July 29, 2014

Head in the Point Clouds

Sam Pfeifle

Sam Pfeifle was Editor of SPAR Point Group from September 2010 - February 2013.

3D and alternative energy

It never really clicked for me until I was walking the floor of the EnergyOcean 2011 conference last week: Alternative Energy and 3D are a pretty great mix. Not only do alternative energy solutions need to bring to bear all of the best data to optimize the effectiveness of still-unproven ways of competing with fossil fuels, but these guys are also technological pioneers. They're not going to be resistant to new methods of data capture and design. They're going to embrace them.


Sure, it's easy to posit that good business people will embrace any technology that helps them make a buck, but I think most of you know that's not the case. People are by nature somewhat conservative. They like to stick with the things that have made them successful in the first place, even if you're making a good argument that you can make them more successful (and sometimes you're not making that great of an argument, maybe, when you're pushing new technology, but that's a different discussion altogether). Some business people are more likely to jump in with both feet than others, though. If they're already utilizing cutting-edge technology in one part of their business, or, better yet, their business is founded on utilizing new technology, then they're likely to be more receptive to other new technology. 

It's not coincidence that tech companies are more likely to embrace social media and online advertising, for example. And it makes sense that software developers are more likely to use cloud-based collaboration tools like Bandcamp. It's part of how their built as business people.

So, it makes sense that, walking the EnergyOcean floor, there was 3D all over the place. These guys are looking for an edge. As they make the argument that wind, tidal, and wave energy are realistic alternatives to fossil fuels they need to find every efficiency to that they can battle kilowatt for kilowatt. If 3D data capture can help them with that, they're all over it. And the engineering firms that are looking to service those wind, tidal, wave pioneers aren't dumb: They know to use their 3D skills as a marketing tool.

Check out this little selection of what the 10x10s looked like:


See, point clouds all over the place. And the 3D data capture was all over the map. Lots of multi-beam sonar, some 3d laser scanning, some use of lidar to map the wind, but the central theme was this: We want more good data to make more good decisions. 

Since I was just walking the floor more out of curiosity than out of journalistic interest at the time (the EnergyOcean show was literally right across the street from the SPAR home offices, at the Holiday Inn here in Portland, Maine), I didn't collect great notes, but here's a quick run down of some companies I met and how they're using 3D:

Tesla is doing a full line of 3D survey evaluation and design services, though a lot of that is sub-surface stuff. (Nor are they messing around, the 3D division is part of Tesla Conquest, which is kind of a bad-ass name for an offshore exploration firm.) But they're also using laser scanning for QC and site evaluation. 

Terrasond is a marine survey firm that has a very impressive array of technologies at their beck and call. They're combining all of that to tackle the surveying and mapping market on the water and around the shores of the Pacific Northwest, reaching up into Alaska (where they're based), along with Rio, Corpus Christi, and Equatorial Guinea. They sport a Leica HDS6100 and a Riegl 2D amongst their arsenal. They've got a nice collection of workboats rigged up, that's for sure.

EGS Survey is a large firm focusing on marine-based survey and construction support. Looks like they're mostly using sonar for their 3D imaging when working on marine geophysical surveys at the moment, but they like to show off their work in 3D.

Fugro is a very large engineering firm, and they've embraced 3D whole-heartedly. Their terrestrial survey division owns a mobile mapping vehicle. And they've been on board with airborne lidar since at least 2004.

Sewall, a firm doing geospatial, engineering, and natural resource consulting (and the oldest surveying firm in Maine), based right here in Old Town, Maine, is using lidar in their work to support wind farm development.  

Sgurr Energy is doing some really cool work in using lidar to map the wind, and thus help with the placement of wind turbines. 

SGC Engineering, which was recently bought by Senergy Alternative Energy, and has offices right here in Westbrook, Maine, is using lidar in their transmission line work.

Obviously, this is just a small sampling of the capabilities on display, but for a conference ostensibly focusing on alternative energy derived from the world's oceans, there was an awful lot of talk about 3D on the show floor. Just another indication that this is a technology poised to become vital to any number of workflows and projects.

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Quality surveyors being squeezed from both sides

The best thing about the recent Hexagon conference, with its accompanying HDS track, was the opportunity it gave me to sit with surveyors who've been scanning for years and get their take on how the market is shaping up. One thing I quickly realized: The early adopters are now stuck in the middle of two forces conspiring to steal their margin (by their way of thinking, anyway - hey, we were having beers, maybe I fell in with them a little bit). 

