When was 3D Laser Scanning Invented

Technology used in 3D laser scanning is used to create 3D models, which are used across several industries and for all kinds of purposes. This technology has become more popular as it has provided more effective ways to create products, investigate crime scenes, support academic research, assist in clothing design and even benefit medical fields.

But, 3D scanners weren’t always so high tech. Like most technologies, this one has humble beginning and is still being developed to do truly remarkable things.

The First 3D Scanners

While we often think of 3D scanning as a new technology, it has actually been around for some time. The first of this technology was produced in the 1960s. However, the first attempts weren’t as high quality as today’s results, since they were produced with scanners that used cameras, lights and projectors.

This technology worked, but wasn’t the most effective way to get desired results. It took a lot of time to make sure scans were accurate, and the results weren’t as good as they could have been.

In 3D scanning’s early days, it was a technology that was only used by professionals and industry experts. It wasn’t something that many people had access to, so its uses were limited and it didn’t have a big impact on a wide variety of industries, like it does now that it is more fully developed.

Another problem was computer storage. At this time, computers that could store all the data required to execute 3D laser scanning weren’t commonplace, like they are today.

The Problem with the Contact Probe

When computers became more accessible, engineers recognised that there was potential to make 3D scanning much more effective. The first attempt to do this included a contact probe.

The contact probe is exactly what it sounds like: a probe that touches objects and surfaces to create a map. The object being scanned is held in place while the probe does its work with sensors on a long arm.

Contact 3D scanning is still used in some industries and does work well, but it takes a lot of time to produce a good image. It also requires contact, which isn’t ideal for scanning soft objects or people. Scanning very large areas with a contact probe is also very difficult. So, contact scanning isn’t ideal for all situations.

The Laser Solution

To solve the problems that come with the contact probe, professionals decided to use light, which was much faster than any probe could be, to scan objects. Another benefit that comes with using light to scan is that it can offer very precise results, especially for soft objects, which can’t be scanned accurately with a contact probe.

With this development came three different options, each of which has pros and cons.

Point Scanning

With this option, the laser needs to be moved several times to scan an object using a single point of reference. This worked well because it was very similar to the contact probe, which had proven results, but was still slow.

Area Scanning

Area scanning was another option for 3D laser scanning, but it wasn’t ideal because it is technically difficult to execute and the equipment needed isn’t readily available.

Stripe Scanning

Stripe scanning uses a row of several points at the same time as the scanner moves over an object. This means it can very quickly produce a detailed and accurate scanned image.

Stripe scanning became the option experts focused on as they worked to develop modern 3D laser scanners. This method allowed scanners to move quickly, providing results faster and remain accurate, so scans were more relevant and effective.

3D scanning works by combining several scanned images together to create one image. In order to do this, advanced software is used to merge the images and take out duplicated data and extra pieces of data. This software can do all that and very quickly, so that 3D laser scanning is practical and efficient.

Historical Uses of 3D Laser Scanning

One of the very first uses for 3D laser scanning was to create images of faces to be used in animation during the 1980s. This was done with a head scanner that captured the details and shape of someone’s head while duplicating things like spacing between eyes and the length of the nose.

But, head scanners were just that, limited to being able scan a person’s head. So, in the 1990s, the industry had developed full body scanners, which would create 3D images of a person’s body.

Then, in 1994, scanners that mapped objects and all their specific details were invented. These scanners took images of objects, rather than people, so had different applications in all kinds of industries.

Modern Uses for 3D Laser Scanners

Today, 3D laser scanning has been nearly perfected, making it a technology that is readily accessible, easier to use and more effective. It is used in all kinds of fields, making research, digital reproduction of objects and even exploration of areas easier.

Just a few applications for 3D laser scanners include:

  • Surveying
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Documentation of Historical Sites
  • Archaeological Research
  • Film Production
  • Civil Engineering
  • Highway Surveying
  • Mining
  • Building Evaluations
  • Utility Mapping
  • Excavation
  • Coastal Monitoring
  • Designing Medical Tools

Recently, handheld 3D scanners have hit the market, making this technology available to hobbyists. These can produce digital images of just about anything and some can even assist with 3D printing, so users can create a replica of almost any object they want.

