Last month Z+F released LFM Server 4.0 and NetView 2.0; it’s a new day for 3D laser scanning customers. Why? “Open on the inputs and open on the outputs,” says Garry Farrow, director at Z+F UK. What he means by this is LFM Server 4.0 aims to read any data from any scanner and write to all neutral and industry standard formats. LFM Server 4.0 reads native binary data from Riegl, FARO, Leica and others. Output formats include ptx and the new ASTM E57 standard. This is a radical idea for a company known for manufacturing hardware as well as software — it’s also excellent news for customers.
Customers want choices
What this means is that customers can decouple hardware purchasing choices from software purchasing choices; we believe many customers want to do this. It allows you to take advantage of the rapid functionality advances in, and plummeting price points for, new hardware. There’s a precedent, too; the CAD market exploded with growth back in the early ’90s when workstations took over from minicomputers and customers broke the tyranny of turnkey solution procurement. Some customers want turnkey (think Apple) others clearly want open and unbundled (think Android). A robust, healthy market serves up choices and informed consumers exercise their preferences.
No decimation, please
Gary Farrow believes that if you’ve gone to the trouble of collecting a point, you ought to be able to use it. In other words, no decimation. InfiniteCore technology is how the company describes the ability to handle all points. Scanning a small refinery can mean collecting 4000 scans; a big refinery might mean 10,000 scans. At 50 million points per scan, we’re talking billions of points. The new release makes significant enhancements to the company’s BubbleView capabilities – the ability to take measurements across multiple BubbleViews, the ability to display up to 4 BubbleViews simultaneously, clash visualization as well as volume selection. Revit users will want to check out Server 4.0’s capacity to review Revit models inside; the industry sorely needs improved scan-to-BIM workflows.
Watch the video
Here’s Farrow speaking at SPAR 2011 about the company’s philosophy on openness:
LFM NetView 2.0 Released
Earlier this year at SPAR International in Houston, Z+F showed its new release of NetView 2.0, which allows stand-alone operation, i.e. it can operate on a local server without a connection to the Internet. Intended as a communication tool to include non-specialist users, NetView allows simple measurements, e.g. point-to-point. If you need to measure pipe diameters, you’ll need Server.
Both LFM Server 4.0 and NetView 2.0 point the way to the look and feel of all Z+F software going forward. Microsoft’s Ribbon view, to replace layered menus and task bars, will be found in subsequent releases of other Z+F software applications Register and Modeller.
Listen to your customers
Garry Farrow says the company has made deliberate choices to drive development efforts from customer requirements. User meetings are attended by the development team and user feedback is recorded and incorporated into subsequent releases. It sounds simple enough but we all know it’s all too easy to let the coders and technical geeks develop functionality divorced from actual need.
Conflicted business models?
If you’re a hardware company, you want all of the world’s software to work with your equipment – your market opportunity is bigger. Symmetrically, if you’re a software company, you want your code to be compatible with all hardware platforms. If you’re selling turnkey solutions, i.e. bundled hardware and software, you’re conflicted. Ask any salesperson. It is extraordinarily painful for a turnkey solution salesperson to call in a competing software company to help close a hardware deal; it goes against the grain. Closed, proprietary systems are often the way technology providers bind the hardware and software procurement together.
Z+F is taking a different tack by opening up its software and letting the market choose. This is indeed a radical and gutsy move for Z+F, a material departure, and it says a lot about management’s confidence about the competitiveness of both their software and their hardware offerings.