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Editor's Point: Is 3D Relevant?

Infographics are designed to stand alone, and the one we’ve developed on 3D Trends in Surveying for this issue (see pages 11-12) is no exception. But the writer in me can’t resist pulling out a few key points for discussion.

For example, it isn’t surprising to see a strong preference for more traditional surveying tools such as total stations and GPS equipment. A quick poll posted on POB’s website pulled similar results, with GPS edging slightly ahead (see below). Surveyors, as a group, have not been the first to jump in with laser scanning, and my discussions with equipment dealers indicate that a substantial amount of this equipment is being sold to users outside of the surveying market.

Because of previous studies we’ve conducted and conversations I’ve had with surveyors, I also wasn’t surprised to see that 31 percent of respondents who have not used or had access to 3D tools don’t believe 3D is necessary for most surveying tasks and therefore aren’t convinced that 3D trends matter. However, this belief is in stark contrast to the 68 percent of respondents that are seeing growth in the demand for 3D services, with topographic mapping at the top of the list.

For professionals who work with measurements, coordinates and line drawings, and whose clients insist on 2D deliverables, it’s understandable that the move to 3D would seem like overblown hype. After all, 3D printing might be cool, but what does it have to do with surveying (unless, of course, you can find a way to 3D print an extra total station)? And if you’re not trying to secure contracts in movies, video games or historical documentation, then why would you even need to consider adding 3D to your business model?

But there is a bigger picture. Firms that have implemented 3D technologies even when they weren’t sure how they could use it have discovered opportunities they didn’t know existed. They’ve been able to add value for their clients in ways that their clients couldn’t have envisioned. Whether through something as simple as using the free version of Trimble SketchUp or another 3D app as a visualization tool, or investing in a complete high-end package of hardware and software, the benefits have been real. Three-dimensional, you could say.

The question, then, should not be is 3D relevant, but rather how can it best be applied to solve problems for you, and, importantly, for your clients. The surveying profession still has the opportunity to take the lead. How will you use technology to your advantage?


To contact the editor, send an e-mail to

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