Conference Recap: Scanning the Trends

December 1, 2010
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A rainy start during the hands-on outdoor workshops on October 24th did little to dampen the spirits of attendees at the eighth annual Leica HDS user conference. 

CyArk, in partnership with the Scottish Ministry of Culture, Historic Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and the U.S. National Parks Service, scanned Mt. Rushmore in 2010 as the first in a series of 10 heritage sites that will be digitally preserved in 3D using laser scanning technology. The scan project was the focus of the keynote address. 


Event: 2010 Leica Geosystems HDS Worldwide User Conference

HOST: Leica Geosystems, www.leica-geosystems.us

Location: San Ramon, Calif.

Dates: Oct. 24-27, 2010

Number of Attendees: ~300

Future Dates and Location: October 2011, San Ramon, Calif

Attendees share ideas and review the plan design contest entries during a break.

A rainy start during the hands-on outdoor workshops on October 24th did little to dampen the spirits of attendees at the eighth annual Leica HDS user conference. (Indeed, some attendees commented that they appreciated the rain because it more accurately represented the real-world challenges they regularly face on the jobsite.) With attendance up by about 15 percent over the previous year, the conference offered a good mix of education and networking opportunities.

In his welcome address, Jürgen Dold, president and CEO of Leica Geosystems, was generally upbeat in his assessment of market conditions. He noted that Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which accounts for 44 percent of Leica Geosystems’ business, has returned to growth. The Americas, which accounts for 25 percent, is also showing growth, while Asia, which accounts for 31 percent, is exhibiting accelerated growth. There is a demand for new products, he said, noting that his outlook for the coming year is cautiously optimistic.

On the technology front, Leica has focused on three primary areas: sensors, sensor workflows and interoperability with Intergraph systems. Dold said the company’s latest technologies provide better images, faster image transfer, high-contrast views, increased backsight accuracy and ease of use. Enhanced workflows enable wireless transfer of data from the ScanStation C10 into Leica’s Cyclone software. The C10 registers point clouds in the field, and Cyclone imports the registered clouds to streamline post-processing. Capabilities such as automatic target matching and a fast viewing mode further simplify field work.

Commenting on Hexagon AB’s acquisition of Intergraph earlier in the year, Dold noted that the combination of Intergraph’s CAD and GIS software with Leica Geosystems’ technologies will further increase the productivity of end users and help them provide better deliverables.

Sharing Success Stories

Increased productivity and enhanced deliverables was a theme carried throughout the conference. More than 30 presentations highlighted scanning success stories using some of the latest technologies on the market. Chief among these was the 3D digital preservation of Mt. Rushmore, a project undertaken in May 2010 by the nonprofit organization CyArk in partnership with the Scottish Ministry of Culture, Historic Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and the U.S. National Parks Service as the first in the Scottish 10, a series of 10 heritage sites that will be digitally preserved with laser scanning technology through an international partnership.

During the keynote address, Elizabeth Lee, director of projects and development for CyArk, along with Douglas Pritchard of Scotland’s Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualization (CDDV), described the Mt. Rushmore project in detail. They noted that the team encountered numerous challenges throughout the project, not the least of which was the rough terrain and inclement weather, which included heavy snow, rain, lighting, high winds and fog. Despite these hurdles, the team captured billions of data points over the course of two weeks that are being used to generate a comprehensive 3D record of the monument.

During the general session, Alan Borrow of ABA Surveying, Surrey, U.K., discussed how his firm combined a Leica Geosystems HDS6000 scanner with other technologies (including Ixsea’s LANDINS inertial navigation system and JAVAD’s Triumph GNSS receivers) to develop a mobile solution that is faster, better and less expensive for the company and its clients compared to traditional methods. Borrow noted that the system is capable of capturing data reliably at 12 mph and is “perfect for all highway scanning applications … [and] all scene and mapping applications.” The company achieves engineering-grade accuracy with this solution.

Sander Schroder, business development manager for Coenradie in the Netherlands, talked about how the ScanStation C10 is adding value and opening new opportunities for the mid-sized surveying and mapping firm. The company acquired its first scanner in the fall of 2009. Over the course of a year, the company went from one scan operator/data processor to 10 and handled approximately 12 successful projects.

Lemuel Morrison, LS, founder of Mercator Land Surveying LLC, headquartered in New York City, described how his firm uses the orthoimage function in Cyclone to register and clean scan data so that it can provide meaningful deliverables to clients. “Simpler is better,” Morrison said, emphasizing that clients want data in a format that is familiar and easy to use.

Other presentations addressed applications in police work, architectural design, industrial plants and shipyards. As Schroder noted, “Scanning is quickly becoming a commodity and is almost becoming a necessity.”

Networking for New Ideas

Although the presentations were informative, the most valuable part of the event was arguably the networking opportunities. For the first time, the conference featured a separate forensics track that drew a number of law enforcement professionals to the event. Although there appears to be little room for surveyors to expand into forensics work given the closely guarded nature of crime scenes, discussions with law enforcement attendees illuminated possible opportunities in consulting and data management. Several attendees commented that scan data gathered before an incident occurs could be valuable for comparison purposes, leading to a possible application for all of the data that are currently being gathered and stored by many firms that have scanners.

A welcome reception, an offsite dinner and social event at a nearby vineyard, and numerous breaks during the conference gave the broad mix of attendees a chance to share ideas and make new connections. Making practical use of technology was a primary theme, and attendees were eager to share their insights. As one participant noted, “The value of this conference is that it brings the real scanning people together to work out challenges and pass information around.” 

Leica Geosystems 2010 HDS Plan Contest Winners

During the conference, attendees had the opportunity to judge nearly 20 entries in the third annual HDS Plan Contest. Following are this year’s winners:

Buildings/Heritage Category: Center for Digital Documentation and Visualization (CDDV), Rosslyn Chapel, Interior and Exterior Documentation

Civil/Survey Category: McNeil Group, Taggart Bridge and Topographic Survey, UDOT R&D

Plant/Ship Category: Epic Scan Ltd., Digital Preservation of the River Steamboat Evelyn

Second-place awards went to Epic Scan Ltd. in the Buildings/Heritage category, TriGeo Technologies Pvt. Ltd. in the Civil/Survey category, and McNeil Group in the Plant/Ship category. Congratulations to all of the award winners!

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