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Bringing 3D perception beyond autonomous vehicles

Predictions for the next big industries in lidar

By HanBin Lee
CEO, Seoul Robotics

HanBin Lee

HanBin Lee

Lidar sensors that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars now cost only hundreds of dollars. With prices significantly decreasing, 3D sensors are more accessible than ever before. Now, what was once a niche technology exclusively for autonomous vehicles is being deployed globally to make places safer and smarter. Additionally, the industry is continuing to grow: market analysis firm Yolé estimates that the lidar industry will be worth nearly $4 billion by 2025, a 19% CAGR between 2020 and 2025.

While decreasing sensor prices are a critical factor in the proliferation of lidar, an arguably more significant development is the development of robust perception software that can track, identify and monitor with far greater accuracy and efficiency than ever before.

Effective 3D sensors, from lidar to radar and 3D cameras, require both hardware and software components. The hardware is critical to capturing data with high resolution and accuracy, while the software processes and comprehends the data, making them actionable. Essentially, software is the “brain” of sensors. Lidar, without equally strong perception software, is like an iPhone without iOS — inoperable and just a piece of machinery.

Today, at the confluence of these factors, we are beginning to see a proliferation of 3D perception applications beyond autonomous driving. Cities, security and retail are a few key sectors where I predict we will continue to see advancements over the next few years.

Making Cities Smarter

The steep drop in the cost of lidar sensors has made 3D sensors more accessible than ever. (Image: Seoul Robotics)

The steep drop in the cost of lidar sensors has made 3D sensors more accessible than ever. (Image: Seoul Robotics)

Today’s cities have a variety of challenges to address, from decreasing traffic collisions to reducing congestion, and we are witnessing municipalities leveraging lidar to collect critical insights into city safety and efficiency.

However, why are they turning to 3D solutions, specifically? Because they can capture the data necessary to make actionable changes. 3D sensors were developed to quickly track and analyze city surroundings for autonomous vehicles, so they are an effective way to ensure that vehicles are not veering into opposing lanes or traversing crosswalks already occupied by pedestrians.

Cities also adopt 3D applications because they can often address multiple challenges with one system. For example, a city may install a lidar system on an intersection to detect traffic violations, but the system can also capture data about pedestrian safety and traffic flow. These multi-benefit solutions are ultimately more cost-effective for cities because they eliminate the need to install multiple different solutions to solve these problems.

Creating Safer Spaces

Companies are turning to 3D data to create safer and more secure environments. (Image: Seoul Robotics)

Companies are turning to 3D data to create safer and more secure environments. (Image: Seoul Robotics)

From airports to museums, from stadiums to music venues, the market for 3D-based security solutions is vast. While each of these environments is unique in how it operates, they all rely on technology to ensure that areas are secure, visitors do not enter prohibited areas, and crowds are seamlessly moving through the space.

3D perception helps address these challenges by creating “zones” that can alert security systems if someone enters. Additionally, because 3D sensors can detect and track various objects, including humans, they are increasingly becoming a popular solution for crowd control. They can help venues monitor and address foot traffic, such as with security lines, and they can be valuable in the event of an emergency to ensure that an area is clear.

Beyond the tangible benefits 3D sensors bring to different venues, companies are turning to 3D data to create safer and more secure environments because they are more accurate and anonymous. Unlike traditional camera-based systems such as CCTV, which are often prone to false positives, 3D data are incredibly accurate and precise, so they are less likely to set off alarms unnecessarily. Additionally, 3D data do not include biometric information, so they address privacy concerns while still ensuring that areas are secure.

Building 3D Retail Environments

By implementing 3D-based solutions into a physical retail environment, companies can better understand how shoppers are moving through and spending their time in stores. They can glean insights into key metrics, such as:

  • How long are people in line?
  • What areas of the store are receiving the most traffic?
  • With what products are people engaging most frequently?

As one example, Mercedes-Benz has integrated 3D sensors into its showrooms in Korea, gaining fascinating insights into customer behavior. For example, they’ve discovered that nearly 60% of customers spend their time looking at the trunk space of SUVs, and that red is the most popular color.

As these solutions continue to become more sophisticated and accessible, we should expect to see them in more areas of our everyday lives. The future of 3D perception is exciting, and it will ensure safer, smarter and more efficient spaces — improving the quality of life.

HanBin Lee is CEO of Seoul Robotics, a 3D perception company specializing in lidar.

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