LiDAR Beyond Automotive Applications

April 2, 2020 Joel Hagberg, Head of Product Management and Marketing at Intel RealSense

In recent years, there has been an increased adoption of environmental sensing, including Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR). Serving as a key component to many real-world applications, LiDAR enables machines to perceive the world in 3D. While LiDAR vendors were traditionally focusing on automotive applications, now one can find a high resolution LiDAR that enables industrial applications deployment at a reduced cost with low power consumption and high resolution in a form factor smaller than a tennis ball.

Moving Beyond Automotive LiDAR

The clear benefits of perceiving the world in 3D can be seen in capabilities such as object measurement, scanning, collision avoidance, gesture recognition, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and the many use cases that benefit from LiDAR accuracy, range and high resolution.

In the instance of inventory management, an industry that manages and processes more than a million shipments per day, LiDAR depth technology enables precise volumetric measurements of boxes and products, assist in inventory counting and even enable order accuracy validation, all that can lead for better and more efficient inventory management. To put this into perspective, CSCMP’s State of Logistics Report 2019 outlined costs in this sector have risen by 11.4% to $1.64 trillion in the United States alone. Ultimately, if more manufacturing and shipping facilities chose to adopt LiDAR technology for day-to-day operations, this could lead to a reduction of costs by eliminating the use of unnecessary boxes and materials, as well as efficiencies in shipping practices by identifying box sizes according to volume and space available in transportation containers and trucks.

LiDAR is also beneficial to the 3D scanning industry, where it creates fast and easy, accurate scale models of objects and scenes, without the need for complex hardware configurations. Applications for this can be seen in retail where it is used for packaging, interior design and furniture placement. Other use cases can be seen in a medical setting to scan objects or people, making it possible to produce instant templates of customized devices, implants and prosthetics for 3D printers. This will be a sector to watch for LiDAR, as it is forecasted to reach $17.4 billion by 2026 according to the Global 3D Medical Imaging Market Report, published by Accurize Market Research.

In the robotics industry, similar to its role in an autonomous vehicle, LiDAR adds vision capabilities to robots, where it provides a level of environmental understanding and interaction. As a result, robots can sense depth, navigate landscapes and when combined with AI/machine learning, recognize humans and scenes. An application for this can be seen in warehouses where LiDAR-enabled robots are leveraged to automate bin picking and grasping.

With its many applications that we’ve only just scratched the surface of, LiDAR presents a wealth of value, allowing for the examination of both natural and manmade environments with accuracy and precision. To truly understand the increased adoption and value of LiDAR across industries, you could compare the opportunities behind this technology to the impact of smartphones on display and chip technologies, bolstering industries like IoT and VR. Similarly, LiDAR is being invested in for autonomous and other key areas that will move-the-needle for many emerging technologies and industries. This makes it important to keep an eye on, because just like smartphones, LiDAR will show what’s to come for the future of technology.

 

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