Geo Week News

January 12, 2015

3D Imaging in 2015: Outlook Good (and Bad)


The Good
There will be a lot of opportunities to become the first contact for clients that have just been introduced to laser scanning in particular and 3D imaging in general. This also means there will be plenty of chances to provide education and training in 2015. 

Last year, 3D imaging seems to have broken through to, well, if not the masses, then at least a larger professional class. We (SmartGeoMetrics) classify our clients by their experience level when we enter them into our client management system (Beginner, Novice, Pro or All Star). The ratio is definitely trending toward the Beginner and Novice experience levels versus previous years. Considering that the technologies are actually older, I take it to mean that more people are using the tools. 

I’ll be perfectly honest with you, there are days when I really don’t feel like dealing with someone that needs me to define every four words of a sentence for them! However, I know that this represents a tremendous opportunity. I’ve written many times about Autodesk bringing more new users to the table but the reality is that as simple as ReCap is to use, using ReCap data is very different in AutoCAD versus NavisWorks or 3DStudio Max – and that just covers some of the product offerings from one company! These various applications all require different user knowledge and training. These should provide excellent opportunities whether you are an educator or someone looking for a nook or cranny in which to become a specialist.

The Bad
With oil prices dipping below $50 per barrel you can bet that 2015 will see less oilfield operations than the past few years. Cuts in drilling and oilfield services are already being announced and more cuts are expected as forecasts indicate a 15-20% drop in new wells versus 2014. In fact, Texas has already lost 2,300 oil & gas jobs from October–November of 2014.  The last time this happened, I was living in Texas and what started as a few good deals on used survey equipment suddenly became a steady stream of resumes from unemployed surveyors in my inbox. Suddenly, I found myself losing projects to firms that were literally losing money to get the job. Their point of view was that losing something and being busy was better than nothing because at least it subsidized their payroll.

The problems with that line of thinking are twofold. First, it is a short-term solution. You are still losing money and you can’t do that but so long no matter how much you love your staff/equipment/office/truck/etc. Second, it establishes a new price for services and products in the market. The client rarely knows how much your profit is, and cares even less as long as they get what they need at the best possible rate. However, when the market is better the client will still have the non-profitable rate in his head as a new standard. Cutting prices is easy, raising them is near impossible in a discipline that constantly markets how much easier and faster it is each and every year.

The Jetpack
Several manufacturers should release updates this calendar year. I expect some increased capabilities and every year seems to bring us something completely new. Add to that the additive manufacturers that depend upon off-the-shelf tablets, sensors, and other components that are constantly improving and surely we are one year closer to those jetpacks we were promised as kids.

I also think we will see more embedded commercial applications of LiDAR and 3D imaging technologies. While this may not lead directly to more work for us, it will increase the number of people that have some idea of what we do and a familiarity with the concepts of 3D imaging. I know that commercial ubiquity of GPS certainly changed that market when I was a GPS oriented service provider. Besides, the more I can use this tech the better. I love using it, that’s why I’m in this business! I can’t help but smile every time I change the channel on my TV by waving at my Xbox One.

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