From Stakes to Satellites: Digital Terrain Solutions' Quest for Accessible Construction Technology

Just before 7 am, Michael Bigioni and Cody DesRoches are already hitting the road, cruising down the 407 highway to visit construction job sites across the Greater Toronto Area. Even on gloomy, blustery winter days, the team springs into action whenever a customer calls with a question, ensuring their tech works perfectly on site.

As the construction industry continues to evolve, the need for innovative and accessible technology becomes increasingly apparent. Companies that embrace these advancements not only streamline their operations but also gain a competitive edge in the market. According to KHL's annual construction technology survey, nearly 65% of respondents in the construction industry prioritized technology in their business plans. However, not all construction crews are equipped to go through technological upgrades independently. Over 60% of those who planned on introducing digital solutions into their business found it difficult to find skilled support for product training and application on-site.

Today, we want to shine a spotlight on a small but agile team — meet Digital Terrain Solutions Inc. (DTS), a Toronto-based civil construction technology service provider that serves Canada and the US. In an industry where tech providers are in high demand, DTS stands out as a shining example of customer-centric service. By collaborating with FJDynamics, DTS puts positioning tools into the hands of many foremen, transforming construction businesses one crew at a time. 


Deep-rooted in Construction: Technological Transformation

DTS' journey began in 2016. Michael Bigioni, president of DTS, grew up working in his family's construction company in Toronto, Canada. "Back in the day, everything was boning rods, stakes, crossheads. The operation was slow because everything was the guy on the ground, relaying the information to the machine operator manually." 

Getting information was a time-consuming and error-prone process. The crews found it extremely troublesome to calculate quantities and measure stockpiles on site, so they had to call in a third-party surveyor every time. Michael knew there was a dire need for affordable, high-quality solutions to swap wooden stakes for something smarter.

Embracing GPS Technology

Michael and his team now help civil construction companies in enhancing project productivity with advanced technology. From converting engineers’ CAD drawings into practical surface models to building job site surveys and layouts, they empower their clients' projects to excel. 

Michael was introduced to GPS technology more than a decade ago and implemented it into his own projects. Along the way, he realized that many construction firms needed substantial support to fully benefit from GPS advancements. In its sixth year of operation, DTS sought new ways to expand its services and better support its customers.

Discovering FJDynamics: A Common Vision

Though there were plenty of GPS technology providers, Michael and his peers in the industry had their grievances with incumbents who did not put their customers first. After testing the waters with suppliers, Michael decided to build a partnership with FJDynamics. "FJD was a growing company whose innovative products and dedication to accessible technology aligned perfectly with DTS's own vision." Eager to explore the potential, Michael and his team started to work with the FJD Trion V1t RTK Rover and Base Station kits.

DTS's experience with FJD was a delightful surprise. Unlike many other providers, "FJD makes everything simple, everything is clean and everything is organized." With the ability to export standard file formats, DTS could now easily take the engineering CAD files and directly integrate them into the project. A notable project for Michael was coming back to a bus loop construction for the Toronto Transit Company (TTC), the largest transportation system operator in Toronto. 

"Typically (after a project is completed), we need to find 4 to 5 control points to get back the localization information. Now with FJD's base shift function, we only need to get one known control point to localize the job". This streamlined process was a stark contrast to the surveyor-driven methods of the past, so any crew member could get valuable data with just a little bit of training.

Quality Comes with Affordability

FJDynamics not only provided affordable solutions but maintained high-quality performance. With access to global constellations, DTS now enjoys uninterrupted connections even kilometers away from their base station, with 25 to 35 satellites available at any given time. Cody DesRoches, Vice President of DTS, shared a successful project in which the client was struggling to maintain a fixed satellite connection within the dense forest. 

"Initially, the client called us to purchase a total station. But when we understood the project requirement, we suggested demoing the FJD Trion V1t rover and base systems. While their previous base and rover system lost connection, FJD was able to maintain fixed signals under canopies. We actually saved a customer from having a complicated solution." This consistent level of connectivity has enabled DTS to support client projects in challenging environments, such as areas close to buildings, or near forest canopies.

Cody working on a creek redevelopment project in Toronto

Future Outlook

Like Michael and Cody, many seasoned professionals have seen exponential growth in the civil construction industry in the past two decades. Michael believes that it's important to both embrace technology and stay rooted in the core principles of construction. "When you're using modern technology, you still have to go back to your roots...But this GPS technology, because it's now affordable and it's now simple, can be implemented on every crew." People's background or expertise no longer becomes a bottleneck because easy tools can help more people do wonders on job sites. 

Michael envisions a more productive and inclusive industry that evolves alongside technological advancements. "So [GPS technology] started just like any other technology in the last 20 years: phones, TVs, the internet, and social everybody can use a phone, everyone can use a tablet, and now, everybody can be a surveyor."

"But GPS can now be implemented on every crew. So every foreman should have a rover, and every excavator should have some sort of grade control on it. It should just be part of the operation."

— Michael Bigioni, President, Digital Terrain Solutions Inc. 

Learn more about FJD Trion V1t RTK Rover here
Learn more about Digital Terrain Solutions Inc. here