For three days in October, Essen, Germany, served as the center of the world—or at least, the center of how the geospatial community looks at the world.
From Oct. 8-10, the city in the Ruhr area of western Germany hosted Intergeo, one of the premier conferences for geodesy, geoinformation and land management. With a history dating back to the eighth century and roots in industry and religion, Essen focused its attention on the geospatial world—for a few days at least.
What did it show?
Plenty. From GIS to surveying, from unmanned aircraft systems to total stations, from mighty manufacturers to smart startups, Intergeo offered a glimpse at the innovations of today and the promise of tomorrow.
Karl-Friedrich Thöne, the president of the German Society for Geodesy, Geoinformation and Land Management (DVW), noted that this year’s attendees were younger and reflected a more international flavor. While Thöne thought those characteristics were good signals for the geospatial community, he believed the forward-thinking applications on display at the conference were even more encouraging.
“This year’s Intergeo has boosted innovation throughout the value-added chain, from data right up to decision-making and expertise,” said Karl-Friedrich Thöne, the president of the German Society for Geodesy, Geoinformation and Land Management (DVW). “Ultra-innovative geoinformation applications have been at the very forefront. The know-how of geodesists who are breaking new ground and developing solutions is also helping to expand on the approaches needed to drive forward the energy revolution.”
In addition to the energy usage, Intergeo also focused on other social issues such as climate change, urban renewal and demographics. While the conference showcased new products, the applications of these products in those realms also shared the stage.
“It’s really moving from data into decisions,” said Erik Arvesen, the vice president of Trimble’s Geospatial Division. “These decisions are being made in certain vertical markets in certain industries (including energy, mining and civil infrastructure).”
Products as a means to an end, as a way to solve problems, have caught the eye of many in the geospatial community, including the leaders of big manufacturers.
“I think we also need to think about applications,” said Jurgen Dold, the president and CEO of Leica Geosystems. “Because in the end it only counts if we can answer the questions of the populations fast, if you can manage the market trends of the world fast.”
Speed seems to drive the proliferation of UAS in the geospatial community, and Intergeo 2013 reflected that trend. Some attendees marveled at the number of UAS on display at the conference with companies such as SenseFly, Trimble and many more showcasing the latest in unmanned aircraft technology.
“One of the most noticeable differences this year was the prominence of UAS,” said Bob Morris, the principal of GeoLearn. “The number of players along with their integration, service and software partners has grown rapidly and the ‘buzz’ around this would lead you to believe that this relatively new technology (for this industry) was much further along than it really is.”
Still, Intergeo signaled that the growth of UAS is undeniable. And while the exact impact of UAS remains to be seen, the potential could be limitless.
“The number of applications suitable for UAS is growing rapidly,” Morris said. “Once air restrictions are eased and workable regulations are established for the use of UAS, particularly in the United States, deployment of UAS will likely flourish. The economic and logistical benefits for targeted applications will be a tremendous driver for the continued advancement of UAS. This will result in more frequent data collection and continued growth in the sheer amounts of data available for exploitation. As with GPS, the breadth of applications will only be known once people can truly be hands-on innovators. So far, most of that innovation is mostly conceptual.”
Of course, there were many other products featured at Intergeo. Leica, which unveiled the Nova MS50 MultiStation at HxGN Live in June, showcased it at Essen. Trimble had no fewer than seven new product releases, including the Trimble V10 Imaging Rover, an integrated camera system that captures 360-degree digital panoramic images for visual documentation and measurement. Similarly, Topcon unveiled several new products. The company’s new Hybrid Positioning technology allows surveying and geospatial professionals to simultaneously connect to GNSS signals and standard robotic measurements on a single rover pole.
Laser scanners also featured prominently at Intergeo. Faro took the wraps off its Focus 3D X 330, Pentax displayed its S-3180V and Topcon and Trimble also touted their latest scanners. Hemisphere displayed its latest rugged handheld devices, including the GeoMapper 300 and GeoMapper 500, and Juniper Systems displayed its latest rugged handheld, the Archer 2.
Software solutions, such as the Carlson SurveyGNSS, also were featured, as were many other products by many manufacturers. In all, more than 500 companies—from Javad to Leica, from Trimble to Topcon—displayed their products to approximately 16,000 attendees.
“Perhaps one of the easiest areas to have overlooked if you weren’t paying close attention and spending time with various exhibitors was the growing number of innovative solutions represented by companies focusing on serious hardware and software integration,” Morris said.
Intergeo 2013 offered some clues for the future of the geospatial community. Though it was not alone, unmanned aircraft technology stood out at the trade conference. Its prominence suggested that geospatial professionals need to prepare for a future with a larger role for UAS.
“Clearly, Intergeo revealed the growing interest in UAS and the advantages it will bring to the geospatial community in numerous applications,” Morris said. “As we have seen with the introduction of any new technology used broadly in the industry, there will need to be a concerted effort by future applicators to develop their understanding of how to appropriately apply UAS in their operations and to secure the proper level of training for successful deployment when use becomes less restricted. Additionally, the industry will need to diligently manage requirements and expectations at the regulatory level to ensure the ability to field these solutions with the necessary levels of flexibility, safety and economic viability.
“More specifically, the use of UAS presents opportunities for surveyors and other geospatial professionals,” Morris added. “To leverage them however, these practitioners will need to significantly step up their understanding of photogrammetry, particularly close-range photogrammetry, geodesy, control surveys and data analysis.”
Whatever happens, everyone—from geospatial professionals to laymen—will have to get on the same page—or at least the same webpage. Gerd Buziek, the director of communications for Esri Germany Group, said that as more and more people are online and connecting to the Internet through smart phones, future generations will have to be connected to GIS. Buziek even envisions a future that “will have a Facebook of maps.”
Applications will continue to take center stage. Many of the products are capturing data more quickly, accurately and efficiently. The important part is taking the data and making the most of it.
As Trimble’s Arvesen said: “The process is being transformed. It’s not just about what is that position or what is that data, but how do we move from that data ultimately to the decision. How can we transform the decision-making and the actions, so that we can become more efficient, etc.?”