1. Newcomers to the scanning game who've identified the new technology as a wide-open market and are taking advantage of scanner price reductions by FARO (and now Leica's C5) to get into the game. Because they're brand-new and hungry for business, they're willing to "buy" jobs by bidding low and saying yes to just about every customer demand. 

Of course, in the RFPs, the asset owners say that experience will be considered, but people in the field are finding that low-bid wins, especially in this economy, where pennies are being pinched everywhere. 

Guys who are more established, have larger operations and overhead, and who refuse to lose money on jobs are getting out-bid all over the place, leaving them soured on the business opportunity for scanning. Even worse, they're often being called in by the guy who won the business when they need help. Let's just say they're being less than accommodating when that request comes in. 

What's the solution here? Well, maybe these quality surveyors are just further behind the innovation curve than they think they are. Just because they were early adopters once doesn't mean they've got their fingers on the pulse of the market forever. Do they need to take a look at their workflows and make sure they're getting all the efficiencies they should be getting out of the technology?

Further, are they chasing the wrong jobs? Are their business development people qualifying the right leads? Price should certainly be a differentiator, but if the asset owner is fixated on price, maybe you need to walk away and show them what happens when you get what you pay for. Then offer politely to pick up the pieces later. 

Is it a buyers market? Almost certainly. There aren't a lot of jobs out there for anyone. But it costs money to put together bids. Try to make sure it's worth it before you throw your hat in the ring if your a laser scanning service provider.

2. BIM software developers and the resellers of their software are pushing asset owners to require BIM more and more often. When they're putting out that RFP for a job that involves retrofitting or adding to an existing structure, that means they're requiring scan-to-BIM, but there aren't a lot of options yet for an easy workflow that allows for cost-effective scan-to-BIM. As a consequence, the guys who know what they're doing are actually bidding what they know the job will cost (ie., thousands and thousands of dollars in modeling (say, Cyclone) and remodeling (say, Revit)), then getting beaten by ambitious and hungry service providers who figure they'll get the job first and figure the deliverable out later. 

The problem is, the asset owners don't seem often enough to be understanding just how that Revit model is going to be used by the design firm they've hired, if at all. 

Yes, there is onus on the asset owner to be educated enough to see through the marketing and technology hype, but there is also onus on the surveyor and scanning service provider to develop relationships that allow you to be seen as a technology expert and a trusted source of information. Before that asset owners asks you to model every single brick in the existing building, you need to be in his/her ear explaining not only what that's going to cost, but what value it's going to have down the road. 

The results of points 1 and 2 are that quality surveyors are being squeezed from both ends. On the one side, they're being forced to lower the costs. On the other side, they're being asked to deliver more. Lost in the middle is the margin, unless they're vigilant about mitigating points 1 and 2 to the utmost.

But, you say, aren't these points just the whining of surveyors who got into the scanning market early and have been marking things way up, but who now can't do that anymore because they've finally got some competition?

I don't think so. I think this has the potential to be a real problem, for two main reasons related to the two problems above:

1. Asset owners are going to be disappointed by the results of their scanning projects, and they're going to blame the technology, not just the firm that screwed things up. When underbid jobs come in late, and with problems attached, the inclination by asset owners is going to be, "Eh, this laser scanning isn't all that helpful." Next time around, they go back to information the "old-fashioned" way, and have to be convinced all over again that 3D data capture offers significant benefits for the operation of their facility going forward. That damages the industry as a whole and slows the speed of adoption. 

2. These new service providers are going to be stung by their underbids and struggle to reach profitability. A high rate of failure tells investors that the technology is unproven or unprofitable and scares away those who might be looking to invest in new business models. Angels talk to other angels. Mezzanine lenders talk to other mezzanine lenders. Bankers talk to bankers. If start-up cash quickly turns into bankruptcy declarations, that's bad for the industry. 

And both of these things don't even begin to get into long-term problems an asset owner might have if he/she is working off bad data. What are the liability issues a scanning provider might be looking at if an inaccurate model is delivered that leads to design flaws that leads to safety hazards? I think the answer to that is still in the future, but be sure that something to that effect will eventually be litigated. 

