What happens when a computer scientist with an uncanny knack for geometry compression takes an interest in LiDAR data? In the case of Martin Isenburg, a self-described “massive data processor and common sense extractor” based in Germany, the result is an award-winning open-source software solution that is making it easier for government agencies and organizations to store and transmit increasingly larger LiDAR data sets by compressing data from the ASPRS LAS format into much smaller LAZ files.
Developer of the LAStools software for processing LiDAR data, Isenburg worked extensively on compressing the connectivity and geometry of polygonal meshes--first as a student at UNC Chapel Hill, then as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, and finally on his own as a consultant. When he introduced LASzip as part of LAStools in July 2007, it was mostly an experiment in his free time; he had no idea how the compression tool would be received in the commercial sector.
As word began to spread about LASzip, a number of government agencies and private organizations became interested in testing this technology. A sponsor soon stepped forward to fund improvements in the code and ensure that the tool would be released open source under an LGPL license. From there, “it sort of took off,” Isenburg said.
The LASzip compression is lossless, meaning that the LiDAR data is retained exactly: point coordinates, intensities, classification--even the order. The amount of compression that can be achieved on a single dataset therefore varies depending on the order of the points in the file--points in random order achieve much less compression than points that are still in the order in which they were acquired, which is typically the case. Files can often be compressed to as little as 7 to 25 percent of their original size. For LiDAR power users such as NOAA, the USGS, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and a number of private organizations, such a high level of compression saves on storage bandwidth. More importantly, the compression makes it easier to share datasets both internally and externally.
In April 2012, LAStools received a Technology Innovation Award at the Geospatial World Forum in Amsterdam for the LASzip compression tool. Popular commercial software packages such as Certainty 3D’s TopoDOT, Safe Software’s FME and Blue Marble Geographics’ Global Mapper already have native LAZ support. Isenburg said that QT Modeler and Fugroviewer are expected to follow in their next release, and that RIEGL, a major manufacturer of scanner hardware, plans to have RiProcess output directly to LAZ files.......
Via Elpidio I F Filho