Security Vital in Sharing Proprietary Project Information from Laser Scans, Drones

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE 

No doubt laser scanning and drone photogrammetry is enabling design, engineering and construction pros to scale up projects, collaborate across teams and greatly improve the virtual walk-through experience for owners.

But are the measures that protect the security of this data advancing as quickly and as well as are virtual reality technologies?

Josh VandenEnde, a reality capture panelist at the AGC of Missouri’s 8th annual Design and Construction Technology Conference last month, says in order to fully protect clients’ proprietary information – such as laser scans of a building – every shred of information must be treated as sensitive.

“Laser scans have changed the size of the files we are protecting but not how we protect them,” said VandenEnde, project manager for APOGEE Engineers | Architects. “The large file size of scan files reduces the number of ways the data can be shared. It is not very feasible to view scans using mobile devices or send the files via email. The scans are primarily stored and viewed off our company servers, so securing those is our primary concern,” he added. “Careful selection of file-sharing platforms is required to ensure that the information stays protected during their transfer to other parties.”

A company’s overall data security is only as good as its weakest link, which is generally its users, according to VandenEnde and Adam Lega, BIM (building information modeling) coordinator with Apogee Consulting Group. “People are the biggest source of data breaches,” Lega agreed. “No matter what security measures you put in place, all it takes is for a careless or disgruntled employee to cause a breach. It’s as simple as not having good password etiquette, being careless with leaving your machine logged in, copying to a USB/thumb drive or even publishing data to YouTube or some other social network for ‘bragging rights.’ I have, however, seen construction data such as laser scans being locked with one-time key code generators that necessitate the use of a third party to generate those keys, and that are used in conjunction with timeout functions. So if the workstation or data is not being accessed for a particular amount of time, it logs the system out.”

According to 3D design and engineering software builder Autodesk, a single point cloud – a detailed digital capture of an as-built space that includes all the points covering the surface of that space – commonly exceeds 200 gigabytes. Factors affecting the size of the laser scanning files generated include area size, number of scans, scanning density and more.

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