What's the solution here? Asset owners should be wary of both rookie service providers and software marketers/resellers who are advising in their own best interests. Even if the scanning itself is being handled outside the organization, it behooves facility managers to understand laser scanning best practices and undertand what goes into each kind of deliverable. If a bid looks too good to be true, as the saying goes, it probably is too good to be true. 

Further, laser scanning service providers need to understand the scan-to-Revit/scan-to-BIM workflow and its many intricacies. Delivering BIM with a high level of detail is time-consuming and costly, and though you wish there were a button that would allow you extract models from point clouds, it doesn't currently exist. 

In an industry as nascent as 3d data capture remains, I think service providers have responsibilities that go beyond paying their own bills and generating their own profits. They have a responsibility to the industry as a whole, to help this still small sector grow as more and more people see the benefits the technology has to offer. Whether you like it or not, you are evangelists for the technology and the benefits it provides.

This isn't the restaurant biz. People have to eat. You get some bad sushi, you don't swear off seafood forever. But asset owners don't have to commission the acquisition of 3D information, and if they have a stomach-turning experience, they might never go back. 

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The maturing mobile scanning marketplace

It is with some regret that I wasn't able to attend the Optech Innovative Lidar Solutions Conference this week in Toronto. Not only did the company make some major announcements, but it's clear that the mobile scanning and mapping market is developing quickly and I do think that Optech is helping to lead that charge.

So, to make up for not being there, here's a collection of things that can help you figure out what happened at the event:

1. Product announcements

• Maybe the coolest thing Optech announced this week was its shallow water mapping solution, appropriately called Aquarius

The new ALTM Aquarius provides simultaneous terrestrial and water depth measurement capability, enabling the collection of data sets that span the entire land-water interface to depths in excess of 10 meters. Available as a simple sensor head addition to the ALTM Gemini product line, or as a complete survey solution on its own, Aquarius offers a new capability to traditional airborne surveyors looking to add further value to their map product deliverables while maintaining their existing ALTM planning and processing workflows. 

Gemini, Aquarius - those Canadians do like their astrological references - but it seems pretty clear that, with the added focus lately on wetlands conservation and shore erosion mitigation, this could be a useful product for surveyors. 

• The company also announced this week the release of a new Waveform Digitizer, the IWD-2, which should allow, the company says, for more intelligence to be recorded. 

2. Coverage from other folks

• PoB has some nice coverage of the Optech event, including a video interview with Optech head Don Carswell, that's definitely worth checking out. 

• Gene Roe is at the show and has some coverage of what's been happening on day 1 and 2, including a write-up of HNTB's keynote.

3. What Optech is looking for in terms of "innovation"

• I had a chance to interview Brent Gelhar and Daina Morgan while at SPAR International back in March, and this seems as good a time as any to post the video. Essentially, Optech agrees that the mobile scanning marketplace is beginning to mature and is looking for software, both from outside companies and its internal software development, to help customers process the huge amount of data that these mobile mapping systems are creating. 

Gelhar makes a good point about "mobile mapping": It needs to be data rich and provide survey-grade data, not just pretty pictures. As the market moves forward, it will be incumbent that service providers give the end users of the data the tools they need to extract more and more information from that data in timely fashion. They need to make it easy in order for them to tell their friends how much value they're getting from it.


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Lidar being used in flood response

As I get ready to take off for Japan, where they've experienced the worse of all natural disasters, we're here in the US experiencing a bit of mother nature's fury as well, as the Mississippi River overflows and residents are being chased from their homes and experiencing water-fueled destruction. Obviously, the two situations aren't quite comparable, but it's a reminder, yet again, that so many people are just one act of nature away from complete upheaval. 

The allure of technology is that we could possibly use it to mitigate some of that upheaval. In our little sector of the technology universe, some stories have been popping up about how lidar is being used to respond to the flooding, so I thought I'd pass those along.

In Louisiana, where they clearly know a thing or two about flooding, I picked up a report from the Tri-Parish Times about the Army Corps of Engineers using lidar data to create elevation maps to better know how and where to respond to flooding. Lafourche Parish, in New Orleans, has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the opening of the Morganza Spillway, which could lead to major flood impact:

The state of emergency declaration came in response to maps released this past weekend by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The color-coded map indicates that parts of Lafourche Parish could have between 5 and 10 feet of water inundation and portrays the eastern banks of Bayou Lafourche to be in a 0- to 5-foot zone. 

