Geo Week News

November 18, 2022

Mobile Mapping Hardware and Software for all Professionals

Conversations with Trimble's Jacek Pietruczanis and Tim Lemmon.
via Trimble

After a four-year hiatus resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Trimble was able to hold their annual Dimensions+ event in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this month for the first time since 2018. Drawing nearly 6000 attendees representing 62 countries, it was their largest conference ever with a wide range of speaking sessions to attend as well as hardware and software on display. Geo Week News was in attendance for this year’s event, and we’ve already discussed the three main takeaways from the three-day conference.

In addition to being able to attend a handful of speaking sessions and checking out the off-site demo, we also had the opportunity to speak to two members of the Trimble team about the company’s mobile mapping portfolio as well as their geospatial software. Below are some of the highlights from our conversations with Jacek Pietruczanis, a Business Area Director focused on Trimble’s mobile mapping and 3D laser scanning areas, and Tim Lemmon, a Marketing Director focused on Trimble’s geospatial software solutions.

Mobile Mapping For Everyone

Pietruczanis has years of experience both with Trimble and in the geospatial industry in general, having gotten started in the GNSS space and working there with Trimble when his former company was acquired in 2011. He’s now been in the mobile mapping and 3D laser scanning space for the last four years, most recently overseeing the development and release of the MX50, their newest mobile mapping system. Released in the middle of 2021, Pietruczanis notes that this is the company’s “mid-range” mobile mapping system, completing their portfolio that also includes the MX7 for street-level imagery and the MX9, their premium solution. Pietruczanis says they “introduced this MX50 system specifically for users new to mobile mapping that were looking for a system that is easy to use,” while also pointing out more experienced users can still glean value by adding a new system to their fleet.

And it’s this completion of solutions that comes across as a clear goal for the Trimble team working on mobile mapping solutions, especially given the barriers to entry for many prospective customers. A lot of that comes down to costs that can sometimes be difficult to justify without having personal experience with the potential returns on that investment, as well as concerns about technical onboarding. Having this complete set of solutions which can cater to professionals of varying experience levels allows for new professionals and organizations to enter the mix while still providing updates to premium solutions for more experienced users.

And as mentioned, this combination of products is not only for professionals with different levels of experience, but also can be used on singular projects that might call for a combination of different tools. Pietruczanis calls out a couple of examples from Trimble’s customers using a hybrid approach, including one in France. Here, the firm was completing a surveying project which included a road and a canal, and they used Trimble’s MX50, attached on the roof of a car, to survey the road while turning to the X7 scanner for the canal. With the integrated approach, they were able to save a considerable amount of time while still producing a highly accurate model. All of this drives home the main point of this conversation with Pietruczanis, who stresses that in this mobile mapping space, “no one solution can respond to all types of customer needs.”

Software to Address Every Need

A lot of the focus in the geospatial industry is on the hardware, which is of course a crucial part of the process. And as discussed above, Trimble has certainly addressed that area by making it accessible and useful for professionals at all levels of expertise and size. That said, the hardware can’t provide any value no matter how strong of a tool it is if there’s no way to properly process the data it collects. Lemmon recognizes that in his role leading the way for field office and cloud software provided by Trimble, noting that his team doesn’t “really care where the data is coming from.” For their part, it’s about being as hardware-agnostic as possible within Trimble Business Center to provide as accurate and insightful data as possible.

Our conversation with Lemmon was a nice follow-up to that with Pietruczanis, and especially regarding some of the hybrid use cases we discussed with the laser scanning portfolio. Again, it’s great to be able to use these different methodologies to save time and get more accurate data, but you also need software to integrate all of that data quickly and effectively. That, according to Lemmon, is a core function of the Trimble Business Center solution, producing accurate point cloud data from any combination data capture, whether it be from UAVs, total stations, laser scanners, or mobile mapping systems. They also focus on making this as streamlined and simple as possible, trying to ensure all of the base capabilities are met while still allowing for new users to get started without needing hours and hours of training.

With that being said, they still continuously update their products, adding an average of two new object assets to their mapping products every year. Those updates, including new feature extractions, come directly from their feedback with Trimble prioritizing additions based upon requests they hear about more often from their customers. Moving forward, Lemmon points to smoothing workflows using IFC models as one piece they continue to get feedback on and an area in which they are continuing to place focus.

He also notes that while autonomy was a major focal point of the show, any hope for a “magic button” that instantly provides a deliverable is simply not the way it works. Still, the advancements in artificial intelligence and deep learning are opening new doors, and Trimble is working with those trends. As Lemmon notes, “it’s really picking and choosing the technology that can best automate the process, and also achieve as high a level of robustness as possible. If you don’t get that at around 90 or 95 percent robustness, then it’s a waste of the customer’s time.”

So while that magic button still may not exist, and probably won’t for a very long time if it ever does at all, Trimble Business Center is continuing to inch closer, leaning on AI and deep learning to provide maximum robustness to data coming from all different kinds of hardware.

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