Lidar More Important Than GPS

Looking back to the early 90’s  it is hard not to rank GPS in the top five technologies especially in  terms of its impact on the average consumer. The Internet would have to be at the top of the list, but GPS would not be far behind.

Knowing one’s location anywhere in the world is a mighty valuable piece of information, but having a sensor that can “see” is even more interesting. One major drawback with GPS is the requirement of line of sight to the satellites. This rules out the use of GPS in a number of situations, like cities and indoors. Not so with lidar, although there are environmental factors that can limit lidar’s use on a temporary basis.

Today, the top technological megatrends in society would have to include the Internet of Things, smart cities and autonomous vehicles. With the exception of Elon Musk,  lidar is being relied upon as a foundation technology in the development of consumer facing applications like driverless trucks. The other day I heard a VC on a financial show talking about the importance of lidar.

Assuming the mass production of low cost, solid state lidar sensors are just around the corner, in much the same way that GPS was commercialized , lidar is destined to become more important than GPS in the next five years.

Posted in 3D Modeling, Consumer, Digital Transformation, Technology | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Waymo and Uber Settle

After five days in court the two sides in the Waymo vs. Uber lawsuit have to the surprise of many in the court room decided to settle. As a result, Uber agrees not use Waymo’s technology and to pay out a $235 million dollar settlement in the form of a 0.34 percent equity stake in Uber, worth roughly $245 million – along way from the $1 billion originally sought. That means Waymo is invested in Uber’s future – go figure. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Uber continues to maintain that its sensors are unique and that it has not used any of Waymo’s trade secrets. The judge dismissed the case calling it “ancient history.” Uber sees it as a big win as it clears the air for the upcoming public offering.


Posted in Autonomous vehicles, Consumer | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Musk Says Lidar is a Crutch

In a recent earnings call with investors Elon Musk renewed his stand against the use of lidar in autonomous vehicles, at least in the case of Tesla automobiles. Musk has long argued that LIDAR is too expensive and too bulky for Tesla’s vehicles. He defended Tesla’s strategy of achieving “full autonomy” using only cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors.

“In my view, it’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum (?) that they will find very hard to get out of,” Musk said. He added, “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.”

Musk says Tesla is working on a much bigger problem: passive optical recognition. This is why Tesla is banking on cameras as the key sensor component. With their ever-increasing pixel resolution and the low-price point, camera sensors are seen as indispensable for advanced driver assistance systems (like Tesla’s Autopilot) and fully autonomous systems. For Tesla, cameras are the key.

Musk said he found it “quite puzzling” that so many companies relied on LIDAR to help their cars “see.” As evidence, Tesla ranked last in a recent scorecard of the 19 companies developing self-driving cars. Analysts noted that even Tesla’s own suppliers like Nvidia have expressed doubt that the computing hardware it sells to Tesla is capable of supporting full automation reliably.

This could all become a moot point if Musk does not begin to deliver on his production promises for Tesla.

Posted in Autonomous vehicles, Consumer, intelligent cities, Sensors | Tagged , | Leave a comment

In the Scan Anniversary

My son reminded me last week that it was just a short nine years ago this month that I started the In the Scan blog. I am closing in on 3,000 posts.  This eventually led to Lidar News and as they say the rest is history.

Many thanks to all of the readers and vendors over the years and also to my family for their support.

Here’s a link to the first post and to another nine – at least.

Posted in Business Development, Marketing, The Industry | Tagged | 3 Comments

Leica Geosystems is Listening to Customers

It’s one thing to claim that you are listening, but it’s another to make the investment and deliver the features that truly make a difference to customers. Sometimes these enhancements can appear to be “little things”, but they can turn out to significantly improve productivity and adoption, particularly when you are trying to democratize the use of 3D information in large organizations like a DOT.

A number of the new features seen in the just announced Leica Geosystems Pegasus:Two Ultimate are the result of listening to customers, combined with technical vision and expertise.

For instance, to correct the distorted images that come from six camera, 360 degree configurations the new Pegasus:Two is using just two back-to-back, fish eye cameras that produce seamless, stitchless imagery that is calibrated to the lidar point cloud. They have also chosen to focus on dynamic range rather than the number of pixels allowing the cameras to work in a number of demanding lighting conditions.

The Pegasus:Two has a number of additional upgrades including a removal hard drive with a USB 3.0 interface, new post processing software that features the Leica Pegasus Webviewer – an online platform that visualizes all captured data from any browser, four additional sensor ports, and on-board JPEG compression.

