3D Laser Mapping ‘Tunes In’ to Customer Needs to deliver Market-Making Solutions with StreetMapper and SiteMonitor.

In by Nicholas Beaumont

“Do you resonate in your market?” That is the question posed on the dust sheet of the Stull, Myers, & Scott book “Tuned In” which makes a fine argument for truly getting to know your customer.

In today’s increasingly ‘social’ marketplace where Twitter and Facebook enable easy customer engagement, many companies are now claiming to ‘listen’ to the voice of their customer when developing new products. However I suspect too many social networkers still spend far more time broadcasting and too little time listening to learn much. These organisations are effectively ‘tuned out’. In social media parlance ‘engagement’ requires a level of interaction which goes way beyond popping-up on the home screen of a mobile device with the latest chest-beating announcement; it requires intimacy. According to Stull, Myers & Scott “Tuned in organisations tap into the wider mind of the market and connect deeply to what buyers value most to create breakthrough offerings called ‘resonators’.” These resonators offer value so immediately apparent that they seem to sell themselves.

Take 3D Laser Mapping (3DLM) – a class-leading provider of laser scanning technology – as a case in point. Here you have a company staffed with more PHDs per employee than any of the world’s largest software firms and still they know (better than most) that they don’t hold all the answers. That’s why – right from 3DLM’s inception in 1999 – every commercial product has been developed in response to the needs of the market and every product released has proven itself to be a breakthrough offering; the value of which, so immediately apparent that strong sales followed and competitors embarked on their own journey playing catch-up. Take StreetMapper and SiteMonitor as two fine ‘resonator’ examples.

When StreetMapper first hit the highway in 2004 it started a laser-scanning revolution. Driven by client demands to survey roads and structures above the road with unparalleled safety, speed and accuracy, 3DLM’s first-of-a-kind vehicle-based mobile mapper was a game-changer. By teaming up with IGI GmbH, the German Guidance and Navigation specialists, the StreetMapper team was able to eliminate the need to remain stationary while measuring and mapping points by using an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) to capture ‘distance-travelled’ data. Even now, eleven years later, and with sustained development from a host of competing vendors, the StreetMapper remains one of the most accurate systems on the market. However, almost as soon as the original client demands were met, the bar was raised and the development team directed resources to address new challenges.

The original StreetMapper system used four Riegl laser scanners all pointing in different directions to capture the widest environment possible. With four high-grade scanners and the best commercially-available IMU at that time the system was neither cheap nor compact. As a result it required a minimum of 2 people to setup and operate, which increased the cost of service provision. Furthermore, the system required a heavy-duty vehicle and limited its ability to be easily, quickly, and affordably shipped from one location to another.

While the original StreetMapper dramatically reduced the time and cost to survey a stretch of road it tied up a number of skilled people with one high-value vehicle. Nevertheless, StreetMapper customers were inundated with survey work as they easily outperformed their competition. Following improved service provision, demand increased leading StreetMapper customers to ask for a more portable solution that could be more easily shipped around the world to service their expanding customer base.

Two alternative iterations on the theme followed in 2010 & 2012: StreetMapper POD – an enclosed mobile mapping solution with two Riegl laser scanners and an IGI IMU, and StreetMapper PORTABLE – a modular system with one Riegl laser scanner, the same IMU, and a lightweight swivel mount. These more compact, highly-accurate, more portable solutions moved the mobile mapping goal posts further from their now-growing competition to maintain StreetMapper’s market-leading position as the most reliable, field-proven, flexible, and robust MLS system on the market; consistently delivering the highest accuracy results in the Survey Grade mapping sector.

And yet with all their strengths, the StreetMapper systems were not simplified to a point where a single person could transport, install, and operate one without help; such a reliance on human capital did little to reduce operational costs – cutting into the profits for every project. Customers again requested a more user-friendly system with comparable speed, mobility, and accuracy. As before, 3DLM listened and responded.

