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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Juniper Systems Print E-mail
Written by Marc Cheves, LS   
Friday, 18 September 2009

A 3.762Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

The gnarled Jardine Juniper stands sentry on the edge of a limestone cliff at the end of the popular hiking and mountain bike trail that bears its name. More than 3,000 years old, it is the oldest known living tree in Utah. It is from that tree, a remarkable symbol of longevity and strength, that Juniper Systems, Inc. derives its name.

Believing it was a story our readers would enjoy, I paid a visit to the company headquarters in Logan, Utah to find out more. One of the rising stars among the companies that provide products to the surveying industry, Juniper Systems manufactures rugged handheld computers. Its Archer and Allegro handhelds are being used by a large host of OEM customers, including Altus Positioning, Carlson, Eagle Point, Hemisphere GPS, Javad, Leica, Magellan, MicroSurvey, and Sokkia. In July of 2009, Juniper announced a new venture with Surveylab, Ltd. in New Zealand for the Archer Longbow, which incorporates a GPS receiver, digital camera, 3D compass and laser rangefinder. The Longbow user can point at a feature, press a button, and the resultant image will be geocoded with the position of the object.

Rob Campbell, CEO of Juniper Systems, was one of the keynote speakers at the Carlson User Conference in April 2009. He spoke of the "law of the harvest" and its relation to technology: it is necessary to prepare and implement before benefits can be reaped. His analogy was drawn from the roots of the Campbell family farm, located about 50 miles southeast of Burley, Idaho on Interstate 84. The agricultural roots of this large family of 11 children would have a significant influence on several of the brothers, as would higher education.

Their story began in 1973 when eight people, including three of the brothers and their father, each contributed $800 to begin Campbell Scientific, Inc. The eldest of the brothers, Dr. Gaylon Campbell, a world-renowned soil scientist at Washington State University, provided vital direction for the fledgling company. Gaylon has served as a member of CSI's board of directors from the inception. During a break from his duties at the university, Gaylon moved to New Mexico to serve as a Captain in the U.S. Army's Atmospheric Sciences Laboratory at White Sands Missile Range. At White Sands, Dr. Campbell worked with a micrometeorology group studying air movement and its effect on missile launches, atmospheric diffusion, and the paths of laser beams. He returned to Washington State University in 1971 where he held, successively, the positions of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor until 1998.

Knowing that the military had a need for determining the down-range cross wind conditions and the effect on artillery shell and missile flight, Campbell Scientific's first product was a laser anemometer that analyzed distant air layers to determine wind speed. Understanding as well the agricultural need for accurate weather information for growing crops, the company's next product was a digital recorder, the CR5, introduced in 1975. This batteryoperated system was created to perform instantaneous and time-averaged measurements from thermocouples, solar radiation sensors, and wind sensors requiring vector averaging. It was well received by agricultural researchers.

This foundation led to the development of a worldwide reputation for small, reliable data loggers and a variety of sensors. With each succeeding model, innovation brought smaller and faster devices, and more capability. Today, the company has more than 250 employees with offices all over the planet, and has moved far beyond agriculture. While best known for its meteorological loggers and sensors, the company's products are also used by several dozen industries that need any kind of measuring and monitoring of air, water, weight, and other physical parameters.

Rob's father, Ron Campbell, was one of the founding brothers of Campbell Scientific, Inc. He had obtained a degree in mathematics and attended graduate school in Meteorology at Utah State University. Rob was born at the time of a cloud-seeding project in Kenya in 1973. In 1993, Ron founded a spin-off company called HarvestMaster as a member of the Campbell Scientific group of companies. This business furnished its rugged handheld computers in connection with its harvester-mounted system used in seed research to measure weight, moisture and density of grains in variety trials.

The forestry industry chimed in as well. Responding to heavy demand for log scaling and forest inventory, in 1998 HarvestMaster introduced the Pro 4000, a new waterproof DOS based handheld field computer. Ruggedness and durability was paramount for the industry. In 2000, the familiar Allegro handheld debuted, In 2001 the name of the company was changed to Juniper Systems, and Rob became the CEO. In 2006, the Archer was introduced.

My host during the visit was John Florio, Director of Marketing, who had a 9-year history with Sokkia before coming to Juniper in 2007. Florio told me the heart and soul of the company are its customers and employees. Notably, the 100-employee company has not had any layoffs. The company uses an open-book management style, and twice a month, a Company Huddle is held in which the employees are encouraged to suggest ways to decrease expenses and increase revenues. In 2004, Juniper built a 15,000 square foot facility, but by 2008 had added another 25,000 square feet. Parts of the expansion included a full-blown weight and fitness room, a gym and racquetball court, and even a ping pong table. The company prides itself on having the kind of employee that doesn't require watching, and in turn, employees don't feel the need to be looking over their shoulders.

Reliable platforms and customization are the keys to keeping all of their OEM customers happy. The Leica UHF radio extension and the Hemisphere GPS XF101 extension are two examples of this. While reliable platforms level the playing field, it's up to each OEM to differentiate with the software inside.

In handheld product design, the company uses sophisticated computer modeling and finite element analysis-for such things as a virtual drop test. Particular attention is paid to ergonomics. I found it interesting that the Allegro has a slight bend in it to fit the hand, but when Carlson spec'ed its Juniper-made Surveyor handheld, it removed the bend because it felt that most surveyors hang the unit on a tripod leg. Product testing could be considered extreme. At the Carlson event, Rob played a video that shows abuse being heaped on a Carlson Surveyor (you can see the video on Juniper's website), up to and including throwing it off the roof of the building, throwing it from a moving vehicle, using it as a jack stand, and peeling out on it with a heavy SUV. He did note, however, that such treatment would invalidate the warranty.

The Allegro and Archer keyboards are rated at one million key presses, even though the average surveyor does only around 30 thousand per year. Each Archer and Allegro--not just random units--is heavily tested for water immersion. They hook a vacuum line to each unit and, with negative pressure, try to draw water inside while the unit is submersed! But as Florio says, "We don't do cheap well." To achieve the IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating, gaskets, not glue, are used to assemble the units. The units are 100 percent assembled in Logan and most of the parts, such as boards and housings, are manufactured nearby. All servicing takes place in Logan as well. DeVon Labrum, Director of Sales told me, "Juniper's largest customers are meter readers, but its largest market is surveying." Juniper Systems' products are also used today in agriculture (research, food safety, animal RFID, and weed and pest management), natural resources (forestry, fisheries, range management, mining reclamation, environmental assessment), surveying and construction, military (aviation and homeland security), and energy (oil and gas, and corrosion protection). Its products will work a full day on one battery charge, withstand a five-foot drop onto concrete, work in temperatures ranging from -22º to 130º, and offer large robust keys for ease of data entry.

Juniper Systems is a privately held, independent company, focused on providing intuitive solutions for rugged applications. "We are not out to conquer the market," says Rob, "but rather to be the best." The company maxims provide a framework in which to put the law of the harvest to work: to serve their customers and employees with trust, love, respect, and active support; to apply innovation to products and processes for enjoyment, customer benefit, and profit; to assure quality, and to provide products and use manufacturing practices which help conserve natural resources and preserve the environment. Putting these visions into play keeps Juniper Systems profitable even in these uncertain economic times.

From humble beginnings on a farm in Idaho, and through strong belief in higher education and long-term relationships, the Campbell family has made a name for itself worldwide. After 16 years in business, many of the original people are still there. And they plan to continue. Like the Jardine Juniper that stands on that rugged cliff, Ron smiles and says, "The company wants to be in existence for generations, providing solutions to our customers."

Marc Cheves is Editor of the magazine.

A 3.762Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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