In fact, some experts believe that 3D laser scanning is the technology that will make 3D printing more practical. Since the idea behind 3D printing is that you can create or duplicate anything, smaller, more convenient scanners could make 3D printing much more common.

While 3D laser scanning has come a long way, there’s no doubt that the technology will continue to be developed and become more commonplace, effective and efficient. As this happens, all kinds of industries will benefit.

What is a 3D Scanner

3D laser scanners have a number of technical names. Whether you think of them as 3D Digitizers, Laser Scanners or White Light Scanners, they all have the same end result – even if the technology used to get there is different.

The purpose of a 3D scanner is to create an exact digital replica of a physical object in a fast and efficient manner. The surface and shape of an object is plotted using the scanners. This means that fine details can be replicated as well as exact dimensions of any object.

Any device that takes measurements of something physical and takes this data to digitally plot this using either lasers, lights or even an x-ray is classified as being a 3D scanner.

In recent years the technique has become increasingly popular because 3D scanners can provide a non-contact and unintrusive method to get a digital representation of an object. Depending on the type of 3D scanner used, it is possible to capture objects inside, outside, in daylight or at night; as well as small objects with intricate details and large objects it would take months for a human to draw up designs of how to reproduce it.

Depending on the type of 3D scanner you opt for the data needed to create the digital representation of an object can be collected in a range of ways. A couple of examples of this are highlighted below:

Laser Scanners use sensors to capture the image an object by illuminating it. The sensor calculates the time it takes for the light to reflect from each point on the object to measure the layout of the surface area, picking up every detail as it scans.

CT Scanners (Computed Tomography) are generally associated with their use in medical practices. However the technology design has recently been applied in other fields and can work well in the 3D scanning industry. CT scans work by taking a large amount of 2D x-ray images from a single point. These are then put together to produce 3D images of what was being scanned.

Long Range Scanners are designed to capture larger objects such as planes and buildings. This is often done using laser scanning technique and producing results with excellent accuracy.

The possibilities for 3D scanning are endless.

In particular the methodology is ideal for re-producing complex shapes or surfaces. The scanning technology can calculate the geometry of an object within minutes. This would be impossible to do perfectly using more conventional methods without setting a lot of time aside.

The digitized 3D representation of an object is extremely useful for a variety of purposes. A huge demand for 3D scanning is to allow a company to reverse engineer their products. New design updates can be made to the digital scan or any faults can be digitally repaired. This new model can also be analysed and compared to other products. The use of the 3D scanner provides an opportunity for the dimensions and practicalities of a product to be thoroughly examined via a computerised prototype before it is needed to be built in a physical space.

3D scans can also be applied in creating animations, producing a mass amount of customized products to sell within the fields of fashion and healthcare, and archiving objects. The rapid way you can accurately record the measurements and intricate details of an object allows you to keep copies of past product designs, which you can easily digitally store and access whenever necessary.

It doesn’t end there. Teaming up 3D scanners with the technology of 3D printers means that you can perfectly duplicate any object by taking the surface data collected by a scanner, and creating this physically again with a printer.

To summarise, 3D scanners are a tool for bringing the physical world into the digital. What happens next is up to you.

How 3D Laser Scanners are used in Crime Scene Investigation

As technology develops, 3D scanners are being used more and more frequently in law enforcement and especially in crime scene investigation. With this technology, police officers, detectives and forensics teams are able to investigate crime scenes more thoroughly. With more accurate and detailed results, they are able to solve crimes and bring perpetrators to justice, keeping communities safe.

How 3D Scanning for Crime Investigation Works

In essence, 3D scanning is the process of using equipment to scan an object and then create a three-dimensional rendering of it. The process uses lasers to gather details about an object like its surface, depth, size and shape. Then, software programs analyse information about the various scanned points and compile several images to produce one extremely accurate, 3D image of the object.

There are different kinds of 3D scanning technologies, but with new handheld 3D scanners, crime scene investigation teams have portable, cutting-edge technology in the palm of their hand.

To make it possible to use this kind of technology at a crime scene, investigators set up total stations. Total stations are high-tech pieces of equipment that bring things like scene mapping, data collecting sensors, integrated mappers and all the hardware and software needed to make 3D scanning possible just about anywhere.

These scanners are operated by trained professionals who know how to use the equipment and are also trained in crime scene investigation. They know how to use 3D scanning to investigate a scene and can help interpret and analyse results, deducing what they mean to help solve crimes.

