More than 2,400 people from 67 countries attended the Trimble Dimensions 2009 International User Conference in Las Vegas Feb. 23-25. Despite the challenging economy, attendance was on par with the previous conference in 2007 as forward-thinking surveying, engineering, construction, mapping, GIS, geospatial and mobile resource management professionals sought ideas on how they can harness the power of today’s technology to help face tomorrow’s challenges.
Key Words for Current TimesIn his keynote address, Steven W. Berglund, Trimble president and CEO, focused on vision. He said that “maintaining vision in bad times is good for business.” However, he noted that focusing on vision is challenging when so many companies are just trying to make it through each day intact. According to Berglund, how a company reacts to the current situation is critical. Some firms have hunkered down waiting for the situation to change. Others are deferring difficult decisions until they have a better idea of what the future will bring. Still others are pursuing vision but with a more cautious approach. And then there is a fourth group that is attacking the situation head-on by aggressively implementing change within their organizations. “Corporate icons are created during periods of adversity,” Berglund pointed out.
He noted that Trimble’s Connected Site concept is one way that some companies are embracing change. By allowing information to be moved to wherever it is needed whenever it is needed, the Connected Site streamlines processes and offers a competitive advantage. Berglund said that Trimble continues to invest in improving reliability and in tools for accessing and using information. According to Berglund, “Technology-driven change is inevitable.”
He commented that while his keynote address in 2007 was about celebrating change, this year’s address had a different focus. “Relentless, commitment, vision, transformation, technology-these are the key words for current times,” he said.
Berglund’s presentation was followed by New York Times and BusinessWeek best-selling author Dr. Robert Kriegel, who urged the audience to “play to win-don’t play not to lose.” He said that firms should use technology to streamline their operations and should rethink their business. “If you want to win in today’s game, you can’t keep playing by yesterday’s rules,” he said. He noted that true leaders are proactive, not reactive-they’re always challenging the status quo and looking for bold, innovative opportunities. He pointed out that the general attitude in times like these is to work harder and faster. However, this approach hinders communication, increases the risk of mistakes and prevents the development of new ideas. “You have to step back from the action,” Kriegel said. He encouraged attendees to go on a “sacred cow hunt” (an idea he elaborates on in his book, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers). “Most companies are trying to do things faster and cheaper that shouldn’t be done at all,” he said.
Kriegel noted that change is uncomfortable but necessary. He urged the audience to try one different thing every week to spark new ideas and avoid doing things out of habit. “You should always feel a little anxious and a little uncomfortable because that’s a sign that you’re trying something new,” he said. He pointed out that passion is crucial: “The key to winning is you have to stoke the fires and not soak them.”
Ideas and InspirationTrack presentations at the conference were designed to do just that-ignite ideas by covering the latest advances in technology and processes for surveying, infrastructure, mapping and GIS, mobile mapping, construction, mobile resource management and utilities field solutions. For example, Dr. Juerg Leckebusch from Terra International Surveys Ltd. (Zurich, Switzerland) presented information on 3D positioning technology for ground penetrating radar (GPR), also known as georadar. He noted that using proper positioning with a tracking total station or RTK GPS system helps ensure accuracy and enables digital terrain models to be recorded at the same time as the GPR measurements. Leckebusch noted that the technology can reduce surveying time by as much as one day and can solve problems of latency due to elevation or terrain. It can be used to map ground compaction, tree roots and mole damage, and it can also correct for roll, pitch and yaw for applications such as a utility location under a steeply sloped street. According to Leckebusch, modern 3D positioning technology will open a range of applications for GPR.
In the mobile mapping track, Tobias Toelg from Trimble GeoSpatial (RolleiMetric) presented an overview of Trimble’s aerial camera technology, including a new oblique system that features three moveable cameras on one device. The technology allows users to capture oblique images in all four directions simultaneously, and each camera can be adjusted to optimize data capture, particularly in applications such as 3D corridor mapping. Dr. Andrea Hoffman of TerraImaging (headquartered in Utrecht, Netherlands) explained how the firm uses the oblique technology as an efficient and economic way of mapping, even for complicated requirements. “An image says more than 1,000 points,” she noted.
A session presented by Trimble’s Mel Philbrook focused on a new service called Trimble Assistant, which provides instant access to client support, system diagnostics, automatic push and pull of data, a mini customer relationship management (CRM) tool and video capture of support and training sessions. According to Dave Olander of Caltrans District 2, the California Department of Transportation saw a 20 to 25 percent reduction in required field crew support time and an overall improvement in productivity as a result of this service.
In a track on utilities field solutions, Howard Crothers and Mike Miller of ESRI provided an overview of how ArcGIS can provide an easy and intuitive way to map utilities. It can replace paper maps and can be used on Windows mobile devices or tablet PCs to enable instant updates to a main geodatabase and a constant flow of information to and from the field. A related presentation by Eric Bergh of the Calleguas Municipal Water District (CMWD) in Southern California explained how the district is leveraging ESRI’s ArcGIS Server technology to improve treatment plant service and maintenance efficiencies.
In the construction track, an interesting session by David Pinaire, productivity solutions manager for Caterpillar Inc., demonstrated how advanced technology is changing construction site management and productivity. He provided a side-by-side comparison of a project using conventional grading technologies and another project using the AccuGrade Grade Control System with GPS machine control. The conventional project was completed in three days and was 45 percent on grade after compaction, while the AccuGrade project took just 1.5 days and was 98 percent on grade after compaction. (Pinaire noted that it was just a jobsite anomaly that prevented the on-grade figure from being 100 percent.) Machine control also increased machine utilization and provided a 43 percent fuel savings for an overall more efficient use of assets. “If you know what your costs are, you can make money,” Pinaire noted.
Pinaire’s presentation also highlighted the changing role of surveyors in construction as machine control virtually eliminates the need for survey stakes. Pinaire said that he sees data conversion as a huge opportunity for surveyors in the future. “Everyone involved will need to reinvent themselves,” he said.
Hands-On DemonstrationIndoor and outdoor pavilions gave attendees a chance to test some of the latest equipment capabilities for themselves. Trimble debuted a number of new products at the event, including the R8 GNSS System and the Tablet Rugged PC, a new version of its Trident-3D data capture software and analyst software 4.4 for mobile mapping applications, and its VRS3NET software.
In all, it was an inspiring conference that is sure to lead to new opportunities and applications. “We are extremely pleased with the strong interest demonstrated in Trimble Dimensions,” said Bryn Fosburgh, Trimble vice president. “It is truly a unique conference focused on how advanced technology solutions are transforming the way work is done.”
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