From The Editor: The Greatest Technology Decade?

A 682Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

As I sit here preparing to write the first LiDAR News editorial for 2014 I can’t help but reflect back on 2013 and for that matter the progress of the LiDAR/3D laser scanning industry, in general. As some of you know I have proposed that we consider the current decade as a very important period of technological change. Since we have only completed three of the ten years, it might be foolish to place a label of "The Greatest Technology Decade" on the period from 2010 to 2020, but if these first three (actually it is four) years are any indication then it certainly will have to rank pretty high. Here’s some of my thought process.

For the past couple of years I have been struggling with an appropriate way to describe this exciting time, but thanks to Kevin Benedict, a Senior Analyst at Cognizant I think I have found it. Digital Transformation is the term Kevin explains in this video is the umbrella term he prefers to describe the incredible era that we are living in. That works for me. Thanks Kevin for solving that nagging problem.

Now, onto the issue of whether the current decade has a legitimate claim to being the Greatest Technology Decade. Whenever I use the word technology I am reminded of John Walker one of the founders of Autodesk. In his inspiring chronicle of the early days of building the company, The Autodesk Files, he reminds the reader that (from Wikipedia) technology comes from the Greek , techne, which is the "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and -, – logia http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Technology – cite_note-Liddell_1980-1 which is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem. Perhaps the key word is techniques.

Technology does not have to be about ones and zeros, in other wordsdigital. John Walker liked to remind the Autodesk employees of this. Technology has been around since the dawn of man; it’s about man’s skilled use of tools. These tools can be software running on a PC as in the case of AutoCAD, or a trowel in the hands of a concrete mason floating a floor slab. Maybe that’s why the term "high tech" was coined to possibly separate manual/analog from digital technology.

A quick check with Wikipedia (you have to love this website) reveals that "high tech" was first used in the 1950’s to describe "cutting edge" or the most advanced technologies available. That , actually fits with the origin of the term as there is no mention of digital, although since the invention of the transistor this seems to be what most people think of as technology and certainly high tech.

I guess the point is technology, at least the tools portion has evolved over the years. In the beginning it was the wheel and fire, many centuries later the printing press, and then the steam engine. These were more in the realm of mechanical forms of technology, but soon after that it was the telegraph, electricity, manned flight, the radio, rockets and of course the atomic bomb. Technology was becoming much more sophisticated. You really had to know your physics. As noted, digital technology was launched with the invention of the transistor and we can’t leave out the ruby laser in 1960. From there satellites, the PC, the Internet and GPS/ GNSS have brought us to this decade and to me an equally important transformationthe shift from a 2D world to 3D.

Of course we could debate which of these technologies and the eras they created had the most impact ad infinitum, but I would like to propose that the best metric to judge the impact of a technology decade is productivity. As my mother, who worked until she was 83 always reminded my brother and me, "I have to be productive." I think that came from her German heritage and growing up in the Depression.

I think it is fair to say that at least since the Dark Ages that people in each decade have been more productive than the previous, so that leaves us with something like the percentage increase in productivity of one decade over another. My prediction is that the current decade will see the largest increase in human productivity in modern history as we finally complete the transition from paper(analog) to digital and from 2D to 3D.

Two of the critical drivers for this prediction are support from "The Cloud" and "The Internet of Things." The Internet connecting people is powerful, but the Internet connecting things, like laser scannersnow that is boundless. Intertwined in all of this is another important mega trend"The Energy Revolution," but in the end I think it is really all about 3D.

What is it about 3D that makes people more productive? I think the most important benefit is visualization. When you look at a 3D image it looks like the real world and it is easier for people to communicate a message in a way that people naturally understand. 3D supports more intuitive communication through visualization which leads to faster, more confident and better decision making. For me it’s really that simple.

For 2014 we are introducing a few changes to the format of LiDAR News magazine. The first is the addition of more one page articles that are shorter and easier to read. The second is a series of product spotlight pages. If you have a product that you would like to showcase please contact me. Finally, we will be publishing eight issues this year in an effort to keep you better informed.

As you will see, we have an outstanding lineup of articles to kickoff the New Year. We are always interested in receiving new ideas. Please let me know if you have an article or product note that we can publish.

Sometimes this job can be a lot of fun especially when I get the chance to hypothesis about ideas like "The Greatest Technology Decade," but to be honest I hope one day to unplug from all of this and ride my paint horse into the sunset.

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

A 682Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE