Editor's Corner: InterGeo 2004

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We recently attended InterGeo in Stuttgart, Germany. Together with nearly 16,500 attendees and more than 470 exhibitors it was the world’s largest conference and trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation, and land management. More than 9,800 square meters of exhibition space was spread throughout five large halls. Twenty percent of the exhibitors came from countries outside Germany, and 13 percent of the attendees were non-German, a testament to the conference’s global reach.

An Interview With Leica
It was our pleasure to attend a press conference hosted by Leica Geosystems. Hans Hess, Leica CEO, began his presentation with a simple slide:

What is where
Where is what
What was when

These three topics are the core of Leica’s approach, building on the traditional 3D world and adding a fourth dimension, time. According to Hess, the key focus areas for Leica include new products and profitability; expansion in attractive vertical markets; innovation; global service and supply; and global partnerships. The last will include key customers who have shown the ability to successfully implement Leica’s technology. Hess announced that not only is Leica profitable, it is plowing 10 percent of its revenues into R&D. He also mentioned a recent third-party survey that showed Leica tops among its competitors in customer loyalty and appreciation.
Clement Woon, President of Surveying and Engineering, discussed Leica’s focus and investment in machine automation. "Not only does our innovation follow the trends in surveying, our rate of innovation is accelerating," he said. On display was Leica’s new affordable electronic level, the Sprinter. I was told that the cost will be less than 700 euros, which should make the price in the U.S. well below one thousand dollars. Also mentioned was Leica’s push toward ever-faster and lower-cost data collection devices.

Erwin Frei, CEO of Leica HDS, commented that laser scanning is now a mature solution by referencing the big jump in orders and shipments: from 45 in the first two quarters of Leica’s FY2004, to 140 in the same quarters of FY2005. Hess made a fascinating presentation about the little-known Leica Metrology division and showed the new handheld T-Probe. This sensor-laden device can be carried around a room, and not only is its XYZ position known, but also the device’s pitch, roll and yaw. Another device, the T-Scan walk around scanner was shown. Although not available until next year, this exciting device opens up all kinds of possibilities. For now, its use is restricted to indoors for such industries as automobile manufacturing, but I can foresee a day when a handheld scanner is just another tool for surveyors, crime scene investigators, or real estate professionals. The developments taking place in the metrology division are a good example of how Leica is leveraging the R&D efforts of one area into other areas.

Bob Morris, President, GIS & Mapping, discussed Leica’s Geospatial Imaging Chain and said that the innovation focus in the Mapping and GIS division is toward real-time or near realtime delivery of aerial data. A Leica customer, EarthData, has developed a system called ARIES that is providing this type of data for use in disasters and homeland security. (Read more about this fascinating application in a web-exclusive article on our amerisurv.com website.) Morris also demonstrated a new capability with Leica’s lidar sensor technology: topography with or without vegetation.

The overriding theme of the press conference demonstrated that it’s not about GIS, or surveying, or positioning: it’s about geospatial. And Leica has all the bases covered through key acquisitions and emphasis on capturing, referencing, measuring, analyzing and presenting.

An Interview with Optech

In a wide-ranging discussion with Brent Gelhar, Director of Optech’s Laser Imaging Division, we learned not only about Optech’s newest products, but also a bit about its technology and approach to the market. Its newest product, the ILRIS 36D 360º laser scanner, is the result of discussions Optech had with users throughout the industry. Optech examined typical workflows and decided that most scanning is done in discrete windows in front of the scanner. Uses for larger windows, for example, would be on the edge of an open pit mine, where the scanner needs to cover a larger vertical area. The solution they came up with is a modular scan base that can easily be installed for 360º applications. The scan base allows the user to scan from -20º to +90º in one configuration. By reversing the configuration, the user can scan from +20º to -90º. The maximum range of the scanner is 1.5km. The new scanner contains a 6 megapixel camera for capturing video and still images in conjunction with the scans. Another benefit of the camera is that the user can zoom in and scan an area of interest at much higher resolution.

Gelhar discussed the problems inherent in total 3D scanning by remarking that scans capture 2½D information. That is, until the backside of an object is scanned, the user doesn’t know what’s going on back there. He also discussed Optech’s scanner technology and said that their scanners now scan at 20 micro radians per step, while their closest competitor scans at 176 micro radians per step. The benefit to the user is closer shot spacing at range. Because electro mechanics always have inherent errors, and a constantly moving scan head compounds these errors, Optech has developed a "stop and stare" method of scanning. Unlike other manufacturers, Optech uses a side-to-side method of scanning as opposed to an up-and-down motion. To perform a 360º scan, the new scanner captures ten 40º windows to provide overlap between scans. Gelhar claims that Optech has the longest dynamic range in the market, but that typical scans are from 3 to 400 meters. He remarked that Optech, unlike other manufacturers, delivers raw, unfiltered data. He stressed that Optech has been in the business for 30 years and has a proven track record in all aspects of terrestrial and airborne scanning. We discussed the concerns about eye-safe lasers, and Gelhar said that Optech’s invisible laser beam is the best approach.

Thank You
We would like to extend a special thank-you to all of you who have helped to make this first year of The American Surveyor a great success, and we look forward to serving you in the years ahead. May the blessings of health, peace and prosperity be yours in 2005.

Marc Cheves is editor of the magazine.

A 1.060Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE


About the Author

Marc Cheves, PS

Marc Cheves is editor emeritus of the magazine. He has been a surveyor since 1963 and is licensed in five states. Since 1995 he has been a surveying magazine editor.