LOUISVILLE--The GIE+EXPO 2017 is the Lawn & Garden industry's largest showcase for:

• Outdoor power equipment distributed through dealers, retailers and distributors for consumer, professional and rental use

• Lawn and garden products/outdoor leisure items distributed through home centers, dealers and retailers

• Light construction and landscape equipment used by general contractors and landscapers

This year's show contained 850 exhibits throughout 500,000 sq. ft. inside the Kentucky Exposition Center which is 50,000 sq. ft. more than 2016.

Overall, registration is up 13%, and the lawn and landscape professional's category is up 19%.

Exhibitor participation is up with about 1,000 GIE+EXPO and HNA exhibits, indoors and out. 20% are new exhibitors.

Internet-of-Things (IoT)

Briggs & Stratton introduced an IoT device and web-based platform tailored specifically for contractors and landscapers. InfoHub gives landscape operations the intelligence to be smarter about scheduling jobs, preparing bids and deploying crews and equipment.

The data is fed from a cloud-based platform to the InfoHub portal. Armed with this real-time data, owners can drive more efficiency and profitability to the bottom line and can respond to uncertainties like weather rescheduling.

The top two benefits users found with InfoHub was their ability to track their crew and equipment, and the ability to understand profitability and productivity by crews and jobs.

Look for more IoT products to be released by the equipment manufacturers.

UTV's Grow in Popularity

There has been an increase in the number of traditional equipment manufacturers adding UTVs and attachments to their product offerings.

Customers have found that UTVs work efficiently and are safe and reliable. There is a UTV that fits almost any job, and manufacturers keep refining and tailoring this product.

UTV's are one of the hottest products in today's commercial landscape market. Sales should continue to increase as more applications are developed for the UTV.

Battery Powered Products

The GIE+EXPO 2017 had many suppliers offering battery-powered trimmers, chainsaws, mowers, snow blowers and leaf blowers. The products keep getting lighter, offering more run time, and including more convenient charging options.

One of the leaders in this "green revolution" is Greenworks. They plan to release two lithium-ion battery-powered commercial Zero-turn radius mowers next year. These will be their first zero-turn models, and will be available in 48-in. stand-on and 60-in. ride-on sizes. A 52-in. ride-on model also will also be released in 2018. The battery on the 48-in. mower will have five to six hours of runtime while the 60-in. will last about four hours before needing a charge.

Both the 48-in. and 60-in. Commercial Zero-Turn mowers will offer the ability to mow approximately eight acres on a single charge. Greenworks also said it will release its first commercial walk-behind self-propelled mowers. The 21 & 25 in. mowers will offer approximately 3.5-4 hours of run-time using a new Dual Port Battery system with two six Ah batteries.

They will be available early in 2018.

Robotic Mowers

Today's robotic mowers, regardless of brand, represent yet another solution for specialized mowing applications. Some of the biggest suppliers in the market feel robot units will emerge as another solution that contractors will embrace in the increasingly competitive, labor-stressed environment.

The most obvious mowing application is cutting grass on sharp inclines where mowers tend to tip over.

Another technology to watch is brushless mowers. With these units, the rotor isn't in contact with anything - there's nothing to wear down over time and dissipate energy. They are more efficient and longer lasting than brushed motors. With the elimination of the friction-producing brushes, brushless motors are more powerful, given the same voltage as a brushed motor and should help the battery powered market become more economical for commercial landscapers.

Most commercial landscape contractors hesitate to switch over to battery powered products until they feel run time, recharge time and power is equivalent to current equipment.

In the meantime, mass merchandisers will continue to switch products, sold to the residential market, to battery powered equipment. It is just a matter of time before battery powered products become an economical option for the commercial market. PSR