Unfortunately, there's some disagreement about whether these maps are helpful. In effect, the maps are correct, but not accurate, if that makes any sense. Apparently the Army Corps didn't take into account for levees and pump systems that are in place. Maybe. I don't want to get in the middle of it. But here's the part about lidar:

When designing the map, corps officials started with the Atchafalaya River in St. Mary Parish and worked east in determining water surface elevation levels. Along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), the corps assumed a 5-foot water elevation near Morgan City and tabbed it at 3 feet near both Houma and Larose, Bourgeois said.

From there, the corps used the state LIDAR system to determine land surface elevations, and without taking ring levee and pump systems in the lower-lying areas of west Lafourche, combined the assumed water elevations with the believed land height.

That seems like a good system to me, but there may be some politics involved here that I'm not getting. 

Elsewhere, I found a utility using lidar to make sure they can keep service up as much as possible in the Louisiana area:

Entergy Louisiana, LLC and Entergy Gulf States Louisiana, L.L.C. are prepared for predicted river level rises throughout the state and are encouraging customers in potentially affected areas to prepare while keeping safety as their top priority. 


Entergy is working closely with local officials to constantly evaluate river levels and monitor transmission towers and lines over river crossings. Helicopter patrols are being made daily of watch areas along the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya Basin, and advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) – a remote-sensing technology that measures distance using laser pulses to illuminate the target – is being utilized to confirm that there is a safe distance between the water and any energized conductors. 

Entergy’s intent is to take every reasonable step to avoid interrupting service to areas not affected by flooding. 

It's great to see the 3D imaging community being able to help in the flood response. What are other ways we could be using this technology to help relief efforts? Is there an application for ground-based mobile mapping as well?

I'll try to keep you posted on other things I find, but the trip to Japan is going to be a bit disruptive. See you there?




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Great press for mobile scanning in West Virginia

I know, I know, everyone hates the media. But a good story in a local paper can do wonders for raising the mainstream profile of a still relatively obscure technology like mobile laser scanning. This week, the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia (a Charleston in West Virginia? Who knew?) put up a great story about work Michael Baker, Inc., is doing laser scanning the entire city

And it's not just raising awareness of the technology in general - it's helping you make your case (probably since they're just parroting what Michael Baker, Inc., told them, but still):
But rather than map just the sewers, city leaders decided to map the entire city with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. Though a bit more expensive than the traditional GPS mapping the city first planned to use, LiDAR is many times faster and more accurate. 
You hear that city managers? Many times faster AND more accurate (and just a little more expensive). Really, you'd be a dummy to do it the old way...
And what mainstream news story about technology isn't good for a laugh or two?
Beside the lasers are two 5 megapixel digital cameras that can shoot pictures at up to three frames per second. 
I betcha they can shoot a little faster than that if it were required for them to do so...
Regardless, they've got themselves a pretty big project. 345 miles of roadway, at least once in each direction. What would it take with conventional hand-held GPS? "Well over a year," the article notes. 
I also love it when you see phrases like "what they call a point cloud of data," because it makes our industry seem so high-tech, but this is probably my favorite part of the article:
It's a huge amount of information, about 48 megabits for each second the truck is out collecting -- "about 40 floppy discs every second," Morris said. 
"Floppy discs"? What are those? I thought we were high-tech around here. And megabits? For real?
Sorry, can't help myself.
Anyway, it's kind of too bad that the "why" for all of this is largely left until the end:
"If the city needed to know the location of all its traffic signals, they wouldn't have to hire a consultant to do that. They could pull that out. Same thing with street signs, or fire hydrants, or utilities, or pavement conditions." 
That real-world application is kind of important. It's not just the mandated storm-sewer stuff. It's that this data can be repurposed in a number of different ways, which is why it's worth the extra money, because it accomplishes much more than just the single project that's necessary to be compliant. This repurposing of the data is vital to its value, which is why it's vital that the city have the tools to actually do get that additional information out. I expect Certainty3D will be giving them a call shortly...

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Scanning with a sense of wonder

Thanks very much to Twitter and BLDG|BLOG for pointing me in the direction of ScanLAB, which is "an ongoing series of experimental projects investigating the use of 3D laser scanning in architecture," started up by Matthew Shaw and William Trossell, in the UK. 

