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Some time ago I read an article that highlighted the rapid evolution of sensors. They are becoming low cost, powerful, ubiquitous and they measure a variety of phenomena. Cameras on our phones, heart rate on our wrists, video surveillance in our malls and parking assistance in our cars. The impact is awesome when the data from these sensors are combined and made available for consumption across the internet. The article predicted that there would be a sensor on every brick, they would be everywhere. The impact of sensor technology and their use in collecting spatial data was nowhere more evident that the Tasmanian State of GIS 2015 event.

The State of GIS for 2015 was held on 15th May in Hobart. This is an annual event run by the Tasmania chapter of the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI).  The event has a highly successful format that was originally conceived in the early 1990’s by AURISA, a forerunner of the SSSI. The original idea was for the main participants of the spatial industry in Tasmania to share their current activities and plans.  The forum in its current guise was reformulated 8 years ago by Mark Chilcott and continues very successfully to this day. There are now many more industry participants, so presentations are curated and kept to an ideal length of 10 minutes.

For the first time the event had two streams, the traditional GIS stream and a land surveying stream. The latter consisted of longer presentations focusing on professional indemnity, cadastral issues and options for modernising the GDA94 datum.

The majority of GIS presentations had sensors at their core including strapping sensors to Bees and using sensors for flood modelling in Kuala Lumpa.

Amanda Castray provided an update on the Sense-T project that is building a sensor network throughout Tasmania. She provided an insight in how the data from these sensors is being used for commercial purposes including real time measures of the purity of our environment. Amongst other things, this provides world-wide customers with real time assurance of the environmental integrity of Tasmania’s products. There is more information about the Sense-T initiative at

Heidi Belbin is in her final year of the Bachelor of Spatial Science at the University of Southern Queensland. She is using close range photogrammetry to map the human skull. Of particular note is that this technology that once required expensive equipment can now be achieved with relatively low cost and readily available materials.

Bill Cohen outlined how Entura uses GIS and sensors to assist with hydrological modelling. This approach is being used internationally to predict floods, including a flood diversion tunnel in Kuala Lumpa that doubles as a traffic tunnel when floods are not imminent.

Adrian Fairfield clearly demonstrated the value of modern sensors such as Lidar and UAV based aerial photography. These were once the domain of specialist state run organisations but are now available to smaller private practices. The benefits are in improved, detailed and more accurate data capture and the 3D visualisation of the built environment.

Scott Strong outlined the Spatial Discovery Education Resources that the state government has put together for schools. The aim is to make student more spatially literate. Scott also suggested that school children could be used as “sensors”. School children across the country could become a crowd-source for a range of useful data including the location of flora and fauna.

Tim Price outlined a novel solution that would allow Drivers to sense the location of more vulnerable road users such as cyclists. The bike bell project aims to allow every cyclist to broadcast their location to all nearby cars. This is done via geo triggers, smart phones and the internet.

The most amazing presentation of all was from Dr Benita Vincent from CSIRO who clearly demonstrated the advances in sensor technology. Dr Vincent has acquired sensors that are small enough to attach to Bees allowing them to be tracked and to monitor their environment. The sensor is 2.5 mm by 2.5 mm, “attached” to their back and stays with them for their lifetime. The sensors are similar to eTags used on tollways and require checkpoints that are activated when the tagged bee passes. .

There were two other presentations, these were not related to sensor technology. Mark Wisniewski shared his enthusiasm for using GIS across a broad range of natural resource management and other community projects in the North West of Tasmania. Visit his GIS mapping Gallery at . Simon Greener lamented the lack of a consistent Australia wide building foot print data. He clearly demonstrated the value of this data to asset management organisations who are unable to properly assess the full impact of asset maintenance works. If the sensor on every brick prediction is to come true, then there might be hope in the future.

Alex Leith introduced the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Professionals Map, a web site where industry practitioners can register their details and locate themselves on a map. .