Letters to the Editor

Problem 216

Good afternoon Shelly,

I find that the solution for problem #216 to be incorrect. The calculated distance for line KC should be 38.690 feet instead of 36.690, and the calculated distance for line DK should be 318.466 instead of 320.365. I enjoy the challenge of solving the problems and hope this continues.

—John Root, PLS
Twin Falls, ID


You and a few others caught me! As you noted the error was
reading 38.690 as 36.690. Another “senior moment”! Luckily it happened late in the problem and only affected two distances.  A corrected solution is on the website. 

Thanks for your interest in the Problem Corner.

—Dave Lindell

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GIS Didn’t Get Away

Richard Trainer’s editorial, “GIS: The one that almost got away,” presents an interesting argument that the use of the latest technology is more important than professional judgment.  I was interested to see that Mr. Trainer is a designer and programmer of handheld data collection systems. It concerns me that a vendor to the geospatial community seems to take the position that a profession is becoming obsolete because it is failing to utilize his or similar data collection software.  I am generalizing only because he opened up this method for analyzing the shortcomings of a profession.  He equates the “famous” attempt by Leica to enter the GIS market as a vendor to the perceived failure of the surveying profession. Let me get this straight: Leica’s failure is a failure of the surveying profession, but ESRI’s part in it is not a failure for GIS. Surveyors are no more to blame for Leica’s failure than the GIS world is to blame for ESRI’s failure.  The following addresses bullet items from Mr. Trainer’s editorial.

Surveyors don’t understand that GIS requires a wide range of accuracies. First of all GIS doesn’t require anything. End users require data that meets their needs. GIS is not a person or a thing. It is a vehicle to present and analyze data. I don’t know of any surveyor that does not understand that there can be different accuracy requirements for different projects.  Surveyors have always dealt with accuracy requirements, i.e geodetic accuracy vs. accuracy required for a topographic survey, etc. The question is, do “GIS technicians” understand how—or do they have the knowledge, training or experience—to make sure end users get a product that will meet their needs.  Some do and some do not. There is not a standard that end users can legally hang their hat on.  The surveying profession is not tool/equipment/software driven. Surveyors, as they always have, adapt technology to the need as opposed to adapting the need to the technology. Surveyors understand accuracy, while I am not sure that all GIS technicians do.  Check out many Property Appraisers GIS sites to see how some lot lines don’t match the photographic images.  Some will probably say that’s just because I am one of those surveyors that doesn’t understand GIS accuracies.  

Surveying data collection methodology is antiquated and not fit for that purpose.
We computerized too early? Are you serious? I won’t even bother with that one. I am not sure if you are aware of this, but Trimble will even sell a submeter GPS unit to a surveyor.  Also many surveyors that I know actually own software from ESRI.

Surveying instruments are unnecessarily complicated.  
 Really, too hard to operate. It must be a conspiracy to give those “dumb ole surveyors” a headache. Surveyors do more than locate manholes to less than survey accuracy. That’s why we have the complicated instruments. 

GIS is encroaching on the traditional surveyors’ market.
 GIS is not encroaching on surveying—unlicensed/unqualified vendors maybe—but not GIS. You can make the case that many surveyors have made the choice to not pursue the use of GIS. That is a business or personal choice.  Many of us regularly use GIS applications. That was our business decision.  Is GIS encroaching on the engineer’s market? Probably not until a software manufacturer finds a way to incorporate design into their GIS package; then a similar article will appear in Civil Engineering Magazine.

The GIS industry has done more than adapt some surveying techniques; GIS is starting to take over the surveyors’ toolbox
. This is a great example of this guy named GIS confusing the purchase and use of technology with the education, experience and ethics required of a profession.

Surveyors can still get in on the GIS action.
 I thought as a surveyor I was part of the GIS industry. I guess I was wrong. In order to reeducate myself I will chant, “A pretty survey is a good survey” or “GIS=Pretty, Surveying=Ugly.”

From my perspective, the non-licensed segment of the GIS industry feels that it is necessary to expand into regulated activities.  And somehow the advent of easy-to-use technologies now makes them qualified to assume the duties of the surveying profession. Everyone has an opinion.

Ray Niles, PSM, CH
Jacksonville, FL 

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