Geo Week News

July 2, 2014

More is Less, Or The Dangers of Decreasing Prices

One of the most exciting aspects of this business over the past few years has been the introduction of 3D imaging into new markets that were previously ignored due to the technology being cost prohibitive. I think it’s safe to say that most of us come across something every week where we think, “They really need to be scanning that,” but realize that they are not due to the cost associated with scanning. While this drive to reduce the cost of 3D imaging is great for entering new markets, another side to this mindset was brought to my attention last week.

Ever since SmartGeoMetrics acquired the 3D-imaging division of my family company some three years ago, my father has maintained the non-3D imaging side of the business. A couple of weeks ago, he and Tom Greaves had a chance to catch up and he got a look at the DotProduct DPI-7. Having been out of the line of fire for the past 3 years he was rather impressed by the point density and taken aback by the amount of data it produced. After a few years of not keeping up with the data stream produced by the latest scanners, he found that his workstations were a bit behind. Discussing the DPI-7 with him brought into focus a couple of facts that I think we tend to minimize when it comes to introducing 3D imaging to new markets.

  • Be prepared for downstream problems. Just because you have a cost-effective solution for data capture that is within the budget of a client in a new market does not mean that all will work well. If they are not accustomed to 3D data, odds are that they will have issues with workstations that do not have video cards that support the software, or have too little RAM, and will very soon be out of hard drive space. Data transferring will be an issue, as will learning to set expectations for data processing when data capture looks so easy.
  • Unlearning takes as long as learning. We often think of ourselves as solving problems (and rightfully so!), but from the point of view of those being asked to change and learn a new methodology, we are simply replacing one set of problems with another. Don’t just consider how long it takes to learn a new way. Set aside time to unlearn the old and transfer superseded patterns.
  • Be careful what you wish for. In general, when the tools of a trade cost less, those plying that trade charge less as well. This is an interesting issue when you take a long look at our industry. I’m now collecting more than 1000 times more data per day than when I first started scanning. I’m expected to manage datasets that can run 1Gb or more per hour, and I’m charging less per day than ever before.

I’m still very excited about these new markets and all of the ways that we’ll see 3D imaging used in the future. But it can be a bit sobering to think of exactly what that means for those of us that have been in the industry for years. I often talk about land surveyors as an example of how not to approach modernization. As a land surveyor, I feel like I have the responsibility to do so. Getting less while obligating ourselves to provide more has been our bane. We pay more and more for equipment that is faster and better, all while charging less and less. That’s a hard way to make a living. I hope those of us in the 3D-imaging world find a better way to move forward.


Image: DotProduct DPI-7 Handheld Scanner


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