International Year of Light – 2015

An international public awareness initiative is set to launch this year, intending to turn the worlds attention to light-based technologies, their importance, and their ever-expanding applications. On 20 December 2013, the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) along with a coalition of professional scientific organizations moved to proclaim 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL2015). While a video introduction to IYL2015 featuring Steering Committee Chair John Dudley, Physicist and Professor at the University of Franche-Comt, has been viewable online since March 2014, in the last ten months since it was published, it has collected only just over two thousand views. Not only can the lidar community take advantage of the publicity opportunity presented by IYL2015, it further serves its interest to devote its media and promotional resources to support awareness of the IYL2015 mission.

According to the IYL2015 Prospectus, the International Year of Light is a cross-disciplinary educational and outreach project with more than 100 partners from over 85 countries and a global initiative that will highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for the development of society. Beyond the goals outlined in the Prospectus, Professor Dudley himself in the IYL2015 video introduction spoke to the need for scientists to communicate to the public and to politicians especially the pervasiveness of light-based technologies, in order that they might make further research and investment in these technologies a funding priority.

One might note after browsing the IYL2015 promotional literature and press releases that despite frequent references to light-based and optical technology, the term lidar is generally absentand conspicuously so to the lidar user. Nevertheless, the technology itself is alluded to in the Prospectus under Thematic Coverage, which ends its Light Technology section with understanding the Earths environment increasingly relies on optical and photonic techniques for sensing and measurement. For lidar stakeholders, this is an open door to promoting lidar as one of the prime light-based technologies in which to invest. Because UNESCOs International Year of Light webpage cites raise global awareness of the ways in which light-based technologies promote sustainable development and offer solutions to global challenges in the fields of energy, education, agriculture and health as a priority, lidar technologists can relay, easily in some cases, the significance of terrain mapping, surveying, volumetric analyses, building documentation, and other spatial diagnostic functions in many of these fields, including sustainable development.

Elsewhere in the Prospectus, lidar technologists whose application is chiefly digital heritage preservation, such as those belonging to the Zamani Project, the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, CyArk, or the Initiative for Heritage Conservancy, might be interested to know that a stated goal of IYL2015 is enhancing the role of optical technology to preserve cultural heritageheritage preservation being a well-known focus of UNESCO.

Among the endorsers of IYL2015, the most familiar to LiDAR News readers is likely the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS). The topic of the IYL2015 initiative was brought up at the recent conference of American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing during its Lidar Division meeting. Presently there are no IYL2015-commemorative events scheduled, though this may change.

Remarkably, however, the list of sponsors appear to exclude lidar companies, listing instead several national physics and photonics professional organizations, book publishers, and universities as sponsors.

IYL2015 already has a host of scheduled events taking place in seventy-two of its eighty-five participating countries, however, few are specific to lidar users, at least those events taking place in the United States. One global event, World Metrology Day, held annually on 20 May, is themed Measurements and Light for 2015 and may present opportunities to the lidar community for cross-promotion. For those interested in hosting an IYL2015-related event, IYL2015 is accepting event submissions through the website which will be directed to the IYL2015 secretary. Should your company or organization submit an IYL2015 event, please also forward the details to LIDAR News for publication to the LiDAR News 2015 Events Calendar.

Given the platform provided by UNESCO and its broad international support, IYL2015 is a timely occasion for lidar scientists to encourage understanding and to explore and collaborate across disciplines around the applications of light-based measurement systems. The lidar user community can actively improve public awareness of the IYL2015 global initiative while at the same time drawing attention to lidar science, derivative technologies, and industry.

The International Year of Light 2015 will be inaugurated at its Opening Ceremony, scheduled for 19-20 January 2015 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

Continue to follow LiDAR News for ongoing lidar-related coverage of IYL2015, and the Light2015 blog for updates directly from IYL2015 organizers.

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