Will updating your technology vocabulary help you intersect GIS and surveying?

GIS JANET says …

Yes, most definitely. Not only will updating your vocabulary help you intersect GIS and surveying, but it will help you intersect with your co-workers and, hopefully, your next project. The key is being ready to converse, think, and act like a pro with new technology, so when the right opportunity comes along you are successful from beginning to end.

The best time to start the learning or updating process is when you are motivated. Hopefully, a current RFP (request for proposal) or an upcoming project will whet your learning appetite, and you will feel motivated to begin today.

Of course, you can’t begin using words and concepts that don’t fit the situation, that are outdated, or that you don’t fully understand. So, you might want to begin updating your new technology vocabulary by taking a class, either online or in a traditional classroom setting that offers a broad range of either GIS or information-technology skills and vocabulary.

If you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to begin the process with a formal class, you can start by doing simple word searches on the internet. A good place to start is a scope of services or RFP that contains terms you don’t  completely understand. For example, search the internet to find out more about the word “geocoding.” This internet search returns many links that explain the definition and even show practical, visual examples of how this concept is applied in the geospatial context.

Fortunately, seasoned surveyors have much experience to draw on when learning new technology concepts and vocabulary, which can make the learning fast and easy. But keep in mind, just because you know the meaning of the word or understand the concept doesn’t necessarily mean you should tackle the work right away. You might want to think about partnering with a GIS team that is familiar with these types of services before signing a contract or writing a project approach for your proposal. Your new knowledge of the concepts and terms will allow for a much easier conversation: one where you will be able to evaluate and make decisions about your team partner and future work.

Once you start learning the technology terms, hopefully you can find ways to incorporate the terms and concepts into your new project. Remember to go slowly and consult often with your GIS/IT teaming partner.

And then you will have to agree: there is no going back. No going back to the days of not knowing exactly what is meant by certain words. No going back to relying on someone else on your team knowing “that part.” No going back to feeling lost or behind the times because you are unsure of what is needed.

There is no better time or place than today’s OJT (on-job training) for you to begin taking control of learning and extending your project opportunities. Many of the key technology terms used in either the GIS or information technology professions also benefit surveyors who want to expand their services and profits. It’s your responsibility to take the first step toward convincing your new client that you or your team is the best fit for the job, and you can do it from the very first word you use.


Yes, updating your technology vocabulary and even your overall vocabulary will assist you in intersecting GIS and surveying and in communicating with clients, colleagues, friends, and family. After all, life is a constant update, and you don’t want to get left behind.

However, I would recommend caution in using any new technology vocabulary. After all, just because you can “talk the talk” doesn’t mean you can “walk the walk.”

That being said, you shouldn’t shy away from updating your technology vocabulary. You just need to learn the practical applications that are associated with the new words. Once you have mastered the practical applications and the vocabulary associated with those applications, you are in a much better position to leverage that knowledge with your colleagues in both the surveying and GIS fields, and with your clients and potential clients.

And speaking of clients, it is also important to know and understand your clients’ new technology vocabulary as well. Whether your client is an owner, a governmental entity, or a fellow design professional or you’re talking with a regulatory review agency, you must understand and use current vocabulary to communicate effectively.

Having an updated technology vocabulary is also a two-way street in terms of GIS professionals and surveying professionals intersecting. New surveying technologies are appearing on the scene at a rapid pace and are being used by more and more surveyors. As capabilities and functions of surveying equipment — from the basic total stations and data collectors to GPS receivers and laser scanners—are continually being improved, it is critical that colleagues in associated fields and our clients understand the surveyors’ capabilities and the useful data we can provide. We must be able to communicate those capabilities and their benefits to our clients. Ground-based lidar (static and mobile laser scanners) are examples of new technology that is bridging surveying and GIS services and providing survey data that is vital to a GIS.

We, as surveyors, need to educate our GIS and IT colleagues on these new technologies by sharing the new vocabularies and the practical applications of these technologies. The GIS professionals need to understand how new survey technologies can assist them in providing more and detailed products to their clients. The increased data volume and accuracy from airborne and terrestrial lidar, GPS RTK networks, and underground utility locations can provide a wealth of information for a new or updated GIS.

Surveyors must have the knowledge and skills to educate our GIS associates on the wealth of accurate and valuable information available for a comprehensive and more accurate GIS. Fortunately for everyone, newer technology such as VRS networks is allowing the rapid and easy acquisition of accurate data for GIS, as compared to the older meter-horizontal-accuracy GPS tools. As colleagues and support providers, IT professionals need to understand surveying and GIS requirements for processing and storing enormous amounts of data that are commensurate with the new technologies. We must have the ability to describe the processes we use to manipulate the voluminous amounts of data to enable IT to provide the hardware and systems necessary to efficiently process and store the data.

And there is certainly “no going back” as the world continues to get faster and smaller every day, and as new technologies and new vocabularies are discovered and made available to the surveying and GIS community.

While Janet and Randy may not see eye to eye on all surveying and GIS issues, they do respect each other’s perspective and point of view and attempt to “intersect” their professions whenever possible. Randy and Janet invite you to submit your questions to “Intersect.” Contact them via email or website at www.intersectgis.com or 919-417-0894.

About the Authors

  • Janet Jackson, GISP
    Janet Jackson, GISP
    Janet is certified as a GIS professional and is president of INTERSECT, a GIS consulting firm.
  • Randy Rambeau, Sr., PLS
    Randy Rambeau, Sr., PLS
    Randy is a geomatics office manager with McKim & Creed, an engineering, surveying, and planning firm.

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