Apple shines a light on LiDAR

November 24, 2020

The iPhone 12 has hit the market to great fanfare. One of the new functions of the latest device in particular has raised a few eyebrows: its use of LiDAR. This has increased conversation around the capabilities of LiDAR and the likely future uses for it.

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is a technology that uses laser pulses to accurately measure ranges and distances to objects, generating precise, 3D information about its surroundings. It was initially deployed as a military tool, before being used on the Apollo 15 lunar mission. 

These days, it is used across a number of industries, from urban planning and mapping to forestry management. It is also an important component in navigating autonomous vehicles. In the context of property, it enables highly accurate measurement and documentation of spaces in 3D, providing much more reliable data with vast potential.

Spec has partnered with Leica Geosystems, the world leader in LiDAR technology, recently adopting its latest imaging laser scanner, the BLK2GO. This uses LiDAR in conjunction with SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping), meaning that the device can scan on the move, always aware of where it is within a space. 

It can scan over and under objects, through rooms and doorways, around corners and up and down stairwells, automatically building 3D point clouds. It acts as a torch for visualising property in three-dimensional reality. 

Currently, through Spec, we combine the raw data captured by the BLK2GO with our proprietary software and AI engine to produce professional photographs, a Spec Verified floor plan (guaranteed for accuracy to 99% of a property’s true size) a virtual tour and a digital property brochure. These assets are turned around within 24 hours for under £100 on average. This speed, price and accuracy is a first for the industry.

The future uses of this technology in property are wide ranging. Interior designers, architects, developers, mortgage lenders, insurance companies and many others will all be able to use this precise dimensional data to work more efficiently and effectively, removing manual and inaccurate processes that allow significant room for costly errors.  

It will also contribute towards a greener industry, as we learn more about the efficiency of every property and adjust our behaviours. For example, increasingly accurate, comprehensive property data will reduce the need for as many physical viewings, inspections and surveys of each property.   

Apple is excited by the potential of LiDAR and sees it as a USP of its latest series of phones and iPads. Its hunches are rarely wrong; in this instance they are rooted in one of the most exciting, innovative and widely usable technologies currently on the market.