Editorial: Takin' It to the Streets

A 90Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Over the past 20 years, we have journeyed many times to the Bay Area in California to visit magazine clients. What’s not to like about great weather and excellent food? So, it was with pleasure that we recently attended the launch of the 2014 Topcon Technology Roadshow in Livermore, the headquarters of Topcon Positioning Systems.

Topcon has been doing these roadshows for more than a decade, and has put on more than 300 events with around 20,000 attendees. But this roadshow–scheduled for 23 stops–will be different because the company has commissioned a customdesigned 18-wheeler, complete with a classroom and the latest technology Topcon offers. Jeff Winke has written a great recap of the event, which you can see on page 46.

While we were in Livermore, we took the opportunity of meeting with CEO Ray O’Connor. Our history with Ray goes way back and we have written about him many times, but it’s always refreshing because you can spend five minutes with this guy and walk away with vision, not only about the future of his company but also about technology and the future of surveying. He said globally, things are looking good for surveying with the adoption and growth of positioning technology in diversified areas.

He smiled as he recalled acquiring Advanced Grade Technology, the automated grade control company, in 1995. At the time, he fully expected all machines to be automated within five years. Here it is, 20 years later, and still, less than 20 percent are automated. There is plenty of room for growth, however, and plenty of opportunity for surveyors. When I mentioned that surveyors are worried about constantly eroding work, Ray asked a simple question: when cell phones became capable of providing accurate GPS-aided mapping, did Garmin and Magellan throw in the towel? Not hardly, they simply evolved by taking advantage of the greater demand for that type of technology. It’s the same with surveyors, there is a greater demand for their skills but it’s going to require an adjustment of the business model.

Ray mentioned that people still want to know if the stake has been positioned in the right place, and surveyors can provide this quality assurance. O’Connor finished by saying how proud he is of the innovation and determination that comes from employees in all areas of the company and the inspiration that comes from Topcon partners all over the globe.

Topcon has focused a tremendous amount of effort on tying all of its equipment together with software, and has a digital solution for everything, all based in the cloud, and all designed to make data much more accessible and easier to deal with. With 14 R&D centers and 1,200 employees spread around the world, and the 600 members of its global Educational Partnership Program, Topcon benefits from multiple approaches to problem solving. The number of employees in Livermore represents a doubling within the last five years, and the company anticipates another doubling in the next five.

I continue to be amazed at what modern positioning and measurement equipment is capable of. O’Connor mentioned something that all of us parents have encountered: knowing you’re right and trying to convince your kids that you know best. But some things just have to be experienced, even if it is frustrating for those of us who have been there already. Many customers don’t even realize they have a problem, but just like kids who have to be convinced with their own eyes, contractors who dip a toe in the automation water inevitably return for more because the ROI is not only huge, it’s very quick. Eduardo Falcon, who is in charge of Topcon’s emerging business unit, describes the company’s approach as a continuous representation of reality, and with all of Topcon’s hardware and software, it’s easy to see the future.

Marc Cheves is editor of the magazine.

A 90Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE