The Nature of Work—Are We Happy to Be Going Back?

There are now female bosses in 41 of the Fortune 500 companies1. The ceiling has been shattered, seemingly, but there is a long way to rise, through the cables, ducts, pipes and floors, to the level above. Indeed, in terms of percentage of women in board seats, the US is very much in the peloton of OECD countries, well behind progressive Scandinavian countries and New Zealand. Nevertheless, progress is apparent. The ASPRS group on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee (DEI; Oxford comma—ouch!), formed quite recently, is active and strong.

Covid has had its effect. Despite the opportunities inherent in working from home, female participation in the US labor force has fallen during the pandemic. Maybe this will be reversed. The return to work, usually for less than five days per week, has spurred endless articles on the nature of work now and in the future. Employers are grappling with the mix of employees, some desperate to return to the office, others aspiring to work from home forever more. Which way will it go? I remember the late Augusts of my youth, the famous couplet from As You Like It reminding me that the new term was approaching all too fast: “And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel, And shining morning face, creeping like snail, Unwillingly to school.” But not my son, texting excitedly from his Googlebus! A recent report from Stanford suggests that employees regard working partly from home as equivalent to an 8% pay increase2. We are grateful that analog stereoplotters are no longer the bedrock of geospatial endeavor.

This issue brings an intriguing blend of articles. Let’s start with the short piece in which our new contributing writer, Amar Nayegandhi, introduces himself. He’s well known in the geospatial lidar world and we look forward to his explorations of the interplay between industry and technology.

We are pleased to bring four articles from last year’s SAR workshop run by the ASPRS Florida Region and the University of Florida. Another of our contributing writers, Al Karlin, provides a summary, then a third, David Maune, gives grades to organizations based on their approach to subsidence—light-hearted, yet it brings home the immediacy and severity of the problem and underlines that it is much easier to measure than manage. Well known geospatial writer Mary Jo Wagner describes SAR work by the Italian firm TRE ALTAMiRA, which has developed a software technology called SqueeSAR to analyze time series of SAR data. And the airborne side is not forgotten as Ian Wosiski highlights the successes and products of Intermap Technologies. These articles, plus other contributions to the workshop summarized in the Karlin piece, confirm the complementarity of lidar and SAR—end-users are indeed blessed with accessible technologies to address major issues, not only subsidence, but also land-slides, and their changes through time.

We continue our series of articles from Esri authors with one from Linda Peters. Imagery and lidar of the whole island of Grenada were acquired by Fugro, then Esri applied its deep-learning technology for rapid extraction of information from the point cloud, an exemplar of modern software providing useful deliverables from massive data sets rapidly and effectively. The goal is a nationwide digital twin.

Our story about Frontier Precision is heartwarming. We interviewed co-founder and CEO Dennis Kemmesat and learned how this Trimble dealership, which spans 11 states, has expanded over the decades into a vigorous business built on a broad portfolio, including UAV systems. Frontier Precision has a novel approach to introducing prospective customers to complex, expensive systems: it provides its own equipment and experts to work through a project with the client, who is much more likely to make a purchase once it’s clear that the technology is efficacious and profitable. Dennis meticulously restricts this service to evangelism and carefully avoids situations that could be construed as competition with surveying and engineering firms. As Frontier Precision expands its territory and the products it represents, we hope to report case studies in future articles.

Geospatial professionals are obliged to stay up-to-date on rules and regulations governing their activities. Often this means entering the world of certification and licensure. In the US we have the additional challenge that the regulatory landscape undulates from state to state. Mike Zoltek’s article is an update of one that originally appeared in Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing: we are indebted to ASPRS for permission.

I’ve written on the website about the meetings we hope to cover this year. We don’t have the bandwidth to cover every event, for example we’ve had to forego an invitation to AEC-ST in Anaheim in June 2022, because we’ll be in France covering the XXIV ISPRS Congress in Nice and YellowScan’s LiDAR for Drone 2022 conference in Montpellier. Other European commitments will preclude attending HxGN LIVE Global 2022 in Las Vegas, but publisher Allen Cheves will be there. And we’ll be back stateside for the Esri International User Conference in San Diego. We’re shaping up for a hectic fall, with Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas and the Photogrammetric Week in Stuttgart in adjacent weeks. Intergeo is in Essen this year, in October, then there’s Trimble Dimensions+ in Las Vegas in November. We’ll be grateful for a few relaxing days in the holiday season, but we’ll know a lot about lidar!

While waxing lyrical on the return of face-to-face events, we should remember the ongoing program of remote ones. The magazine recently attended two well prepared webinars: one was a combined effort from Applanix and the precision ag system supplier GRYFN; the other, by photonics supplier Excelitas, which supplies lidar components. Also on the calendar are another lidar workshop from ASPRS Florida Region and the University of Florida, and a technical meeting run by ASPRS Pacific Southwest Region and its student chapter at San Diego State University. You will have your own favorite events—the point is that there are endless opportunities for education about the technologies that fascinate us and their applications.

Our next issue will have a focus on automotive lidar—the people and the products in this huge, dynamic market. A useful article in Photonics Spectra provides context3. The consensus is that it is lucrative for suppliers to concentrate on advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) for the time being, because autonomous vehicles (AVs) are not with us yet, for both technical and regulatory reasons. It’s heartening to know, however, that small robots are operational, for example for warehouse tasks4 or local deliveries5.

These technologies help Steve Bezos speed parcels on their way or pizzerias deliver to homes and offices, but let’s end by looking upwards and forwards. Lidar is amongst the tools deployed to battle space debris6.

Thank you for reading the magazine.

1 Anon, 2022a. Women in the workplace: no-ceiling fans, The Economist, 442(9287): 55, 12 March.
2 Anon, 2022b. The value of clarity: clear expectations are the secret to making hybrid work a success, The Economist, 443(9291): 53, 9 April.
3 Li, L., 2022 Advancements in diode lasers fuel automotive lidar, Photonics Spectra, 56(3): 44-49, March 2022.
4 Anon, 2022c. The bots taking over the warehouse, The Economist, 442(9283): 68, 12 February.
5 Anon, 2022d. Autonomous vehicles: sidewalk robots are already busy delivering groceries, The Economist, 442(9283): 69, 12 February.
6 Beaulieu, E., 2022. Advanced imaging rises to the task of detecting space debris, Photonics Spectra, 56(3): 56-61, March 2022.

About the Author

Dr. A. Stewart Walker

Stewart is the Managing Editor of the magazine. He holds MA, MScE and PhD degrees in geography and geomatics from the universities of Glasgow, New Brunswick and Bristol, and an MBA from Heriot-Watt. He is an ASPRS-certified photogrammetrist. More articles...