Surveyors? We’re in a Class of Our Own! - 01/03/2017


The profession continues to adapt and respond to ever changing external factors but our skills will always be in demand.

In the world of Geomatics, many things change and develop almost continuously. This year’s World Bank “Land and Poverty Conference 2017”, being held this March, will be no exception and the RICS will be there. Global awareness of geospatial data amongst world leaders and opinion formers is increasing and is becoming more accepted by other professions, who recognise our ability to better observe and track activities such as land use or pollution. Geomatics enables greater participation such as through crowd-sourced input, as well as offering the potential for better monitoring and detection of change.

Next month sees the world of Hydrography in the spotlight with the first assembly of the newly re-organised International Hydrographic Organization (IHO see www.iho.int/srv1/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=388&Itemid=306&lang=en). The excitement this year will likely be the election of a new general secretary and two directors to lead the organization forward.

Engage with the Millennials

In the UK the survey profession appears to continue to be coming under pressure (some things never change). Currently it is the impact of weak oil prices which are negatively impacting on many surveyors in the offshore sector, affecting established individuals and careers. There is also the uncertainty of future investment and projects for infrastructure due to political issues. It also affects those starting out in the business when they find university and college courses dwindling as they often lack the numbers to maintain their course syllabi and are having to find innovative ways to continue. These different forces are often not in our control but we can influence some of them. There is a skills shortage and a developing gap in certain areas. We need a concerted effort to promote the profession and get the engagement of the millennials and younger generation.

Therefore some positive news was the recent announcement that GEOBusiness (23 & 24 May in London) is to work alongside Alison Watson from Class of Your Own (COYO). Together they have developed a full day of enticing activities and presentations for school and younger students aged 14-19, with the aim of demonstrating just how exciting the geospatial industry is and why they should choose a ‘geo’ career path. The programme will also include sessions targeting the teachers. You’ll definitely hear more on this topic but if you are interested visit: http://geobusinessshow.com/geo-careers/ Alternatively you can get the RICS brochures on careers at http://www.rics.org/us/the-profession/surveying-2016-careers-guide/

Robot Surveyors? I Don’t Think So!

Whilst there may still be some uncertainty about future projects, there’s no doubt that spatial data is still being collected and generated in ever increasing volumes. Automation and robotics will replace the surveyor. . . No! In my view there is the very necessary management of spatial data, its application to building and construction projects, spatial position and location calculations, legislation and regulatory issues, precision guidance & control and the understanding of errors and adjustment methods. In the future, the role and involvement of the professional surveyor in collecting, processing, verifying and sharing geospatial data may change and adapt, and we are often the early adopters. But for the foreseeable future there will continue to be a need for the qualified surveying professional.

So, while we get news about airborne taxis in Dubai, autonomous cargo shipping, swarms of delivery drones, underwater autonomous digital monitoring and software based GNSS solutions from the latest 2nd generation augmented satellite positioning systems, we should be encouraged that the world is moving towards a more spatially aware and spatially reliant future. One that, whilst continuously changing, will still need the skills of the Geomatics professional.

By Gordon Johnston, Chair of the RICS Geomatics Professional Group.

This article was first published in Geomatics World March/April 2017.

Last updated: 26/04/2017