Geo Week News

March 21, 2012

Survey firm GDM sells 3D imaging arm


SmartGeoSystems acquires client base, Nashville office

NASHVILLE – Geophysical Data Management, a surveying and mapping firm with offices here and in Dallas, has sold the 3D imaging and laser scanning portion of its business to SmartMultiMedia, which will roll the business into SmartGeoMetrics, its Leica Geosystems authorized distributor that offers “3D laser scanning equipment rental, hardware and software sales, training and experienced market-focused support services.”

SPAR profiled SmartGeoMetrics in April of last year.

SmartGeoMetrics will retain Sam Billingsley, the head of GDM’s 3D imaging and scanning business (and a SPAR blogger), who is now VP of business and product development.

Details of the transaction have not been released, but Billingsley said his department represented about 35 percent of GDM’s business. “It’s a family business,” Billingsley said of GDM (his father is also Sam), “and the further afield I got into 3D scanning and unique deliverables, the less it reflected the core business of the company. I think it came to a point where my father saw the opportunity with SmartGeoMetrics where some of the one-off deliverables and proof-of-concept stuff I’d done could actually be brought to the market. If we did it through GDM, it was going to be a lot slower getting there. We just weren’t set up for that kind of product delivery.”

“When we were approached by SmartGeoMetrics, it was just too good of a deal to turn down,” he said.

Billingsley said he’ll stay in the Nashville office, while SmartGeoMetrics remains based in Houston, and he’ll be looking to move into larger offices to accommodate the kind of classroom space that will allow SmartGeoMetrics to start holding more software and hardware training offerings.

The company has already become a kubit reseller in the United States, and has recently also opened an office in Trinidad & Tobago, where they are an Autodesk reseller.

The acquisition for SmartGeoMetrics is also part of a larger plan to become a more multi-faceted resource for both service providers and asset owners working with 3D imaging, Billingsley said. “There’s still no one tool for the job,” he said, “there’s no one software application for the job. So, we’d like to be a resource. If you need three scanners in the field, you can rent from us instead of buying two more that you’re not sure you’ll be able to utilize to their full extent later. Same with software – maybe you get a 90-day rental license or outsource some portion of it to us. If it’s field work with us wearing one of your company’s shirts, we don’t have a problem with that.”

“We’re like the reserves,” he said. “Occasionally you’ll get a job and you’re almost sorry that you got it, because you might not have the resources to quite get it done right. When you do, we’ll be the first ones you call.” Better yet, it’s a way for engineering and survey firms to bid on jobs that include scanning without investing in software and hardware before they even win the job.

For asset owners, SmartGeoMetrics is looking to come in and train a CAD office, say, on how to work with point clouds and get the most out of the data that they’ve collected or that they’ve had collected for them.

The growth and new direction means SmartGeoMetrics is looking for a few good people, too. “We’re looking to bring in some more high-end CAD guys,” Billingsley said, “people with a lot of multi-disciplinary experience. Not just people with experience working with MicroStation or point cloud stuff, but people who also have worked in various industries with that technology.”

Much of SmartMultiMedia’s experience with scanning and 3D comes from the filmmaking industry, so combining that with Billingsley’s surveying and mapping background has made for some interesting discoveries.

“Occasionally, I’ve had to pull rank and say, ‘Hey, there are some definite geometric things you need to do to make these jobs work right,’” he said, “but then sometimes they’re like, ‘Hey, there’s this piece of hardware in moviemaking you’ve never seen before that will save you 30 percent on set up time.’”

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