3D Scanners Onsite at Crime Scenes

 So, what exactly can 3D scanners do at a crime scene? As they scan areas, physical signs of a crime, and forensic evidence, they gather vital data investigators need to tell a story. Investigators use the data and 3D images to piece together what happened at a crime scene, helping them put together a story that solves the crime.

Three-dimensional scanners are capable of helping investigators with this in several different ways.

Professional Investigative Training

Simulating crime scenes and their evidence is an effective way of training investigators, and 3D scanning makes this easier. With detailed 3D scans, training becomes much more realistic for new investigators, helping them prepare for a successful career. A 3D experience is more realistic than looking at photos or reading about a crime scene, so this technology is a valuable teaching tool.

Of course, even seasoned detectives can benefit from 3D scanning in training as it allows them to hone their skills, develop new skills and become even better at what they do.

Capture a Scene for In-Depth Study

 Before the days of 3D scanning, investigators relied on their memories, notes, sketches and photographs to document a crime scene. But these tools aren’t always accurate and they don’t have the ability to capture every detail like 3D scanning does.

Three-dimensional scanners are used in crime scene investigations to capture the scene of a crime for later study. Police officers can capture images of the entire scene, portions of an area and pieces of evidence as they are found to take back to the station for further study. This is also beneficial in allowing detectives to go back and review information as the investigation develops.

Preserve Entire Crime Scenes

 With things like photography and sketches, an investigator has to make decisions as to what to record and what not to record. On the scene of a crime, this can be difficult, as something that doesn’t seem relevant at the time may end up being very relevant to an investigation.

One of the biggest benefits that comes with 3D scanning is that it allows officers to capture an entire area easily, quickly and accurately. That way they won’t be reliant on decision making in the heat of the moment and they will be more likely to capture all the information they need to solve a crime.

Record Initially Missed Details

No matter how experienced an investigator is, he isn’t perfect and is prone to making mistakes or overlooking details at a crime scene. However, when a scene is captured with a 3D scanner, every tiny detail is recorded just as it was before it was disturbed.

This means that detectives have a chance to go back and revisit a scene virtually to make sure they haven’t missed any details or pieces of evidence. 3D scanning is more efficient at this then photography, because it more accurately records things like depth, spatial relations between objects and scale.

Accurately Study Forensic Data

 Investigators often use data like the distance between two points, bullet trajectories, blood spatters and site lines to solve crimes. Time can be limited at a crime scene and 3D scanning makes it possible to capture these things exactly as they are so professionals can study them accurately or revisit them to reduce errors. With a virtual, three-dimensional exact copy of these things, investigators can more effectively analyse them and come to correct conclusions.

Accident Recreations

Amazingly, 3D scanning also makes it possible for police officers to recreate accidents to piece together what happened. They can scan an area, evidence, and objects involved and then use specialised software to recreate actions.

This is beneficial in determining fault in an accident, understanding the types of injuries involved and even finding ways to prevent future accidents.

Validate Eye Witness Testimonies

 During an investigation, it’s not uncommon for police officers to collect testimonies from people who witnessed the crime or who were in the area at the time. It is part of the investigators’ jobs to determine which testimonies are accurate and who is being honest. They can use 3D scanning to make this process easier, as they can confirm details of a scene and determine whether or not actions are physically possible by virtually revisiting the scene through a 3D rendering.

Test and Prove Theories

As investigators solve crimes they must test and prove theories, and 3D scanning makes that a more efficient process. Investigators can refer to scans of scenes and evidence to analyse whether theories are viable or not and come to conclusions as to what happened at a crime scene.

Because of their high-tech abilities to capture details and recreate scenes and evidence, 3D laser scanners are used in crime scene investigations of all kinds, giving investigators a powerful tool when it comes to keeping cities safe.

History of 3D Scanners

­The first 3D scanning technology was developed in the 1960s. Within research and design fields, there was a need to be able to efficiently recreate surfaces of objects and places for a way to easily access and alter projects to make way for improvements.

As the last half of the 20th century marked the start of dipping into the possibilities computers have on a technical industry, the possibilities for capturing the physical world and placing it in the digital appealed to many people. 3D scanners were the way to do this.

