Imaging technology does an end run around data processing because images naturally support quick decision-making. That’s because the form of raw data they present is one that human beings are already skilled at processing and interpreting.

We “know” what we see.

Perhaps that’s why imaging tools like smart phone cameras, aerial photography, thermal imaging and surface penetrating radar can rapidly make the jump from gee-whiz gadgets to regular tools. The data they present can immediately be appreciated purely on a visual level—which is not to say the same data doesn’t lend itself to significant interpretative analysis to boot. But right off, we see vast quantities of raw information in images, draw conclusions and find it useful.

We are seeing this as a trend that incorporates more and more visual data acquisition, processing and presentation tools into mobile devices. Just this week I have been conducting interviews and examining products which I either have written about or probably will write about, from vendors with photography-based drone-supported construction site mapping systems, a vendor with a survey-grade aerial photogrammetry offering, a vendor with image recognition technology being applied to automatically tag objects in jobsite video and make it searchable, a vendor with handheld, wall-penetrating radar devices and vendors with smart-phone thermal imaging systems that just seem to get better and better.

The prior week was similar, with the addition of a programmable Bluetooth pistol grip for smart phones that has control buttons for operating and controlling them. The beauty of that was that it improves your ability to capture—what else—images.

These products all have one thing in common: their offerings instantly make a good visual case. Even the new software I have looked at this week shares that quality. Its magic is displayed graphically for easy appreciation and understanding—even if the business end rolls up into spreadsheets and quantity takeoffs and columns of numbers. You can always toggle the screen and “see” what it means.