Geo Week News

February 15, 2012

Hey, this Treemetrics thing might be working out


In the very last session of SPAR Europe 2010, we heard from a guy named Enda Keane, who had some great ideas about how to use laser scanners to massively improve the documentation of forest resources. He was a forester who’d been turned onto 3D imaging back in 2005 and he was taking the technology and running with it. 

IBM paid attention. Woodlot owners began to pay attention. Now, a year and a half later, some big technology names are starting to pay attention. 

If a laser scanner falls in the woods…

Irish Times wrote up last week the new involvement in Treemetrics of Dylan Collins, who has joined the company as chairman (which, we’ll all assume, means he made a significant investment). Collins is the guy who founded and then sold Demonware and Jolt Online Gaming, so he’s a technology guy who knows how to monetize these kinds of things. 

You know, like trees.

Seriously, though, good investment is about recognizing opportunities. The Internet made possible massively social online gaming and anyone who’d ever met a teenager knew that might make some money along the way. Similarly, 3D laser scanning makes possible the rapid, very accurate counting and assessment of tree stands, and anyone who’s ever heard a scientist talk about carbon sinks or an environmentalist talk about deforestation knows there might be some money to be made in updating the way a $75 billion global industry.

Or, as Keane puts it:

“People talk about the big data industry, well this is literally some of the biggest data in the world,” said Mr Keane. “The world’s forests are critical to our well-being; they keep us alive (by absorbing carbon dioxide) and they pay for pensions (through government ownership), yet we lose over €10 billion in revenue each year because most measurement is still done using 19th century technology.” 

Currently, Treemetrics is at 12 employees. But don’t be surprised to see that rapidly grow. Saving customers $30 million in a single year is likely to attract more business.

We talk here at SPAR about new applications for laser scanning being discovered every day. You ever think you’d hear about a laser scanner being used to count trees? Me neither. What will someone think of next?

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