FAQ about MachineControlonline.com - Update

Randy Noland, Editor of MachineControlOnline.comPaul F. Hahn, Associate Editor, MCoIt has been over a year since we published our first FAQ, so Paul and I thought it timely to revisit and update the existing FAQ.

If you have any questions, please use the email addresses at the end. We welcome your input.

I see that new players are emerging and advertising on MCo that were not as visible on the site a year ago. With a down economy, to what do you attribute  these companies entering the positioning industry?

Many of the players such as Hemisphere GPS, Prolec, etc have been around for years. Their core business has been rooted in positioning in one form or another. Even in a down economy, machine control applications for construction, mining, agriculture, landfills, drilling, dredging, etc. remain in a growth mode. The industry is still in its infancy, and while estimates vary, adoption is somewhere around 9-12%.  The technology gains are without dispute and companies are diversifying and broadening their application footprint. For example, Hemisphere GPS, traditionally an agricultural positioning company, has launched an earthworks division. Carlson Software’s machine control division has broadened its reach into various 3D drilling and dredging applications. We also would like to think that MCo offers a voice to all players, large and small, so we can be a part of growing the industry pie. Keep an eye out as the larger, established companies are likely to expand their product line while new players will enter the arena. Of course, the growth benefits everyone.

Have you seen a change in the market since you launched MCo?

We have seen continued growth, in both large and small companies due to improved technology. This is especially true as the user interface becomes simpler and prices become lower. Some of the price reduction is attributed to lower GNSS prices. The GNSS sensor is a critical component that makes up a large portion of the system price. OEM boards are available from most manufactures such as Trimble, Ashtech, Topcon, JAVAD GNSS, Septentrio and Novatel with more and more manufacturers adopting this business model. This trend takes the mystery and exclusivity away from high precision positioning, empowering a new breed of integrators.

Since launching MCo, are there any new technology trends you have noticed?

Better, smaller, less expensive is the trend for most technology as it matures and advances. We are seeing this in GNSS based grade management and machine control systems. Case in point, JAVAD GNSS has just announced a new GIS/Survey system that smaller, lighter, more powerful and the most integrated we have seen to date. The pricing will be announced soon but I suspect it will sit at a new competitive level. These trends are almost certain to continue across the board. Other technologies are gaining visibility and acceptance. For example, scanners and mobile mappers are gracing the cover of many trade publications. Although still specialized, I can see a day where a machine control system could benefit from a realtime point cloud for existing surfaces and updated surfaces. This technology is at the top of our watch list. Other technologies you can read about on MCo are telematics, DGPS and other lower accuracy GNSS applications, asset management, and wireless sensors for excavators and imaging. We will be sure to cover these items in our newsletter and on our site.  Another emerging trend is the electronic/internet connected job site.  Sources for this type of solution are growing and so is the technology.  Telematics is part of this solution.  It provides a powerful tool for project management.

Try before you buy options for 3D Machine Control, one business model we have heard of for years is the offering of 3D machine control in rental fleets. While this has not matured as fast as expected, we believe this will become more available over the next couple of years. Simpler user interfaces and setup will drive this distribution model. As with any new technology, sales channels are more specialized in the beginning but get more creative as adoption increases.

We have updated our response from last year’s FAQ’s article and included them below:

I love the site and find myself checking it frequently. What are your plans for the future?”

As we plan for future articles and content we constantly ask ourselves how we can best serve our readership. We can clearly see more than one audience that must be addressed if we are to bring value. The current user of 2D & 3D machine guidance and automation needs a neutral source to keep up with these new technologies, applications and the tips to get the most from their investment. These early adopters already have realized significant gains in accuracy, productivity and profitability. For them, we are preaching to the choir, but we can bring value by staying ahead of the curve, keeping them informed about what’s around the corner. Positioning & Machine Control technology will continue to evolve rapidly and we are committed to building a premiere reference hub for all things positioning.

Recently, we have invested quite a bit if time and energy in bringing to light lesser-known applications of machine control and guidance.  While most articles have focused on grading and earthwork applications; we have been highlighted other applications like drilling, precise agriculture, mining, dredging, etc.  We will continue to address as many applications as possible to expand your knowledge of what technologies are available and what benefits they bring to your business.

