With 600 employees and five R&D centres located in Germany, Trimble has established and maintained a strong commitment in the country for years. Juergen Kliem, the man behind Trimble’s German market, shares some insights on German geospatial industry and its future direction.
How is geospatial technology helping in growth development and projects in Germany?
Geospatial technology has evolved from being the science of measuring the earth – information on area and points – to being used for decision-making in more vertical industries and applications. Geospatial technology is going through a fundamental shift in the form of techniques, tools and how to apply them. A variety of high-Euro R&D investments are allowing for more effective and integrated workflows. Those developments and solutions are ranging from modern GNSS and servo-driven total stations to mobile multi-sensor measurement techniques as well as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and innovative photogrammetry solutions. There is also strong support from a variety of software developments allowing the integration of data (big data) for 3D visualisation, modelling and analysis for fact-based decision making.
As a result of this shift in technology, survey and geospatial applications are creating more complex data integration needs. Also a result of new technology adoption – data collection is occurring in a wide variety of ways – becoming more of a commodity. With modelling and analytical software tools available, data can be used for various processes, in a variety of projects. Real-time decision making, visualisation of security requirements and projects are just few of the new needs being addressed. In projects focused on building highways and other critical infrastructure, geospatial technology has revolutionised workflows, and has increased its acceptance and deployment dramatically. The traditional workflow has been modified to incorporate data integration with 3D models, and has resulted in transitioning construction machinery into greater intelligent-measuring sensors, which are connected to each other. This technology is being used now in most of the major projects in Germany.
Which are the main project areas that utilise geospatial technology?
Vertical building activities today are making use of the technology in a much broader and concentrated way. Using intelligent 3D models to plan, fabricate and build are accepted as a standard procedure. This allows simplified workflows, increasing real-time communication and avoids errors and rebuilds.
In the agricultural world, geospatial technology is now assisting the farmer—with technology such as Trimble’s Connected Farm™ solutions, which are enabling more efficiency and productive farm management. This combined with other sensor intelligence can increasingly improve the profitability of the farmer and real-time decision making.
In transportation and logistics, geospatial technology is the underlying system for the asset management and location of trucks and other vehicles; as well as valuable items identified for tracking. This coupled with intelligence around the application helps to modernise a variety of workflows and applications, while fulfilling critical customer’s needs.
In addition, there are many more projects in which geospatial technology is helping to perform required tasks – such as railway maintenance, deploying “windmills” for energy generation on land and offshore, and others.
How would you compare Germany to rest of Europe in terms of penetration of geospatial technology in workflows and nation building approaches?
In general, the adoption of new technologies in Germany is advanced. Integration of databases to simplify customer’s access is creating this baseline. For example, the construction industry has advanced to a high level and standard with the use and acceptance of geospatial technology. Specially in the construction segment serving building and maintaining roads, bridges and tunnels as well as sizable infrastructure projects. In the vertical segment, with more concentration and focus on Building Information Modelling (BIM), and the design, build and operate focus, the implementation is at the forefront and being adopted in step functions.
Having said this, there are areas where the implementation of this technology is at the forefront, but we can see different customer segments and industries together with government institutions trying to achieve a wider deployment. Some examples include:
- The INSPIRE Geoportal has a European basis aiming to promote and enhance access to European spatial data
- In Northern Europe and UK, BIM has reached already a leading position for project-based approval processes
- Synchronisation and data exchange in the cadastral and GIS sector in Germany (AAA) has been implemented
Do you think the government policies have been encouraging towards the use of GIS and geospatial technologies?
Geospatial technology is continuing to serve horizontal applications while being more integrated in verticals due to the understanding and support of governing organisations and other associations. Another big supporting factor is new technology development and implementation, such as the introduction and operation of Virtual Reference Station (VRS) networks that makes geospatial data available with high quality and transparency.
There is also a better understanding about how geospatial technology could be used to increase efficiency, avoid rework and reduce project costs as well as increase the numbers of educational programs for students to specialise in geospatial industry.
