At first glance, the International LiDAR Mapping Forum in Denver looked like it would take a back seat to the recent SPAR 2010 conference. But discussions with attendees and exhibitors indicated that the forum offered plenty of opportunities in its own right.

I have to admit that my expectations weren’t high. Following all the buzz and enthusiasm about the recent SPAR conference, the International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) in Denver last week seemed like it would be meager in comparison. Many of the individuals who had traveled to Houston appeared to be skipping out on Denver, and the hottest new products had already been announced. What was left to discuss?

Plenty. As I stopped by the various exhibit booths and conversed with people during the social events, it quickly became evident that most of the 550+ attendees were in Denver for one primary reason: networking. And opportunities to meet new people and share knowledge and experiences abounded. One surveyor I talked to, Allen Nobles, PLS, president of Tallahassee, Fla.-basedNobles Consulting Group Inc., who was sharing an exhibit with GroundPoint Technologies LLC, 3DS Inc. and Zebra Imaging, said that the contacts he developed by exhibiting at the forum were invaluable. “You can’t underestimate the value of networking,” he said. “Partnerships are so important in today’s market. Every person I meet is a prospective colleague for a future project.”

Nobles, one of the early adopters of laser scanning, said that he understands the skepticism on the part of many surveyors when it comes to LiDAR technologies. “It’s expensive, and a substantial amount of creativity is required to successfully integrate it into surveying projects,” he said. “It’s understandable that some surveyors continue to reject scanning. But we have to recognize that it’s the future, whether we like it or not. And it’s not even the future-it’s today. If we’re not learning about the technology and finding ways to implement it, we’re going to get left behind.”

Nobles said he spends a substantial amount of time educating other surveyors about scanning technology and marketing strategies. Although he would like to protect his market share, he said he feels a certain amount of responsibility to share his knowledge with his peers. “I just want to help them understand it,” he said.

He noted that having cutting-edge technology (NCG owns a Leica ScanStation C10) has allowed his firm to capture a number of projects that it wouldn’t have even been considered for in the past. “Just saying that we have scanning capabilities allows us to get our foot in the door,” Nobles said. “And once we’re in, we can deliver some impressive proposals.”

That’s fine for Nobles, but what about firms that can’t afford to buy the technology? “Partnering with other firms is a great way for surveyors to use their skill sets while learning about the latest technologies and processes,” he said.

I have no doubt that Nobles found what he was seeking at ILMF 2010. Others I talked to were equally pleased with the contacts they made during the event. As for me, I came away from the forum with several new friends and a renewed appreciation for the challenges and opportunities facing the surveying and mapping profession. I wasn’t able to attend SPAR, so I don’t have a side-by-side comparison-but I don’t even think that’s necessary. The bottom line is that every time we meet someone new, doors open to new possibilities.


Did you attend ILMF 2010? Please share your comments below.