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Industry has a big role in shaping mindsets

Hans Hess

Hans Hess
Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Board,
Leica Geosystems

Hans Hess joined the Leica Group in 1989. Since 1996, after taking over as the CEO of this surveying, mapping, positioning and modeling giant, he carved out the company from the former Leica Group in 1997 and took it public in 2000 on the Swiss Stock Exchange. He shares his views on the directions of the geospatial industry

What are your observations for India as a market for Leica Geosystems and India as a resource?
The biggest attraction of India as a market is its huge population and a sizable segment of extremely well educated masses. This establishes the acceptability of any new technique and technology for its community. India also being a developing country, has an enormous demand for infrastructure development and provision of basic needs to all. Infrastructure such as water, power, transportation are some of the sectors which still has a lot to be achieved, leave aside the factors like rural development, health and education. The strong urge to modernize is also to an extent evident in current day-to-day life of the civilian, the industry and government. All these put together evolves a challenging market with a massive potential. China is perhaps the only other potent market of this size and nature.

It is globally accepted that India has expertise in IT and software domains are an advantage for the Geospatial Information industry. In the past, Leica Geosystems has gained a lot from Indian professionals and shall expand its R&D activities.

How do you perceive the growth trend of global navigation systems as a technology? Where shall the GPS industry head in the coming years?
I feel that global navigations tools and techniques provide products, which are more close to the consumer or one can say can they have a much wider consumer base. This is primarily because of the emergence of affordable utility devices, mobile-based GPS products and its wide application areas. Navigation and location-based information is emerging to be more vital everyday and hence I feel this industry is to stay for long.

Comment on Galileo as an alternative to the US GPS. Do you foresee emergence of more players in the GNSS industry?
The need for positioning technologies shall increase in the days to come. Galileo, the initiative by EU with support from various parts of the world shall definitely increase accuracy and service quality. More number of satellites shall be available to the end user, as density of satellites shall grow. This will allow wider use of GNSS technologies and deliver more accurate position information. Further, the initiative shall create an environment where the end user gets a choice of three rather than the present two systems, GPS and GLONASS. Galileo shall definitely improve the accuracy and availability of GNSS signals and reduce the current dependence from the US system.

How differently the markets of developed and developing nations react to the geospatial industry and its offerings?
Generally we believe that the more developed a country is, the more preference and importance it gives to integrity, reliability and accuracy of the spatial data. Also productivity improvements seem more important in developed countries than in developing ones. These are probably the primary differences. Developing countries are perhaps yet to aim for ‘high end’. But I firmly believe that they should have the ambition of investing a bit more today for far more benefits tomorrow during the utilization. Quality of data generation is very important. Choosing the right technology is crucial for long-term development of a country and its infrastructure. It is always economically beneficial to ‘do things right the first time’.

I understand that cost is an impediment for most developing countries. However, the engineering and surveying departments need to take this more as an ‘investment’ than a ‘cost’ and plan accordingly. The value of high quality data is not often understood during the time of initial data generation. But later on when the same data collected for a specific purpose wants to be used for another application, the value of reliable spatial information starts to be appreciated.

How would you comment on the maturity of digital photogrammetry market in general and Asia in particular?
I think, digital photogrammetry is a very apt process for any large country. Mapping the entire stretch of a country is a very important strategy for any nation. Keeping updated records of this information is crucial for development and administration. The overall financial implications of generating this data for large expanses of area reduce when photogrammetry is involved, in comparison to ground survey. It is important to understand the importance of large-scale data and the most cost effective way to generate them. The US has practically remapped its entire area for agricultural purposes. But not only for large scale maps our Airborne Digital Sensor ADS40 is very efficient. I believe that digital photogrammetry has a lot more potential than currently recognized and explored. Perhaps the initial cost of installation and project initiations in the case of aerial photography, generates a hesitation factor for many, but once photogrammetry is utilised, every project of large nature stands to gain. The potential of photogrammetry in the Asian region is yet to be tapped.

“Leica believes in partnering with any possible industry player who will enable us in delivering in the best way, what the customers need or require. Leica Geosystems remains loyal to all existing partnerships”

How much do you see the role of industry in shaping up and maturing the geospatial market and community?
The industry has a very big role in shaping the mindsets of the end user. It also has a big role in making the user aware of modern technologies that can allow them to do their tasks faster, at lower cost or at better quality. But technology alone is insufficient. About 50% of our total revenue last year came from products less than 12 months old! We have also applied for 250 new patents in recent years. We will remain committed to our customers worldwide to provide them with the latest, the best suited and the most useful technology. Yet, it is equally important to Leica that our customers are able to master and effectively use our latest technologies. Leica Geosystems has over the years established more than 100 service and support centers worldwide. And we also have strong links everywhere with the academic community. We have understanding and collaborations with various universities and educational institutes. This type of activities with the Indian universities shall be further intensified in near future.

Leica has been traditionally associated with surveying and mapping. Any plans to foray into the GIS products market?
Leica Geosystems wants to not only provide surveying instruments but increasingly also solutions for entire workflows. An example is the Geospatial Imaging Chain where we offer not only a variety of tools to capture spatial data and to geo-reference this data, but also tools to process this spatial data to digital spatial information. We increasingly also offer tools to measure, extract, analyze and present such information in 3D. I believe the former definition of GIS is changing as technologies are changing and are merging closer together. Former segments such as GIS, CAD or Survey are merging into a very exciting and dynamic Geospatial Information industry. Customers increasingly request entire solutions for their workflows from one supplier that assures seamless data flow and maximum compatibility and interoperability of the various tools. Leica Geosystems is committed to offer complete solutions to its customers. Having said that, we understand and respect the good work done by the GIS software industry and feel that we should not reinvent the wheels at any point of time.

What is Leica’s outlook towards its existing and future partners? What are the future plans for Leica Geosystems?
Leica believes in partnering with any possible industry player who will enable us in delivering in the best way, what the customers need or require. Of course, Leica Geosystems remains loyal to all existing partnerships and values each relationship in the industry. I do not think that relationships can be exclusive in the present market and hence neither can Leica Geosystems be so. Hence, partnering is an important and pragmatic approach to expand our solutions and meet the expectations of our customers everywhere in the world.