Douglas D. Fisher | GeoDataPoint.com
Bruce Carlson, founder and president of Carlson Software, talks about the company's diversification into hardware during the 30th Anniversary Carlson Software User Conference at the Hilton Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati on April 8.
Someone walking into Carlson Software’s 30th Anniversary User Conference April 7-10 might have mistaken the four-day gala for meetings at the United Nations. Since its last User Conference in 2010, Carlson has grown significantly overseas, and that was evident during its training sessions and at the breakfast table.
Among its 250 attendees, 45 employees and 16 guest presenters at the Hilton Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, 20 nations were represented, including people from Ghana, Poland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
“(Our customers) are, literally, from all over the world,” said Karen Cummings, Carlson’s director of marketing and public relations who helped organize the conference. “Carlson is definitely gaining recognition.”
That recognition has been especially evident in the last three years, when the company opened an office in Europe, acquired additional companies overseas and developed new partnerships with international firms. Despite the persistent economic downturn in Europe, company Founder and President Bruce Carlson said sales have grown. He said 2012 was a record year, and 2013 is expected to exceed that.
“We’ve staffed our European offices with very dynamic individuals who are making a difference over there,” he said. “We’ve built even more relationships with the independent hardware manufacturers of the world, particularly in the area of GNSS. We’ve built relationships with Navcom, Satlab, Hemisphere, and the list goes on. … This is an international marketplace.”
Carlson said international growth has been fueled by the company’s machine control and data collection divisions. The company has found recent success bundling its popular SurvCE and SurvPC data collection software with its own hardware, such as its Supervisor+ GPS (also called the SuperG) tablet, the Surveyor+ GNSS handheld system, CR2 and CR5 robotic total stations, and its handheld computers, the CarlsonMINI and Qmini.
Its SurvPC data collection software partnerships with Esri and Bentley are also expected to help the company grow.
Becoming involved in the hardware business – particularly the tablets and handhelds – has been a natural progression, Carlson said. Surveyors are increasingly relying on bundled solutions in the field. About 50 percent of its SurvCE software sales in the United States have been bundled with its hardware, so that has proven to be a successful strategy.
“Some of the manufacturers … block third-party access to their equipment,” Carlson said. “To counter that, it’s important for us to have our own hardware as a fall-back position. It’s just so logical. If we’re going to get blocked, we’ve got to fight back with our own hardware.”
The Maysville, Ky.-based company has several software initiatives and new products coming in the next few months. During the conference, Carlson announced that SurvCE 3.0, with “hundreds” of additions and improvements, will be released on April 15. The upgrade for existing customers will cost $150. In May, its GIS 360 software will be available on Android phones.
The Carlson 2014 office software suite is expected to be released in June. It will include a 3D viewer with surface transparency, extruded hoops ore and construction tunnel modeling and ore body modeling. During his welcome speech at the conference on April 8, Carlson said the company is moving into ore to cover all aspects of mining.
“We have such a complete project cycle range of software, that with our greater international presence, we can respond to opportunities where they occur internationally or in particular market sectors,” Carlson said during an exclusive interview with POB from his hotel suite. “For a midsized company, our diversity is one of our major strengths.”
Carlson also said that he anticipates sales of equipment and software to ramp up as the U.S. housing market slowly improves.
Thirty years after writing code for the company’s first software, Carlson remains committed to improving it—a commitment that was evident as he demonstrated some of the company’s latest software innovations.
“The changes are accelerating, so we have to go even faster now,” he said. “I think the whole market is realizing that software is driving everything at this point. Hardware is moving to commodity-level, so … software is the engine for growth.”