In a nondescript office building in Norcross – one you may not be able to find without your smartphone’s map app – work is going on that could blaze a new trail for the next generation of online maps.
In fact, to hear Hexagon Geospatial president Mladen Stojic describe it, his company is trying to help enterprise customers determine more than just their exact location in the world. And it’s doing so in a very entrepreneurial manner with hackathons, revenue splits with developers, and a startup mentality.
“We’re not about what was, but what is and what can be and how things change,” Stojic told Hypepotamus. “We now live in a dynamic time where things can change so fast, people don’t have and are not equipped with the necessary tools to be able to shape that change and influence it in a positive way.”
Hexagon Geospatial’s tools start with the Smart M. App, an applications platform launched last summer that combines data from a wide array of global sensors with business workflows and data analytics. “Everything we’ve done with Smart M. App is to synthesize big data with location-based analytics to effectively deliver on-demand context, specific information services that basically solve industry problems,” Stojic said.
Those problems include figuring out how many police should walk a beat in a particular precinct at a given time of day to bring down crime rates, or helping agriculture businesses make the best use of weather patterns and soil moisture to maximize crop yields.
Think of Hexagon Geospatial as a startup within Hexagon AB, a Swedish company with $3 billion in annual revenue that trades on the Stockholm NASDAQ. (Stojic’s division is based in Atlanta because of previous acquisitions, including some core earth-mapping technology spun out of Georgia Tech in the 1970s.) That may explain why Stojic has corporate carte blanche to try some different tactics, such as a contest for developers called IGNITE that will give away a total of $260,000 to those who can build enterprise-ready apps on the Smart M. App platform.
Hexagon Geospatial is also offering developers an App Store-like Exchange for selling their products, with programmers getting 70 percent of the proceeds. Hexagon can also help with marketing efforts. Stojic’s company begins its outreach to the developer community in earnest with its first workshop scheduled for Feb. 18 in New York City.
Other companies have also tried contests and hackathons to win over developers. “What’s different about this is that we’re not just doing this for technology’s sake,” Stojic said. “It’s about changing the economy and empowering a whole new ecosystem for a new generation of developers who are accessing tools and things online all the time, who are quick developers, and they’re entrepreneurs. They want to make a difference. We want to tap into that vibe.”
Hexagon Geospatial taps into a rapidly growing list of business partners, including Airbus, Amazon Web Services, Ordnance Survey (the United Kingdom’s official mapping agency) and others providing content, strategic services and technology.
Its data sources start with satellites that can be tasked to look at any given position on earth more than once a day. Hexagon then adds airborne sensors and drones that it manufactures, along with vehicles equipped with cameras for street views and 3D data.
“We also have handheld devices for capturing accurately the location of a given object or feature or individual, and can assign some information to that,” Stojic said. “We can also go inside of buildings and measure things inside, we can go underground and we can go below water. So, from space to ground to underwater, we have the ability at Hexagon to capture reality.”
Street-view cameras on cars sound a lot like Google, which has done its part to transform digital mapping to include crowdsourced traffic data and integrated satellite imagery. With its own formidable R-and-D department and deep pockets, isn’t Google a potential competitor? And what about government agencies that might want to take this kind of mapping/analytics in-house?
“Google has done wonderful things with Google Maps and ventured out into Google Earth,” Stojic replied, but recent business decisions have moved the company away from the professional market. “It’s that location-based service which is still a primary target of Google’s. It’s not our target. We’re really going after information services that consumers in different industries use beyond figuring out where to go.”
Meanwhile, government budgets have been slashed since the 2008 recession. “If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I would say absolutely we’re competing. But now they’re coming to us,” by asking if they can outsource those services to Hexagon Geospatial, he added.
Stojic’s company doesn’t break out his division’s numbers, but he will say it employs about 300 people and that his growth and revenue targets mirror those of the parent company. He credits Hexagon AB’s CEO Ola Rollen’ with the necessary acquisitions and restructurings to focus on innovation.
“We were created to change the game,” Stojic said. “We need to be not only 12 months ahead of the market, but we need to define the market. What we’ve established with Smart M. App is only the first step in that direction.”