navcomZdenko Kuzo Kurtovic of GeoZone AG discusses how customer expectations of equipment and technology set the course for the GNSS industry

Zdenko Kuzo KurtovicNavCom met with Zdenko Kuzo Kurtovic, president of GeoZone AG, for a candid chat about his thoughts on the industry, why quality matters so much and what customers demand in their solutions. Kurtovic is the developer and co-founder of DPT (Digital Plane Table). He also developed of one of the first GPS and GLONASS permanent reference networks (VRS) worldwide in 1999.

Geozone AG, founded in 2006, is an established manufacturer and distributor of surveying, mapping and UAV products. Based in Rümlang, Switzerland, the company serves professional surveyors, construction companies, archeologists, mapping professionals and governments, worldwide. Geozone AG’s specialty is to provide tailor-made solutions according to client needs.

How have you seen the GNSS industry change over the last 10 years?

Zdenko Kuzo Kurtovic: Components in GNSS units are getting smaller and smaller, and power consumption is being reduced progressively. Therefore, it is possible to incorporate more components into standard housings; for example, IoT, digital compass, slope sensors and batteries with more capacity. However, we are certainly not at the end of this progress, and Geozone itself will make a small contribution to this progress, which will be seen in our new products.

“Components in GNSS units are getting smaller and smaller, and power consumption is being reduced progressively.”

Also, market research by the 2017 GNSS Market Report (issue 5) estimates growth of the GNSS industry will be some 12 percent per year until at least 2023. This year it is expected that the overall market volume will be over $4 billion USD. The main reason for this growth that I see is the wider acceptance of GNSS technology due to simpler handling than before and the consistently dropping price level.

What do your customers demand? 

ZK: Our customers expect from our suppliers and us uninterrupted functioning of the purchased equipment and simplicity in use, so that even non-surveying professionals — such as a foreman — can use the equipment. There was a time when customers were understanding of interruptions at the beginning of the RTK era in the mid-1990s, but that is gone. Time is money.

Can you tell us more about the types of applications and extreme conditions your users work in?

ZK: Most of our projects so far are in land management, cadastral and GIS. Users are using it in very tough and hot environments, day by day and year by year.

Which does your customer value more — new features or consistent performance?

ZK: I think that customers always hope for some new features. Everything depends on the level of education of the end-user and his hunger for new things, but that isn’t the highest priority. From my point of view, consistent performance is what generates cash for the end-user.

What are your expectations for product life?

ZK: We all live in a consumption society with a habit to replace all of our gadgets in a very short period of time, even if it is not necessary. However, in regard to GNSS devices, people still seem to expect that they will be able to use their units for at least 5–10 years. Based on our experience, NavCom equipment that we have sold in past years is expected to last beyond this timeframe

“Everything depends on the level of education of the end-user and his hunger for new things, but that isn’t the highest priority.”

Do you feel the level of quality and endurance of the hardware is on or above par with industry standards?

ZK: I’ll take this occasion to compliment NavCom. For the past five years, we’ve been working together we’ve had almost no instrument failures whatsoever and the units are used all over the world including harsh environments.

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Do you anticipate a continued migration to PPP navigation from the previous network RTK solutions? 

ZK: For me personally, PPP navigation is a logical consequence in the evolution of surveying. As a side note, I established the first private VRS network in the world back in 1999 and was involved in different projects in other countries to build up CORS stations. However, since I saw the advantages of PPP in particular with the StarFire augmented system with its 5-cm correction, I must say that my world changed for the better. Having a dynamic system in ETRF* versus WGS84 brings a lot of advantages, including no need to have a local base station and no need for a local VRS network, saving time and money day by day. This was music to my ears.

One additional advantage of using PPP over network RTK is our contribution to CO2 reduction. Based on my calculations, we could save close to $1 billion USD over the next 10 years, or in kWh 362\M (conversion to CO2 consumption lowest stage 1,222 lbs./kWh). So I expect continued migration to PPP. Proof for this is that NavCom, with the StarFire network, paved the way for other vendors who are increasingly promoting it, which will create an increased demand from the end-user side as well.

“Having a dynamic system in ETRF* versus WGS84 brings a lot of advantages, including no need to have a local base station and no need for a local VRS network, saving time and money day by day.”

*ITRF is the default datum for StarFire positioning; however, users may enter a 14-parameter datum shift to define their local datum (i.e. ETRF).

How often are your clients surprised at the level of StarFire performance they experience in the field? 

ZK: Basically, nobody believes what they notice and can see with their own eyes. They try to find out where the catch is. After an explanation of how it works, you can just observe how impressed they are. Such experiences recently brought us a new customer that needs to stake out a new route for 450 km of motorways. Also, because the local network RTK is not reliable enough, the customer’s only reasonable and most cost-effective way to complete the project was to purchase several NavCom receivers.

What was the primary purpose for selecting the NavCom Onyx board for your Falcon product?

ZK: Geozone was an early adopter of NavCom’s LAND-PAK system. Since late 2011 we’ve had uninterrupted pleasure of working with NavCom on all of our projects.

Do your previous experiences as a distributor factor into your decision? 

ZK: The fruitful and successful relationship with NavCom in the past years motivates us to continue our progress with the Onyx board. The Onyx board will fit perfectly in our pole-mounted Falcon device, but also in other units, which are currently in the development pipeline.

By removing dependency on base stations, how will Onyx powered by StarFire benefit your users in your new product? 

ZK: It is saving enormous time and money, for sure. By properly using StarFire, we are also enhancing the network RTK in every country that can afford to build one. Our RTK Extend with its 3-cm accuracy makes it possible for a user to continue to work even if his GPRS/GSM signal drops out. If this wasn’t be the case, users would be forced to stop the survey, but with StarFire on their side they can continue and finish their work.

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