From the Editor: Data Mobility

A 452Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

Well, I attended my first INTERGEO, the world’s leading conference trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation and land management. Yes it is BIG with over half a million event website users, more than 16,000 visitors (claimed) and over 500 exhibitors. The larger manufacturers had booths that were at least 100′ x 300′ with more than 50 staff on the show floor–amazing.

Other than a press conference hosted by FARO announcing their upgraded Focus X 330 and SCENE WebShare Cloud there was not a lot of eye catching product announcements. I believe the major players are shifting their product release cycles to synch with their user conferences. FARO’s was the following week in Florida–more on that in a moment.

Impressions–well it is certainly an opportunity to see just about all of the geospatial players in one place. Unfortunately most of the technical presentations are in German so the educational value requires that you speak the language, but at the same time most of the vendors speak English so that is not an issue on the show floor. I think it is clear that the geospatial industry in Germany is healthy, very well organized and that there is a lot of respect for the geospatial profession.

I followed my trip to Essen, Germany by attending the FARO 3D conference in Orlando, Florida. In his keynote FARO’s CEO Jay Freeland positioned the company as a disruptive innovator. It’s hard to argue with that. I had planned to include a side trip to GEOINT 2013, but the government shut down here in the U.S. forced it to be canceled along with the MAPPS conference that was scheduled for this month. All we can do is hope that some lessons were learned from all of this. I guess we’ll see soon enough.

After a week at home I was off to Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure and Be Inspired Awards in London. The latter are aptly named. It is civil engineering nirvana. In addition to a detailed technology update (see below) from senior management, led by Greg Bentley, there were over 60 customer presentations representing the finalists in over 20 infrastructure categories, including a new one for point cloud processing. I just needed that cloning software in order to attend them all.

This event is a first class opportunity to see the world’s leading infrastructure projects up close and personal while, from the Bentley side, they get the attention of more than 100 of the worldwide Built Environment press for four days. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.

While all of the customer presentations were truly inspiring it was the roadmap presentation by the software team that really stole the show. In an attempt to be objective about this let’s look at this in the hypothetical sense for a moment. Suppose you were going to start today to build a new CAD-based software company focused on the planning, design and construction of the world’s most challenging infrastructure projects. How would you go about it? What would your roadmap be?

In the simplest sense I think you would want to start with a software platform that supplies all of the core intelligent CAD technology and services to the applications so that they do not have to duplicate this effort. The architecture would support 3D models, project collaboration, visualization, parametric design, the Cloud and mobile apps, as a minimum. The applications would automate tedious tasks, perform in-depth analysis and produce significant productivity gains through integration and data interoperability.

Well, in the big picture sense this is exactly what Bentley has done. The impressive part is that they have had this vision for many years and it is finally beginning to really pay off. Now I would be the first to admit that Bentley is a bit terminology crazy. In fact, sometimes it seems as though Greg has his own vocabulary or language, but the results speak for themselves. That’s the really amazing part of this conference. Bentley supplies the marketing and in the next room the customers confirm that it is making huge differences on some of the most complicated infrastructure projects in the world. You can’t buy that mind of marketing.

On the LiDAR/laser scanning front point clouds were the first and most often referred to technology, other than perhaps the Cloud, during the conference. Bentley’s vision for dealing with 3D point clouds is to incorporate those into the platform as a fundamental data type. In a brief conversation with Faraz Ravi he confirmed that the product development strategy is embedment, not special apps like in his former Pointools days.

Bottom line–if there is a software company with more potential to lead a revolution in lifecycle asset management than Bentley please let me know.

In this issue of LiDAR News I think you will find the most diverse set of high quality articles that we have published to date. Thanks to this outstanding group of authors for raising the bar yet again. If you would like to contribute all you have to do is let me know.

My soapbox topic, albeit a small one for this edition is data mobility, or what some might call "the pain of moving data". Where to start? I guess what pointed me in this direction was a presentation by kubit’s Scott Diaz at the FARO 3D conference where he carefully and patiently explained the current required workflows for getting a point cloud into AutoCAD and Revit–OMG I wanted to scream. There was a different workflow for each AutoCAD release over the past 3 or 4 years.

Just for a moment let’s compare the CAD and GIS software world to photography or music. It’s very similar in that we need to move data from one user to another. Why does everything in the CAD and GIS worlds have to be proprietary? The Bentley roadmap did emphasize what they call data mobility, but that is only within the world of MicroStation.

There are organizations like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) that are trying to establish universal data standards, but it’s an "after the fact" approach rather than a proactive commitment on the part of the industry to realize that it would be so much easier for customers to not have to worry about data interoperability. When you pop in that CD or take a picture you don’t have to wonder if you have the right data format.

Sometimes I wonder, "Would anyone dare to start over?" Google has a secret project that they call Genie which is rumored to be aimed at reducing the cost of construction by 50%. It’s described as a cloud based collaboration platform. Maybe this will be the start of a new era in data mobility. Let’s hope.

Gene Roe, LS, PE, PhD
Managing Editor & Co-Founder LiDAR Magazine

A 452Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE