With Computers as Their Canvas and Code as Their Paints, Digital Innovators Create Things of Practical Beauty
21st Century Masterpieces
(page 2 of 2)
Not all innovators are driven to change the world; some, like the founders of F4 Tech, are motivated by gaps in technology.
With changes in the global climate and pressure to lower production costs, the forestry industry has an increasing demand for efficiency.
Just over 20 years ago, the methods for deforesting lands for industrial use were primitive. A surveyor would measure land by pacing distance with a person’s stride and inspect the density of a stand of trees by manually counting them. This data, with its inevitable propensity for errors, was input into handheld devices, then manually uploaded into a spreadsheet. In the digital age, innovation seemed inevitable, but many in the business remained content to use these outdated methods.
The founders of Tallahassee’s F4 Tech (thinkf4.com), which stands for “Forestry for Technology,” brought the forestry industry into the 21st century. Their slogan almost sounds like a movement, and in many ways it is.
Courtesy F4 Tech
Mark Milligan, president and founder of F4 Tech, received his MBA from Florida State as well as a B.S. in forest management from Louisiana State University. Raised in a family of foresters, after finishing his collegiate studies, he felt there was a better way to do forestry. He developed a mobile device to aid in data collection using Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies.
“First and foremost, we are foresters,” he says. But since founding the company in 1998, Milligan’s team has grown from one person’s vision of forestry to a team of technological innovators. With the help of people such as Thomas Walthousen, director of Integrated Solutions, F4 Tech finds new ways to innovate GIS-dependent industries.
Their Windows-based software has the flexibility to be used in many industries. F4 Tech’s main product line, called the Forge Echo, stores data collected in a variety of fields, such as mining, oil and gas, and agriculture. Their company has surveyed 1.5 million acres to supply accurate information to companies in need of extracting oil, minerals and natural gas and to provide current information on the species of trees for developing paper products.
Milligan’s most recent innovation is SilvAssist Cloud software, which uses GPS to put collected data directly into cloud storage for use off-site. This technology revolutionizes all industries with a need for GIS. In a short period of time, Milligan and his team have taken the forestry industry from individuals counting trees on their fingers to surveying geographical regions with state-of-the-art technology and advanced algorithms. They are now measuring the world in ones and zeroes, the binary language of computers.
Whether writing code to help a paraplegic patient walk or designing surveying tools to save trees, those who see the world with such clarity are the artists of our age.