The Future of Work for Professionals:
Surveying is one of the oldest and most important arts practiced by man because from the earliest times it has been necessary to mark boundaries and divide land. Surveying has traditionally been defined as the science and art of determining relative positions of points above, on, or beneath the surface of the earth, or establishing such points. In a more general sense, however, surveying can be regarded as that discipline which encompasses all methods of gathering and processing information about the physical earth and environment. Surveying continues to play an important role in many
branches of construction.
The oldest historical surveying can be traced to Egypt. Herodotus says Sesostris (about 1400B.C.) divided the land of Egypt into plots for the purpose of taxation. Annual floods of the Nile River swept away portions of these plots and surveyors were appointed to replace the bounds. These early Surveyors were called rope-stretchers, since their measurements were made with ropes having markers at unit distances.
Hereon of Alexandria stands out prominently among the early Greek thinkers for applying science to surveying around 120B.C. He was the author of several important treatises of interest to surveyors, including The Dioptra, which related the methods of surveying a field, drawing a plan, and making
calculations. It also described one of the first piece of surveying equipment recorded, the Diopter.
For many years Hereon’s work was the most authoritative among Greek and Egyptian surveyors. During the middle ages, Greek and Roman science was kept alive by the Arabs. Little progress was made in the art of surveying, and the only writings pertaining to it were called “practical geometry.”
In the 18th and 19th centuries the art of surveying advanced more rapidly. The need for maps and location of national boundaries caused England and France to make extensive surveys requiring accurate triangulation; thus geodetic surveying began. The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey was established by an act of Congress in 1807. Increased land values and the importance of exact
boundaries, along with the demand for public improvements in the canal, turnpike, and railroad eras, brought surveying into a prominent position.
New technologies and changing demands are driving a paradigm shift in modern surveying. Rapid technological development extends beyond measurement to include computing, communications and geospatial data mapping. The large volume of general construction, numerous land subdivisions with better records required, and demands posed by the fields of exploration and ecology have entailed an augmented surveying program.
In general, the work of a surveyor can be divided into five parts:
1. Research analysis and decision making.
2. Field work or data acquisition. Making measurements and recording data in the field.
3. Computing or data processing. Performing calculations based on the recorded data to determine locations, areas, volumes, and so on.
4. Mapping or data representation. Plotting measurements or computed values to produce a map, plat, or chart, or portraying the data in numerical or computer format.
5. Stakeout. Setting monuments and stakes to delineate boundaries or guide construction operations.
The rapid technological advances are changing the roles of a Surveyor rapidly. Far beyond the time honoured practices of property and construction measurement, surveying has grown to include managing, interpreting, analysing and portraying spatial information with a high level of data integrity. Some of the standard surveying instruments used today include GNSS, EDM optical theodolite, robotic total station, RTK GPS base station, optical level. Recent technologies include digital levels, airborne scanning, digital photogrammetry and remote-sensing. Software are continuously evolving to furnish more solutions to niche applications. With a focus on acquiring and managing position data, the systems are supplemented by an array of technologies. For example,
surveying systems can be coupled with mobile phone and Internet access, cloud computing and web-based geo-databases.
Advances in computing technologies have enabled the collection of more complete data, speedier field campaigns and nearly instantaneous data analysis. The growth of technology has been the catalyst that enabled a surveyor to evolve as well, changing from measurer/interpreter to geo-data
manager. In this expanded role, a surveyor can select, gather and combine information and techniques to meet the needs of the entire project while retaining the ability to drill into tiny details.
The responsibilities of a Surveyor can broadly be divided into 2 parts; Engineering-related Survey and Map-related Products. Engineering-related Survey includes the site surveys and topographic surveys requested by architects, engineers and designers for all different types of design projects. The map related products on the other hand refer to mapping, scanning and digital products. The Surveying profession is based on analysis of data and not conceptualisation. As a result of this, the maturity of technology within the profession poses a high risk of competition from technological solutions,
especially with services directly under the map-related products.
The barrier to entry into the Mapping/scanning aspect of surveying has dropped drastically. Several options exist to get into this market it can be provided by persons not licensed as either Surveyor or Engineer. With the advancement of technology, 3D models are developed using information from
aerial or vehicular mobile mapping systems or from stationary sensors such as total stations and 3D laser scanners. New total stations incorporate digital cameras which streamline the data collection workflow and provide geo-tagged images of job sites and features. When combined with 3D point
clouds, the images help produce photorealistic 3D models. Another growing product growing mobile scanning solution is the use of vehicle-mounted LiDAR scanners and cameras to gather data. These systems can gather data in two hours what would take a survey crew two weeks to collect. The data
gathered falls into two categories: the first being infrastructure inventory and the second is engineering grade data at millimeter accuracy. As it stands, anyone who can afford the equipment can collect this data, hence increasing the risk of profession encroachment. The engineering-related arm has a lower barrier to entry because it happens to be more technical for now and requires the input of a registered professional. Airborne imagery is gradually taking off in the sector. The adoption of enhanced drones which is synchronised with the GIS, GNSS, amongst other tools will increase productivity and attain a competitive edge. Industry leaders even predict a 60% cost savings over conventional survey techniques. In the same vein, there will be better enhancements for the GPS technology to overcome its shortcomings like signal interruption, inclement weather, among others.
According to Milton Denny, the survey crew of the future is not people, but technology. The Surveying business is now quite different from how it started. The emergence of current technological advancement has focused the Surveying profession on the need to investment in technology in order to exploit the opportunities the future offers. Developments in technology and
institutional frameworks will provide new opportunities for the Surveyors, making them globally competitive and creating an avenue for new income streams. There is no doubt that the main challenge of the future will be that the only constant is change. To deal with this constant change the educational base must be flexible. Graduates must be adaptable to a rapidly changing labour market in order for the acquired knowledge to remain relevant on graduation. These new technologies are bringing exciting opportunities for Surveyors to expand beyond the traditional surveying activities, hence the need to research on them, embrace them and adopt them.
BY DAMILOLA BAMIGBOYE