Technological progress never stops. Constant improvements bring about changes that can revolutionize an industry. What you need to look for are technologies that have evolved separately and are now applied together to create huge opportunities.
Some examples of this include the combination of computing, GPS and mobile technologies to create the iPhone, or the combination of broadband, the Internet and smart TVs to create streaming services such as Netflix.
One of these developments is the combination of laser scanning and Cloud Computing to offer new possibilities in terms of surveying. Opportunities that can go far beyond the construction industry and open up new markets and applications.
LiDAR is by no means a new technology. The first LiDAR prototype was built in 1961, shortly after the invention of the laser itself. However, LiDAR and 3D scanning did not appear until the late 1990s.
The scanners themselves had to mature in terms of accuracy, reliability and ease of use. As with all new devices, the software used to control them ended up moving from a complex use reserved for experts to simple use suitable for everyone.
Basically, you had to create, manage and process point clouds yourself. Today, processing software that exploits new techniques of artificial intelligence and machine learning makes it possible to create point clouds more quickly, with more certainty and less manual intervention. More precisely, this evolution made it possible to create workflows and processes without manual supervision.
It was obvious from the first days that the 3D laser survey could not progress without an improvement in calculation technology. Previously, point clouds had to be delivered to external hard drives or USB sticks, as the files were considered too large to be transmitted over the internet. But with advances in processing technologies, bandwidth and storage, point clouds can be delivered to cloud platforms. This development fundamentally changes the role and profession of today’s surveyor.
The evolution of cloud solutions
Cloud solutions should no longer be viewed as cheap on-demand servers and storage, nor as an easy way to share simple emails / files. The trend among early cloud users was to select and move existing applications and data to the cloud. What we are seeing from the next phase of cloud solution development is a real change in actual results. The Cloud is now seen more as a catalyst for moving from a traditional way of doing business to a digital one. In the construction sector, for example, this implies the passage of paper plans into BIM digital models.
Each sector has its own use of the Cloud with specific data sources, workflows and standards. A health-focused cloud manages large volumes of HIPAA-compliant electronic health record data while providing complementary health-specific services such as medical billing and care coordination.
Let’s see how some emerging cloud developments will impact the survey and influence what we consider to be a survey technology.
We cannot escape the fact that creating, saving and processing point clouds are intense computing and storage tasks. Good news: The Cloud always meets these basic needs.
Processor innovation is accelerating. Cloud providers are now deploying their own cloud-compatible processors developed in-house. AWS recently introduced M6g instances. These deliver nearly 40% better performance at a cost 20% lower than Amazon’s own M5 instances powered by the Intel Xeon Platinum 8000 series. The company also announced specific examples of machine learning . Powered by its custom-built Inferentia processor, it boasts 3 times higher throughput and up to 40% lower cost per inference compared to Nvidia G4 chips.
AWS already provides General Purpose, Optimized Compute, Optimized Memory, Accelerated Compute, and Optimized Storage instances. For survey technology, this range of capabilities simply cannot be provided internally and will provide you with the best price / performance options.
Stable modular infrastructure
Being able to process and store digital information from various sites to various stakeholders is essential to get the most out of Reality Capture. The decision on the space where the data should be processed (on the device, on the site, locally or centrally) will be the key to the success of a project and is another feature which, until recently, n was not available with Cloud solutions.
For many years, there has been the concept of the hybrid cloud – some treatments or applications remain in-house while others are processed in the cloud – but this has been done mainly by large companies. Recent developments will make this model much more suitable for the type of distributed processing necessary for surveyors.
AWS has partnered with telecommunications operators to integrate AWS hardware into the telecommunications infrastructure, allowing users to access AWS services as close to the point of use as possible. By integrating AWS compute and storage services at the edge of the network, application traffic only needs to be transferred from the source device to a cell tower and then to a running wavelength region at a metro aggregation site.
The potential management of scans and 3D data in this way should simplify connectivity, security, data collection and analysis by surveyors. This so-called “Edge Computing” will allow faster response times (thanks to lower latency), the ability to offload IT tasks (which in turn could achieve faster results and reduce consumption energy) and potentially lead to simpler and less expensive use.
5G Internet of Things communications
The evolution of scanning technologies and cloud solutions will be driven up by the technological advances that we have told you about. This is where 5G comes in. While previous cellular technologies focused on the mobile phone, the low latency and high capacity of 5G make it ideal for connecting all types of devices – whether it’s acts on site scanners, drones or sensors.
5G will be a transformative force for surveyors. It will provide improved mobile broadband combined with the potential for huge volumes of machine-to-machine communications based on an ultra-reliable, low-latency network. The new rule for the future will be: “Everything that can be connected will be connected”.
Meanwhile standards emerge. Project Connected Home over IP is a new working group supported by Google, Amazon, Apple and the ZigBee group. These key players plan to develop and promote the adoption of a new royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility between smart home products, with security as a fundamental design goal. Any development of interoperability standards in domestic IoT technology is likely to have a major impact on industrial IoT and the tools available to surveyors.
Adopt new and evolving technology
LiDAR will propel the growth of Reality Capture over the next few years in many sectors: infrastructure, transport, communications and mapping. It will have an impact on the social, health and environment sectors, to name a few.
BIM projects will become the standard driven by the adoption of industrial cloud solutions integrating scanning to BIM, processing and collaboration based on the Cloud. Cloud-based projects will benefit from faster processors, driven by the adoption of new cloud-based technologies. 5G is the glue that will tie it all together.