K2 Geospatial sees the world differently
For every city, a digital model exists that is based on an aerial survey. JMap allows decision-makers to obtain these images, which are otherwise normally managed by specialized technicians. “In the case of the floods currently affecting Quebec, JMap Imagery indicates all the properties that could be flooded, including the contact information of the owners, which is then transmitted to a call system used to inform, by phone, the people who are affected,” explains Jacques Charron, President and CEO of K2 Geospatial. “We can then see the results of the telephone campaign and react accordingly.”
Geomatics for all
With a Masters from the Université Laval, where he studied geographic information systems (GIS), Jacques Charron, began his career in the early 1990s, at the very beginnings of geomatics. This context encouraged the development of his young career and led him to participate in various projects, as well as to teach at CEGEP. “We were using such complicated GIS systems at the time,” he recalls. “We say that information is power, but I thought to myself, those in power would never have access to this information. We need to facilitate this… simplify everything.”
While the democratization of the internet was taking flight, Windows was presenting some very interesting GIS solutions. “We needed to develop a solution that allowed the same kind of democratization of online access to geospatial, vectorial and matrix data,” recounts Jacques. “Because the web networks were slow, we needed to find tricks. I had the idea to develop an online solution that was addressed not to technicians, but rather to decision-makers. We wanted to give them access to all elements of the data, so we needed to develop connectors, downloadable software components and interfaces,” he specifies.
One pixel at a time
Thus, K2 Geospatial was born in 1995. At first, they concentrated on research and development for a map-based integration platform: JMap. The software company also offered various GIS consultation services in parallel, from data structuring to training, while producing studies, analyses and blueprints. These activities allowed the company to invest 15 to 20% of its profits in R&D.
The City of Montreal was an early adopter of the JMap product, embracing it at the time of its launch in 1999. K2 then pursued the commercialization of their product, as well as their consultation activities up until 2007, when they decided to devote themselves to the implementation of JMap within organizations.
Their software allows K2 business partners to connect complex networks of geographic information systems. “An example of a partner would be a geomatics integrator, whose client within the mining sector must manage, in a fast and fluid way, data related to engineering, construction, environment, security, transport and asset maintenance, including aqueducts, sewers, roads, snow removal and some 8,500 employees,” details Jacques. “Another example would be software publishers who specialize in Enterprise Resource Planning, who integrate JMap into their own solutions so that they can conform to their clients, who already use our software. This also gives them access to a vast network of information,” he adds.
The partner’s community then receive commissions for reselling JMap, themselves taking on the training and technical support for the 500 clients of eight countries in North America, Europe, and South America. With 25 employees in Montreal, K2 can then ensure the personalization of services for its direct clients in Quebec. Traditionally offering user licences to organizations for their own servers, K2 now provides more and more cloud services (platform or software) and hybrid options (half internet/half cloud).
K2 must always keep up with other companies’ internal geomatics services, as well as with other GIS publishers and digital integrators, even if JMap represents a faster, more transparent and fluid tool. With the goal of increasing its annual organic growth by around 20 to 40%, K2 is the only provider of solutions that meshes the connection, consolidation and publishing of data.
With their sights on a partnership with Microsoft, this ICT company is preparing itself to take on various technological challenges and to rethink their way of doing things, for example its business model and pricing.
Education: a wise investment
With a donation of $2.5M to the Université Laval for training and research in geomatics, K2 Geospatial opened the door for the implementation of their JMap platform on campus. In this way, the specialist in geospatial solutions hopes to increase recognition of both the software and of K2 as an employer. “It’s cost-effective because it will give students access to our technologies, which they will learn to know and master, making it probable that they will choose to eventually purchase them in their respective fields,” indicates Jacques. “They will likely also develop an interest in working for K2, their clients or partners.”
In addition to receiving ongoing training in order to always adapt to the market, the founder of K2 and his team very regularly frequent the university scene, as well as plenty of research centres for technological development. They have most notably worked with the Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre of the INRS; the Laval, Sherbrooke and McGill universities; UQAM; Lausanne’s École Polytechnique fédérale; The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
A world of innovation
K2 Geospatial works mainly with governmental organizations, municipalities, transport companies (harbour and airport authorities), road authorities, utilities and mines. The software publisher optimizes management and communication in real time between various actors within these organizations. Some of the numerous applications of the JMap map-based integration platform include limiting disruptions caused by construction and ensuring cost sharing; providing a wealth of critical information to public safety workers in one click; simplifying snow removal activities; and managing various temporary space conflicts mainly involving film shoots.
The geospatial data sector is rapidly evolving in the era of our current IT. “Today, with the Internet of Things, all traffic lights or road signs are equipped with processors that provide additional information to a solution like JMap,” describes Jacques. “The big data goes into the cloud, and is analyzed with the help of some really interesting solutions, to which we have access,” he adds.
Towards a smart planet
Thrilled with the success of their JMap product, Jacques Charron also emphasizes the pride he has in his team, some of whom have been with him for 20 years: “In addition to our solid values like innovation, performance, team spirit and quality, our little Quebec company started with an idea to become what I would call a small-medium-multinational!”
K2 Geospatial’s mission is to offer everyone tools to improve the world, one decision at a time. From smart cities to continents, this expert in geomatics is gaining ground every day.
Mélanie Pilon, Writer for the ICT Partners Vitrine TI Program
Une initiative du Chantier Promotion de l’industrie de TechnoMontréal et ses partenaires
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Photo : Jacques Charron, Président-directeur général de K2 Geospatial and Denis Brière, Recteur de l’Université Laval
photo credit : Jean Rodier