Geo Week News

December 7, 2015

The Wasted Point Cloud Data Sets

Wasted PointCloud 1

By Artemis Valanis, BIM Consultant for Energy Division of NORCONSULT AS

Within the last ten years, laser scanning has become mainstream. As the 3D data acquisition process has progressed, the demand for related services has peaked, and this significant increase in demand has not always been served in the best possible way. On many occasions, customers have been convinced of the benefits of acquiring point cloud data sets only to discover that they would never be able to use them on their own. As a result, many customers end up with “The Wasted Point Cloud Data Sets.”

This still happens very often. Though 3D data acquisition has evolved significantly and is now mostly automated, it is still very difficult to process this kind of data into meaningful and usable deliverables. To make matters worse, there are no established workflows for processing and, in many cases, no standards apply. For any given client, it is very difficult to cover the distance between buying a point cloud data set and obtaining a model or information that is easy to digest and integrate with their workflows.

Most clients are not fully aware of this. In many cases, they are impressed by flying through a sample point cloud in a web browser and by testing it with point queries, annotations and distance measurements. However, as soon as they get their own data set, these clients start to realize that they are far from able to make use of it. Moreover, if they cannot find some assistance to remedy the situation on their own, they usually discard the data set as a complete waste of effort and money. To make matters worse, they also discard the entire process and go back to old methods.

This way of working, which has providers convincing clients that a point cloud is all they need and proceeding to sell just that, is poor practice and has caused significant damage to this industry. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Wasted Point Cloud 2

If you are a potential client for 3D data acquisition services, you have to make sure you are able to handle the data. If not, you need to find someone who can provide both a data set and deliverables that you can integrate directly into your workflows and in-house processes. If you have already bought a data set that you are unable to use, you need to look for someone to process it for you and deliver a model that is useful for you. Discarding 3D data acquisition and processing altogether is not the way to go. It is certain that there are challenges in this kind of work, but one way or another it is always possible to obtain a suitable result.

If you are a service provider, you must always have a clear idea about what the end product the client wants. This is not beyond our role as service providers, it is actually the point of what we do. Moreover, while having a discussion about the end product, a client or a colleague actually educates you into their specific needs and requirements. A good service provider should always investigate and address the specific needs and requirements of their clients to the fullest and never just try to sell what is easiest to produce.

According to our experience, working with clients and colleagues towards customized solutions is mutually beneficial. The clients get services that really accommodate their needs, and we, as service providers, get to improve and extend our skills. Almost all newly acquired skill is often transferable to other clients, or other applications. This way of work results immediately in business growth in many ways.

It is high time all of us made an extra effort to provide better services and not just sell point clouds. The methods are now available and there is no reason to hold back. By helping our end-users we also help our industry and ourselves. It is the right time to step up! Let’s all try to take care of all of the old and sad “Wasted Point Cloud Data Sets” and restore people’s confidence and preference for 3D data acquisition and processing. It is time we repair some of the damage done in our industry by Fast-and-Cheap 3D service providers. It is time quality and results come into play, in order to enable people of our industry harness the benefits that come with 3D data acquisition and processing.

Artemis Valanis is Rural and Surveying Engineer (NTUA). She works as BIM Consultant in the Hydropower Section in the Energy Division in NORCONSULT AS (Sandvika, Norway). She is an expert in 3D data acquisition, modeling, photogrammetry and BIM. Her work at NORCONSULT AS involves 3D data and modelling fusion towards workflow optimization and seamless process integration from Scan to BIM throughout all relevant project stages. 

Norconsult is Norway’s largest and one of the leading multidisciplinary consultancy firms in the Nordic region. Our services are geared towards community planning and design, and we have become a leading player both nationally and internationally. With innovative and targeted advice, we contribute to a sustainable and healthy community. We are engaged in all aspects of development, from initial concepts to master plans, engineering and operational support. The company has for more than 90 years in Norway and almost 60 years internationally helped to create the basis for sustainable power development and energy supply.

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