A Blessing and a Curse: How 3D Laser Scanning is Overwhelming AEC Storage Infrastructure

This is the third installment in our series, The Unstructured Data Explosion, which explores how new technologies are creating file growth challenges within today’s leading businesses and industries.

Before the use of 3D laser scanning, architects and engineers tasked with renovating or adding to an existing building or industrial facility had to break out the pencil and tape measure. Any such project requires a deep understanding of the existing space – the “as-built” environment. Precision, in this case, is essential. For example, refineries and industrial plants have to be built to within 1/16th of inch accuracy.

Better Scans Mean Bigger Files

3D laser scanning technology has been around in one form or another for decades, but the accuracy, resolution and cost have now hit levels that make it an essential tool for firms in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) space. Today, you can set up a tripod laser scanner and create detailed, highly accurate maps of any interior. The scanner measures the distance to different structures within its field of view on a point-by-point basis, much like someone conducting manual measurements would run a measuring tape from one spot to another. But the 3D laser scanner does this at an exponentially greater scale, creating a point cloud of each feature in the field of view.

“This functionality, together with storage and protection, simply cannot be delivered at a reasonable price point using traditional storage solutions.”

Consider the output if you were to conduct a survey of the interior of a facility using the two different methods:

  • 100 data points might be collected manually over several days
  • 10,000,000,000 points would be collected by laser scanning in the same time frame

Laser scanning enables companies to map not just the walls and corners, but the precise locations and shapes of machines, pipes, and various industrial structures. Ultimately, since it allows engineers and designers to start with better data, the technology drives efficiency throughout the project and generates better end results. But there’s a major hidden cost to this technology – an unstructured data explosion.

4 Major Unstructured Data Headaches

Only a few years ago, a scanner would generate tens of thousands or a hundred thousand points per second. Now that figure has jumped to 1 million every second. All this added data translates into much larger files, and these files have to be stored, protected and made available to users in different locations. This creates at least 4 major unstructured data headaches:

  1. Scale & Provisioning: The data generated by 3D laser scanners is substantial, and leads to unpredictable storage growth rates. If a firm is tied to traditional hardware, IT will be forced into an expensive upgrade or refresh sooner than expected.
  2. Access: While the new unstructured data will be ingested at one location, users in other offices need access to it quickly. Project teams are spread across multiple locations, and all those users need access to these files to collaborate seamlessly.
  3. Cost: IT groups within AEC are being asked to do more with less, but you can’t run lean if you’re regularly buying or upgrading hardware to stay ahead of unstructured data growth.
  4. Protection: All this new data needs to be automatically protected and quickly made available in the event of failures or disasters.

AEC firms need unlimited, on-demand capacity so they can account for unexpected growth, and they need high-performance distributed access to allow their distributed teams to collaborate effectively. The data needs to be automatically protected, too. This kind of functionality simply cannot be delivered at a reasonable price point using traditional storage solutions.

New Problems Need New Solutions

Instead of falling back on the same old storage vendors, companies that are taking advantage of new, data-generating technologies like 3D laser scanners need to start looking at new ways of storing, protecting, and extending fast access to their files. Watch these videos to find out how several leading AEC firms have been solving their file growth problems and improving collaboration with enterprise file services from Nasuni.