Is there adequate data sharing for the larger geospatial industry to function? If not, what is the way forward, which barriers that you see?
In order to support the trend it will be necessary to have stronger alignment and options for data sharing and exchange. At Trimble, we have introduced a variety of ways to assist this need. The features and options range from API’s, customer agreements and arrangements, using open source and offering platforms that able to handle a variety of data formats, structures and sharing options.
How do you see Trimble solutions contributing to the dynamic of this market?
There are a variety of approaches that Trimble has taken to assist our customers and the industry going through this change process. Our technology philosophy is designed to embrace complexity inside the technology space, the solution space and also the deployment. Our teams are also applying deep mathematical, science and physics expertise to generate advantages for our customers and their projects. Developing for global multi-local markets is a chosen approach, combined with open and flexible data structure. The following graphic visualises the situation:
Which are the major projects Trimble is involved in?
The energy and high-voltage transmission line development is a very sizable market segment. The spending into a variety of energy generation alternatives offers a growth potential to our customers as well as requires the usage of geospatial technologies. Data acquisition, corridor assessment, public planning presentation for decision making and the rerouting and planning efforts are only some examples.
With our distribution partners, we are involved in a variety of projects in the mentioned sectors and businesses. Combining our technology advantages with high-level domain knowledge in different areas is providing a unique capability to Trimble and we therefore in the position to enhance the processes, workflows and financial situation of our customers. The data modelling and analysis factor, in order to use the data for better and real time decision making, has become a big component in our offering.
At the same time, we’re continuously exploring broader user-basis for positioning solutions in known industries as well as in new ones such as our emerging segments.
Which are your key products or solutions for the German market?
With about 600 employees in Germany in a variety of functions, we have localised our solution offering in all major segments we serve and a variety of special applications for the rail, utility and engineering sector. The product offering is consistent with our strategy to offer complete solutions from field-to-finish based on customer and market requirements. Those include all of our hardware, the majority of our software solutions and a broad range of wireless communications in order to achieve real-time results. Focusing on modelling and analytical needs is a component of the above.
About 30 percent of the 600 people are working in our R&D centres in München, Braunschweig, Stuttgart, Jena and Bonn. The remaining resources are focused on our sales support and training activities. This combined with our distribution channel, reflects a strong combination to complete our technical and solution offering.
Do you get adequate skilled manpower resources in Germany?
Hiring adequate skilled labour in Germany has evolved to a challenge currently. While our brand recognition still helps to attract the high-level talent needed, we see a shortage in certain areas such as surveying and geospatial professionals, IT specialists and software developers.
What are the challenges that you face in this market?
The biggest challenge from my point of view reflects the technology adaption speed and helping the industry and our customers to stay current with the fast changing environment. This coupled with the data integration needs and to deploy more and more data intelligent solutions are reflecting the main points.
How do you see German geospatial market evolving in the next 5-10 years?
With a fast change in technology there will be a much broader offering in data collection and data intelligence. Those trends will change some traditional markets; while at the same time will open up opportunities for new approaches and to serve different upcoming needs in the industry.
The surveying professional will become a data manager and specialist with domain knowledge not only in the geospatial field, but with adjacent knowledge in important applications. The close cooperation with universities, winning young people for this exciting industry and providing them the education for the changing needs will present a very interesting task.
Importance will be given not only in the hardware-enhanced technology tools, but also the communication and software platforms with multiple functionalities that will be a very important driver to the growth of geospatial industry in the country.
What are your future plans for Germany?
We will continue to build on our strong market relationships with our customers, the industry, associations and universities to deliver practical and high-level impactful solutions. Building relationship with our local distribution partners and a variety of other leading organisations are important to us.
At the same time we will continue to strengthen our development capabilities in Germany and Europe in general to ensure that our solutions meet the critical needs and requirements. Our focus will be to continue to bring powerful solutions to the geospatial market based on our strong industry knowledge and technology investment.