Early 3D scanning models managed to complete this process by using a combination of lights, cameras and projectors. However, due to the complex nature of the scans, in order to replicate an object accurately a lot of effort and time was required. Necessary improvements wanted to be made to the current system so that the same amount of fine detail could be collected by the scanners but at a much more efficient and effective rate than currently possible. The models used were not ideal but the technology was restricted until hard drive storage could be increased due to the mass amount of data that was collected by the scanners.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that laser technology was applied to 3D scanning; marking the beginning of the techniques used in the present day.

The use of optical technology was preferred as using light to measure the surface on an object not only would be faster than a physical probe but also would be non-contact. This meant that it was possible to broaden the horizons of what objects could be scanned, as soft or fragile surfaces would not be affected by optical technology.

By 1985 the old style of 3D scanning was replaced with scanners that instead used white lights, lasers and shadowing to collect data points of an object’s surface.

Three kinds of optical technology were produced: point, area and stripe. Point and area were soon disregarded as 3D laser scanning techniques due to the fact that ‘area’ was a very complex technical task to perform, and ‘point’ used a single point of reference and was therefore not much faster than the older technology. Stripe on the other hand outshone the other two technologies by far, and is still used in modern day 3D laser scanners. Stripe technology passes over an object using multiple points of reference to measure the surface area from. Due to the high amount of data collected in a fraction of the time, stripe technology is extremely accurate and fast.

In the late 1980s the same technology was developed in the form of a head scanner which captured the surface areas of human features for use in the animation industry in Los Angeles. This was well received in the industry, and innovations continued to be made to the point where by the mid-1990s top animation studios were using full body scanners to capture the data points of real human figures.

On the other hand, during the 1980s a large problem faced 3D scanning enthusiasts that to capture an object in its true 3D format, the sensor would need to make several scans from different positions which was currently a difficult task to perform. At this time 3D laser scanners were extremely expensive, mostly inaccessible and were very limited in picking up the different colours of a surface.

This wasn’t resolved until the mid-1990s where the REPLICA was released which marked a big leap forward in laser scanning technology. The machine allowed fast and highly accurate scans of detailed objects. In 1996 the ModelMaker was produced which combined the use of the stripe scanner on a manually operated arm. This system produced fast results of complex objects, and could even capture surface colours of an object. It was the beginning of 3D laser scanners which could produce results within minutes.

Since then the focus in advancements of laser scanning has been making the technology as accessible as possible and expanding the creative uses of the data points collected.

3D Laser Scanners in Films

Within the film industry, 3D scanning has been experimented with since the late 1980s. In the 1990s animation studios began to use the tool to aid their creation of digital characters through the accuracy of the scans. Dimensions of real people could be manipulated and edited to make abstract versions of them from real data.

Since then the innovative uses of 3D scanners in films have only continued to develop.

Enhancing special effects

Special effects in the film industry are often complemented by the fast results of 3D scanning.

Extremely dangerous or surreal stunts need to be created digitally to eliminate any risk for the actors involved. However the 3D model has to show such high accuracy that you cannot tell the difference between scenes using the digital model and the real actor. This is where laser scanning comes to light! A modelled character created by hand is very difficult to produce and runs the risk of human error distorting the dimensions of the person. With 3D scanned models there is no need to check the body proportions as they are an exact replication of the real person. This creates a perfect digital body double which is much less likely to be stand out as being digitally created from the other scenes using real actors.

Changing film formats

When blockbuster hit World War Z was digitally remastered for IMAX 3D, sets, locations, costumes, props and actors needed to be digitally captured so they could be re-worked into this format. This was achieved using handheld 3D laser scanners, cutting down the time taken to make digital copies of the existing props. Two different sizes were used depending on what was being scanned. For people, a large scanner was used to capture the dimensions of a person’s body whereas the head and facial features was scanned using a small scanner. Due to the fast rate of the scanners, it took less than 5 minutes to capture a body scan and less than 1 minute for a head scan.

This data was then merged to create the digital body doubles. The time took to do this depended on two factors: how complex the costume they wore was, and how still the actor had stood during the scanning process. Once processed, the digital data was inputted into other software to be used for poly-sculpting to add further detail to the model.

