Geo Week News

June 13, 2012

Hexagon CEO teases data as a service, consumer play

06.13.12.rollen

Also emphasizes importance of mobile platforms

LAS VEGAS – Here at the annual Hexagon conference, CEO Ola Rollén covered a wide range of topics when addressing the media, most interestingly teasing a potential data-as-a-service business model, hinting at possible consumer offerings, and emphasizing the importance of mobile access to data.

Perhaps the latter is not surprising, considering the company’s recent acquisition of myVR, a firm that makes technology allowing for mobile delivery of 3D information. But mobile delivery isn’t something that Hexagon can make happen on its own, he emphasized.

“It has to go in calibration with the communication companies,” he said. “We can basically compress a file and send it over 3G, but if you don’t compress it, it doesn’t work … We don’t want to be stuck in an office. In order to communicate in large companies you must be able to take your information with you and show it to people with whom you want to do something. So mobile is quite key to development, but if it takes 40 minutes to download, no one is going to use it. It goes hand in hand.”

Is he talking about software as a service? Not necessarily, but the company is interested in data as a service, he said. This is something that’s offered by Blom ASA, in which Hexagon recently made a 25 percent investment, and Rollén said this was part of what made Blom and interesting investment.

“I believe that we could probably host a lot of data in the cloud and sell that data as a service, rather than the software itself,” he said. “Not to scare you too much,” he joked, “ but we see consumer applications for that as well.”

“We could model your body,” he said, maybe half seriously, “and then upload it to the cloud and then you exercise for three months and come back and we can see if you’ve made any progress.”

This got quite a few laughs.

About that investment in Blom, though, he was asked: Doesn’t it set Hexagon up in competition with some of its customers? Rollén expressed little concern on that front. “The Blom investment is a step to just build relationships with collectors of data,” he said. Further, “Blom had financial difficulties and it was just a good opportunity to make a financial investment. But beyond that, we see that we need a network of partners that are flying and collecting data and then we can buy that data from them and maybe store it centrally to do all sorts of applications that we’re planning to do.”

Is he serious about that consumer play? Might 3D modeling technology just be too complex for the average consumer?

“I’m realistic about technology,” Rollén said. “I think if you’re going to introduce a spatial 3D product to a consumer, it has to be really easy to use. It has to be intuitive, and there should be no reading of manuals. There are very few products that we sell that I can use personally. That’s how bad it is. I’m the guinea pig. If we do something in the consumer space, I need to be able to work out how to do it.”

This received laughs as well, but Rollén asked an interesting question when it died down:

“Do you have a total station?”

Of course, the assembled reporters replied that, no, they didn’t.

“But you have a measuring tape, right?”

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