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InSphere - New Computing Platform from Trimble Offers Access to Apps for Field Service Management

Monday, March 24th 2014
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Summary:

InSphere is a new hosted service from Trimble that provides access toapps for managing data, project information and field equipment, as well as support for other field management services. Alain Samaha, business area director of software for Trimble’s Geospatial Division, provides more details in this interview with Editor in Chief Joe Francica.

Directions Magazine (DM): The Trimble InSphere platform appears to be a central data repository solution. Is Trimble offering this as a managed service with a monthly or yearly fee to which users subscribe? 

Alain Samaha (AS): Trimble InSphere is significant because it fills some operational gaps felt by geospatial organizations. It is a little bit misleading to think of it as a central data repository today. I would categorize it more as a central place for customers to access a suite of Trimble InSphere applications. Today it includes apps for managing data and field equipment, build and share forms for field work and Trimble Access Services for moving data between the field and the office. The applications share an architecture that includes a common geospatial database and set of services and user interface.

You are correct in that these applications are offered to customers as a service for a yearly subscription fee.

DM: What platform will Trimble use for InSphere? If this is a true platform as a service (PaaS), are you utilizing Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure?

AS: Trimble InSphere uses the best of breed hosting solutions that include Amazon Web Services as a core component. We see geospatial information as a key strategic asset and we want to be sure that customers of all kinds are protecting it and able to access it readily.

DM: If the purpose of InSphere is to be a central data store for applications, as the press release suggests, which applications might a user host? Are these only Trimble Business Center applications and if so, which ones?

AS: To clarify, InSphere applications (Data Manager, Equipment Manager, TerraFlex, and Trimble Access Services) are Trimble-developed applications. Data Manager and Equipment Manager are two new applications that we have developed to address key customer challenges around managing historical data and field devices, respectively. TerraFlex and Trimble Access Services are existing cloud-based applications that have been out in the marketplace for some time and we think there are great advantages to bringing them into a common architecture.

DM: Can you be more specific as to what InSphere Data Manager will do? Is this an application, a spatial database or a file system manager with a customized user interface?

AS: InSphere Data Manager is a Web-based application that allows geospatial organizations to easily access and find all their previous project information in one place and view project data on a map. Those data might include survey control points from Trimble Business Center (.vce) files and other line and polygon features from common industry files (.kml and .shp). Users can upload these project data and view them all on one map with Data Manager.

Whenever needed, they can search for project data using the map or keywords. They can also view detail attributes for each feature and export data in a .csv for use in Trimble Access field software.

DM: If InSphere Data Manager is solely to host data captured with, for example, a Trimble total station, will Trimble offer to also host other GIS solutions or data collection platforms for the customer?

AS: InSphere Data Manager does not host field-captured data today. Once data have been processed with Trimble Business Center (TBC) they are compatible with Data Manager. The application extracts survey control data from Trimble Business Center (.vce) files and brings them into the system. In addition, it provides NGS control points so customers can have easy access to both their own and public data in one place. Data Manager also supports common industry standard data formats, including .shp and .kml.

DM: InSphere Equipment Manager appears to be more like a document management system since it manages warranty and other information. True? Can you explain further?

AS: InSphere Equipment Manager allows users to track the location of their equipment and better manage their warranty, firmware and software information. This information is automatically extracted and populated into the application for many Trimble devices, including GNSS receivers, total stations, field controllers and imaging rover, so customers can manage their equipment centrally and much more efficiently. They can see what equipment they have using the map or list view, where devices are, and get alerts on warranty expiration and software updates.

DM: Can you explain the workflow between TerraFlex and Data Manager? Are data captured by a TerraFlex interface uploaded to the Data Manager application?

AS: Today, TerraFlex and Data Manager are not tightly integrated. These are two separate applications that share some common architecture, such as common login, common look and feel, common map interface, and common application launcher. Users of both TerraFlex and Data Manager can have a consistent experience regardless of which application they are using.

DM: Are Trimble Access Services customized programming services to assist a user with specific workflows designed around a company’s specifications?

AS: Trimble Access Services is an existing service offered to customers with our surveying field controllers. It is a cloud-based data transfer method for connecting the field and office. Office users can send the most up-to-date job data to field crews and field crews can send completed projects to the office. We like to say, “Move data, not people.”

DM: Will InSphere be expanded to include additional services or applications that Trimble might offer?

AS: With the way the geospatial universe is changing, possibilities for future integration, services and applications are endless. We will continue to look for more opportunities to expand InSphere to solve more customer challenges. Users will be our biggest source of inspiration for future development.

I encourage readers to visit our website www.trimbleinsphere.comto learn more about each application and watch videos on how it all works. In addition, readers can also listen to a recently recorded webinar [KMF1] to hear the story directly from our product experts.


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