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An (imaginary) GIE+EXPO to remember

October 21, 2020 -  By , , and

Visits with DPL Telematics, Jobber, Lawnbot and more

By Abby Hart, LM Senior Editor

GPS tracking devices (Photo: DPL Telematics)

Secure valuables DPL Telematics’ portable GPS tracking devices allow users to track data, such as run time, idle time, distance and location. (Photo: DPL Telematics)

The Kentucky Exposition Center hall and the demo grounds outside are lined with the latest excavators, skid-steers, mowers and more. Protecting that equipment from theft is top of mind at DPL Telematics, and the company is hearing that growing concern from its customers.

“Since February, we’re finding we’ve had more than 20 reported recoveries of different things from skid-steers, trailers and even stump grinders,” Tony Nicoletti, vice president of sales and business development for DPL Telematics, told me. “I know theft is becoming a really big issue, and usually the back half of the year is worse than the first half, just because there’s a lot more time off and holidays, so things get stolen when people are not around.”

Nicoletti pointed to the American Rental Association Insurance’s list of the most stolen equipment over the previous 12 months, noting that the top three items were trailers, skid-steers and mowers.

To protect companies’ precious investments, DPL Telematics provides self-contained GPS tracking devices that allow users to wirelessly monitor any asset.

At this year’s GIE, the company is showcasing its AssetView Tracking Series and AssetCommand solutions.

The AssetView Tracking Series is a portable battery-powered GPS tracking device that installs quickly, requires no external power and can last years on off-the-shelf batteries — so if a device goes down, it’s just a trip to the drugstore to grab fresh batteries. The AssetView’s Adaptive Tracking feature actively alerts users of curfew violations, movements or geofence breaches.

The AssetCommand model is a hardwired GPS tracking device, which allows users to track run time, idle time, distance, location and battery voltage of assets, set maintenance schedules and receive reminders based on actual usage, distance driven or days — whichever comes first. The AssetCommand’s 3D Accelerometer feature detects driving events such as tilting, rollover, rapid acceleration and harsh braking.

Fourth Street Live party in 2019 (Photo: LM Staff)

Party on 4th Street LM’s party on the Goose Island Beer Bridge is a can’t-miss event at GIE+EXPO. (Photo: LM Staff)

Nicoletti said the portability of DPL Telematics’ tracking devices is what sets them apart. The products are also IP67 rated, which means they are rugged and made for heavy-use equipment, such as trailers, mowers and skid-steers. (But, I couldn’t help but think that I could use one in my car.)

DPL does not require a long-term commitment for its tracking devices. “A lot of folks sign up, you get a two-year commitment, it autorenews at the end of it, or it’s sold month-to-month,” Nicoletti said. “Especially for landscape, when you have seasonal activity, you can actually deactivate products, so you’re not paying for (protection) those months that you’re not using it.”

A family reunion in Louisville

GIE+EXPO isn’t just a yearly opportunity to make new connections on a big scale. For many, it’s a chance to get together with old friends.

Our friends at Jobber agree. “For us, GIE is absolutely like a family reunion, and that’s how we always come at it,” said Moly Milosovic, Jobber’s senior manager of community. “We get in touch with our customers, we get in touch with our partners and we basically make our booth base camp for everybody.”

At the 2019 GIE+EXPO, Milosovic said she noticed from her conversations on the show floor that the landscape industry was even more ahead of the game than past years in terms of adopting technology.

That’s good news for Jobber. For this year’s “What if?” show, the service technology company focused on explaining how its software is centralizing tasks for its landscape industry clients.

Crew member using software in the field (Photo: Jobber)

Quick cash Jobber’s extended partnership with Stripe Capital allows contractors to access funding through the Jobber dashboard, and its online payments feature ensures fast invoice collection. (Photo: Jobber)

“These people have so much going on and so many new factors because of COVID, things they didn’t have to deal with in a previous season, and then potentially new opportunities,” Milosovic told me. “The idea of just keeping everything in one place just continues to become more appealing to them.”

This past summer, the company launched financing and instant payouts through Stripe Capital, allowing users to access funding directly through their Jobber dashboard, without applying for financing through a bank.

“It’s really timely … we see a trend of banks tightening up credit lines and approving loans, and, at the same time, we’re seeing home improvement projects skyrocket,” Milosovic said. “Our landscapers are some of the busiest people right now in terms of our customer base.”

Because of COVID, Jobber’s also touting its online payments feature, which provides instant payouts, allowing users to access any invoices collected in seconds, rather than waiting a couple of days through a bank.

Go iLawn software (Photo: Go iLawn)

Solid estimate Go iLawn’s Instant Estimator offers new project templates and new measuring and estimating tools. (Photo: Go iLawn)

Communication is another key factor for the company. Jobber’s survey of 1,400-plus homeowners revealed that 58 percent feel it’s important to be able to text a business, and 84 percent of homeowners in the 24- to 34-year-old range (the emerging homeowner base) want to be able to text message.

In response to that data, in September, the company released two-way text messaging through the Jobber app. The feature aims to centralize information and simplify communication with the customer, such as rescheduling services due to weather.

Finger painting at GIE+EXPO?

The LM party at the Goose Island Beer Bridge was challenging with the social distancing, but I still was able to meet with readers and hear some stories. It was interesting speaking to Kendall Hines, CEO of Lawnbot. His company made its second appearance at the show.

Lawnbot’s software product integrates into the websites of landscape companies and adds online ordering to their businesses. With the software on desktop and mobile, homeowners simply visit a landscape company’s website, color in their lawn where they want it to be treated and receive a proposal, sign up and pay all through the website.

Lawnbot’s patent-pending measuring technology, Measur.it, is the key to the process. “This is literally coloring in with your finger — like finger painting,” Hines told me. “We tried to design it with all kinds of consumers in mind. You don’t have to learn how to use it in order to use it.”

Lawnbot software (Photo: Lawnbot)

Color in the lawns With Lawnbot, an online landscape sales tool, customers can enter their info, color in their lawn and get a proposal within minutes. (Photo: Lawnbot)

According to Lawnbot’s data, most people complete a purchase — from filling out info, coloring in the lawn, getting a proposal to buying — in three to four minutes.

The time it takes to onboard a company with the Lawnbot software also has been streamlined to about 10-14 days. “We’re using price tables, programs, prepay discounts … this is very customized to the business,” Hines said.

“It gives (companies) the power of Amazon, but for lawn care companies,” he added.

The software features a dashboard where companies can view their platform’s leads, sale data and quoting metrics. The numbers are crucial, which Hines knows from experience — he’s the former CEO of Lawn Doctor of Grand Rapids, in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The growing 9-month-old company showcased its service software at GIE last year with 20 clients under its belt. This year, Lawnbot has 140 customers using the platform, and in March, it announced a partnership and integration with software and marketing company Real Green Systems.

“The companies who use us are very forward-thinking and want to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” he added. “The rise that we’ve seen in buying things online in general, especially now with COVID, (shows) we live in a new world now, and we have to constantly be adapting to it.”

Last day of the show

Neoweather software (Photo: Neoweather)

Catch wind Neoweather’s impact-based weather report services include support, allowing contractors to contact a meteorologist on demand. (Photo: Neoweather)

Brian Ivey, president and meteorologist at Neoweather, isn’t looking to serve up a basic five-day weather forecast to his customers.
He said he wants to provide specific and impact-based forecasts to the company’s landscape, construction and snow and ice clients — information that will actually help contractors know what’s next on the forecast and accurately plan around it.

This year, the company is showing off its new client portal, which will allow contractors to log in on desktop and mobile to look at and interact with radar images and display current weather watches and warnings and current wind conditions for the entire U.S. — basically, users can view a specific forecast for their specific industry and location. Neoweather also provides weather reports with detailed maps and charts, days in advance if there’s a storm. It also offers blog posts with updates as weather events evolve.

“For example, we might have additional details in the forecast product, and it might be different from one industry to the next,” Ivey said. “Landscapers can feel confident that (a storm) is probably going to stay away from their area, especially during the heart of the day.”

And, there’s a bonus for contractors: consulting support. Users can receive specific updates by texting or calling Neoweather and getting more information, such as whether a snowfall will be heavy, wet or wind driven, or answers around timing and whether a weather event will affect the start of the workday. Who wouldn’t want to have a meteorologist on call?

This year, the company is offering a new call alert system. “This allows us to be your weather alarm clock if there’s an unexpected event going on,” Ivey said. “We can let (contractors) know, so they can get up and treat their properties and beat the competition.”

Ivey said pricing is dynamic for the Neoweather service, and he invited contractors to learn more about the service and how the company can serve their needs.

One last meeting

Vectorworks software (Photo: Vectorworks)

A New dimension Vectorworks’ Landmark 2021 offers improved 3D visualization and a feature that allows the user to attach materials to soil layers. (Photo: Vectorworks)

I thought my 2020 GIE+EXPO was wrapped up as I sat at the airport, but then I saw Vectorworks CEO Biplab Sarkar, Ph.D., sit down nearby, and once again I pulled out my reporter’s notebook.

As clients become savvier and begin to request more detailed designs from their landscape contractors, landscape designers need a sophisticated design software, Sarkar told me.

“Many of the projects actually require people to create models of what they’re designing,” Sarkar said. “(Landscape designers) used to do 2D, and now they’re doing the visualizations in 3D models and 3D quantity takeoff. Building information modeling in landscape is gaining traction.”

Enter Vectorworks’ latest version, Vectorworks 2021. The company’s new building information modeling software includes a new version,
Vectorworks Landmark 2021, tailored to the landscape industry.

Sarkar said that with Landmark 2021, designers have better visualization tools. For example, they can visualize things like mitigation performance, plant seasonal interest and plant water efficiency.

Landscape Area is a feature used for specifying objects, such as landscape beds, and the new 3D components allow the user to attach materials to layers of the soil — meaning that the plans and the subgrade material are now quantifiable and better visualized, Sarkar said.

The grade object feature now allows users to better model water flow directions and sloping directions according to their needs by making use of grade networks. Grade objects can be connected and move as one object, then elevations and slopes adjust.

Landmark 2021 also collaborates with Excel, allowing users to edit quantities in a Vectorworks worksheet, export and edit data into Excel and bring it back to Vectorworks.

Sarkar said that about 80 percent of the improvements for this latest version has come directly from the company’s users — landscape contractors, designers and landscape architects.

“What we’ve created is the ultimate landscape design software solution,” Sarkar said. “Contractors can do a lot of things for which they previously had to use different applications.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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