Surveying has a future?

Oct 2008 | No Comment

P Misra, John Hannah, Simon Kwok, William Patrick (Paddy) Prendergast

While there are many opportinties for professionals working in the field of computer science and engineering, etc. many consider surveying has low profile and ‘less rewarding’. Some feel that the total number of qualified and licensed surveyors are diminishing. Does surveying profession has a future? Experts speak

Users should gain from our services

Simon Kwok

Chair, Geomatics Faculty, Royal Institution of
Chartered Surveyors
Hong Kong
Surveying profession has a future and we should shape our future. Our profession serves the society in many aspects. The services and products of survey not only support the property and construction industry, they also add value to other professions, such as legal, town planning, environmental protection, tourism, observatory, civil aviation, emergency services, public health and law enforcement. Since we are now operating in a global environment, I think surveyors should get themselves ready for serving the community in a multi-discipline and multi-nation context like the monitoring of the effect of global warming, flooding, crustal/ground movement, sea level rise and spread of disease. We should take up the opportunity to serve our clients and the society, and by doing our work well, we should make ourselves known and be understood. More importantly, we should help the users to gain value from using our services.

The production and supply of GI has moved from national
agencies to private organisations

Dr William Patrick (Paddy) Prendergast,

CDepartment of Spatial Information Sciences,
Dublin Institute of
Technology, Ireland

Yes, most emphatically it does, but not in the traditional sense. The centre of gravity for the production and supply of geographic information (GI) has moved inexorably from national public agencies to private organisations at all levels during the last few decades in both primary data capture and value added services roles. Our world has undergone a proliferation of data sources from the phenomenon of Google Earth to Microsoft’s TerraServer and all the other data suppliers who are spatially enabling our world. GIS use is moving from power users to mainstream public use and there are indications of significant increases of this during the last decade or two. Old concepts of GIS using layers of static geographic information are being supplemented with live feeds to dynamic display systems for such things as vehicle tracking or environmental monitoring. One of the remaining frontiers of this geographic information sector is location based services for our mobile phones.

Government agencies are also increasingly converting their paper databases into digital format and issues previously hidden in the paper archives are increasingly more visible which is driving reform of data quality specification and evaluation. Increasingly the application of new techniques and the development of new procedures are necessary to deal with these issues in a dynamic manner. The integration of these abundant public and private datasets regularly give rise to particular challenges for which surveyors in collaboration with IT and other professionals need to develop new solutions.

Spatial Data Infrastructures are being developed and re-developed at all levels (global, regional, national, state and local) to formalise agreements and the define technical standards necessary to integrate these various geographic information successfully. The European Union’s INSPIRE Directive, coming from an environmental background, is driving the development of a European SDI in Europe. However, there seems to be an inconsistency between the trust placed in GIS visualisations by the general public and the quality of the geographic information used within the GIS to create the visualisations. The assessment of ‘fitness for use’ of geographic information for an application becomes far more important in the digital environment due to the enhanced accessibility of the results produced.Other initiatives such as the EU PSI Directive are driving openness and accessibility to Public Service Information including geographic information. The philosophy behind this Directive is linked to e-Government and the development of an Information Society by significantly increasing access to the information required by citizens whilst going about their daily lives. These two policy initiatives INSPIRE and PSI – are providing the means necessary to access and combine information from many public sources.


But there are dangers in the area of privacy of personal information. Certain types of information traditionally held in paper records were hidden by virtue that paper was difficult to access. Once these records are made available in digital form this information is readily available, for example in Ireland, land records previously held the amount of a mortgage taken out on a property, and this information is now visible over the internet. There is a need to review what information needs to be recorded and the reasons for doing so, and access policy to specific items of personal information.

The main challenges for the future in the geographic information sector are educational, institutional and policy reforms. The roles and structures of traditional public institutions need root and branch review to provide for the needs of information society. Policy review is necessary to develop a balance between information access, economic models of data supply, and privacy of personal information. Educational reform for surveyors is vital to deal with ever increasing variety, complexity and use of geographic information and to have the skills to offer quality professional service at local and international levels.

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May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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