Johann Schoonees

Johann Schoonees

Principal Research Engineer

Applied Technologies

Solving hard problems to give customers a competitive advantage

I work in the Data Vision team as a Principal Research Engineer where my work has included computer vision and data science. In my earlier career I worked on cryptology systems analysis and design, design and construction of microsatellites, digital communications theory, stochastic optimisation and microwave reflectometers. 

Computer Vision is about understanding the world in 3D, enabling computers to identify, measure and understand objects, people and scenes in images or videos. I know that nothing worthwhile is ever achieved alone. I almost burst with pride at our team's achievements when a recognised serial entrepreneur and founder of high tech start-ups said: "This is the closest thing to magic I've ever seen" (echoing Arthur C Clarke's famous law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"). 

My satisfaction is highest when we are solving a hard technical problem which gives a customer of ours a competitive edge to succeed in a global niche. It's no good unless one sweats a bit. My view is that we should let other people do the easy stuff. 

Working in this field makes me realise that Sir Paul Callaghan said it best: “We can raise New Zealand's standard of living by getting really good at the weird stuff.” And that’s what I enjoy doing every day.

Areas of expertise
  • Spatial positioning
  • Camera pose estimation
  • Dimensional metrology
  • SLAM
  • 3D reconstruction
  • BEng (Electronic Engineering): University of Pretoria, 1983
  • BEng Hons (Electronic Engineering): (MEng papers-only qualification.) University of Pretoria, 1986
  • MSc (Satellite Engineering): University of Surrey, 1989, with distinction
  • PhD (Digital Communications): University of Cape Town, 1998
  • Dissertation: A Likelihood Ratio Analysis of Digital Phase Modulation
Memberships and awards
  • MEngNZ
Selected publications
  • A Note on the Orthogonality of MSK Signals. J.A. Schoonees and R.M. Braun., Proc. 1993 IEEE South African Symposium on Communications and Signal Processing (COMSIG '93), Johannesburg, pp. 123-127, 6 Aug. 1993. (Best Paper prize.)
  • Some Non-Linear Effects of Quantization in Phase-Locked Loops. B. Böhm, J.A. Schoonees and J. Tapson., Proc. 1994 IEEE South African Symposium on Communications and Signal Processing (COMSIG '94), pp. 116-120, Stellenbosch, 4 Oct. 1994. (Best Paper prize.)
  • Estimation of the number of frequencies and bandwidth for the surface measurement of soil moisture as a function of depth. J.R. Holdem, R.B. Keam and J.A. Schoonees., IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, 49(5):964-970, 2000.
  • Understanding Background Mixture Models for Foreground Segmentation. P.W. Power and J.A. Schoonees., Proc. Image and Vision Computing New Zealand 2002 (IVCNZ 2002), pp. 267-271, Auckland, 26-28 Nov. 2002.
  • Interactive Hand-held 3D Scanning. R.J. Valkenburg, D.W. Penman, J.A. Schoonees, N.S. Alwesh and G.T. Palmer., Proc. Image and Vision Computing New Zealand 2006 (IVCNZ 2006), pp. 245-250, Great Barrier Island, 27-29 Nov. 2006. (Keynote Address.)
  • Camera Shading Calibration Using a Spatially Modulated Field. J.A. Schoonees and G.T. Palmer., Proc. 2009 24th International Conference Image and Vision Computing New Zealand (IVCNZ 2009), pp. 191-196, Wellington, 23-25 Nov. 2009. (Best Oral Presentation prize.)
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