Every industry is moving to the cloud. The cloud brings flexibility, remote access, dynamic scalability of storage and access to on-demand computing power. Why haven’t surveyors made the jump yet?
The first obstacle to the introduction of cloud surveying is the technology required. Reality Capture methods are tricky, requiring advanced algorithms to process large data streams without the risk of error. Manual cross-checks are often required and manual steps are required for each scan.
Without automation and without the ability to perform tasks simultaneously, the effective power of the Cloud is limited. Without stable connections, the quantity of 3D data regularly captured demands a lot of network bandwidth.
With imminent 5G and advanced 4G offering access speeds regularly reaching 300 Mbps, bandwidth issues become easier to manage and download times more realistic. But investing in access and new technologies requires more promise for improvement than just downloading remotely to apps that work the traditional way.
The 3D laser scanning technology market is where some of the most exciting advances are happening. In this article, we will explore the importance of Cloud solutions and the basic steps to become THE 21st century BIM service provider.
Step 1: Know the Cloud Solutions Available to You and Share Them with Your Teams
The modern survey is a balance between speed of execution, efficiency and quality. Essentially, it’s about getting the right deliverable for the customer in the most cost-effective way. New technologies offer new opportunities. These are the diversification of your business in new areas such as BIM, as well as the possibility of responding to new calls for tenders in new markets, such as support for prefabricated manufacturing.
The opportunities for development being numerous, you need to be aware of your favorite fields and projects, you will need to be sure of what you can do and what you cannot do. Are you just looking for growth? Do you want to capitalize on the potential savings in hardware and processing speed? Do you want to tap into potentially more lucrative new areas? The key is to make sure that your goals are understood by everyone and that they are achievable
Today, you must know how to mobilize significant resources when the projects are numerous while knowing when to reduce these mobilized resources when these projects decrease. A Cloud approach facilitates this operation because your 3D surveys will no longer need specific physical servers, positioned in specific locations, available at specific times to run.
With Cloud Services, you can create and free up processing and storage environments as needed, that means you can always get the most out of your core hardware and use the flexibility of the cloud to do more, experiment, prototype and mobilize more for very large projects.
Cloud Computing will have a major impact on the way surveyors do their work. By having access to a cloud system and a data store, scans can be saved, downloaded and aligned directly from the construction site. Downloading multiple scans at the same time is much faster than consolidating everything into one gigantic project file in the office and then trying to download or share it. Likewise, customers and stakeholders can access the same data through a cloud portal rather than writing a paper report that will be distributed to these people.
Once your preprocessed data is in the Cloud, any additional processing can also be undertaken thanks to the massive parallel processing power. Your point cloud recording performance can dramatically increase, especially if your recording software can take full advantage of multithreaded parallel processing (see step 2).
When taking on new projects, creating – and eliminating – project-specific compute and storage resources is a much faster process, allowing your project team to work faster. You can now start to create a range of environments (production, development, test) with very high specifications to organize the implementations and try new approaches.
Do more with less
With fewer servers to maintain and with a range of storage options at your disposal, you will find that you can spend less time worrying about hardware, servers and storage upgrades and spend more time performing real topography work. Many companies estimate that they can reduce their maintenance time by up to 50% on their existing equipment by going to the Cloud. This increased productivity means you can finish projects faster and take action on even more projects.
Opting for a Cloud solution can also allow you to save on the cost of your hardware upgrades. To take an example, at the moment for version 7.0 of Scene, Faro recommends 8 cores, 64 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD plus an NVIDIA 1080GTX graphics card for rendering and viewing – a typical cost of around € 10,000 per workstation. For version 5.5 in 2015, the recommended configuration was a Quad x64 processor and 8 GB of RAM. The rapid change in hardware needs and the growing volumes of data mean that you must either perpetuate your hardware investments, or risk running out of hardware resources and not upgrading your equipment.
Step 2: Invest in the Right Cloud Compatible Recording Software
To get the most out of the real power of cloud services, you’re not just going to store files and data in the cloud. You will need cloud-compatible recording software, software that can process your data automatically and generate good results without the need for office software or human intervention.
Point clouds and laser scanners are not “new” – they have been in commercial form since the late 1990s. What is changing is processing technology. The slowest aspect of creating a point cloud has always been “recording”. It is the process of assembling the many scans necessary to obtain the complete point cloud of an environment. Traditional recording software required significant manual review in a slow process that increased the time required to produce any point cloud. With cloud-compatible software, we are now considering a robust registration process, designed from scratch to work in the cloud, for faster and more detailed results.
Step 3: Make sure your network is up to par
Processing in the Cloud can take place in the field or in the office. The network therefore plays a crucial role regardless of where the application is hosted. It is essential that the network connections you have at the office are good enough to avoid any bottlenecks in data transmission. You should also examine various routes and failovers if you have not already done so.
Your mobile connections will also become crucial with the imminent transition to 5G. Evaluate your mobile provider and make sure you know their network coverage, speeds and data plans. Also, be sure to invest in field equipment that is up to the task. Increasingly, this type of work can be done using tablets rather than laptops. It is also important to look at the cloud solutions provider with which the software is a partner – the reliability of a big name like AWS or Microsoft Azure is often a good starting point.
Step 4: Update your processes to match
As mentioned earlier, technology is never a solution – it is a tool. If you really want to have an impact on your performance as a surveyor, you also need to look at how the work is delivered: your workflows.
You should seek to make some or all of the following changes :
- Making a rough recording in the field
- Immediately send saved scans from the site
- Collaborate remotely using portals and visualization
- Share files securely with your customers via the Cloud
- Integrate BIM into your workflow
- Understand what “room for maneuver” these changes offer you to conquer new markets or respond to more business
Step 5: Experience
The impact of combining new types of recording software and automation software with the power of cloud computing is enormous. Recording very large data sets in the field simultaneously – with little or no extra time – opens up many new avenues for your company.
The Cloud is something new and revolutionary for many surveyors and their businesses and, because it is so new, it is understandable that the requirements and the exact understanding of how they wish to use the Cloud will be difficult to manage.
Technology is constantly evolving. The Cloud offers great flexibility and enables new effective collaboration methods, so it’s time for you to acquire the basics, opt for the Cloud solution that best fits your business, then start experimenting.