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GIS usage increases with each passing day

HansaLuftbild’s long standing plan of coming to India is finally materializing. How do you see your presence in the country?
Thomas Eckart
CEO, Hansa Luftbild

Q. HansaLuftbild’s long standing plan of coming to India is finally materializing. How do you see your presence in the country?

A. Certainly, we spent a lot of time in planning our India venture but now, we have made it and are very excited to be here. The delay in coming to India can be attributed to the opening of the developmental chain which allowed international vendors to participate in mapping, aerial surveys and other geoinformation related tasks. We, however, intended to come to India early. But, in 2005 a new map policy was announced. We took some time to adjust to the new policy and to prepare our company to take on the challenges. We formed a new company by the end of last year and finally got it registered in the summer of 2006. We already have two contracts, one by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the other by Survey of India. Previously we were not able to do aerial surveys, as it was a closed domain meant for the defense operations only. Also, the job used to be performed by the military due to security concerns. Collected data was then processed by the Survey of India. But with the change in the law, a new technology for this kind of business can be explored and that is why we decided to enter India.

Q. How do you find the business environment in India?

A. Yes, a lot favourable than it ever was before 2005. Even the economic policy of the country is growth centric, which has made fund-raising an easy task. It is also easy now to take up tasks for governmental organizations, which was not possible in the past. India is opening up for international companies as we can see by the growing joint ventures. It is a great opportunity not only for the Indian companies to work abroad, but also for the foreign companies to join Indian hands and work in India.

Q. Please brief us about the projects that you have undertaken.

A. The project, which we have undertaken is laser ALTM and Lidar ALTM in Chennai. Through this project, India can take Tsunami prevention measurements. In this, a helicopter will be flown with lidar pens and digital cameras. We will then use the data to produce a digital surface model. Later on, it will be used in GIS Application for tidal movements and for flood prevention. We have introduced this system to different utility providers. We have collaboration with RITES, which is the biggest engineering developmental firm for the highways. We will be using our technology to plan and design nearly 3ooo km of highways, between Mumbai and Delhi and Delhi and Kolkata. We also have a contract with Gas Authority of India Limited. They would like to introduce our system for monitoring pipelines in all of their existing distribution network. The data for this project will also be captured by a helicopter
flown along the specified routes of the pipelines and downloaded to a GIS application.

Q. If we see the South Asian region, do you find any change in the governments’ approach towards technology especially in terms of policies?

A. Yes, there is an absolutely new approach towards having prosperous economies. They are now looking at propelling the economic growth by implementing new tools and systems. One major advantage is that all of them have found geodatabase useful for different applications; from police to e-governments, to enhance the services for the people and also to enhance their own usages for different areas like agriculture, environmental protection, infrastructure development, planning, and land use. Many governments have now adopted the specified area of geodata or geo methods including the geodata customers and the geodatabase GIS application. There is a wider view on the wider knowledge. More people like you and me have learnt the usage of this technology, for example with daily practice, we have learnt to use the tourist map, we have learnt to use car navigation systems. These are now used regularly which were not used before; tourist maps were available to an extent, a car navigation system can help the regular people to get information, same is the case with Google earth, if you go to shop nearby or to a city, it can show the way to that place.

Q. Would you like to comment on the Chinese market?

A. China, from my point of view is a difficult market, as they have not really opened up, especially for geodata. They are a very regulated market and the data is captured only by licensed agencies. This poses a disadvantage to the companies who want to enter that market, as you are not even allowed to do data processing for the Chinese market in China itself.

Q. Do you think that there’s some kind competition for you in the region?

A. Of course, we are not the only vendors and providers of technology, especially in this region. We have huge competition in India in the form of a lot of local vendors and US – Indo joint ventures. Survey of India has international collaborations. Most of the major national agencies have international partners.

Q. What is the difference between the Asian market and the European market?

A. The difference lies in quality and detailing. In Europe the usage of this technology has a long history. However, there are data regulations because in Europe, the state owned enterprises’ national survey units own the data. One does not have the right to use it especially to sell it to others. In certain countries, one can go and buy the data from the real estate companies for information about real estate, information about the houses sold in last fifteen months, the pricing, the buyers, location etc. This data is also used in agriculture for precision farming. Distributing this data to others will be very beneficial. For example, if an individual wants to find out a particular location, he can use Google Earth but it provides a limited resolution. But if you want a precise and accurate result for planning and design, one would have to go for a specialized service.

Q. Can you give us a percentage division of your clientele?

A. Seventy per cent is the international market and around thirty per cent comprises the domestic market. Our major activity cannot be defined that clearly, but depending on the clientele or our buyers; I would say it is 70:30 due to the state ownership of data and national interest in that data. Most of our clients are public administration or state owned organization and private users of this technology. I would say that we have a 70:30 share in public-private domain.

Q. Are you are also into software development?

A. We are not into software development because software development is not our core business. We do have a software development department because we need to tailor existing platforms from ESRI, Intergraph or Bentley, which have highly developed platforms for applications.

But at times, the clients demand different layers that use integration of databases that they already have. So, our software development department develops interfaces to use them, to create a new model, to make the data analysis of the existing and the new data.

Q. According to you, which is the technology that gives you a market advantage over your competitors?

A. I think that our market advantage is that we can provide an entire range of services; from data capturing to GIS applications on all kinds of platforms. We also have the technology for high resolution digital camera and LIDAR. We have well educated people who are aware of the optimized workload. We have our own production facilities as well as partnerships in various countries like India and China.

Q. Is the GIS market growing?

A. Talking in terms of the market, the GIS market is definitely growing, due to the increased awareness in the usage of geodatabases. Its usage increases with each passing day.