Autonomy and collaboration at the center of the Dimensions+ conference

Rob Painter, CEO of Trimble, and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, during the Dimensions+ keynote. Credit: Inside Unmanned Systems

LAS VEGAS—Trimble kicked off its first Dimensions+ conference in four years by rolling out new cloud-based automation and collaboration platforms it says will make construction, farming and other jobs more efficient and easier on the planet.

Rob Painter, President and CEO of Trimble, began by highlighting the construction of the Randselva Bridge, a 634-meter cantilevered concrete bridge in Norway that was made without “any two-dimensional drawing. None. Zero,” and which had 250,000 rebars, 250 long-span steel cables, “and teams in five countries collaborating on the same digital model.”

Using digital planning and teamwork saved 10% of total costs, Painter said in the Nov. 7 show’s keynote. “That’s what we do at Trimble.”

The company’s ambition is to create “the best industrial cloud on the planet,” Painter said, which includes pairing with Microsoft on the new Trimble Construction Cloud, which it has begun rolling out.

“We’re combining our deep domain knowledge with Microsoft’s cloud know-how,” Painter said, featuring a video greeting from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who said enterprises are increasingly turning to data streams. digital jobs, especially in the construction industry.

As the world faces growing headwinds in the form of economic disruption and escalating costs, “digital technology is the ultimate tailwind,” Painter said.

Trimble Construction Cloud combines a common data environment with automated workflows to allow designers and engineers to collaborate while working on different tools; a designer can work in Trimble Quadri software while a civil engineer works on the same project in Trimble Tekla model-based software, and the whole package can be integrated live into Microsoft Teams, “so the owner can get on with it,” Painter said. “We are ushering in a new era of continuous and connected experience.”

What is different?

Autonomy and connectivity were the main themes of the conference.

“Why now, what has changed?” asked Aviad Almagor, Trimble’s vice president for technology innovation. In short, the enabling technology has reached the necessary level of maturity and computing power has increased exponentially over the past decade. Almagor played the sound of an acoustic modem connecting, eliciting laughter from the main session.

Using this increased power and automation, Almagor said Trimble is reaching out to other partners, including, in some cases, competitors, to create an integrated physical and digital environment it calls the “metaverse of construction”, which combines automation, sensors, robots and humans. in an open and interoperable environment.

This effort includes collaboration with companies such as NVIDIA, Exyn Technologies, Piaggio Fast Forward, Microsoft and Boston Dynamics. A Boston Dynamics Spot dog-like robot, paired with a Trimble X7 laser scanner, can patrol a construction project, prepare and provide a digital update before a crew arrives on site in the morning, Almagor said. during the presentation.

This ability was then informed in a breakout session on November 8th. The robot-sensor combination can be linked via Trimble’s FieldLink software, making the robot just another sensor in the package, although it can move autonomously if needed.

The Spot/X7 link was first announced two years ago and early adopters are using it in the field, generating case studies, said David Burczyk of Trimble, building products manager. One is that of company BAM Utall in the UK, which uses the dogs in the Shetland Islands in the North Sea at a site so remote it can take more than a day to get there.

Proofs of concepts “help us refine the workflow” of the system, which costs $180,000, including the company’s robot, software and support.

The Boston Dynamics Spot robot, equipped with a Trimble X7 laser scanner, on its charging base in the Dimensions+ exhibit hall. Credit: Inside Unmanned Systems


Trimble officials stress that autonomy isn’t a new word to them, it’s something they’ve been pursuing for decades. It’s an iterative process, they say, requiring them to meet a client where they are to see what autonomy can do for them, rather than promising a one-time situation.

There are different types of autonomy, for automation, command and control, connected worksite, teleoperation, collision avoidance, driver assistance and more, anything that has a “detect” loop. , think, act,” Kevin Andrews, chief strategy officer at Autonomy Group, said at a Nov. 8 press breakfast.

“Where are we? It really depends on your industry,” he said. The question is not just the autonomy, but also the levels of integration. Is it a single machine that moves, or of several different types, doing different things?

“You can go up levels of integration without autonomy and vice versa, but things get interesting when they come together,” he said.

Trimble Construction One, for example, is a high level of integration, which can involve autonomous workgroups and different types of machines. “They don’t all have to go to the same level,” he said. “You can decide where automation is going to bring the most value.”

Woz’s advice

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joined Painter for the Nov. 7 opening session, sharing memories of Apple’s founding and some advice for tech companies in the future.

Companies should have a “head of disruption who doesn’t report to the CEO,” Wozniak said, adding that this is the second most important position in any company behind the CEO. The CEO brings in the money and the disruptor allows the company to innovate. The office should report directly to the board and should not be located near the company’s headquarters, he said.

“The disruption is what worries you, but you want to be the disrupter and not the disrupted,” he said.

Overall, the Dimensions+ conference indicated that while autonomy is disruptive, it is also a progression from partial to full autonomy, with many milestones across many industries along the way.

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