The annual Intergeo conference and trade fair, this year held October 8–10 in Essen, Germany, elicited three principal observations from the three GPS World staff who attended:
- Unmanned aerial vehicles, particularly in micro-form factor, have exploded across multiple sectors of the industrial economy. Emulating GPS — and carrying GPS on board in most cases — UAV has become an enabling technology with far-reaching implications.
- Mobile devices bearing GPS/GNSS have likewise exploded, with many more commercial makers and models of handheld survey/mapping devices and location-enabled tablets to be found in Europe than in the United States.
- GNSS manufacturers from China are making major efforts to secure distributors and break into the international market. Several had substantial booths, noticeably larger than the fewer, smaller booths present at Intergeo 2012.
Like ION-GNSS+, Intergeo spans an industrial exhibit and a technical conference, but the emphasis in Germany is decidedly on the former.
The technical conference covers key topics from a geoinformational perspective: environment, climate, energy, disaster management, cartography, spatial data, land policy, geographic information systems (GIS), and satellite processes and geodesy. About 140 presentations in 40 subject areas drew 1,300 participants — slightly larger than ION-GNSS+.
But the real story here is the gigantic trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation, and land management, displaying GIS software and services, surveying equipment and accessories, data capture and processing, remote sensing photogrammetry, cartography, and much more — including a dizzying and frequently buzzing array of micro-UAVs.
These face less regulation Europe than in the United States, which has still to come to grips with the technology. Federal Aviation Administration rules are expected in 2015.
The 28,000 square-meter Intergeo exhibition space featured 505 exhibitors from 30 nations and drew an estimated 16,000 attendees from 80 countries — making it between eight and 125 times the size of the ION GNSS+ industry exhibit. Clearly, the German show has a different mission and a different mix of both exhibitors and attendees, spanning different bands of the GNSS application spectrum; and, its orientation is much more commercial.
Exhibitors at the two shows form sort of an old-fashioned Venn diagram: some exclusive to either show and some overlapping, appearing at both. Among the latter group were: JAVAD GNSS, Trimble, Hemisphere GNSS, Leica Geosystems, NovAtel, Septentrio, ComNav Technology, Topcon Positioning Systems, and Fraunhofer Institute.
Among GNSS companies showing in Essen but not in Nashville were Altus Positioning, AllSat GmbH, Carlson Software, CHC Navigation, Forsberg, Fugro Geospatial, and Hi-Target.
A final question proffers itself after three days amid this hubbub: Why is there not a North American show of this nature? The Esri User Conference comes closest, but it is vendor-specific. There would appear to be a niche for a 5,000–10,000 attendee tradeshow in this sector.