Having spent almost 20 years in the LiDAR community, I have seen many LiDAR presentations. Yet, the data still impresses me. Anyone with just the smallest appreciation for technology has to marvel at a remarkably detailed point cloud rich in spatial information.
How many presentations were made where the engineers, designers, constructors, quickly communicated hundreds of useful applications for the data? Yet, how often are we in the LiDAR community frustrated when shortly after spreading the good news about LiDAR, the enthusiasm and excitement for exploiting LiDAR data within downstream design, engineering and construction operations quickly wanes; leaving us LiDAR evangelists wondering what happened.
In the following I share some of my thoughts and experiences with the hope that they might prove useful to my fellow LiDAR evangelists in marketing and selling their products and services.
Living in the LiDAR Bubble
As is the case with any emerging technology, the majority of LiDAR – related companies are not large. The largest LiDAR manufacturers such as Riegl and Optech each have just a couple hundred employees. I often point out to prospective customers that my company, Certainty 3D, with 8 employees places us as one of the LiDAR processing software giants; yes, even the large multi-national companies have just a few people internally working on LiDAR software.
Of course many of the surveying companies who are operating LiDAR systems are relatively small also. And just consider the large collection of system platforms ranging from backpacks, golf carts, automobiles, planes, helicopters, ultra-lights, balloons, UAVs you name it. I find it amusing and very cool that people will hang a LiDAR system on just about anything! We are truly an entrepreneurial and imaginative community.
The downside of such a community is that it can become a bubble with the origins of our frame of reference positioned deeply within. We talk to each other too much, often becoming fixated on performance specifications that are understandable only within our community. Its as if the next breakthrough in performance, price, size, etc. will be the breakthrough to guarantee the community success. Then everyone outside the bubble will finally get it tooor not.
Stepping Outside the LiDAR Bubble
So one of the biggest lessons I have learned these past years is that if I wanted to promote Certainty 3D and LiDAR technology within the design, engineering and construction community in general, I had to step out of the LiDAR Bubble. I had stand beside my prospective client and share his frame of reference. The view from outside the bubble is quite different.
First one has to appreciate that our prospective customer sees many technology communitieswith each community bubble having its own story, its own passion, its own value. It became clear to me that it wasnt necessarily realistic or fair to expect my prospective client to share my passion; to simply get it and move forward. I had to realize that from outside the bubble LiDAR might not be that special.
From outside the bubble, you start to appreciate that your clients often see our cool LiDAR technology as disruptive to his existing workflows and processes. So while I might have been going on about the potential return on investment, my prospective clients were just hearing expense and risk.
Standing next to your prospective customer, you start to realize that the risk and expense might outweigh the potential upside for him. At Certainty 3D, we have found this to be especially true when companies require integration of new technologies to be funded by an existing project.
Place yourself in the role of project manager starting a multi-million dollar project. Its funded, theres a schedule in place and the pressure is on. This project manager knows how to accomplish the project without the new technology, employing workflows and processes already defined. If the new technology saves a lot of time and expense, the project manager may benefit to some extent. Should the new technology crash and burn, the project manager has no doubt where the buck will stop.
Promoting LiDAR from Outside the Bubble
At Certainty 3D much of our success has come from developing our technology, solutions and support from a viewpoint outside the bubble. While our solutions may or may not be directly applicable to others in the LiDAR community, the concept of stepping outside the bubble to develop those solutions is valid for all.
Certainty 3Ds product and services were developed from an out of the bubble perspective. Just one example is our pay-for-usage license plan. This licensing program places Certainty 3D alongside our customer as we both only benefit from our customers successful use of LiDAR data. Certainty 3Ds tireless focus on support, documentation and communication reflects our understanding that these resources are as important as the technology itself in implementing new workflows and processes.
I could go on, but Certainty 3Ds products and services are not the point here. The point is that we developed these products and services from a view outside the bubble. To our colleagues in the LiDAR community, I would encourage you to take a step outside the bubble when developing your own products and services.