My Very Short History of LiDAR, GIS, and CAD

In a letter to my son, the young architect.  With a reading assignment from Dad.

Alan,
Are you architects seeing more about the integration of these three technologies?

LiDAR started more than a decade ago in remote sensing from satellites, first tested from the shuttles for terrain and elevation modeling.  When I was in the Univ. of Maryland GIS program, they were working on calibrating LiDAR for remote sensing of vegetation – different levels of tree canopy to assess forest health.
When I was working GIS in for the city of Philadelphia, the GIS staff started seeing LiDAR in the urban environment.  GIS and LiDAR vendors were partnering with the city to use LiDAR for 3D modeling of the downtown area.  Then they started using portable LiDAR sensors – the size of a wheelbarrow – to survey the subway spaces in Center City.  And the interiors of some buildings.  The focus was public safety and emergency response.
Now we see LiDAR moving into the consumer market – interior design and real estate are the focus of the two articles below.  Made possible because LiDAR sensors are smaller and cheaper.  (Where have we heard that before… )
Dad

The architect’s reply just in:

Dad,
We see this happening but don’t use it directly.  There is talk of it being used in surveying but not for design. 
We have our own information-imbedded software (Building Information Modeling – BIM) which we use to design with and to communicate material quantities and interfaces.  The first article mentioned intergratig LiDAR and BIM. 
We are seeing companies which market the 3D scanning service for interiors and you can imagine that we could use that for modeling existing conditions, but the issue is that most of the time we need those existing models to contain information – BIM – and to be manually input. 
The 3d rendering company we work with has a portable version of this and they use it to scan interiors because all they need to do their work is geometries and surfaces. 
I can definitely see an integration of this technology with our BIM but we need and additional layer of information. The BIM software that we use is called Revit.  
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