Different strokes

Jul 2009 | Comments Off on Different strokes

The article presents views and opinion about current issues and priorities surrounding Geomatics and GNSS by experts in their repective domain.

Surveying: Dwindling number of qualifi ed surveying professionals

Frank Derby

Ph.D., Associate Professor of Surveying and GIS
The Pennsylvania State University, USA
For me, the three most important issues confronting the surveying profession are recruiting of new professionals, education and research, and application of current technology. As an academician, one of the most urgent and pressing issues for me is the dwindling number of qualifi ed surveying professionals. Although the demand for qualifi ed surveyors is increasing, enrollment in surveying institutions is at an all-time low. In addition, the average age of the professional surveyor keeps increasing. This means that more of the practicing surveyors are either retiring or leaving the profession whiles very few are entering it. Very few high school students are choosing surveying as a career choice. This is a concern which can potentially lead to the demise of the profession. The situation is even worse when it comes to graduate education. Shortage of undergraduate surveying students means that even fewer students will enter graduate school. The launch of Gravity fi eld and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) and similar satellites are creating opportunities for advanced studies in surveying such as the gravity fi eld of the earth, an improved defi nition of the geoid, and to the determination of other physical characteristics of the earth. Together with current GPS technology, the potential exists for more accurate navigation and position determination. GPS technology has already improved surveying and mapping procedures and accuracies. However, there are areas for further improvement such as application of the technology in tunnels, in ocean fl oor mapping, and many more. Lack of graduate students implies reduced, and in some cases, lack of research in surveying institutions.

On the application of current technology, GIS and LIS technologies are maturing around the world. Benefi ts of these technologies include effective land administration, sustainable development, and resource management, to list a few. Very few local government administrators can boast of an effective land or geographic information system.

Many local government personnel who are responsible for developing such information system have little or no knowledge about maps accuracies, coordinate systems, map projections, data conversion, and other processes that are mainly the domain of the land surveyor.

Some are unaware of the surveyor’s role in its development. However, many surveyors are not profi cient enough in the technology to be of much help to the administrators. It is important for surveyors to educate themselves about the development of GIS/LIS, and be wiling to expand their expertise and services so as to be able to provide the necessary support and guidance to customers. Of all these, recruiting of new student is paramount and should be addressed immediately.

Knowing where you are is no longer a private matter

Professor George Cho

University of Canberra, Australia
A well-known adage among real estate agents is “location, location, location”. Likewise, in this short commentary there may be three priorities of concern when one links privacy to location. Much like the triple bottom line there are social impacts, economic imperatives and policy perspectives to the privacy question. But privacy may be dead and that we should either do one of three things or a combination of them, that is, get over it, get on with it or get out of it.

Social Impacts

At the start of the new millennium it was said that “you have no privacy, so get over it”. Such a sentiment has been attributed to Scott McNeely of Sun Microsystems. It seems that modern technology has liberated us from the shackles of the past in that it is now much easier to do things, it is much easier when we do things and it is much easier to do most things. We can send and receive messages instantly online on a 24 by 7 basis – a phrase brought into vogue where the modern world never sleeps. However, the price we have paid for these gains is at the expense of privacy. The phone carrier whether fixed line or mobile knows where one is and where the phone is located at any time. The bank knows what and when you buy and from whom the minute one uses the credit card. Employers have the right to look at the emails that you send from the offi ce or workplace. The government knows more about you that you might realise. Google can tell what you have been searching for, what you have been reading online and through You Tube what you have been watching virtually. Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Yammer all have some part of your personal information and at times these are on-sold to others for marketing purposes.

The challenge therefore is that to consider privacy as no longer a right but a privilege which we much studiously protect. One is able to do so because one has the means in an affl uent society and one can enforce this either through custom or through the courts. But think of those that are not so well disposed especially when the very same are struggling to earn a living and are especially vulnerable in that they are willing to sacrifi ce their privacy for ‘a piece of the action’. Even the privileged are happy to trade a bit of their privacy for convenience in return for discounts, ease of future access and the prospect of winning something. This seems like social engineering par excellence – not to mention the phishing, vishing and other scams that gambol about in cyberspace. Therefore it looks like technological advances, the demand of modernday business models and practices and public sector requirements have made some of our ideas of privacy oldfashioned, out-of-date, unsustainable and incompatible with our existence.

Economic Imperatives

In the electronic age there can be no privacy with any location because that is the very element that makes the economy go round. Analytics of various forms can mean that whilst the digital explosion has blown things apart, in a perverse way it may also have blown things together. Today, there are data aggregation companies that build warehouses of data and information or mine into such repositories in order to gather information and form intelligence. Such software are able to join the dots and assemble parts of the puzzle to form a clear picture of the terrain. Indeed, GIS technologies have been doing this all along for the past thirty or more years but mainly in relation to layer information to assemble maps and data views. The natural extension to this activity are those who use geodemographics techniques to market to target groups in specifi c localities. One can only wonder by asking “how did they know that?” Courts in the US and Canada have ruled that there can be compensation for serious invasions of privacy. Whether this will be the trend further in the 21st C is something to watch. The famous case of Barbara Streisand who objected to the aerial photography project of the California Coast program comes to mind. However, this litigation failed for other reasons other than privacy grounds.

