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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Fresh Ideas + Solutions Come Directly to You—Traveling with the Topcon Technology Roadshow Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Winke   
Friday, 02 May 2014

A 6.481Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

The concept of a traveling show in America appears to have originated with the 1893 Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition, also called the Chicago World's Fair. The traveling shows that branched out from that expo targeted a circuit of cities and towns. These first shows were pure entertainment: amusement rides, food vendors, merchandise vendors, games of chance and skill, thrill acts, animal acts or sideshow curiosities, all brought to everyone's hometown.

The traveling show concept has evolved and expanded. Take Topcon Positioning Systems' contribution to the legacy. The company has been bringing an education and training show to its customers' locations where they live and work for the past decade. The company has learned that one of the best ways to get technology to end users is to bring it directly to them, rather than expecting them to incur travel and accommodations expense, as well as the time required for getting to a conference or national convention.

In April 2014, Topcon launched its most ambitious road show ever. The 2014 Topcon Technology Roadshow has scheduled visits to 23 cities over a 23,000-mile circuit, which spans across America and dips into Canada. The tour schedule is ambitious enough to make the bearded lady of 1893 shiver in wonder.

To provide perspective and give a backdrop to the thinking behind the tour, Ray O'Connor, president and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems stated: "Population growth is the big driver for expansion in the construction market. Currently the planet has 7 billion people and by 2030 the population will be more than 9 billion. The infrastructure and construction needs will be approximately $60 trillion by 2030, with available funds to support that need expected to be about half that. We need to figure out ways to fill that gap, and that gap will be filled by technology."

The Technology Roadshow officially launched on April 8, 2014 in Pleasanton, California with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Topcon employee preview day. During the next two days the Roadshow's first leg of the tour was held on the same grounds, at the Topcon Solutions Center, where local contractors attended. Launching from Pleasanton, which is located about 25 miles east of Oakland and the Bay area, the next stop was Phoenix and then north to Denver and beyond.

"I looked at the new LN-100 BIM 3D Layout Navigator and the software, as well as different aspects of layout and surveying that Topcon addresses," Ted Link, surveyor with DPR Construction, Redwood City, Calif. "The personal one-on-one attention was one of the best things about my visit-- it was great."

The 52-foot long mobile solutions center trailer along with pop-outs and adjunct tents function as the hub for presenting the latest positioning technologies in the construction, surveying and GIS, and the AEC professions.

Some of the new technology seminars and demonstrations that attendees can choose from to fit their needs include:
• Machine control systems, including 3D-MC2, which is designed to provide faster production speeds with smoothness and grading accuracy
• Mobile mapping solutions with the IP-S2 HD, a vehicle-mounted fully integrated high density 3D laser scanner for use on roadways and other linear features 
• GNSS and robotic solutions featuring Hybrid Positioning, which combines optical and GNSS measurements on a single rover pole
• Job site management solutions including the MAGNET® software suite, Sitelink 3D, Tierra and Enterprise Solutions

For a full immersive experience of Topcon solutions, one unique experiential demonstration being offered within the mobile solutions center is Oculus Rift, a new virtual reality (VR) technology developed for the video game industry. With Oculus, a contractor experiences being inside an excavator or motor grader equipped with Topcon automation. The headset will also be used to demonstrate the real-time imaging capabilities of the new Siteview job site visualization and management system.

Using the language of Oculus VR® founder and president, Palmer Luckey, Oculus Rift creates a sense of "presence." Michael Abrash, Oculus chief scientist, stated that presence is different than immersion. He explained that their VR convinces the perceptual systems that operate at a low level--well below consciousness--that what is being perceived is reality. It is likely akin to the sensation of being in an IMAX fighter pilot flight simulator. The brain knows that all is safe, but the body can't help but react to the panic of a sudden seemingly out-of-control nosedive.

Fortunately, the Topcon Oculus Rift VR is designed to replicate the experience found in operating a piece of heavy equipment on a jobsite, not fear-inducing plane maneuvers. This experience of presence is unique to VR--there is no other way to create it in any other medium.

The space inside the custom-built 18-wheeler, high-tech trailer includes a classroom for two dozen visitors, the Oculus Rift VR station, and 15 hands-on display products and training modules that incorporate the latest in video and multimedia technology.

"Job site coordination is always a challenge so it was helpful to learn about site management, cloud database solutions, and the new LN-100," Link said. "With cloud management and layout tools that can get information to and from the field quickly, I got to see first hand where things are going." The LN-100 BIM 3D Layout Navigator provides jobsite 3D positioning for construction layout needs by blending the technology used for self leveling lasers and robotic total stations into one layout tool.

The intent of the 2014 Topcon Technology Roadshow is to reach anyone involved in surveying and GIS, machine control, BIM and 3D layout, enterprise solutions, site management, GNSS and robotics, and imaging and mapping. Offered is one-onone time with accessible and knowledgeable experts for anyone who believes positioning technology may benefit them.

It is expected that contractors will more readily send their project managers, crew chiefs, and positioning specialists. It takes less than a day and the North American tour has stops scheduled to be within 100 miles of at least half of the combined US - Canada population. One advantage of the Roadshow experience is that the heavy equipment is connected to SiteLink3D and "talking" to each other in a simulated job site environment.

"I'm getting a lot more information here at the Roadshow than I had expected," stated Steve Reardon, engineer with Vaca Valley Excavating and Trenching, Vacaville, Calif. "You can't go anywhere to see something like this. Everything is here and explained. You get to experience the whole operation."

Mark Contino, Topcon vice president of global marketing said, "The Technology Roadshow is a fresh `we'll bring-it-to-you' concept that allows customers to keep up with rapid industry changes in a dynamic and hands-on environment. With the show practically at the attendees' doorstep, it's convenient to see first-hand how new solutions and technologies can help their businesses become more productive and profitable."

The idea that a contractor needs to be current on industry developments to be successful is at the core of the Topcon Technology Roadshow. Construction contractors who appear to survive and prosper are the ones who keep themselves current with new ideas and training. The marketplace expectations have changed. Contractors are expected to work harder, faster, and better... and within budgets where errors, re-work, and un-planned costs can eat up an already slim margin. To address these demands, industry professionals have turned to technology to help improve productivity, efficiency, and quality of the end result.

The Technology Roadshow is emblematic of an age of solutions that reframes marketplace thinking beyond the concept of products. It is going beyond products, and seeing the future of industry workflows as an integrated management system where all sites, data, crews and equipment are connected in real-time. For example, innovations like Topcon's cloud-based Enterprise Solutions offer users a seamless workflow system, which is designed to increase productivity, enhance asset and material management, and improve job site safety and quality control.

Additionally there is an outreach opportunity for high school and trade college educators to connect with the Topcon Technology Roadshow in the ever pressing need to fill the skills gap that many contractors are experiencing. Through its Educational Partnership Program (EPP), Topcon has already connected with more than 500 institutions of higher learning and occupational training. The EPP is designed to help new generations of surveyors, engineers, precision agriculture and construction professionals learn the industry tools of today and the future.

In an effort to be sensitive to contractors' workflow and time constraints, all of the scheduled stops include two daily opportunities for attendees to join in. And each stop is held in partnership with one or more Topcon dealer-distributors. Each stop includes onsite or nearby opportunities for the hands-on demonstrations of Topcon site management and machine control technology.

The 2014 Topcon Technology Roadshow can be customized to the individual needs of the attendee--whether they are new to the industry or seasoned veterans. Companies looking to improve their employees' understanding of emerging technologies can utilize the Roadshow as a convenient way to broaden their understanding of current and future industry innovations.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached through www.jeffwinke.com.

A 6.481Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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