Part of what they do, like much of 3D imaging, has to be seen to be appreciated, but what's drawn me to them is the sense of wonder and play they bring to laser scanning. Because laser scanners are so expensive, and because they've initially been applied for such practical purposes, it's rare that you see someone just kind of screwing around with them. And, not to cast aspersions, since I'm a big fan of screwing around, that seems to be what these guys are doing (I've got an interview request in, too, and hope to have more of their thoughts soon). 

For instance, I love that they scanned the crowd from the recent conference they attended. Check out this fly-through:

I know it's nothing special, in many ways. Anyone can set up a scanner in front of a crowd and grab a 3D snapshot. But who actually does it? Why didn't we think to do this at SPAR? Why didn't I have myself scanned at SPAR? 

It's definitely true that people are using laser scanning for art purposes, but what these guys are doing seems different than that. They're exploring the technology's potential in more of a philosophical way, thinking about the implications for their profession, thinking about the why. It's playful and fun and creative in a way that can only lead to good things. 

Also of note is that they're using a Focus3D to make that scan above: It becomes a lot easier to screw around when the technology is cheaper and more accessible. Is a $40k scanner "cheap" and "accessible"? I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's heading in that direction. 

Regardless, look for more from ScanLAB and please pass along anyone else who's experimenting like this.

Edit: Different guys, different country, different application, but this is the same basic idea. I mean, holy wow (and great taste in music, too):

Be Your Own Souvenir! from blablabLAB on Vimeo.

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3D as a compliance engine

There's nothing better for a burgeoning technology than for that technology to become a mandated piece of a larger process. To that end, I found a great article in Electric Light & Power from Paul Richardson of Network Mapping, advocating for airborne lidar as a compliance tool for the North American Reliability Council's reliability standard FAC-003. 

His argument, and it makes sense to me, is that if power companies are going to have to deliver a vegetation management plan for their powerlines, there aren't many better and more efficient ways of documenting vegetation along the lines than airborne lidar.

Essentially, this FAC-003 works to avoid any vegetation-induced outages: vegetation growing into lines and interfering, or vegetation falling down onto the lines and knocking out power. The latter is something we know well here in New England, thanks to copious amounts of heavy snow knocking down tree branches left and right (one of the best things about heating with a wood stove? Power outages mean frying stuff up on the wood stove, which the kids get a kick out of). 

So, FAC-003 forces power companies to come up with something called a TVMP (transmission vegetation management program), part of which is a schedule of rights-of-way inspections. As you might imagine, this has a fair number of transmission line owners freaking out - how do they go about inspecting miles and miles of right of way in any sort of efficient fashion?

Well, yeah, aerial lidar:

Aerial LiDAR technology has been applied extensively to electrical transmission capturing towers, conductors, vegetation and other objects within the right-of-way, as well as the terrain. An operator prepares the 3-D point cloud by classifying objects within the dataset. The classified dataset is used to build a 3-D engineering model of the line within PLS-CADD, including structural representations of the towers and conductors. The model is attributed with information pertinent to compliance with FAC-003. The line voltage is entered for each circuit together with the clearance distances required between the conductor and classified objects. The temperature of conductors for each span at the time of flight is calculated to IEEE standard 738 with in-flight meteorological data, ground weather station data and line load data. The conductors can be sagged to their maximum operating temperature and the infringement distances determined at this position. Weather cases can be defined so that vegetation clearance reports produced from the model include the effect of wind velocity on conductor blowout. 

Richardson says he can typically survey 100km a day and since he's in the air, terrain isn't a problem. That all sounds great, right?

Well, GeoCue's Lewis Graham does make the point that there might some push back from operators on utilizing lidar like this on a regular basis. He estimates the annual spend on lidar would have to be something like $675 million.

Still, that's the power companies' problem, not the surveyors'. For now, it represents a pretty sizable opportunity. 

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The rise of the service providers

Having covered a couple of technology-driven markets, one thing I've noticed is how the role of the service provider, the technology integrator, rises and falls in importance. Generally, when you're talking brand-new technology, the service provider starts out as simply the delivery mechanism. They're beholden to the manufacturers who have developed this brand-new technology, and they're basically mimicking the sales-speak that's being handed down to them. 

Then, as the technology matures, and the service provider - who's closest to the end user - becomes more knowledgable and has more contacts in the industry, their role changes. Suddenly, they become more of an integrator, picking and choosing the best pieces in the technology pipeline and leveraging that knowledge to gain favor with the end user and gain price advantages and technology innovation from the manufacturer. 