Reverse engineering props

The 2013 feature Rush also utilised 3D scanners to reverse engineer some of the classic cars used in the film. At the beginning of the project the car they wanted to use, a Ferrari 312T, was not available so they originally scanned scale models of the car to make some digital copies. Later the model became available for use and scanning this allowed their original data to be altered and checked against the exact dimensions of the car. Once the digital and real copy were identical, a full scale clay model was produced using the digital data which was later used to produce a fibreglass body of the vehicle. This replica was used during the filming of the feature; a reversed process made possible through the use of 3D scanners.

It is likely that 3D scanners will become more and more popular for use in the film industry due to their advantages of being portable, able to work in low light and ability to deal with a lot of data in a small space of time. With the ever increasing need to make the abstract world of film to appear as close to replicating a distorted reality as much as is possible, using a tool that copies physical data to be manipulated into a precise digital for

High Precision 3D Laser Scanning Technology

The possibilities for using 3D scanning reach further out into the universe than you can imagine. The technology is currently used for multiple projects within both space travel and commercial aviation on Earth.

3D scanners on Mars

High precision 3D scanning technology is developed within robots and rovers sent into space to explore and capture the surroundings of planet surfaces. The system currently used by NASA enables high speed and high resolution images to be sent back to Earth with minimal delay. Most recently when exploring unchartered land for the Mars Rover Program, the data received from the 3D scanning device on the rover allowed the team on Earth to create detailed maps of the terrain on the planet. Not only does this result in broadening our knowledge on the Red Planet but it also helps pinpoint any hazards that may damage the Rover and in turn the overall mission. The more knowledge NASA has on the terrain, the safer the operations and any potential future missions to the planet will be.

The capabilities of the 3D laser scanner on the Mars Rover also allowed for the precise dimensions of a meteorite that was found on Mars to be sent back to Earth. This data was then used in conjunction with a 3D printer so that around 54.6 million kilometres away from where it was found, the meteorite was replicated in its exact form on Earth. The 3D model produced is currently as close as we can get to bring back any real Martian samples back to Earth!

Other uses in space travel

There have been talks of developing 3D scanning and printing to such a level that if a 3D printer was sent to the International Space Station, they could minimise the storage supplies needed to be sent up if it became possible to print food for space travel.

Back on Earth 3D scanning gives NASA the ability to alter and update the designs of propulsion rockets and moon bases using the digital copy of existing models. The data points and dimensions can be tested at an extremely highly accurate level, imperative for the safety checks that need to be completely assured before any missions can take place.

Furthermore it opens the doors to developing more comfortable space travel than ever before, optimising custom seating for each astronaut. The longer the length of space travel the more necessary it is for seats to be at a maximum comfortable level. The current process require each a mould to be made of each astronaut’s back. This is taken specialists who design and manually create each individual’s seats. Improvements can be made to this process by creating the chairs with higher accuracy. 3D scanners can help make a huge step forward in this process by having the ability to get an exact digital copy of each astronaut’s back, so the seats can be made with high precision. With the digital software the design can be easily rotated and aligned in different angles in a manner that cannot be replicated on blueprints or without the waste of creating multiple physical models.

Aircrafts and 3D scanners

Closer to home, aviation companies utilise 3D scanners in a similar manner for quick repairs and replacements to minor cabin parts that may easily break. By keeping a digital copy after scanning arm rests, table trays and window blinds of a plane when a repair is needed this can be reproduced in the exact dimensions using a 3D printer. This would minimise the time needed for repairs rapidly as well as cutting down on the storage space needed for spare parts in these instances.

3D scanning is perfect for the aerospace industry due to its high accuracy in collecting the data points for complicated components such as turbine blades. The digital copy of these points can be measured and manipulated for advancements in design. It is especially important to be able to reproduce designs digitally when there is a need to replicate existing parts of a plane that no longer have 3D models available from when they were first built.

Within a short space of time, a 3D scanner can be used to check over an aircraft when safety inspections are needed. The digital image of the plane can highlight any damage that has occurred during flight time, such as checking any areas affected from lightning strikes or hail. This damage report can be sent straight to the engineers and immediately fixed. The scanning process cuts out a lot of time that would be needed for a manual scan of the plane and also eliminates the chance of human error.

The technology used for all aerospace projects needs to be as accurate as possible to keep the travel as low risk as possible – this is exactly what 3D scanning offers to the industry. We believe that the continued collaboration between 3D scanning, aviation and space travel will surely bring some interesting results in the near future.

