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The 5 Mega-trends Blowing in LiDAR Tails

The 5 Mega-trends Blowing in LiDAR Tails

Five long-term factors are driving the development of 3D perception technology and will therefore change a diverse set of industries all around the world.

It's easy to lose sight of the big picture when, as a team, you're focused on delivering short-term and concrete LiDAR software solutions to dozens of customers in a variety of industries, frequently adding new features (and fixing some bugs!): so let's take a step back for a second and look at some macro-trends shaping the industry.

We're witnessing the convergence of five long-term drivers propelling the advancement of 3D perception technologies.

Internal and LiDAR-specific trends such as commoditisation of hardware and the rise of software are correlated to these but are not the subject of this article - look at this one instead.
Software eats industries. LiDAR is next.
3D LiDAR technology is here to stay, as it allows gathering critical Spatial data in real-time in a way 2D sensors such as cameras can’t. In few years, performance has greatly improved and price has dramatically decreased, making it competitive against legacy 2D sensing solutions in most market segm

1. People and Goods' flow Intelligence (while maintaining privacy)

Operators of both public and private spaces are under increasing pressure to ensure that people and products can move as efficiently as possible while simultaneously respecting the growing concerns for privacy.

3D enables precise tracking of people and goods while respecting their privacy

For example, one of the major topics in the context of Smart City management is monitoring, understanding, and predicting city user behaviour (hottest places, trajectories, flows, and so on), so the delivery of city services can be improved (security, clean, transport,..).

When used in private spaces, the goal is also frequently to improve operational efficiency, as demonstrated in one of our customers' premises, where thousands of people are anonymously tracked in real time:

Anonymously tracking of people with LiDAR, processed by Outsight's software

In the vast majority of cases, Personal Identification data is not really required because the questions to be answered are mostly about "where," "when," and "how many / how long," and not so much about "who" (in the sense of an individual person).

The need is to provide Spatial Intelligence: 3D LiDAR sensing (and soon Imaging Radar) provide the ideal raw data that can be processed by the right software to turn it into insightful and actionable information.

Unlike 2D images, these 3D natives sensors cannot capture personal identification information. They are a native privacy respectful solution:

LiDAR technology does not capture personal information.

2. Increasing Safety

Reducing accidents is commonly cited by LiDAR manufacturers as one, if not the most important, benefit of perceiving the world in 3D, whether in the context of fully autonomous driving or ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems).

ADAS LiDAR application, processed by Outsight's software

3D perception embedded in vehicles is not the only way to achieve this: we're also seeing more and more initiatives aimed at eliminating traffic deaths by making the city's infrastructure smart, such as the Vision Zero initiative from the City of Bellevue, Washington, with whom we're proud to collaborate alongside other partners like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Ouster, Sighthound, Inc., Advanced Mobility Analytics Group and Fehr & Peers.

However, the need for safer environments is not limited to roads and cars, it is a much broader trend in the workplace: for example, in the United States alone, forklift accidents in warehouses and factories result in 34,900 serious injuries.

Many other situations, such as the safety around or under cranes on construction sites and in factories, can be handled thanks to 3D Sensing's unique capabilities:

The ALB (Augmented LiDAR Box) is capable of tracking a load and its contours.

3. The rise of the (mobile) robots

Recent advancements in batteries, processing power, and sensors (including 3D LiDAR), as well as population aging and worker shortages in western countries, are all converging at the same time to accelerate the deployment of robots in general industry including small and medium-sized businesses.

Mobile robots, with an example of Velodyne LiDAR

When combined with the right software processing, 3D perception will not only be an accelerator but also an enabler in many cases for automating tasks that fall under robotics' own 3D (Dull, Dangerous, or Dirty) as well as many others that allow for increased productivity (e.g. e-commerce / logistics).

An example of a LiDAR application for pedestrian tracking

Market reports find that the market for mobile robots, drones, and autonomous vehicles in applications such as delivery and warehousing is likely to reach a staggering $81 and $290 Billion in 2030 and 2040, respectively.

4. The Metaverse (really?) & Digital Twins

We would have been skeptical if we hadn't received several inquiries on the subject in the last few weeks from some of the biggest names in the industry, as interactions between the virtual and real worlds, including digital twin creation and update at massive scales, necessitate not only capturing reality in 3D but also doing so in real-time with the appropriate sensors and, more importantly, the appropriate software.

This appears to be less rooted in actual long-standing needs than the other mega-trends mentioned, but the momentum and overall investment in the subject make it difficult to ignore as it could have a significant impact on the 3D sensing market.

5. Climate change and sustainability

LiDAR for 3D remote sensing, primarily Airborne laser scanning, has been one of the most widely used methods by governments and institutions to collect environmental data for many years, including in the agricultural sector.

At Outsight we have some experience with these applications, having received one of Europe's most prestigious awards, the Green Deal Award, as well as the French Environment Agency's innovation award:

LiDAR data creates a detailed 3D model of the area, including terrain, topography, and vegetation, that can be used for a variety of forestry and ecological applications.

You may find interesting this article on the subject:

Can Lidar Save the Earth?
Growing up, one of my most well-worn books was a copy of

or another one here:

Getting a Better View of Landslide Risk With LiDAR
Geologists use LiDAR to try and figure out where landslides are more likely to occur.

While dealing directly with natural resource conservation has a visible impact, other secondary activities, such as the recycling industry, will contribute significantly to the use of 3D sensing solutions like LiDAR.

We demonstrate how LiDAR can be used to automatically calculate the volume of a truck's load leaving a recycling plant in the example below.

Conclusion

For many, the self-driving car is how they learnt about LiDAR for the first time.

These five mega-trends demonstrate why this incredible technology is here to stay in an endless list of other applications, helping to make the world a smarter and safer place.

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Did we overlook some important trend? Let us know in the comments! 

Our mission at Outsight is to build the easiest and most efficient way to use 3D LiDAR data in any application.

With the use of our real-time pre-processing software, it has never been simpler to develop advanced 3D-based solutions for the Construction industry.

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Contact a Product Specialist or check out our newest white paper if you want to know more!

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