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“The consumer market will drive the adoption of the technology”

Feb 2006 | No Comment

Says Clement Woon, President of Geosystems Division, Leica while explaining the technological
trends in GPS applications

What is the situation at Leica Geosystems Division?

Hexagon AB, a Swedish publicly listed company, acquired Leica
Geosystems AG in October 2005. Since then we have been organized
into three divisions; namely the Geosystems Division, the Measuring
Tools Division and the Geospatial Imaging Division. We are now part
of a larger global group focusing on measurement technologies. Hexagon’s
measurement technologies group aims to be the world leader in all its
business segments. Leica Geosystems will keep its strong brand image
and its culture within the multibrand framework of Hexagon’s
measurement technologies group.

What is the focus of Geosystems Division?

As the name implies, we aim to be the leading provider of
solutions that enable our customers to improve their productivity
in an increasingly competitive environment, by capturing, analysing
and presenting information for a wide range of application areas.
This translates as state of the art integrated terrestrial and airborne
solutions for our customers.

What are the key areas where your division offers solutions?

The Geosystems Division focuses on three core areas. Our Surveying
& GIS area provides solutions to the surveying, cadastral, civil & structural
engineering, spatial informatics and asset management application areas.
This area comprises the largest of the Division’s business areas.
Secondly, the Infrastructure& Engineering area serves the
requirements of larger infrastructure projects, which have to be integrated
as end-to-end solutions. Many of these projects will involve
signifi cant developmental work with customers to ensure system
reliability and interoperability. This business area includes monitoring
and deformation analysis of buildings and dams, construction solutions,
mining and exploration solutions. Two examples of this are the
monitoring of what will become the tallest building in the world,
the Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and the signing of an
agreement with the Dawson Mine in Australia to provide an integrated
mining management system. Our Imaging & Scanning area
provides solutions to enable mass data capture. Airborne and terrestrial
digital scanners represent a quantum leap in the ease of collecting and
managing large datasets. We enable the migration from analogue to digital
capture solutions thus facilitating a quantum leap in productivity, by
improving processing workflow from capture to deliverables.

While launching a new product, what are the main
factors you keep in mind?

The ability to spot and develop emerging technologies for our industry
has been our heritage. Understanding better our market needs, having
a close watch on how technology develops and working with customers
in our development process, has brought this about. This interactive
engagement with the supplier and user market has enabled us to be
at the forefront of the industry.Many of our customers share the
same passion as us to continuously innovate to transform our industry.
They trust us to stay committed to productive new technology and to
ensure reliability, quality and precision in our solutions, so meeting end
user’s requirements. Once a Leica Geosystems’ solution is in place
it can be trusted to perform again and again to the highest standards,
allowing our partners to concentrate on other aspects of their business.

How do you see the technological trends in GPS applications?

GPS, or rather GNSS technologies, will enable ubiquitous positioning.
It will play a major role as position information becomes more and
more important in our daily life. The discussion on Galileo has given rise to
new interest in improving the GNSS infrastructure. We have seen efforts to
improve the GPS constellation with L2C and L5 signals, the re-populationof the GLONASS constellation with
improved satellites that will last longer, and of course the various
efforts of Galileo in Europe to search for more applications in anticipation
of the launch of the new constellation. In my opinion, the consumer
market will drive the widespread adoption of this technology while
our industry will drive the precision applications. GNSS technologies will
and must become easier to use. The technology was already relevant for
positioning to survey grade accuracy, machine automation, precise vehicle
navigation and so on. We expect that the adoption rate of this technology
in our industry will increase dramatically over the next few years.

What are your views on the developing world market? How it is different from
the developed world?

Our solutions are required for development. For example, without
a sound Cadastral system, we cannot assure the reliability of land
titles. Without it countries will find it impossible to encourage
sustainable investment towards the entrepreneurial use of land
to maximize economic benefi ts. In developing countries, there is
much to be done in infrastructure development to aid economic
growth, thereby improving the well being of citizens. In the
developed countries, the renewal of infrastructure to sustain living
standards is driving the development of our industry. Obviously the
level of sophistication in using these technologies is different
in the developed and developing nations. We are committed to offer
solutions that match the needs for each particular solution. We see
this as our contribution towards the betterment of human kind.

