Editorial: Intergeo 2009

A 182Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

We recently attended Intergeo in Karlsruhe, Germany. Billed as the world’s most important surveying congress, this year’s show attracted more than 16,000 attendees–22 percent from outside Germany–and 475 exhibitors. For years, we’ve heard how nice it would be if we had a large show here in the U.S., but in addition to the fact that in Germany, as in Canada, membership in the provincial surveying society is mandatory, in comparison we’re dealing with an extreme economy of scale. Germany is the size of Colorado, but with a population of 82 million. If all the surveyors in the U.S. lived in an area the size of one state, most would likely attend such a show. As it is, travel time and expenses often impel U.S. surveyors–to the detriment of the national ACSM show–to support their state shows. Nevertheless, the Intergeo conference is always a stimulating show and a great place to connect with our long-time friends and supporters in the industry. This year’s show lived up to those expectations.

New Friends and Old
Following Intergeo, we drove southeast to Munich to interview Definiens, one of the top three companies that produce software to enable image segmentation and classification, more commonly known as automatic feature extraction. Definiens began as a research institute in 1994 by Dr. Gerd Binnig, a Nobel Prize winner in physics for co-inventing the scanning tunneling microscope, which can form an image of individual atoms. We had the privilege of spending more than an hour with Dr. Binnig, and it was fascinating to listen as he explained how the company applies logic to extracting such things as houses and buildings from aerial imagery. From there, these objects can be used, for instance, to determine pervious versus impervious cover.

The backstory to our next visit began in 1996, when long-time industry veteran Tom Marshall (pictured) encouraged me to visit Kassel, Germany to write about Breithaupt, the world’s oldest instrument manufacturer. (The eighth generation of Breithaupts manages the company today, and it will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2012.) That visit yielded enough information for two separate articles when I was at a previous magazine.

For years Tom has been telling me about NEDO, a German manufacturer of surveying accessories, singing their praises, calling them the "BMW" of surveying accessories. And so thanks to Tom, who opened the door to NEDO, and to long-time industry veteran Dominick Auletto, who became NEDO’s Director of Sales for North America early this year, we left Munich and traveled to the Black Forest to visit the company.

We spent the day with the Fischer family–Frank, Walter and Thomas–who run the company today. A group of sprawling modern buildings now house the company which began in 1901. But here’s a fun fact: NEDO still manufactures its own wooden tripods from local ash trees of the Black Forest. But the forest of today didn’t always look so healthy, in fact, Frank told us that, 200 years ago it didn’t even exist. It had been clear cut for charcoal. Meticulous forest management has brought back and sustained the original species. And NEDO even derives 60-70 percent of its heat needs from the wood waste. There is much more to tell that our readers will find interesting, so look for a future article!

A 182Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE