Geotech leaders: Kim Malcolm of Geomotion; “I started in my garage”

Barcelona,

Geotechnical instrumentation industry legend Kim Malcolm of Geomotion Australia is relaxed on the video call from Perth, Western Australia.

He is days away from retiring and his interview for our Geotech Leaders series is one of his last public appearances as the chief executive of one of the most highly esteemed precision monitoring firms in the Southern Hemisphere. Launched in 2004 as Itmsoil Australia and adopting the Geomotion brand in 2016, the business has garnered an enviable reputation for introducing technologies that deliver operational efficiency and value to customers in Australian and Asian markets.

Today Geomotion has around 220 staff and offices in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon. Its project portfolio includes monitoring assignments such as the Metro Tunnel in Melbourne, the Forrestfield-Airport Link and the Crown Tower in Sydney. Here Malcolm reflects on his time in the industry and the changes taking place in geotechnical monitoring.

Questions

What got you into this? Where did it all start?

What was the industry like in those days?

Who were you working with at the beginning?

When did your company become Geomotion?

What trends have you seen in terms of technology and processes?

What would you say are the key trends to watch out for in the next five years or so?

Is there still a debate over whether you host your systems in the cloud or on premise?

What are you proudest of?

Any plans for after Geomotion?

What got you into this? Where did it all start?

I was teaching, and I was bored. I wanted to get out. A friend of mine bought a company in the United States called Slope Indicator Company and needed somebody to do the marketing, so I set up a distribution network for them throughout Asia and then moved on. Boart Longyear bought them out. I worked in Seattle for three years then the guys from Soil Instruments asked me to join them. I worked in the UK for three years and set up a distribution network in Asia for Soil Instruments.

Finally, I came back to Perth and started my own company in my garage. I was a distributor for Soil Instruments. Soil Instruments was good enough to give me the rights to Asia, so that made it easy for me to start. It was a good relationship. They did well and I was able to grow the company because they didn’t have any presence in Australia prior to that. I could grow their market share here. We gradually grew from one to—in Australia—40.

What was the industry like in those days?

It was basically half a dozen sensor manufacturers. Data loggers were just being introduced. And they were very basic data loggers that couldn’t do much at all. That’s really been a revolution. The gathering, storing and displaying of data has really been the crux of change over the last 10 years.

Who were you working with at the beginning?

It was only the contractors, the consultants, who were interested in the data. And coincidentally, about that time in Australia we started to do some good underground projects. The ones we mainly got involved in were metro projects. It was just coincidental that the metro projects going underground were in Perth, so we were able to get all that work. We’ve done very well in Australia, in major projects.

When did your company become Geomotion?

In 2004, I sold the company to a Hong Kong investor, changed the name to Geomotion and got some money to grow, so we opened an office in Sydney. After we opened the office in Sydney, we opened one in Melbourne. Now we’ve just opened one in Brisbane, in Singapore, in Malaysia and in Myanmar as well.

What trends have you seen in terms of technology and processes?

It’s been a natural progression. We got sensors that could be applied to data loggers rather than the pneumatics, or sometimes hydraulics, being used previously. Then the data loggers became more sophisticated and could pump out data more effectively. And with software, you’re getting real-time monitoring. Real-time monitoring has just been a game changer for our industry because it offers the engineer so much insight into what’s happening to the environment as they dig holes and tunnels.

What would you say are the key trends to watch out for in the next five years or so?

I think sensors are going to get more sensitive, or more applicable to different applications. That’s really where I think the next level of growth is going to be. On the data logging side of things, I don’t know how much further we can take it. It seems pretty swish right now. The software packages that are coming out now are complex, but it’s easy to see straightaway whether you’ve got a major issue or not. At the sensor end and there’s not much else we can improve.

Is there still a debate over whether you host your systems in the cloud or on premise?

There used to be in the early days, but I’ve not heard that argument for at least four or five years.

What are you proudest of?

Personally, I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in Australia. We have become number one, from being a one-man band, borrowing the minimum of money. That’s been quite an achievement. The company is going well, and everyone is happy.

Any plans for after Geomotion?

I’m going to have a holiday—I haven’t had one in three years—for a couple of months and then think about what I’m going to do next. I won’t be sitting around doing nothing.

Summary

Kim Malcolm is a pivotal figure in the development of real-time wireless monitoring in Asia Pacific and Australasia, bringing experience gained in Europe and North America to the region. An expert on monitoring technologies, he appreciates the value of developments such as cloud-based data handling and low-power, long-range networks. Worldsensing wishes him all the best in his retirement.

About Worldsensing

Worldsensing is a global IoT pioneer. Founded in 2008, the infrastructure monitoring expert serves customers in more than 70 countries, with a network of global partners to jointly drive safety in mining, construction, rail and structural health.

Worldsensing is headquartered in Barcelona and has a local presence in the UK, North and South America, Singapore, Australia and Poland. Investors include Cisco Systems, Mitsui & Co, McRock Capital, ETF, Kibo Ventures and JME Ventures.

Press contact:
Jennifer Harth
[email protected]

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