Will you have information for those of us who aren’t using machine control yet?

At the same time we are communicating to the existing user community, we must also serve the non-user and help them understand the advantages of automating their operations. For these later adopters, we will provide a balanced environment in which to learn. We have many plans to provide content that will be educational and informative. We are planning a glossary of terms, case studies, machine control basics, (see “Anatomy of a 3D dozer video” at http://machinecontrolonline.com/content/view/5569/) data preparation issues, classification of technology entry-points, applications-based solutions, etc. We will work with users and manufacturers to pull out real-world success stories as well as the bumps in the road that you can anticipate. We will take a step-by-step approach to lead you to a better understanding of how the technology could benefit your organization.

We will also spend a lot time investigating the financial side of things.  Recent articles have looked into various alternatives for getting your feet wet; including test driving solutions via your local dealer’s rental and rent to own programs.  These articles have included return on investment analysis and other financial considerations.

What role do you see Machine Control Online playing?

We are evangelists! We believe in the technology and all its collateral benefits. And at less than 10% global market penetration, we have a large audience to reach as we grow the slice of the automated heavy equipment pie. MCo will serve as a destination for education.

We see advertisements for manufacturers on the site, how does this affect your objectivity?

Yes, you will see advertisements, case studies and customer testimonials on our site and in our newsletters, but all advertisers are treated equally and we will not promote one solution over another. The presence of these advertisers should not put you off. Their information is very valuable. It comes from real-world customers’ projects and has been substantiated over and over again. Protecting their credibility is a very high priority for all manufacturers and service providers. In our experience, their claims tend to be on the conservative side, so don’t be afraid to let them inform you. In particular, the customer testimonials can be of great value. They are application-specific and from working professionals in your own industry. You don’t need to be skeptical of their stories, as they are not compensated for their statements. You can find ones that mention different brands, but as a whole, they provide a broad view of benefits that can be realized by adopting the technology. It’s also a good way to find out what some of your competitors are up to and what advantages they may have on their side.  The customer and application stories can also provide some valuable tips on how to optimize your use of the various systems and reflect changing manpower requirements.

How will you interact with people visiting the site? How can they participate in the site’s direction?

First, we listen. We have created areas on the site (blogs, email addresses) for the readers to voice their questions and areas of interest. We have also become quite the hub for case study submissions. Really we are building this site together with the readers and industry experts.

What makes Machine Control Online different from other sites?

We will tightly focus on machine control for construction, agriculture and mining. This will be our main focus not just a sidebar. This is an emerging technology that needs to be presented in an impartial environment. Many people still don’t understand the technology, entry-points, scalability data requirements, etc. They can use us as a knowledge base and source for greater understanding.

Where can one go on the site to learn more about machine control?

There are several areas on the site, with more coming. Check for current news postings. We scour the web constantly for new developments. Also read the exclusive columns from our expert authors. Column titles addressed regularly are: The Bottom Line, It’s All About the Data, and Machine Control and the Land Surveyor. Another area is our constantly growing video library. I also urge visitors to interact with our authors via our blogs.  Of course, there are the websites of the various manufacturers and solution providers you see on our website.  There you can dig deep into their specific solutions and compare and contrast with similar ones on the other manufacturer’s websites.

Will you address application-specific topics?

Absolutely. Seeing the benefits of using machine control on a big transportation project may have little meaning to a site preparation contractor. Dozer or grader automation may mean nothing to and excavation contractor. Over time we will build our library of application-specific topics, realized and anticipated productivity gains, return on investment analysis and other tools to better understand the automation process and the associated features and benefits.

Everyone is always welcome, anytime. Visit often to see the content we are gathering. And don’t be shy. Ask questions and let us know what your interests are. We are committed to the advancement of positioning and machine control technology. With the current growth rate, this industry will be changing and evolving at a fast pace and it will pay to keep up with these changes.

Please email Randy and Paul if you have questions of your own or comments”

Randy Noland – Managing Editor: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Paul Hahn – Associate Editor: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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