How comfortable are the developing nations with technologies like GPS
vis-à-vis the traditional methods of surveying?

Education is the key to adopt the new technologies. Users have to
understand the GNSS systems and the specifi c aspects that have to be
considered to get to survey grade accuracy. The tradition theodolite
and chains, and more recently the totalstation resolving position via
angles and electronic distance meters, are methods that are more or less
entrenched in the curriculum of future surveyors. GNSS technologies
have to become part of that curriculum in developing countries.
The faster the pace of economic development the faster will be
the adoption as productivity improvement becomes necessary to
optimise resource application. GNSS technology is a productivity enhancer
compared to traditional methods. Of course there are situations where
GNSS technologies will not replace traditional methods owing to the
limitation of the GNSS methods.

Do you see any learning pattern from the developed world in developing world
or there is a tendency to experiment and explore in local contexts?

There is a positive tendency to cooperate on a regional and
international level with regard to positioning technologies. India’s
recent agreement to join in the Galileo programme together with
a number of other non-European countries is a good example of this.
Whilst it is possible to develop excellent technology on a very
local level, either through choice or circumstance, the huge resources
needed today for international or global high technology product
development tend to lead to a relatively small number of providers
of positioning or measuring solutions. However, nations are
interested in GNSS technologies for security or economic reasons.
The returns on funding question will drive local ambition.

The cost of GPS is an issue in developing world. Please comment.

As resources are scarce, the return on an investment should be the main
driver of adoption. Cost should be seen in comparison with return on
investment. At Leica Geosystems we try to offer products at differing
levels of complexity that will match the needs even of developing nations.
We expect that the total costs of adoption will be much lower with
our solutions. Considering the life cycle cost of a technology, the cost
of product is perhaps the smallest part of the total costs. Our customers
understand this very well.

How do you see Galileo? Will it manage to break the existing US monopoly?

The Galileo programme will broaden the number of suppliers of GNSS
from 2 to 3. However the Galileo approach has been different from
its very inception. Whereas the US GPS system was originally intended
as a military system and is still controlled by the US Department
of Defense, Galileo was designed from the outset as a civilian
programme. It has been able to leverage the experiences of the US
GPS and the Russian GLONASS systems, both good and bad, to what
will be a more open, integrated commercial positioning system.
The rationale behind Galileo was strategic, commercial and economic.
Certainly reduced dependence on the US GPS system was a strategic
goal but more importantly the European system allows greater
commercialisation in terms of value adding activity and access to the
massive hardware and technology possibilities, and savings in transport
costs and other social benefi ts. I do not believe in the concept of
monopoly for GPS systems. Galileo will provide increasing reliability and
availability for GNSS technologies.

You are with Leica for almost 15 years now. To what extent is Leica responsive to
market needs and trends?

Leica Geosystems has an enviable record of ‘fi rst’s’ in our industry; fi rst
automated data logging electronic tacheometer (TC1), the fi rst GPS
system designed for surveyors (WM101), the fi rst total station to
combine automation and coaxial refl ectorless measuring (TCRA1101)
and most recently the fi rst truly integrated combined GPS and TPS
(Smartstation). The list goes on. We like to think ourselves as the
innovator of this industry. Other players observe us closely and try to
catch up with our innovation. True innovation has to be differentiated
from marketing initiatives. We are certainly proud of our achievements.
The technology is only one aspect of our innovation; more importantly
is the inclusion of the customer in our innovation process.
There is a perception that the focus of vendor is more
on selling than educating the customer. Comment. We are all responsible to develop
the market. Educating the market to use our technologies is a key to
adoption and acceptance. In my opinion, the industry tries its best
to increase the adoption of new technologies. However, vendor
companies have also a need to earn a “fair day’s wage” for their efforts.
Therefore both the customer and the vendor must believe in a relationship
that is mutually benefi cial.

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