September 8, 2021

SPAR’s future: The new Geo Week

“The idea for SPAR had always originally been about capturing, processing, and delivering information and precision measurement,” says Linda McLaughlin, Geo Week conference program manager. That’s not going to change.

In 2017, any number of long-time 3D data capture veterans wondered: What happened to SPAR Point Group? The URL for SPAR Point Group was no longer active, pointing instead to Had things changed?

Well, not really. It’s more like the internet had changed. When SPAR launched back in 2003, via Tom Greaves and the late Bruce Jenkins, Google hadn’t yet come to dominance and things like “search engine optimization” had yet to enter the lexicon. With the rise of SEO, however, SPAR 3D just made a lot more sense, given the way search engines prioritize keywords in URLs. Plus, those finding SPAR for the first time in a rapidly growing field knew right away what SPAR was all about.

NBD, as the kids say. 

Now, however, it’s hard not to notice that redirects to Nevermind the branding: What’s being done with all the great content and the community of people who love it?

Not to worry: The weekly SPAR newsletter isn’t going anywhere, says editor Carla Lauter. The evolution of SPAR along with AEC Next and the International Lidar Mapping Forum (ILMF) under the Geo Week umbrella is a way to respond to the evolving 3D data space and expose SPAR’s readers to not just applications of 3D technology, but also issues in the built world and geospatial industry.

With the unique perspective that Diversified Communications has, bringing together populations from the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) community with the 3D data capture professionals and academics (not only SPAR, but ILMF, too), it’s clear that more collaboration between the two will help move both communities forward — and help develop a singular, symbiotic community. 

“There have been many high-level return-on-investment proofs of 3D tech at this point,” says Lauter.

“People are documenting these examples and sharing that they used X technology solution and saved X money and time with increasing frequency. It used to be much more, ‘Hey, look at this shiny toy.’ But now there are enough real-world examples to give the industry’s adoption of these tools a serious look.”  

The evolution has made it increasingly obvious that 3D capture practitioners and the AEC community, along with others working in the built environment, need to be in close contact and have an opportunity to share new and exciting best practices, something they can do in person at Geo Week — which brings together not just SPAR 3D, AEC Next, and ILMF, but also co-locations with ASPRS, MAPPS, and the USIBD annual symposium — and virtually at 

“The idea for SPAR had always originally been about capturing, processing, and delivering information and precision measurement,” says Linda McLaughlin, Geo Week conference program manager, who’s been programming SPAR events for 15 years.

That’s not going to change. However, she notes, they’ve managed to bring all of these events together while allowing them to maintain separate identities. SPAR will continue to be more focused on business application with ILMF more focused on bleeding edge technological advancements. AEC Next will explore the coming tougher of geospatial technologies with the built environment. All of this is happening under the Geo Week brand that will singularly bring these communities together without erasing their identities. 

“There were these different worlds that these different events served,” says Jeremiah Karpowicz, group editorial director for Diversified’s 3D-leaning space.

“We thought, ‘How do we pull them together?’ People don’t want to go to two or three separate events; they want to go to one. The increasing integration across technologies showcased that the market was really ready for this to happen. GeoWeek pulls them together in a way that finally makes sense for them. 

“Instead of merging them,” he continues, “it’s an umbrella under which they can all fit. And it gives runways to develop other connection points.”

“As things have evolved,” McLaughlin agrees, thinking of the nature of the program, “with smart cities, the Internet of Things, these kinds of large-scale collaborations, there’s more reason to see these topics coming together in one place.”

While SPAR — in both newsletter and in-person sessions — will always focus on capture and new applications, the expanded Geo Week conference program allows those same capture professionals to sit in on AEC sessions and see their pain points from a new perspective, which will likely spark innovation. 

“Especially between AEC and 3D,” says Lauter, “those silos are bleeding over into one another. The tech is being adopted by AEC and to be able to foster and showcase how that’s happening is a huge opportunity.”

AEC pros “want to build capture into workflows they already have,” McLaughlin says. “Part of that is capture, part of that is visualization, and part of that is showing some other kind of data to the stakeholders involved. They don’t want to show the stakeholders something that’s outside of their domain.” Combined sites and events like Geo Week and can help to streamline thinking, which can lead to truly streamlined workflows. 

“SPAR, ILMF, everyone is trying to make that flow better and talk to each other,” McLaughlin says, “trying to plug into each other. The market wants to solve these problems holistically, rather than plug one solution into one problem.”

Keeping SPAR, ILMF, and AEC separate only serves the previous whack-a-mole method; bringing them together serves the promise of something better. 

And these benefits ought to extend beyond the newsletters, website, and program all the way to the show floor. The event is structured to allow vendors to bring more diverse teams, have more robust solution sets at the booth, thanks to having fewer events to travel to. Rather than three or four events getting some of the experts each, the hope is that GeoWeek will bring out full teams of experts who can brainstorm solutions and get creative with attendees together. 

“The SPAR content that everyone has come to expect from our sites and shows is not going anywhere,” says Lauter. “We’re still committed to meeting the needs of that core audience with stories that will appeal directly to those specific users. But then they can see the rest of the content there on the website if they want to explore.”

Given the SPAR community’s long-standing curiosity and desire to discover, it’s only likely they’ll find something that piques their interest. 

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