Intergeo: Exciting Time to Be a Surveyor

by Neil Sandler and Henk Key

Anyone with concerns about the future of the surveying profession need only have spent a few minutes listening to the many featured speakers or walk the buzzing halls of the world’s largest surveying conference and expo, Intergeo 2011, in Nuremberg, Germany, September 27-29. The annual introduction of new products and services by an ever-evolving group of young and new (as well as established and veteran) companies never ceases to amaze the international audience.

“As a surveyor, this is a very exciting time to be involved in the industry,” Matthew Delano, LS, business area director of cadastral solutions for Trimble (sponsor of Intergeo this year), told a standing-room-only press conference on day two of the event, which attracted an estimated 16,000 visitors.

“It’s exciting—and not only in terms of the technology that companies such as my own are bringing into our industry of surveying—but the technologies of navigation, of communication, and of information working together with a position to create all sorts of new possibilities in our world,” Delano continued.

“The future that we see particularly for surveying professionals, for geomatics professionals, is a time when being able to capture the position is not what our profession is all about.  We are geospatial consultants.  So technology has changed.  The way that we collect positional information and spatial information has dramatically changed from technology.  Today, we can collect literally billions of points in the time that it took my father to collect one.

“What has not changed,” Delano added, “is the fact that surveyors are the custodians of spatial data.  We possess the talents, the skills, and the knowledge to understand the technology, where the data comes from, how it should be used, and sometimes how it shouldn’t be used. We offer tremendous value to the industries that we serve.

“We serve many industries; cadastre is closest to my heart, but communication, information, position: they support many different applications. And how can we serve—as geospatial professionals, as spatial information consultants—our industries and make abetter world: that’s where we see the future of our industry and our profession.”

Ed Parsons, geospatial technologist for Google, told the audience, “It’s fascinating for me to be here.  My background is as a geospatial professional.  I started off in remote sensing in Earth observation and worked my way through academia to working for ordinance survey [in Great Britain], previous to my time with Google.  So, I am very familiar with the practice of surveying and the creation of accurate geospatial databases.  And in many ways, and despite Google’s influence in the market, I think that we follow the famous saying by Sir Isaac Newton: ‘We can see so far only because we stand on the shoulders of giants.’

“We are building an infrastructure that allows access to geospatial data, but it is the geospatial data that is all important.  And the process of capturing and creating that is as important today as it has always been. Perhaps as we move forward it is increasingly important.  Obviously the way that we do that and the methods and the technology that we use are changing constantly.”

Parsons said this is Google’s first participation in Intergeo, and the company is beginning “to look much more seriously at how we can make our cloud infrastructure that we use for our consumer products available more to the professional user.”

The suffering world economy, primarily of concern in Europe and the United States, was a recurring topic among the panel discussions.  Virtually unanimously, all agreed that neither the public nor private sectors were financially strong enough to shoulder the burden of rebuilding national infrastructures and other costly national endeavors.  However, most also agreed that creative partnerships between both public and private sectors would creatively and effectively work to address and, in time, resolve these national challenges.

Trimble’s Delano expressed the sentiments of many: “Necessity is the mother of invention.  As a people, whether it be through private efforts or as a public, we will innovate or find solutions. It’s not always very easy to predict how that will happen.”

More Aerial Platforms, Fewer Wheels

In the cavernous connected showrooms of the expo, many visitors commented on the decline from last year’s Intergeo in the number of exposed cars and trucks with all kind of instruments mounted on a roof rack. They were still present, especially on the outside demonstration area, but less prominent.  Small, unmanned planes, helicopters, quad-copters and octocopters were present throughout the expo.

Another interesting development is the increasing number of total stations and scanners with imaging capabilities. WIFI/WLAN are also becoming more common on all kind of instruments.

The software industry presented a wide spectrum of applications, with the main focus on cloud computing and 3D presentations.


Castles and Octoberfest

As the setting for this year’s Intergeo, Nuremberg was very popular.  Based in the heart of Bavaria, the city, which was almost completely destroyed near the end of World War II because it served as Hitler’s headquarters, was rebuilt using much of the rubble that remained.  The walls and historic Castle Nuremberg that broods over the lively city provided a casual backdrop for the mini-Octoberfest that was being held along the banks of the Pegnitz River canal in one of the largest pedestrian zones of any city in Europe.  Many Intergeo attendees enjoyed a liter, a bratwurst, or three.

For those interested in maps (who, us?) Nuremberg also holds a special place in our thoughts.  Dating back to the 11th century, Nuremberg was home to a variety of mapping legends such as Albrecht Durer, who mapped the stars of the northern and southern hemispheres and produced the first printed star charts around 1515 AD. Durer also published the “Stabiussche Weltkarte,” the first perspective drawing of the terrestrial globe. Perhaps even more noteworthy, Nicolaus Copernicus published the first portion of his works in Nuremberg around 1543 AD.  Copernicus, an astronomer and mathematician, was the first to map the heavens showing the sun as the center of our solar system, not the Earth.

Neil Sandler is publisher of this magazine and Henk Key is a retired surveyor.

» Back to our November 2011 Issue