our name out there.”

Another taste of major success came when the Ontario government awarded the company an innovative $3 million contract under which Groupe Alta is allowed to retain its copyright, use photo data for other purposes and resell it in formats other than those commissioned by the government.

“That was a major turning point. For many years, companies in our sector had to give up their copyright and store data in vaults where it was essentially useless,” notes Mr. Raymond.

Cécile Gladel

Download to print

Our partners

PÔLE Québec Chaudière-Appalaches

1175, Lavigerie avenue, suite 300, Quebec (Quebec), G1V 4P1
Telephone : 418-681-9700 Fax : 418-681-1535

Policies of confidentiality and refunding (in french)