Every year, I make it a point to attend a number of conferences and meetings to network with other professionals and get a good understanding of market trends. Over the past 10 years, I have met some great people with a wide range of skill sets and viewpoints. At some of these meetings, I feel like I am the high-tech guy and my firm is on the cutting edge of surveying or data collection; the next meeting or conference I attend, I feel like I’m the low-tech guy just trying to keep up. 

Two of us from my firm are attending the SPAR International conference this week, where I’m sure to find myself on the low end of the spectrum again. A number of equipment manufacturers and software developers will be showcasing their products to the scanning market. I can remember going to surveying shows in the ‘80s, and they were full software firms trying to win the CAD market before Autodesk AutoCAD and Bentley MicroStation came out on top. These days, the heavy competition is in 3D data collection and processing.

After attending the SPAR International conference last year, I think it’s quite possible that the laser scanners of today will be replaced by photogrammetry, flash LiDAR or something else I will see in a small booth this week that I haven’t even imagined yet. As the SPAR International tagline says, it’s all about “Capture, Process, Deliver.” Whichever technologies achieve those goals faster and better will undoubtedly come out ahead.

I plan to visit each booth to see who can do what, how do they do it and what’s new, and then add the big sales filter to determine what is real and try to guess at where we are headed. For firms that have recently begun using laser scanning, establishing the correct field procedures for the equipment is often the biggest initial challenge. The processing and registration of data has become so automated that it isn’t given much thought. However, a major problem we all still face is getting from a “registered point cloud” to a deliverable that clients can use; the end goal for the data is too widespread and too hard to define for any single software package to work every time.

I don’t know whether there is a clear winner out there right now, but that’s definitely one of the things I’ll be looking for at the conference.

What will you be looking for at SPAR International? Share your comments below.