From the Editor: Doing Business in China

A 518Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

The timing of the release of this issue shifts to Las Vegas, NV for the HxGN Live event in early June, then to Toronto, Canada for Optech’s Imaging and LiDAR User Conference, June 9 12 and finally on to Washington, DC for GEOINT 2015 June 22 25. It is going to be another busy month.

The Riegl LiDAR 2015 conference which was held in both Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China was an amazing experience. All of the Riegl team needs to be congratulated for the extremely successful delivery of this unique and logistically challenging event. Riegl has figured out how to do business in China and over the past quarter has seen their sales double. Be sure to see the many In the Scan blog posts for more details about this impressive event. It was interesting to see how many young people attended the sessions in China. It was noticeably different than here in the states.

The report that I received on ASPRS IGTF 2015 in Tampa was quite encouraging as well. Michael Hauck, the Executive Director of ASPRS reported on a very upbeat and focused IGTF conference that was held in early May. One of the keynotes highlighted the fact that in 2014, 4,500 earth imaging satellites were announced by 72 countries. It would certainly seem that it no longer takes the resources of an entire country to launch one of these birds and that seismic shifts are taking place.

For 2016 Michael reports that the conference will be held in Fort Worth, Texas April 1115 and that the program will be much more focused on end user applications than on technology. Two cakes were shared at one of the social events. One celebrated the birth of the UAS division and the other the fact that Michael Baker has been a sustaining member of ASPRS for 65 years. On the business side, the ASPRS Board of Directors approved moving forward with a complete overhaul of ASPRS by unanimously adopting the Streamlining Task Force recommendations.

One of the major announcements to come out of the AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2015 conference was the decision to rebrand the event. It will now be known as XPONENTIAL with next year’s event being held May 2 5, 2016 in New Orleans. They believe we are at in inflection point in the industry that deserves this kind of change. It’s hard to disagree. AUVSI has been in business for over 40 years so I am sure this decision was not taken lightly.

Before providing some thoughts on the incredible business opportunities that China offers I want to thank all of the authors who once again have provided a wide range of highly valuable case studies and end user insights. From movie making to 3D GIS and from pipe extraction to historical documentation, to name just a few, the contributions in this issue represent the state-of-the-art for our industry. Please be sure to contact me with your idea for an article.

As I am writing this editorial it is the next to last day of my trip to Hong Kong and China. It has been truly an eye opening experience. First of all, although China controls Hong Kong there is no comparison between mainland China and Hong Kong. Those who grew up in Hong Kong when it was under British rule will tell you that it has also dramatically changed. Some will say that it has "lost its soul," but the overall feeling that one gets is quite different in the two places. Guangzhou is China, Hong Kong is not.

In his keynote at Riegl Lidar 2015 in Guangzhou, Dr. Yanjing Liu of Five Star, a Riegl reseller provided a timeline of the key developments over the past 10 years concerning the introduction and use of lidar in China. Dr. Liu is a very unique observer of the business landscape in China. He has been instrumental in guiding the adoption of LiDAR and laser scanning throughout the country.

Dr. Liu noted that there was an early introduction of the technology including the first demonstration of a Riegl scanner in 2003, but as of 2005 there was essentially no lidar experience or expertise in China. The first projects were met with wide doubt and when some of the earliest efforts resulted in failures those doubts were confirmed.

Over the past ten years the universities and research institutes have made great strides completing many cultural heritage, mapping and infrastructure projects. The Great Wall was scanned in 2006. On the mobile front there were issues with exporting IMUs to China, but there are mobile units being used now.

Today the use of UAVs is HOT according to Dr. Liu, but he also says that China is still far behind other countries in Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. Worth noting is that the average income of a citizen in China is still only $80 per month.

For those who can figure out the system, as Riegl has done the business opportunities are incredible. For anyone considering doing business in China the first rule is that you must partner with people who understand the customs and know how to navigate the proper government channels in order to get the required approvals to buy products and provide services.

This takes time and is certainly a challenge, but if you can develop that type of business relationship then you will have access to a very large potential customer base that is badly in need of the technology. With the ongoing movement of China’s population to cities the need for transportation, utilities and housing, to name a just a few of the needs are the largest in the world.

Riegl decided to set up a new company in China. Riegl (Beijing) Co., Ltd. is the entity through which Riegl does business with its partners in China. The company has a Managing Director that spends 50% of his time in China. This level of commitment is needed to support the rapidly growing business and to better understand the unique needs of distributors and customers in China.

On a final note I had a lot of time to read while travelling back and forth to Hong Kong and China. A truly fascinating and inspiring book that I did not want to see end is, How to Fly a Horse, by Kevin Ashton, the person who coined the term the "Internet of Things." I don’t know where to begin to summarize the diverse message of this book, but if you are tired of going to company meetings you will be able to use this as a reason for not holding them. Ashton notes that it is much more important to show people your new idea then it is to talk about it. It’s like the Missouri state motto–show me.

Gene Roe, LS, PE, PhD
Managing Editor & Co-Founder LiDAR News Magazine

A 518Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE