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Change was in the air and it was palpable. Surveyors and GIS professionals were gathered for the SSSI Tasmanian Regional Conferences 2015 in Hobart. Michael Giudici convened an excellent line up of prominent speakers who reinforced that society and our industry are in the midst of a great revolution.  Click here for more details on program and speakers.

Drew Clarke, the keynote speaker, took the lead by indicating that the revolution was being brought about by connectivity and the rise of devices, particularly mobile phones but also sensors. We are heading for the planet of the phone, already 50% of adults in the world have one and this will increase. We are becoming phono-sapiens. He said that the spatial data captured and managed by our industry underpins much of this technology and discussed the steps undertaken by ANZLIC to ensure that this continues. However rapid change is inevitable and we will need to be nimble and adapt rather than try to predict the future.

Maurits van der Vlugt gave an excellent presentation on the problem and ambiguities of current geo-coding systems. He convincingly suggested the solution was in 3 word addresses (What3Words). Under this system the world has been divided into 3m squares and each square has been assigned a unique combination of 3 words. Using purpose built apps and services it is easy to find the coordinates for a 3 word combination. This is a more un-ambiguous and flexible approach for the average person than using street addresses or coordinates, especially if there are no street or you can’t remember the longitude and latitude of your house.

Professor Ian Williamson continued on the theme of change when he discussed modern cadastres. Cadastres have been with us for centuries but they evolve with society. He stressed that we should not forget the basic principles and justifications of a cadastre and that taking them for granted was a key concern. It would be easy to lose sight of his message amidst the rapid technological changes taking place and the prediction that 50% of jobs would not exist in 5 years.

Paul Digney told us about the current state of mobile laser scanning and how they can be used to capture enormous amounts of 3D data from a moving platform. According to Allied Market Research the Global LiDAR market will grow by 16.3% from 2014 to 2020 (Compound Annual Growth Rate). Corridor mapping (such as roadways) will be the highest revenue generating segment. Paul said that Jacobs have had to look to alternate large volume GIS technologies such as Orbit so that they can manage and deliver the enormous amounts of point cloud data that are generated by these systems.

Who would have thought that a presentation on the national datum modernisation project could have been so interesting? Scott Strong made a motivating presentation where he explained the issues very clearly as well as the need to move to a dynamic datum. A concept that according to Bernard O’Sullivan, the incoming SSSI national president, has raised the concern of many professionals in the industry. Scott shared his views on the GNSS market report for 2015 that predicts smart phones will remain the main source of outdoor positioning and there will be a GNSS device per person on the planet by 2019. Scott also believes that we can expect a dramatic move to smartphones with decimetre accuracy in a very short time frame (0 to a billion in one year). Samsung and Apple are concurrently investing in high accuracy positioning.

Scott warned that we will need to move to modernise our datum very quickly and the changes taking place will not wait for our industry. Surveyors are the only ones using local datums. Technology will find a way forward and move ahead without us.

Commodore Kim F. Pitt gave us a much needed break from the future talk and delightfully returned us to the World War 1 era. Kim discussed the search for HMAS AE1. She was the first submarine to serve in the Royal Australian Navy and was lost with all hands in the waters of Papua New Guinea in 1914. She remains the RAN’s first and only remaining unsolved maritime mystery. It was a good telling of an unsolved mystery.

Overall this was a great regional conference with excellent presentations. The impact of mobile devices and their relentless rollout to almost every person on the planet was raised by a number of presenters. However the discussion always seemed to return to the familiar territory of static spatial data. Our industry is rooted in the capture of spatial data about objects that don’t move and the management of this immobile data. In the past there was a very long turnaround from the capture of spatial data to its publication – papers maps can have a life time of 20 years, survey plans 100 years.

Mobile devices and communication have reduced this cycle to seconds (just like in Newspaper publishing). These devices and other sensors are mobile and their changing location can be published on a map despite this (albeit a digital map). Spatial data about moving objects has a range of applications, there are opportunities that are emerging, and most are not yet even considered.

The need to manage static spatial data into the future is not to be taken lightly, it is a critical infrastructure for modern technology and, as Professor Wiliamson indicated, we must not become complacent. However there are opportunities if we extend our skills to data about moving objects.

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