“2015 is a big year for the StreetMapper brand as we prepare to launch an all-new version of our market-leading solution at Intergeo in Stuttgart.” commented Dr. Chris Cox, Senior Engineer for mobile Mapping Systems at 3DLM. “Our customers have spoken; they want a new system that is more compact, more versatile, and easier to use while still delivering the same high-levels of survey grade accuracy. And that’s precisely what we will unveil in September.” The result is the StreetMapper IV – a compact and lightweight device that can be transported by air as luggage; operated by a single person, and mounted on any moving platform including cars, boats, aircraft, and quadbikes – regardless of size or load carrying capacity. Better still, accuracy has been measurably improved and the cost price has been halved since the first StreetMapper was launched.

With user-friendly touchscreen controls, a high-accuracy Riegl VUX-1 HA laser scanner, and a market-leading IGI IMU the StreetMapper IV will be a tough act to beat for accuracy, speed, and value. Furthermore, with options to include a ladybug camera and/or additional navigation upgrades for use in high-rise cities or tunnels where the satellite signal is often weak, the StreetMapper IV is likely to be the only mobile mapping solution anyone will ever need.

While original StreetMapper solutions could only be afforded by organisations with deep pockets, the StreetMapper IV – at 50% of the cost – will either democratize the mobile mapping market or it will enable those who have already established themselves as experts in this field to double the size of their operations for little or no increase in capital investment.

Unlike 3DLM’s market-making solution for mobile mapping, SiteMonitor was more evolution than revolution. Where StreetMapper improves safety while scanning the highway from a moving platform, the SiteMonitor solution improves safety while scanning land profiles from a fixed position. Building on his considerable mining industry experience, Dr Graham Hunter – 3DLM Founder, was initially responding to a call for help from Anglo Platinum when he began to develop 3DLM’s first laser-based geotechnical monitoring system which is now known as SiteMonitor 4D. Designed to monitor and quantify changes to the rock face, SiteMonitor will automatically alert mine safety managers via email or SMS when issues arise. Such near real-time warnings enable critical safety-monitoring decisions to be made quickly and efficiently.

SiteMonitor immediately resonated with other mine operators and soon enjoyed global acceptance with scores of companies including Teck, Anglo American, De Beers and Newmont. Central to SiteMonitor’s appeal is its ability to very quickly combine high-accuracy 3D laser scans with automated analysis to identify the slightest of changes across the steepest of rock faces. This reliable solution enables its users to increase safety and reduce the time required to identify and analyse potential hazards before they become critical.

When first launched in 2004, the SiteMonitor solution was optimised to work with the Riegl LPM 321 3D laser scanner. With its impressive 6,000m range it would measure 1,000 points per second. Fast forward to 2015 and the Riegl VZ6000 will measure an incredible 220,000 points per second across the same distance and the VZ2000 with its shorter 2km range will measure 400,000 points per second. With such voluminous data capture rates, real-time processing and analysis is impossible without a significant software performance boost. That’s why all-new 64bit software architecture will be launched in the form of SiteMonitor 4.0 at InterGeo in September.

This new 64bit architecture flawlessly enables the visualisation and analysis of exceptionally high volume datasets to enable scan-to-scan registration for automatic alignment without the use of targets; a direct response to client demands to improve the ‘old school’ target based alignment method which in itself has been vulnerable in the face of falling rocks. Additional enhancements include rockfall analysis, volume calculations, and data aggregation by combining slope monitoring results with data captured by other sensors such as weather stations, and the ability to export data to other systems. The SiteMonitor Analysis Module is used by Geotechnical Engineers for the quantification, visualisation, and analysis of change across a monitored area to map and track small failure events which often indicate a larger more catastrophic failure is imminent; raising alarms to improve safety.

First conceived for the mining sector where safe working conditions dictate rates of production, the SiteMonitor solution has since been adopted by other industries and market sectors for near real-time monitoring and analysis of rock faces in vulnerable locations. For example, a recent collaboration between 3D Laser Mapping and Durham University is exploring the process of coastal erosion and rock fall close to the seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire. Durham University selected SiteMonitor because of its ability to continuously capture and analyse very high-resolution data semi-automatically. Whitby now boasts one of the most intensively monitored rock faces in the world.

To learn more and to meet the 3D Laser Mapping team, visit their stand B4.025 to witness the launch of StreetMapper IV and SiteMonitor 4.0.

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