Throughout the last half century I have been to my share of trade shows and conferences. When I was a kid, my favorite was the auto show. Then a little later I took a shine to the boat shows. I’ve managed to put more than my share of survey conferences under my belt. Heck, I’ve even been spotted at a national public works venue. I enjoy them all but there’s one show that still gives me the youthful thrill of that new car smell and the excitement of the unveiled future.
SPAR/AEC is all of the cool stuff about surveying without the old cranks carrying on about some theoretical center of section somewhere in Unicorn Township along the Sasquatch meridian. The crowd stats showed that 44% of the attendees claimed they were Architectural Engineering Construction (AEC) demographic. The next largest single sector was surveying and mapping representing 16.5% of the 1,900 attendees. That’s about 300 rope stretchers and enough to hold their own conference in most states. Among the diverse crowd were surveyors of all ages. I chatted with Sam Diaz, PS of Bechtel Global Corporation about mobile localization and handheld LIDAR. Sam had mentioned how far back he and old man Cheves went. The number is too big to print. I also had the pleasure of chatting with Wojtek Gawecki of ESRI. Wojtek is licensed in his homeland of Poland and is very familiar with American Surveying. We talked a fair bit about the contrasts in the land tenure and both national cadastres. So there was no shortage of productive shop talk among the rope stretchers at the show.
SPAR/AEC is North America’s “who’s who” in 3D technology, measurement, and the built environment. As I crossed the red carpet and entered the exhibit hall I was overwhelmed by the size, number, and diversity of vendors. I get a warm and fuzzy when I see surveying vendors headlining a technology show. Sure enough all the big names were there. Trimble held prime real estate at the entry and served as an ambassador of our craft. Trimble crushed it with a souped up F150 off road mapping rig. It is a beast! I wasn’t sure if I was at work or a SCORE race but I knew that big “T” would get the checkered flag at both. As expected that lead spot really set the benchmark for the whole show and the excitement didn’t end there. Topcon showcased their latest and greatest products on the floor and spent time on their features in corresponding press releases at the show. As I became lost among an ocean of vendors, drones, and VR tents, I recognized the old Leica/HxGN moniker in the mix together with a few other names you might know. FARO, RIEGL, and GeoSlam are all hardware vendors that enhance our industry.
The best kept manufacturing secret in the survey business has got to be KAARTA. They are synergizing personal LIDAR into our everyday tool kits and boldly claim they are the pioneer of mobile real-time 3D localization and modeling. KAARTA’s CEO Kevin Dowling is truly a champion of modern mapping.
Bentley Systems, Inc made a big presence at the show. Bentley is invested in the cause of advancing infrastructure and if you don’t believe me just look at their website. Bentley has a global impact that interacts with everything from your sidewalks to your success. Software and services relating public infrastructure, civil design, process manufacturing, mining, petroleum, asset management and BIM are all in Bentley’s wheelhouse. Bentley’s interests are truly the big picture and encompass every aspect of the SPAR/AEC show. Bob Mankowski, VP of Digital Cities, Bentley Systems, Inc, shared his vision and experience with digital twins. Bob’s presentation stood out among the show’s endless offering of fantastic topics. In this case Mankowski focused on municipal infrastructure and digital twins. A digital twin is just a fancy way of an accurate electronic model. We ran through a few examples of hydrology and preemptive flood modeling leading to disaster response scenarios. The benefits of having digital twins for reconstruction after cataclysmic events is obvious. Mankowski kindly shared personal experience from the 1994 Los Angeles Northridge Quake and emphasized how a digital twin could have mitigated confusion in the aftermath. Bob also touched on the more humble benefits of employing digital twins. Infrastructure is more likely to succumb to rust, corrosion, the elements, and wear, than Godzilla and Armageddon. The folks at Bentley helping municipalities and business manage their infrastructure day to day are the unsung heroes of our generation.
The SPAR/AEC podium is the platform of ideas, trials, and practices in the virtual realm. The great talents in the industry speak about their real world experience in the digitally built environment. Vendors and exhibitors share their greatest assets knowledge and people. The show featured two spectacular keynotes among a host of keynote presentations. MiMi Aung,
Project Manager for Mars Helicopter, NASA talked about “Adding Autonomous Aerial Mobility to Open Doors to New Classes of Planetary Exploration”. MiMi is a wonderfully energetic speaker and enthusiastic about our passion with landing on Mars. She shared her team’s challenges and success story in designing and implementing the first Martian helicopter. In a nutshell she led a team that built the most advanced reconnaissance UAV in history and for a place that has no air to speak of and temperatures ranging between “your ex-spouse and Needles, CA. in July”. Big thumbs up to MiMi, the Mars Helicopter Team, and NASA.
So how do you follow that act? Well, IBM let Dr. Bob Sutor out of his cage and he enlightened the crowd on the latest understanding of quantum computing. Dr. Sutor is Vice President of IBM Q Strategy and Ecosystem, IBM Research. His presentation on “Quantum Computing: A View to the Future” was a fantastic showcase of the possibilities in the digital realm. I’m nominating Bob for TAS keynote speaker of the millennium. Who would think somebody could make anything “computing” as comfortable and entertaining as watching SportsCenter on a Saturday in a pair of holey jeans? Bob is a fantastic speaker and of course a master of his subject which lends to his charismatic presentation. He highlighted IBM’s open source development platform QisKit and shared the factual details behind quantum computing. Check it out at qiskit.org.
This year I was able to get behind the curtains and speak with the SPAR3D/AEC/NEXT show organizer Jason Lavigne of Diversified Communications. Jason and his crew are a contemporary equivalent of a P.T. Barnum and they assemble some of the greatest shows around the globe. Everything including accounting, buses, food, interior design, kosher food, mapping, marine, medical, organic food, running, seafood, solar, UAV, you name it and Diversified Communications hosts a show. Worldwide locations include Canada, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, UK, US with shows in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. The Diversified Communications team are heavy hitters in the business world and know their trade well. The proof is in the seamless execution of SPAR3D/AEC/NEXT. There’s something organic and well played when a 1,900 attendee event doesn’t feel congested. Right sizing the venue with the attendance provides a soothing environment and reposed vibe enhances the attendee experience. Next year Lavigne and crew will be hosting the 2020 show June 3-5 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. Pencil this one on your calendars folks.
Spar 3D in a Nutshell
Diversified Communications explains SPAR 3D Expo in a nutshell: SPAR 3D Expo & Conference is the premier international event for the commercial application of 3D technologies focused on 3D sensing, 3D processing, and 3D visualization tools. From sensing with drones, mobile rigs, and hand-held devices to using augmented reality and virtual reality, everything 3D is here at the only vendor-neutral, industry-agnostic event in the market.