July 23, 2014

Success Is Measured

Tom Greaves at SPAR Europe

Using 3D to mitigate risk – 7 opportunities for technology to help in 2011

Tom Greaves

Some humans seek out risk. Skydiving, sailing the southern ocean solo, running the bulls at Pamplona, starting a business … the list of risky behaviors is endless. Many of us, however, seek to contain or mitigate risk, at least in our professional lives. We aim to tame the beasts of cost and schedule overruns; we seek to make our workplaces safer, all the while improving or at least maintaining the quality of what we make or build.

How do new 3D technologies help us mitigate risk? How will tomorrow’s 3D technologies change the way we think about risk? Whether you build bridges, breweries or airplanes, catch criminals, make movies, or look for snow on Mars, the creative ways in which you harness 3D may well determine your success. 3D is no magic bullet, however. We are faced, in my opinion, with seven central challenges and opportunities when applying this exciting technology to the practice of risk management.
And it would be nice to have some fun along the way, right? (Skip to Paragraph 7 if you’re the type that likes to eat dessert before the main meal.)

Seven 3D Opportunities for 2011 

1. Ultra large Databases: our capture reach exceeds our processing grasp. Today’s 3D capture systems collect data at rates greater than a million points/second. Collecting a terabyte of spatial data in a day is not the issue; the challenge is how we store, partition, refresh, analyze and serve up this information as a useful deliverable. Where is the universal file format for 3D data? Where’s the jpeg for point clouds? Accurate and complete 3D is the starting point for eliminating downside surprise, but the information needs to be easily shareable. My hunch is that this year we’re going to see a lot of development of standards both from industry and from organizations like ASTM E57.

2. Integration of multiple sensors: today’s 3D instruments already go way beyond shape and position capture with LIDAR and GPS in dry, above-ground conditions. Integrating acoustic, radar, thermal infrared and high dynamic range digital photography sensors in a common, georeferenced database in one fell swoop is here. Let’s use that! Our prediction is that these techniques have a lot to offer other fields of human endeavor, ranging from medicine to remediation and revamping of industrial facilities.

3. Mobile capture of indoor data: mapping and modeling outside spaces is often difficult. The indoor problem is even more challenging. It’s also 80% of what needs to be mapped and we’ve barely started. The absence of GPS means relying on survey control and dead reckoning navigation methods to tether laser scanning, digital photography and other sensor data to known coordinates. Solutions for doing this automatically are being deployed and this could quickly drive automation of scan-to- BIM workflows, unlocking the value of BIM for existing buildings. I have no doubt that tommorrow's responsible care practices for building owners will require accurate, up-to-date facility documentation. Put another way, in the near future, if you own an office tower, hotel, or factory, you’re going to be obligated to provide accurate as-builts to first-responder organizations. Ten-year-old faxes of obsolete floor plans based on 2D design documents will be inadequate shields against civil liability.

4. Mobile capture of outdoor data: the world has more than ten million miles of roads. There’s a big opportunity to capture and render the world’s transportation infrastructure in 3D. My hunch is the killer application is still under our noses. The feverish pace at which Google and Microsoft are collecting or commissioning 3D data capture is no doubt founded in conviction that there’s great money to be made in the artful serving of this data. The days of 7x24 continuous position and dimensional surveillance are just around the corner, at least in the parts of the world where most of us live.

In context mobile delivery on an Android
It's not just seeing the pictures on your mobile device, it's having the pictures change to adapt to the space you're looking at.

5. In Context Mobile Delivery: Today’s smartphones know not only where they are, but also their pose, their orientation in space. I can’t wait for a new set of industrial deliverables to stream 3D engineering, GIS, 3D construction work packages – the data delivered will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish and where and who you are. Perhaps this is one step to changing construction from a low-bid, man-hour driven, fix-it-in-the-field, low-margin business to a an assemble-it-in-the-field, right-the-first-time business with reliable schedules and costs. The construction companies that crack this code can charge on value delivered, not man-hours. 

In some circles we call this augmented reality. We’re just beginning to see scan data served up on Androids and iPhones. Amadeus Burger from CSA will demonstrate this at SPAR 2011 in Houston in March. There’s much more to come.

6. Automated feature extraction: one of the toughest problems in point cloud computing is automated feature extraction. The 2D analog, optical character recognition of raster text is child’s play by comparison to the gnarly 3D problem. Progress has been made – new solutions to recognize pipes, planar services and catalogued items are making it to market. Certainty3D and ClearEdge3D are a couple of startups to watch in this space. Even semi-automatic solutions yield high value, particularly where modeling is essential – think BIM or even structural analysis – but inefficient automation can be worse than none at all. What is the tipping point for accuracy rates where automation becomes an efficiency driver? Are we there yet?

7. Consumer applications: consumer 3D has arrived. Avatar grossed $2.8 billion this year. All major television manufacturers have made huge wagers that 3D TV is the next new thing. In November, Microsoft launched Kinect – you are the 3D controller. Eight million units later, you can bet the industrial-strength, high-resolution version is being developed, if not by Microsoft then by someone in a garage.

So what’s next? Here are a few things to watch for:

• Displays where you don’t need to wear special glasses to get your 3D are getting better and better. SeeFront3D at SPAR Europe in December demonstrated this. Point clouds never looked so good in my view.

• Integration of 3D static data and 3D stereo broadcast streams for new gaming and entertainment experiences. Please, please let me see the 2011 World Series from the pitcher Josh Beckett’s point of view. Better still, let me see Fenway Park in Boston as it appears to the ball on its arc past the Pesky Pole. Let's see some of the World Cup from the ball's point of view. Better still, let me toggle the point of view.

• Crowdsourced 3D is just beginning. What’s needed is a schema to organize and process the world’s 3D information. Google Earth and Microsoft Bing is a start but it's not too hard to imagine a system where you can upload your dimensionally correct 3D, fully georeferenced data and share it with your friends.



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