How 3D Laser Scanners are used in Quality Assurance

With their ability to record images and objects in such a precise and highly detailed way, 3D laser scanners have become a very effective quality assurance tool. They allow inspectors to make sure all kinds of products meet high expectations, so customers are satisfied and businesses are more effective.

The Technology

Three-dimensional scanners work by using lasers to collect data points across the surface of an object. Then, specialised software uses those data points to create a series of images, and then combine them into one very accurate rendering.

The rendering is stored as a computer file and the images can be studied and viewed from different angles. It can also be used to duplicate objects and assist with 3D printing.

The Perks for Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is not a new field. In fact, as long as things have been created and mass produced, quality assurance has existed in some form or another. In the beginning, visual inspections that required skilled professionals to handle and carefully examine products were the only quality assurance option.

But, with the advent of 3D laser scanning, quality assurance is much easier and successful.

No-Contact Inspections for Reduced Risk

One of the biggest perks that comes with 3D laser scanning is that objects can be inspected without even being touched. Employees don’t have to pick up products or parts to make sure they meet requirements.

The scanner can quickly capture an image of the product and check to make sure it is up to standard, without even touching it. This means there is reduced risk for damage and that a part will be placed incorrectly on a conveyer belt, causing problems further down the production line.

Faster Inspections for Faster Production

People just can’t move as quickly as robots, so laser scanners also bring speed to the production line. They can scan and check products extremely quickly without sacrificing the quality of the inspection.

Faster production is a huge benefit to businesses, which are always looking for ways to be more efficient and to produce more without straining their resources.

In some cases, quality assurance inspections are performed at various points in the production process, ensuring that each step is completed accurately and that the final product will be perfect. Laser scanners can do this without adding a lot of time to production.

Unlimited Identical Inspections

Another thing people can’t do is continually perform perfect, identical inspections. Even the best quality control professionals make mistakes and are prone to fatigue and making small oversights.

When scanners are used, businesses can rest assured that each inspection is perfectly done and is identical to the others, so quality control will be much more effective. Scanners won’t miss small details that can lead to bigger problems, don’t get tired and perform subpar inspections or forget to check for certain requirements.

More Affordable Quality Control

With the speed and accuracy of 3D scanners comes more affordable quality control. When businesses implement this technology, they cover initial setup and installation costs as well as periodic maintenance costs. They don’t have to pay employees an hourly rate or salary, to spend time manually inspecting products, on a continual basis.

In most cases, this translates to savings. Businesses can be more effective and have more successful quality control processes while saving money they would otherwise need to budget to pay employees.

The Best Tasks for 3D Laser Scanners

While 3D laser scanners can do all kinds of tasks and successfully accomplish all kinds of things, there are a few areas where they are particularly useful in quality assurance.

Taking Precise Part Measurements

Three-dimensional scanners can measure parts with incredible accuracy. They can measure the entire part, not just a few points, to make sure it is perfect and ensure the final piece will be successful.

This kind of measuring is something that is very prone to human error, so letting a 3D scanner take this on is an efficient way to make quality assurance more effective.

Checking Final Product Size

Of course, measurements also need to be taken of final products, another area where 3D laser scanners excel. Precise measurements that manufacturers can depend on are essential when producing products in mass and making sure each one is perfect.

With their speed, combined with their accuracy, laser scanners can do this much more effectively than quality control employees can.

Identifying Imperfections in Parts and Products

Another important part of quality assurance is identifying imperfections, which 3D laser scanners are also very good at. When they measure points and make renderings of parts, surfaces and products, they can quickly identify imperfections, or areas that are not up to standards. Scanners can pick out problems very quickly, making production much more efficient.

Monitor Manufacturing Parts’ Wear and Tear

Most production plants use a lot of machinery, which needs to be kept in excellent condition. Laser scanners are often used to monitor machinery parts to check for wear and tear and identify when a part needs to be serviced or replaced.

This is an important part of quality assurance, as ineffective production machinery will lead to flawed products and can even be dangerous on the production line. So, with this task, laser scanners not only improve efficiency, but they also keep work areas safe.

With their ability to produce very accurate renderings and information very quickly, 3D laser scanners play an important role in quality assurance. They help all kinds of manufacturers produce better products in a more efficient way, benefiting businesses and their customers.