Successful European LiDAR Mapping Forum Reflects Vibrant Industry

The second European LiDAR Mapping Forum (ELMF) was hailed a great success when it took place in the prestigious Congress venue in Salzburg last week from November 29 30th. Despite the economic downturn in Europe, the show reflected much positivity from the LIDAR industry, with a particularly animated conference. There were over 445 attendees from 40 different countries and interestingly, there were almost twice as many visitors from Eastern Europe as the first event, which took place last year in The Hague, Netherlands.

Conference Chairman, Alastair MacDonald of TMS International, believed the conference represented a thriving community: The quality of the papers presented at this years ELMF was outstanding. The reaction to the topics from the delegates showed how important and relevant the chosen subjects were to the LIDAR community.

The first day of ELMF also included a newly introduced plenary panel debate session, in which two key industry issues were debated, headed by a panel of industry experts. Each panel member gave opinions about the issues to be debated: firstly, is open source LIDAR data assisting or damaging the industry? And secondly, will Point Cloud services benefit or complicate services for the LIDAR data user community? With the Panel favouring availability of open source LIDAR data and software, there was also strong agreement from the majority of delegates. The delegates acknowledged that while Open Source does not necessarily mean free of charge or cost, the wider availability of LIDAR software and processed data can only be good for the industry as it will widen the user community and lead to more LIDAR related projects.

For the second issue about Point Cloud, there was agreement that Point Cloud services would ease processing and storage of LIDAR data and images, but it would be necessary to develop some international operating and quality standards and be consistent in data formats. It was also felt that new users should be properly educated about the benefits and limitations of LIDAR data.

The conference confirmed dramatic technical advances over the past year. Of particular note was the paper by Dr Laurent Smadja of Viametris (France) who described new techniques for automatic segmentation of LIDAR point clouds. Other papers demonstrated innovative new applications including solar mapping for calculating the optimum locations for solar panels on buildings. LIDAR for analysing flood risk and forestation was also presented, as well as its use in mapping safe and fast routes to deliver aid to refugees. New software applications were presented in fascinating talks about 3D city modelling, mobile mapping in GPS-denied areas, LIDAR surveys around power lines, and even laser mapping of the worlds largest ice cave.

The new venue in Salzburg earned much positive feedback from visitors. Director of ELMF, Versha Carter, explains, We have been overwhelmed by delegates telling us how wonderful the venue has been this year in Salzburg. The open-plan layout of the Congress building brought everyone together and was well-liked by delegates and exhibitors. Salzburgs central location in Europe may have contributed to the increase in visitors from Eastern Europe, which is an important consideration for next years venue. Salzburg also provided a special dimension with its Christmas markets that delegates were able to enjoy, as well as the drinks reception on the opening night which was very popular for networking.

Running alongside the conference was an extensive exhibition, with over 59 exhibiting companies from 14 different countries. The number of exhibitors was up by over 15% on last year and included the industrys latest technologies and services, as well as an outside area displaying mobile mapping vehicles and systems. There were also a series of LIDAR and associated systems workshop sessions available for delegates, which were well attended.

First-time exhibitor at ELMF, Janina Milner from Oxford Technical Solutions commented, ELMF provided us with a great platform for showing our systems to key players in the industry. We were able to network with business partners, get feedback from existing customers and generate a great amount of promising sales leads. ELMF far exceeded our expectations and we’ll definitely re-book our stand for the 2012 conference.

Feedback received about the event has been extremely positive and will be used to plan the next European LiDAR Mapping Forum event in 2012.