Cloud solutions such as the ATIS Cloud have become ubiquitous in the modern world. However, some industries have been left behind – Reality Capture is one of them. Laser surveying, like all sectors requiring the use of advanced equipment, relies on applications with huge bandwidth demands, creating latency problems that make us forget the advantages of Cloud solutions.
But it is precisely these sectors, which require incredible computing power, that should be the first to benefit from Cloud solutions. The Reality Capture and BIM fields are more than ready to integrate Cloud solutions into their workflows because:
- network infrastructure and cloud connections have evolved to the point where bandwidth is much less of a problem than before,
- laser reading technologies (especially recording algorithms) have changed to the point where they are more suitable than ever for cloud solutions.
It’s time for surveyors to embrace cloud solutions and start thinking about the process improvements and technology investments they need to make to stay competitive in 2020 and beyond.
Prepare the cloud for laser scanners
Internet speeds have increased considerably over the past decade. Cloud solutions were invented to collaborate quickly and easily on large volumes of data. However, when it comes to using the Internet to view a web page, save a document, or host an entire application, the same basic action occurs. Remote IT resources handle the workload and the end result is relayed to you via a WAN (wide area network).
The processing capabilities of this cloud system and the ability to provide this bandwidth via a remote and wireless connection continue to grow. 3G networks had download speeds of 7.2 Mbps. 4G connections have pushed the limits to a download speed of 300 Mbps. 5G is fast approaching and will shake up the modern world. Network connections are even faster. These modern transfer rates are high enough that even the largest data sets can be transferred online when the right investments have been made.
Processing VS Modeling in the Cloud
Processing and modeling are bandwidth intensive tasks, and both can benefit from the Cloud. Flexibility of access and remote modification are major concerns for visualization and modeling software. There have been a number of developments in this area, ranging from big brands like AutoDesk to small businesses like Solv3D.
For processing and assembly, the challenges and benefits are greater. The assembly phase is the first step in the process of transforming raw point cloud data into a usable deliverable. Starting this process in the field can greatly speed up this task. However, to do this, you are blocked by relying on the mobile connections. This is a problem that has been resolved on a functional level and will only increase its capacity – it is simply something that has hampered the development of dedicated cloud recording capacities until relatively recently.
The assembly phase also requires the execution of a large number of steps – by analyzing a large number of scans and aligning each one with great precision. We have always had the opportunity to parallelize tasks and execute them simultaneously. With Cloud solutions, the available computing power can be increased endlessly. Functionally, this offers the possibility of assembling a very large number of scans simultaneously. Creating solutions powerful enough for automatic execution seems to be the key to the development of this market.
Prepare laser scanners for Cloud platforms
When laser scanners first appeared on the market in the mid-1990s, they were complicated to use. The software required for assembling the point clouds had to be developed around the characteristics of the scanner. As a result, the industry has produced multiple relatively closed ecosystems for assembling scans, and hardware manufacturers have become the main suppliers of this software.
Today, with the changes in the Reality Capture market and the arrival of new scanning solutions every day, software developers such as Autodesk offer solutions allowing to work with point clouds from a large variety of tools (Faro, Leica, Paracosm).
The evolution of the point cloud assembly phase
The assembly of point clouds has long been a problem in the process of collecting data and transforming it into usable deliverables. Assembly can be slow, unreliable and require several manual cross-checks. It’s not a cloud-specific barrier, but legacy assembly solutions either require the use of point targets in the field, or limit your ability to take full advantage of the processing power offered by the cloud.
One of the solutions, which consists in dividing the assembly into several stages, turns out to be very interesting because it makes it possible to accelerate the processing time from 40% to 80% and to eliminate the manual stages while generating better results. The two steps are:
- rotational alignment,
- vertical and horizontal alignment using 2D point density algorithms.
These alignment algorithms also parallelize the actions, which facilitates the simultaneous handling of specific actions within the coarse assembly. Using traditional hardware, multiple scans can be assembled simultaneously taking advantage of the multi-thread and multi-core functions. In the Cloud, this can evolve endlessly by allowing the simultaneous assembly of 3D data of any size.
The adoption of cloud solutions by surveyors
Cloud solutions are not there to replace your hardware on site, but they open new doors for team collaboration and they modernize the way projects are approached. Remote access, file sharing and collaborative editing are new features that optimize your workflows and those of your teams while allowing you to improve your business relationships. It is equally interesting to note that the improvements that have been made to the processing phase considerably increase your efficiency on your projects.
The real strength of Cloud solutions and new measurement tools is felt in the monitoring of construction sites where habits are changing, involving more and more labor on construction projects developed around a BIM workflow. The democratization of Reality Capture offers endless possibilities of innovation for increasingly efficient cloud solutions for a multitude of 3D laser scanning projects. The future belongs to those who decide quickly so learn without further delay how to take advantage of the Paracosm PX-80 mobile laser scanner and the collaborative point cloud platform, the ATIS Cloud.