There was a time when machine capabilities were limited by their failure to “see”. Then LiDAR technology started gaining traction, and suddenly the gift of perception was within reach. Naturally, that changed the quality of information available to a significant degree – and as LiDAR technology advances in the inevitable way of progress, we can expect better improvement from these hard-working lasers.
So, what are the key trends we can expect to see in the world of LiDAR?
LiDAR sensors will get smaller, lighter and more cost effective
At LightWare, we have always been driven to answer customer needs, providing features that address the challenges our clients face. As we move forward, we expect these to come in the form of a customer need for more data, which requires LiDAR to deliver faster processing. But customers don’t simply want faster data, they also want more data in a sensor that is smaller, lighter and more cost effective.
LiDAR and data: shifts in the value proposition
When it comes to LiDAR and data, we realise that complete accuracy hinges on supplying 3D LiDAR visualizations not only of the immediate vicinity and surroundings, but of the greater area, too. This helps to create a holistic, rather than piecemeal, view, which gives a more precise account of density and geometry. Thus, the quest for greater accuracy also involves obtaining even more data than ever before. Clients have come to realise that the more information they have to hand, the more informed their decisions – and they’ll want it all at a lower cost – which isn’t impossible, given that the more readily available the technology becomes, the more affordable it will be.
As for how these innovations will be put to use – one of the most significant influences here is big data. We’ve seen this play an ever-growing role in how the world around us is managed, and the advent of the pandemic, especially, pushed it to the fore – data was instrumental in helping governments understand the spread of the coronavirus, for example. LiDAR has contributed, and will continue to do so, through activities such as country mapping – an application which has also seen the technology save human lives by, for example tracking and monitoring storms at sea. The geospatial data made available through LiDAR will continue to be an important part of institutions’ efforts to save and improve human lives.
LiDAR and sensor fusion
One proposed model sees both onboard imaging LiDAR and sensing LiDARs blended with other technologies (like photogrammetry) taking place in one flight, so that users can capture twice as much data in half the time. Efficiency, meanwhile, will receive a boost from factors like the addition of multi-sensor post-processing software, which drives data to the receiver with greater speed. Highly automated workflows are also advantageous here, along with a reduction in data latency and faster refresh cycles. Finally, with data acquisitions that serve more than one end user becoming the norm, and high-res imagery increasingly available off the shelf, LiDAR is set to become even more accessible.
Among the changes to be expected are even more LiDAR applications. Right now, we’re seeing LiDAR used extensively by industries such as security, service delivery, aerial mapping, and autonomous vehicle navigation – but with Apple placing the technology in consumers’ hands (as part of its AR offering on iPhones), we can expect it to gain ever greater prominence.
LiDAR & privacy
LiDAR could also be used by retailers. Because the technology generates detailed data points rather than photographs, there are no issues around privacy, and so retailers could use 3D maps that reveal consumer habits - showing where they stop, what draws their attention, what interests them - to better plan their stores and merchandise.
The ultimate takeout? We’re seeing the positive impact of the Internet of Things all around us, evident in greater efficiencies, more convenience, a better way of life and an improved approach to business. As we move forward, LiDAR will become an even more entrenched part of a tech-enabled world. We can’t wait!