Policy Perspectives

Various countries around the globe are toying with ideas of legislation protecting privacy. Courts in the UK and EU for example are more willing to treat private activities carried out in the public gaze as part of one’s right. The famous ‘celeb’ cases bring to mind Naomi Campbell who sued successfully after pictures of her were published by a newspaper. Princes Caroline of Monaco was successful as was JK Rowling who sued on behalf of her infant son. It is may not be the picture that is offensive but the context of where the picture was taken that has won the day in each of the cited cases. Similarly, the Formulae One boss Max Mosely was successful in defending his rights to privacy even though the pictures published by the newspaper were those of a sadomasochist sex party. Some claim that in certain jurisdictions, legislative devices already available are suffi cient to protect one’s privacy including defamation laws, trespass laws, racial vilifi cation laws and that newer forms of legislation such as the proposed American and Australian ‘tort of privacy intrusion’ may not be necessary. Really it may decant to the fact that there may be some things that are “self-evidently private” and that one can harbour a reasonable expectation of privacy. Hence, one man’s home can be his castle. But that seems so archaic in the electronic age. One can’t hide from the gaze of electronic cameras of the CCTV kind or the electronic eye in the sky.

Get over it, get on with it or get out of it!

The society of the 21st C will learn how to get over the loss of privacy and get on with it as a fact of life. The key is to try to get on with it as best as one can and hold on to what might be left. It also seems that it is not possible to get out of it, try as one might, because our location and the things we bring with us give us away to the world at large. It appears that privacy is dead and buried and that electronics and cameras are everywhere to trace our movements every day. Can you think of an instance where you can do something invisibly in your daily life? The odds are that you either can’t or can but with great diffi culty. Think about it.


Privacy it seems is not an absolute right. It has important limits and one’s privacy should be protected against unwanted invasion and intrusion while at the same time tempered by legal guarantees so that public interest is afforded some ‘air’ time. But it remains a ‘no, no’ to interfere with an individual or the family. It is a ‘no, no’ for someone to be subject to unauthorised surveillance. It is a ‘no, no’ also to either gather or release sensitive facts relating to an individual’s private life. But location is no longer a private matter these days.

Surveyors are caught in the crossfire

Brent A. Jones

PE, PLS Industry Manager, ESRI
Economy – These are challenging economic times for surveyors. Many surveyors depend on land development and other economic activity for their businesses. With planned commercial construction at record lows,

surveyors are caught in the crossfi re.

Aging workforce – The average age of surveyors continues to rise. We are creating fewer surveyors than are retiring. This combined with the increased skills needed for the new technology savvy surveyor will create challenges with other professions beginning to perform functions

that may logically be the surveyor domain.

Technology – Technology is moving very quickly and surveyors are working hard to keep up, some successfully, some not so successfully. The slow economy gives the practicing surveyor a little more time on their hands as compared to a boom time. This is a unique opportunity to retool, retrain, and engage in new technologies. GIS presents one of those new technologies that gives surveyors new markets and new revenue opportunities as well as new technology to help them better manage their work.

Geomatics education: from specialist to generalist

Prof Dr-Ing Dietrich Schröder

University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart, Germany
Geomatic education – as education in any other domain – should prepare the students for the job market. With their acquired competences they should be well prepared not only for recent requirements but also for those in the near future. At least the education should give a good basement, on which the graduates can build their career by training on the job and life-long learning concepts. So what are the recent or emerging requirements of our profession? Looking at my own background as geodetic engineer let me fi rst focus on technology. For data capturing, sensor integration is getting more and more important. This holds not only for airborne methods with combined digital camera and Laser scanning supported by GNSS and INS, but also for terrestrial data capturing with the new type of integrated total stations with the possibility of standard coordinate data capturing but also 3D point clouds and even images. What is the implication of these developments for education? Good background on the all the different methods is needed and how they can be combined in an effi cient way to produce high quality data. Not just pushing the button of a black box – but a good background for the interpretation of the results is needed.
Besides capturing coordinates the generation and the dissemination of
high quality products are important as well. With systems like Google Earth or Virtual Earth more and more people are getting used to spatial data. But still most of economic decisions are not based on this type of data. Spatial data infrastructures are needed for the dissemination and easy access of actual and reliable geo data, for supporting economic and political decisions. The implication for education is, that our students should have a good background main IT concepts, distributed systems, Web 2.0, etc. and how these concepts can be used to the advantage of Geomatics.
But just to focus on our classical field of geo data capturing and geo data dissemination will be not enough in the future. Our graduates should be prepared for consulting in many different fields, where the spatial data can be used effectively, as they will be the experts for geo data. This ranges from land management to urban and rural planning, forestry, environmental sciences, just to mention a few. Here an interdisciplinary approach in education is needed to make our graduates fit to communicate with people from many different fi elds. Thus social skills to deal with other people and their way of thinking will be another important issue. To summarize my point of view, what in Geomatic education is needed is an interdisciplinary approach with well
trained generalists and less specialists.

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