I am going to get a demonstration of the software next week and will report back.

Posted in 3D Modeling, Data, intelligent cities, Mapping, Mobile LiDAR, Sensors, smart cities | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lidar Used to Discover Ancient Maya Structures

Image Courtesy Wild Blue Media/National Geographic

Tens of thousands of ancient Maya structures have been discovered in Guatemala with the aid of aerial lidar.This is being hailed as one of the most important discoveries in recent times.

Marcello Canuto, a Tulane University archaeologist, who also took part in the research, said –

…”this was a civilization that was literally moving mountains. We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die. But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America and [Cambodia’s] Angkor Wat, we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”

Be sure to check out the video to get an idea of just how dense the forest is in this area and see augmented reality in purposeful action.


Posted in airborne LiDAR, archaeology, cultural heritage, Forestry, Historic Preservation, Mapping, remote sensing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Smart Cities and Lidar

What technology is at the core of autonomous vehicles and smart cities? You guessed it – lidar. At least five years ago I predicted that lidar would become more important than GPS, but I never thought it would be at the heart of driverless vehicles and the Internet of Things – IoT.

While in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show last month a number of companies were showing off their ideas about how to use lidar and the IoT to make a city smart. Cisco sponsored an event to show off its new Kinetic platform for smart cities.

At the event, Michael Sherwood, Director of Information Technologies for the City of Las Vegas, explained how Las Vegas is using technology in its downtown “Innovation District,” beginning with a focus on safety and security.

Currently the effort includes twelve intersections, which are served by smart street lights that include sensors and offers services such as free Wi-Fi; all are connected by fiber to the nearby Las Vegas City Hall. The sensors feature things like lidar from Quanergy, and it all hooks up to the Cisco platform.

Implementation started in a small area in 2017, and air quality, traffic, and pedestrian congestion are being monitored. Right now, the data is only used by the IT group and Cisco, but there are plans to extend it to law enforcement as well.

These are business drivers that are going to change the world and it would not be happening without lidar. It’s still early.


Posted in 3D Modeling, Business Development, Conferences, Consumer, Digital Transformation, Government, intelligent cities, Internet of Things, smart cities, solid state | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Point Cloud City Follow-up

I attended the Point Cloud City Funding Opportunity webinar delivered today by NIST  – very impressive. It sounds like a tremendous opportunity for entities that are interested in indoor mapping and location based services. NIST is encouraging public/private partnerships to form and submit grant applications.

Here’s the notice of the funding opportunity.

As part of this effort NIST is requiring that those who receive grants become involved with the Global Cities Team Challenge. This is an organization focused on smart city technology.

The Public Safety Communications Research division of NIST has money to spend and they are serious about committing it. They have a newsletter that will provide information on their many activities.

I strongly urge you to have a look if are interested in mapping 3D interior spaces.

Posted in 3D Modeling, BIM, Business Development, Government, Indoor Mapping | Leave a comment

Point Cloud City Notice of Funding Opportunity

The Public Safety Communications Research division of NIST is is hosting a webinar to provide general information and discuss important considerations for the NIST Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program – Point Cloud City Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). The webinar has been scheduled for 1 to 2:30 PM EST on January 30, 2018.

The webinar will include information and guidance for preparing pre-applications and full applications, and will answer questions regarding eligibility requirements, evaluation and award criteria, the selection process, and general characteristics of a competitive application. Proprietary technical questions about specific project ideas will not be addressed and NIST staff will not critique or provide feedback on specific project ideas.

You can register here.

Posted in Business Development, Government | Leave a comment

Free Lidar Terrain Data

MassGIS has lidar terrain and elevation data for the entire state of Massachusetts. The data can be used for for emergency response, drainage studies and hydrologic / floodplain modeling, development suitability analysis and infrastructure planning, identification of structures and other man-made features, habitat classification, vegetation mapping, and many other purposes. It was collected from 2010 to 2015.

Point and raster data derived from the original LiDAR acquisition are available for each project area:

•Point data are in ASCII text files storing XYZ coordinates, binary LAS files (zipped as LAZ), or used to create bare-earth TINs.

•Raster DEMs (digital elevation models) are GeoTiffs or Erdas IMGs.

Here’s the link.



Posted in 3D Modeling, airborne LiDAR, Environmental, Forestry, Government, Mapping | Leave a comment