Lidar technology: what is it? How does it work?
The word ‘Lidar’ is made up of: Light and Radar. Lidar (Light Detection And Ranging) identifies the technology that measures the distance to an object by illuminating it with laser light and, at the same time, is able to return high-resolution three-dimensional information about the surrounding environment. Lidar works similarly to a radar, but uses laser technology to measure distances and depth. This is crucial for augmented reality (AR)-based apps and photography.
A Lidar typically uses several components: lasers, photo detectors and readout integrated circuits (ROICs) with time-of-flight (TOF) capability to measure distance by illuminating a target and analyzing reflected light. The operation of Lidar technology is based on an ‘immediate’ principle and is referred to as ‘Time of Flight’ (T0F) or time of flight. Time of flight can be obtained by sending a pulsed signal via a laser, but also by measuring the phase and frequency of the reflected light signal against a reference signal.
What are the advantages of Lidar technology?
The use of Lidar technology has several advantages:
– Allows fast and accurate measurement;
– Wide resolution;
– Simplicity and ease of use
Due to its simplicity of application and use, Lidar technology is defined as a ‘Transverse’ technology and is most widely used in several markets:
1) Construction: Lidar is used in the construction/building sector as it helps to reproduce the reality of construction in a very easy and highly reliable manner;
2) Mapping: in recent years, this technology has been increasingly used in everything related to morphology mapping/precision remote sensing: it helps to establish the differences in elevation between terrains with a particular eye on the morphology of a given area (even potentially coarse). In this way, Lidar operators can create numerous Digital Terrain Models (also using drones), the accuracy of which will be very high and the margin of error very small;
3) eCommerce: sellers can easily create a 3D version of their products for sale, simply by using an iPhone and helping potential customers better understand what the products look like. Many eCommerce shops already offer a 3D visualization of the product in addition to photos.
4) Automotive: Lidar sensors used as a ‘visual’ tool to build self-driving vehicles. In this context, Lidar systems are used to detect obstacles, such as other vehicles or pedestrians, or the environment surrounding the vehicle.
Lidar: a step forward by Apple in Augmented Reality
Apple introduced a Lidar sensor in its smartphones for the first time and made Lidar available to everyone. Lidar may be the greatest creative and professional innovation ever to come to the camera section of a smartphone. The iPhone 12 Pro’s Lidar is based on ARKit, Apple’s framework for augmented reality.
With iOS 14 came ARKit 4, which added several new features: it increases resolution, allows multiple faces to be tracked simultaneously, enables motion capture, and better handles occlusion, that is, the possibility of virtual objects being covered in the scene by a real person. In addition to position tracking, which allows virtual objects to be linked to physical points.
The Lidar used by Apple is a module consisting of two elements, a transmitting and a receiving element. The transmitting element is based on an array of VCSELs, vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers, an acronym that will mean nothing to many but which is the same technology used by optical mice today.
Digital twin: what is it and how does the digital twin model work?
Digital Twin is a virtual representation of an object, connected to it throughout its life cycle.
The Digital Twin is updated in real time by data collected from sensors connected to the physical asset and uses simulation programmes, machine learning and reasoning to provide useful information about the asset and to develop predictive models of the object’s future performance and reactions to certain conditions. With the advancement of digital technologies, the Digital Twin allows for more efficient management of systems, saving costs and time.
The market for digital twins is growing rapidly and this fact indicates that their demand will continue to grow in the future. In 2020, the market for digital twins has been valued at $3.1 billion. Some industry analysts speculate that it could continue to grow rapidly until at least 2026, reaching an estimated $48.2 billion.
What are the benefits of using Digital Twins?
– Improved research and development: the use of digital twins enables more efficient product research and design by creating a lot of data on possible performance outcomes. This information can lead to insights that help companies apply the necessary refinements to products before they go into production.
– Increased efficiency: even after a new product has gone into production, digital twins can help reflect and monitor production systems, paying particular attention to achieving and maintaining maximum efficiency throughout the production process.
– Product end-of-life: Digital twins can also help manufacturers decide what to do with products that reach the end of their life cycle and need to receive final treatment, through recycling or other measures. Using digital twins, they can determine which product materials can be recovered.
The markets that use digital twins with great success are those dealing with large-scale products or projects such as:
– Engineering (systems)
– Automobile manufacturing
– Aircraft manufacturing
– Railway car design
– Building construction
– Manufacturing industry
– Energy companies
How can digital twins be used to experience augmented reality?
Digital twins and AR are one of the most interesting digital representations of recent times. Based on an incredible technological variety and complexity, digital twins constitute a true connector between the physical world and its infinite virtual instances, with which the full simulative power of the digital can be harnessed. The constant flow of data generated between the physical and digital twin enables the interaction of various enabling technologies of Industry 4.0, such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Users can, through digital twins and AR, make use of simulations and predictive analysis to prevent problems before they occur, explore new opportunities and support new projects in a more informed and objective way than would be possible with traditional methods.
Compared to ‘simple’ virtual simulations focused on a single event or phenomenon, digital twins involve the entire life cycle of physical twins. The real-time data flow is processed to extract information value that is useful for generating knowledge to support complex decisions and the continuous improvement of processes or products themselves.
Today’s virtual worlds lack a very important aspect: the connection between reality and the metaverse, i.e. the virtual reality shared via the Internet, where one is represented in three dimensions through one’s desired avatar. And this is where the digital twins come into action, with the IOT once again creating the sensory links needed to interface the real and the virtual.
Digital twins and AR are about to enable companies to visualize key information about their operational technologies. The ability to visualize physical and virtual environments is an untapped advantage for industries such as manufacturing, transportation and energy, where heavy machinery and other physical equipment are often at the heart of business operations.
It is becoming increasingly imperative and necessary to combine these physical assets into applications and IT infrastructure to improve operations, customer service and produce business-critical insights that help companies gain a competitive advantage. This is where digital twins and AR each have a role to play in helping companies achieve full Industry 4.0 transformation and automation.