From the Editor: The Surveying ProfessionTime for Change

A 352Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

INTERGEO is the world’s leading conference trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation and land management. With over half a million event website users and more than 16,000 visitors from 80 countries it is BIG. For the first time I will be attending this year’s event which is being held in Essen, Germany October 8th to 10th. I will do my best to provide you with a sense of what it is all about.

Also in October is the FARO 3D conference plus GEOINT 2013. Just to keep life interesting I will be attending both as well as Bentley’s Be Inspired Awards in London. Wish me luck.

Since the last issue of LiDAR Magazine we attended Riegl LiDAR (see the article by Marc Cheves) and Optech’s ILSC 2013 in June. Then we moved on to the Esri User Conference which included the Survey Summit and the 3D Mapping and LiDAR Forum in early July. I have a number of blog posts and a guest editorial in our sister publication American Surveyor that summarize these events.

One of the more interesting presentations at the Survey Summit was a keynote by the Head of Global Technology Alliances at Amazon Web Services, Brian Matsubara. Brian presented an incredible look into how the leader in cloud services thinks and operates, but I was most impressed by his opening remark "At Amazon our goal is to be the most customer-centric company in the world."

That is a world class vision and from what I understand they are making this happen. Amazon has built 50 new fulfillment facilities since 2010 as part of a nearly $14 billion capital improvement program. They have also decreased their prices 27 times for cloud services, yes decreased. As Brian noted this has not endeared them to Wall Street because they don’t generate enough profit, but Amazon’s goal is not to be the most profitable, it’s to be loved by its customersworth thinking about. Think Esri.

In this issue of LiDAR News we continue to provide you with articles that cover a wide range of technology, research and business issues that relate to laser scanning, LiDAR and/or the 3D revolution in which we find ourselves. The thanks for this, in large part must go to the authors who take the time to develop these inspiring articles. If you have an idea for an article please reach out to me so we can save a space for you in an upcoming issue. We want to help you to get the word out about your accomplishments.

Geomatics Survey Engineer
Now for some tough lovethe Survey Summit opened some old woundsarrows in the back type of wounds. (See TAS editorial above). I have been involved with the integration of surveying, CAD and GIS my entire surveying and engineering careergoing on 40 years.

Change is hard. Change of the order of magnitude that is needed by the surveying profession is very hard, but if we don’t try to do something about the current situation involving the licensure of surveying professionals then things will either stay the same or, it may be hard to imagineget worse. We have to get this resolved not only for those of us currently involved, but more importantly for the generations to come, assuming we can attract new people to our profession.

As a quick aside, perhaps the lack of interest in the surveying profession is the result of our inability to move the profession forward. Perhaps young people don’t see surveying as a profession, certainly not an attractive one, at least here in the U.S. There is much more respect for the profession in other countries as witnessed by INTERGEO, but this is a topic for another day.

Let’s start in the beginning. Pick up a surveying text and you will see many chapters classifying surveying into a number of fields of studyplane, boundary, construction, geodeticthe list is a long one. However, when it comes to licensure of professionals in the U.S. who practice surveying there is only one category which for the most part focuses on the legal knowledge required to properly perform boundary surveys in a particular state. That is very important for the protection of the public and property ownership, but it does not begin to address the increasing complexity of today’s surveying profession.

Professional engineers, on the other hand are licensed more narrowly. This group recognizes that there are mechanical, electrical, civil and other categories, plus within a category like civil engineers there are specialty categories such as geotechnical, structural and transportation which further recognize the specialized skills and training needed to practice in the field and protect the public. This page at the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying NCEES website provides a listing.

If you can ignore geodetic issues, meaning you can assume the earth is flat in the region you are measuring and all that is required is the use of 2D local coordinates, then the measurement knowledge that a boundary surveyor must possess to perform an accurate, legal survey is quite limited, especially given the quality of total stations and post processing software that is available today. However, the moment you introduce the need for a professional, working understanding of geodesy into the picture then there is a paradigm shift from 2D to 3D mathematics.

Having taught in a two year survey technology program and worked with many survey technology students I know it is not realistic to provide the needed course work in geodesy in a two year program. The truth of it is anyone that is using GNSS should be trained in the basics of geodesy. This will require a 4 year program where the math requirements are much more rigorous. Such a program can be seen at Oregon State University in the College of Engineering. In fact the Geomatics program is at the graduate level.

By now I am sure you can see where this is leading. I would propose that what we need is a new category of survey/engineering professional that I would term Geomatics Survey Engineer, at least for now. I am sure the licensed surveyor community is not going to support this. I tend to think the engineering community will at least be interested in discussing the concept. In fact I have started that conversation within ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).

I realize there are those who think this is far too negative an outlook, but unfortunately I have actively tracked the status of the surveying profession since 1975, almost 40 years and we have been on a downward slope by any number of metrics during that time period.

However, as an eternal optimist and someone who sees the critical need for the surveying profession I think that we have a once in a lifetime (at least in my case) opportunity to re-purpose our profession and get us headed in a new direction. The challenge is to position the surveying profession for 2020 and beyond. It will all be 3D by then.

Of course the complicating issue in all of this is the legal aspectthe licensing statutes in each state. Will it be difficult to make those changes? Of course, change is hard. At the very least can we start a serious debate?

Gene Roe, LS, PE, PhD Managing Editor & Co-Founder LiDAR Magazine

A 352Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

About the Author

Gene V. Roe

Gene V. Roe Ph.D., P.E., PLS... I have over 40 years of experience in the surveying and mapping field. I am a registered Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor and hold a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering. I have taught surveying and civil engineering at the University of New Hampshire, built a 50 person survey engineering firm, and in 1985 founded the first GIS consulting group in New England. In the early 90's I shifted into the software development business where I have focused on CAD/GIS integration, while helping to build successful start ups like Softdesk and Blue Marble Geographics. I hold two US patents for a GPS-based, personal navigation device. I have also worked in the remote sensing arena where I was part of the highly successful development of the ultra-compact, Buckeye LiDAR/digital camera system, currently being used by the military to search for IED's. Most recently I have focused on 3D laser scanning, where I led the effort at Autodesk to integrate this technology into their graphics' engines. As the Chair of the ASTM E57.04 data interoperability subcommittee I am leading a team that is developing a standard data exchange for terrestrial laser scanners. I am also the ACSM delegate to FIG Commission 8 - Spatial Planning and Development.
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