Finally, the technology commodifies, the end user gains much of the knowledge to do it themselves, and the service provider sometimes morphs back into a simple reseller, with much less value add and much more focus on volume sales to make up for the lack of margin they can command. 

So, where are we in 3D imaging?

Judging by my conversations this week at SPAR, I think the service providers are just about coming into their own. At the moment, they hold a lot of cards. The manufacturers have been making big strides to bring prices down and deliver more options. The end users are intrigued but not armed with a ton of experience and knowledge. And now the service providers are looking to integrate a variety of technologies and show their value to the end user. But they still need some help. At times, the manufacturers are still asking them to resell technology that's not 100 percent vetted, or is in early versions.

I'd say the sweet spot might still be a year or two away, but there are certainly service providers that are doing a good job of leveraging their positions as experts. 

As an example, see this video wherein I get a little insight from Brad Adams and Eric Andelin at Woolpert (who came to the company after their Dallas office of Bohannan Huston was acquired). 

Okay, yes, I say "you know" a lot. I'm not sure why. Also, it may be that someone uses the word "irregardless," which of course isn't a word. It wasn't my best interview performance. Perhaps I was getting a little tired at lunch time and needed some calories. But Brad and Eric do a pretty great job of outlying where they see their civil transportation business going and what they need from manufacturers to make themselves more attractive to end users and more successful. 

How does this stack up with how you see the market developing?


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The impact of Revit 2012 accepting point clouds

It may go slightly without saying for those who work with building information modeling on a daily basis, but the announcement that Autodesk's Revit product will be able to natively work with point cloud data in the 2012 release is something of a big deal. 

To figure out just how much of a big deal this is, I spoke with Kelly Cone, who as the technology guru at the Beck Group, a commercial architecture, construction, and development firm, got a chance to beta test the software. His firm's Beck Technology offshoot has been heavily involved with scan-to-BIM, working particularly with the GSA, and Cone has plenty of thoughts on how this will impact the market.

Take a look:

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Renewed interest in nuclear safety is a 3D opportunity

Unsurprisingly, the grave nuclear situation in Japan has already led to new calls for a rethink of nuclear policy around the globe. Here in the U.S., representatives Lois Capps (D-California) and Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) have already sent a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee calling for a closer look at nuclear facilities that might be located near a fault line.

“We are concerned that these reactors may not have the features necessary to withstand the sort of catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that has crippled several reactors in Japan and caused a meltdown and release of the highly radioactive materials contained within them,” wrote Reps. Markey and Capps in the letter. “We are concerned that San Onofre, Diablo Canyon, and possibly other nuclear reactors located in seismically active areas, are not designed with sufficient levels of resiliency against the sort of earthquakes scientists predict they could experience.” 

What do you think the as-built plans for a 25-year-old reactor look like?

They count up some 35 nuclear reactors located close to fault lines in the United States. It wouldn't shock me if each of these had to go through some new and more onerous inspection process in the near future. Obviously, all of these facilities were located in the same place a month ago and no one gave it a second thought, but it's the nature of people, and politicians in particular, to pay more attention to potential dangers once the example of what can happen if they don't pay attention presents itself. 

(Also obvious, if you're a Black Swan devotee, is that these people are largely missing the opportunity to affect real change by constantly looking backward. More potentially beneficial would be to create a team of people who work for the United States and do nothing but try to predict disasters that have yet to ever happen before, and plan better for mitigating those events - but that's another rant entirely.)

It strikes me that this new inspection process is a great opportunity for 3D professionals to offer up the benefits of their services. These nuclear facilities need better plans, better visualization techniques, so that if anything terrible should occur they can better understand the nature of the disturbance and better react to it. Also, in the inspection process itself it would seem that 3D imaging could be put to use in analyzing potential weak points in construction and just generally presenting the most-accurate-possible picture to the engineers tasked with fortifying and evaluating the plants and reactors. 

Nor do I think people appreciate enough the value of 3D evacuation plans and simulations. What's the value on getting five more people out of a building in the event of a natural disaster because they were able to use a 3D map to understand their escape route and not a 2D drawing that many people have a hard time reading? In downtimes it might be a great philanthropic opportunity to offer to create such evacuation plans for local schools that can then be used as marketing devices down the line. There's funding out there for disaster preparedness and mass notification - no reason 3D imaging professionals shouldn't get a cut of it.


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