Hexagon 2011 Focuses on “Actionable Intelligence”

The advertisements leading up to this show billed it as “the most anticipated conference in years.” Although I can’t attest to that, I can say that the inaugural Hexagon conference was a strong success. It was held this year at the sprawling Marriott World Center Resort in Orlando, Florida, June 6 - 9.

By now it’s pretty common knowledge that Hexagon, A.B., a Swedish company, is the parent company of the more familiar Leica Geosystems. Hexagon bills itself as a global provider of integrated design, measurement, and visualization technologies. As such, they’ve assembled a group of hardware and software companies in several high-tech markets, all of which were represented at Hexagon. Multiple tracks were offered for the various market segments that make up the Hexagon group of companies: Geosystems, Metrology, and Intergraph.

Many Leica HDS customers and users are familiar with the annual HDS conference that was held for several years in San Ramon, California. The Geosystems track expanded on the HDS theme with the addition of subtracks for “Trends in Mapping & Positioning for Government and Industry” and “Geospatial Solutions.”

In addition, the metrology folks had an entire track devoted to industrial measurement tools and techniques. And it was the Intergraph contingent that had the largest group, as this conference was an outgrowth of the annual Intergraph international users conference.

Intelligent Applications for Modern Needs

One can see the common threads—measurement, design, and visualization technologies—that run through the Hexagon companies. It was the need for and applications of these technologies that Hexagon president and CEO Ola Rollén focused on throughout the opening keynote address.

Following the unveiling of the new Hexagon logo, Rollén, accompanied by each of the company division heads, addressed a crowd of some 2,500 on “Turning the Pace of Change into the World’s Advantage.” Rollén and the others spoke about such issues as a growing world population; movement of that population toward cities; and a growing world middle class and its consequent needs: more automobiles, more energy, more food, more health care. They also spoke of applying the tools and technologies of the Hexagon companies to solve the problems generated by these needs.

The underlying theme of the keynote, indeed the conference itself (and reiterated by Rollen at a press luncheon), was actionable intelligence. Rollén pointed out that action without intelligence, just as intelligence without action, is of little value. What good comes of doing something if you don’t know the purpose or even if there is one? And what good comes of knowing something if you don’t do anything about it?

By using the tools produced by Leica, Intergraph, Z/I Imaging, and others—including GPS, aerial photogrammetry, lidar, and GIS—surveyors and others can make measurements and observations that create intelligence and help define the issues. Then, using some of those same tools (and additional ones), surveyors, designers, engineers, manufacturers, and other practitioners can put that knowledge into action to help solve problems.

Hexagon Geosystems president Jürgen Dold illustrated it this way. Referring to the rapid rates of high-speed rail systems in Japan and China, he said, “I tell you, if you’re travelling on such a train, you will truly appreciate if the surveyor used a high-precision total station to make the track straight!”

This scenario of intelligent applications might also apply to using GIS, remote sensing, and machine control to improve farming efficiency and increase food supplies; using laser scanning and metrology tools for more accurate modeling and production of cars and other forms of transportation; and scanning and design/management software for more efficient production and operation of oil platforms, coal plants, and other process-plant environments.

Kicking off the Geosystems track was a keynote by Dold and Ken Mooyman, president of Hexagon Geosystems NAFTA. Given the proximity to Disney World, Dold framed the conference theme of “Building a Smarter World” to Walt Disney’s mantra that, “if you can dream it, you can do it.” Mooyman cited illustrations of how Leica Geosystems’ tools and equipment are being used today to build that smarter world. Interesting examples were given for markets and applications, including surveying and engineering, scanning, construction, mining, and precision agriculture.

500 Technical Sessions

The real substance of a conference such as this is the technical presentations that get into the nuts and bolts of those applications. In addition to offering approximately 500 technical sessions over the course of the week, the conference got its unofficial start with more than 40 paid training sessions, including a day-long shooting accident reconstruction organized by the HDS forensics group.

Mike Haag, a sergeant with the Albuquerque Police Department, led the group of forensic investigators through the use of laser scanning in real-world situations and examples. This included live firing rounds in various situations recreated on the firing range at an Orlando Police Department training facility. Haag, a long-time user of scanning in forensics investigations, illustrated techniques for scanning shooting crime scenes and later analyzing the data to determine factors in the investigation.

Although many organizations maintain their own investigative units staffed by law enforcement officers, there are several that do not. Some employ civilian staff for this function, while others contract out some or all of this work to private firms. While not exactly in the realm of traditional surveying, this reconstruction, along with other presentation sessions, seem to indicate this area could be a significant market for work.

Strong Networking

Rounding out the conference were networking and social events. Having attended HDS conferences in the past, I knew Leica’s events could be impressive and had high expectations for this one. And I was not let down, with several nice on- and off-site events, including an evening at Universal Studios.

The conference and keynotes had a strong social theme with a global perspective. Ironically, it was Gerhard Sallinger, president of Intergraph’s Process, Plant & Marine division (a non-surveyor), who made a statement that stuck with me. He said, “We all have to rotate with the planet,” which immediately connected with me and the need for surveyors to rotate with the world around us, too.

I mention regularly the trend in our field of the convergence of companies and technologies. This is not necessarily a bad thing and will likely lead to further interaction between surveyors and experts in other related fields. It also seems to be a trend with Hexagon and their conference, and I think we can continue to expect good things from Hexagon in the future.

PSM staff covered the recent Optech conference as well as Esri and ACSM’s Survey Summit; see our e-newsletter Field Notes and our website for articles, images, and videos.

About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at tj@profsurv.com.

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