From The Editor: SPAR 3D Recap and Who Will Educate the Market?

A 368Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

Recuperating from SPAR 3D, as I write this editorial, I can’t help reflecting back on the geospatial industry in the `90s and how much of the rhetoric surrounding GIS was so similar to that which is now heralding the 3D phenomenon: 3D technologies are driving innovation across every industry. That is so true … and we now see GIS or geospatial technologies being applied in virtually every discipline and industry because everything has a geographic element to it and …everything has three dimensions … and will be represented as such.

The SPAR 3D Expo & Conference does an excellent job showcasing 3D technologies focused on end-to-end 3D business and technology considerations for process and power, oil and gas, AEC (architecture/engineering/construction), surveying and mapping, transportation and civil infrastructure, law enforcement, digital historic preservation, industrial facilities and other disciplines. The 16th edition of the annual event took place April 11-14, 2016 in The Woodlands, Texas.

At the time of this writing, final attendance figures were unavailable but keynotes, plenary and session tracks were packed and the exhibit hall was buzzing …there is definitely excitement running through the industry. Certainly exhibition space sales have benefited enormously by the whole UAV phenomena as the drones have taken over a third to a half of the exhibit space.

Day one on Monday consisted of live field demos, Riegl’s TLS software workshop, EdgeWise User group meeting and a workshop: Professional Development for Surveyors–Increase Your Value with Knowledge of 3D by Michael Frecks of Terrametrix and Allen Nobles of Nobles Consulting Group.

Greg Bentley, CEO, Bentley Systems kicked things off with his opening keynote providing fascinating insight about new interactive 3D technologies used for the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia. Day one’s plenary session focused on Unique Applications, Emerging Markets of which I found "Driving MBTA Infrastructure Improvements With 3D" particularly interesting. Gordon Perry, LiDAR operations manager and Matt Bechtel, GIS manager, at HNTB did a great job illustrating how Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has torn down traditional technology and institutional silos by leveraging their investment in LiDAR beyond engineering into asset management, GIS, and mobile apps.

I took in Basics of 3D Technologies–Business Drivers for Use of 3D Technologies. The session culminated in a panel discussion with Matt Craig from LFM Software, Ken Smerz from Eco 3D and Greg Dasher with Balfour Beatty Construction. Getting Mr. Dasher’s perspective from a construction company how they justified and benefited from their investment in laser scanning was very illuminating as to what needs to happen for this technology to become accepted by end users. Ken Smerz points out that maybe 10 percent of potential users of this technology are actually exposed to the benefits suggesting that there is a huge education job that needs to happen for this technology to reach its true potential.

This session was particularly poignant because it alluded to the fundamental issue facing the 3D industry: How do you make this technology accessible to all who can potentially benefit from it? And, here is where I believe the 3D industry is particularly analogous to Geospatial. In order for 3D technologies to reach their true potential it is not a matter of coming up with better technology but doing a much better job of communicating, marketing, and educating the market place.

It is no longer enough to create superior technologies or solutions success requires superior marketing and sales. It is understood that for many professionals and technologists, to participate in what seems as superficial marketing ploys cheapens their products, services or companies. However, in order to succeed, technology companies must become marketing companies.

The opportunities for 3D products and services are virtually unlimited. However, in order to compete in certain sectors, and to reach their potential, they need to compete on a sales/marketing/communications standpoint–not on technological superiority alone.

Brand as a Warranty (BaaW)
In order to win the marketing wars, it is critical to achieve major mindshare within the targeted markets, create brand awareness for your company as leader in the 3D industry, and a "Brand as a Warranty." This is the creating of a brand that is equivalent, indeed better, than a warranty because a warranty never compensates a client for a failed product or service. What are the true costs of bad data? Therefore, you want customers to believe that they are dealing with a company that will live up to its name and perform as expected.

In his book, "Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing" Harry Beckwith writes:
"A brand is more than a symbol, in the public’s eye, a brand is a warranty. It is a promise that the service carrying that brand will live up to its name, and perform. A brand is even more important than a warranty. No warranty does enough, because no warranty compensates the warranty holder for the lost time, the frustration, and the Inconvenience of suffering the problem and making the claim. The brand then becomes even more important because it is the closest thing to a guarantee. Brands are even more important to service customers because few services have warranties–in part because many services are very difficult to warrant. Left without a warranty, the client has only the brand on which to depend. And depending on brands is just what service clients do. A service is a promise, and building a brand builds your promise."

Frequency breeds familiarity breeds confidence breeds business
The goal is to establish an educated, confident marketplace. In technology, education is possibly the most important element of a successful marketing campaign. A marketplace that is well informed about the technologies, their applications, and their benefits is a prerequisite to it generating revenue.

People buy from organizations with which they are familiar, they like and have a feeling of confidence. Their motivators are the elimination of risk, fear of loss or failure, and hope for gain or success. Therefore, it is paramount to create a business environment that exudes a sense of confidence, quality, tangible benefits and elimination of risk. The customer cares about only one thing … the customer!

There is much at stake … one of the major markets for 3D technology is BIM, the Building Information Modeling market is set to grow to $6.5 Billion worldwide by 2020. The software tool is becoming popular among end users in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, facilitating its adoption in construction, commercial and infrastructure projects and government mandates regarding usage of BIM in building construction will boost its adoption.

This and many more lucrative markets will open up for 3D technologies. The winners and losers in the 3D space will be determined in the next few years and many of the companies we are familiar with won’t be around in a few years from now. The winners will not be those with the best technology …it will be those who educate the marketplace!

A 368Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE