Fifth annual conference highlights success of High-Definition Surveying.

Leica Geosystems’ HDS division hosted its 5th annual Worldwide User Conference at its headquarters in San Ramon, Calif., from October 22–24. More than 200 HDS customers representing 17 countries joined almost 80 Leica Geosystems staff for the three-day event. The event focused on fueling the success and growth of HDS users by bringing them together to share scanning experiences and resources.

“Our goal is to bring people together so they can learn from each other,” said Juergen Dold, Leica’s head of scanning and aerial sensors. “It’s also important to get a global view of high-definition scanning so we can drive the business through innovation and technology.”

Scanning Tutorials

More than two and a half days of 25-minute presentations by HDS users and Leica Geosystems experts from around the globe formed the backbone of the conference. Many sessions were of general interest (including “Confessions of a New Survey HDS User” and “Using the ScanStation Successfully for Everyday Land Development Surveying”), while others focused on specific applications, products or markets (such as “Trends in Phased-based Scanning for Global Oil and Gas Clients,” “HDS for Forensic Simulations” and “California Highway Patrol’s Experience with ScanStations for Mobile Accident Investigation”). A separate Plant Track was added to this year’s schedule due to a strong upsurge in plant activity partly driven by the 2006 release of the Leica HDS6000 scanner. Each presentation was followed by a five-minute question and answer session.

Ryan Fusiler of C.H. Fenstermaker in Louisiana presented on his firm’s use of Leica’s ScanStation for a topographic survey when mapping the waterfront in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Fusiler described how his firm used the ScanStation to survey from control points and then create 2D maps with office workflows. (For more on C.H. Fenstermaker’s experiences surveying post-Katrina, read “Scanning the Levees” from POB’s August 2007 issue.)

In another session titled “Variety Spells HDS Success,” Steve Phillips of ESM Consulting Engineers LLC in Washington described how the land surveying division of the firm has succeeded using its HDS3000 and ScanStation scanners, and Cyclone, Cloudworx and TrueView software applications. Phillips, the firm’s laser scanning manager, stressed that laser scanning has redefined surveying for his 140-person firm. “Laser scanning has diversified our business,” he said. “With scanning, we can cover two thousand feet a day as opposed to eight hundred feet a day with conventional surveying [equipment].” Phillips also noted that since his firm added a scanner to its inventory, it has broadened its service offerings to include surveying in high-traffic intersections and merging aerial LiDAR data with HDS in Cyclone for proposed plan development.

Several sessions focused on Leica’s newest products, including its recently released fifth-generation scanner, the ScanStation 2, as well as its free software application, Leica TrueView, used for viewing and measuring rich, laser scan point clouds. Carlos Valasquez of EpicScan Ltd. in Medford, Ore., completed the initial beta testing for the ScanStation 2 and presented attendees with a direct field comparison with its predecessor, the ScanStation. Bill Campbell, supervisor of General Motors’ Global Layout Group in Detroit, discussed GM’s success using scanning and Leica TrueView on assembly plant projects. Campbell described TrueView as a “user-friendly navigation” with instant online access. “The demand for TrueView is huge,” he said. “I also use it as a marketing tool. GM is now pushing to use it globally.”

In addition to covering the latest products and applications in the civil markets, presentations also highlighted several new scanning areas, including shipbuilding, civil transportation and forensics, among others. A common theme underlying the presentations was to bring professionals together to learn from each other. “It’s beneficial to talk with different industry professionals, learn about what they’re doing differently with their scanning and apply it to my own work,” said one Tennessee surveyor and HDS user.

An Open Forum

At the beginning of the conference, Dold noted that the terrestrial laser scanning market has rapidly grown in the last four years. Dold discussed the importance of continuing to drive the scanning market into the future with innovation and by making scanners more efficient. To this end and in addition to the presentations, attendees had ample opportunities to review Leica’s portfolio of products. Between sessions, a steady stream of attendees crowded the “Leica HDS Experts” booth to discuss topics specific to their organizations and to view demonstrations of the latest HDS scanners and software in a direct, one-on-one environment.

Attendees also participated in several discussion panels on topics such as using HDS to expand into new business areas and spreading HDS within organizations. Industry professionals and long-time Leica HDS users on the panels reiterated that to succeed with HDS, it is important to dedicate personnel to the application, keep up-to-date with the technology and integrate HDS into everyday workflows.

One particular Leica-moderated session offered users an opportunity to voice their concerns and recommendations to improve Leica’s HDS hardware, software and service offerings. The closed-door session was open only to HDS customers and was attended by Leica HDS engineering, manufacturing and service-in-support staff. According to Dold, this popular session was successful and provided an environment for Leica personnel and customers to actively communicate. “Interestingly, there were only a few requirements for our support group,” Dold said. “[This session] was important for us to confirm our current strategy. At the end, the session proved that we are close to our customers because there were no surprises.”

A Growing Technology

The myriad presentations, discussion panels and networking events at this year’s conference underscored the growing demand for HDS scanners and software. “The technology is in the midst of very rapid growth and adoption, which should continue for many years,” said Geoff Jacobs, senior vice president, strategic marketing for Leica Geosystems HDS and conference moderator. “Many have called it ‘the next GPS’ as far as being the next major technology innovation for surveying that eventually all surveying departments will have. Laser scanning offers a host of added-value benefits for surveyors and their clients. In a profession that constantly worries and struggles over getting appropriate value for its services, the added-value aspects of scanning are invaluable. They help surveyors secure the value for their services that they deserve.”

Dold concluded the three-day event by inviting everyone to attend next year’s user conference. Due to the continued growth of the conference and interest expressed by other groups within Leica Geosystems, Leica staff is looking to leverage the HDS conference further in future years. “We are looking at venues and dates that can handle an increase in size and scope,” Jacobs remarked.

San Ramon remains as a candidate for the 2008 conference location, but details have not yet been finalized. Stay tuned toPOBfor updates on the 2008 Leica Geosystems HDS Worldwide User Conference.

Special reporting byPOB’s Associate Editor Regan Grant.