Brent Jones’ presentation at the Carlson User Conference was so interesting that we went to the trouble to have it transcribed. In his comments, he points the way to the future. Here are a few selected excerpts, and at the bottom is the entire presentation:
How many of you actually picked surveying as a career and said I want to be a surveyor when you were like 10 years old?
How many of you guys at 21 knew what the word geodesy meant?
If you don’t know much about ESRI, it’s a pretty big company. It’s the second largest privately held software company in the country. Annual revenue is over 700 million. In a way we’re a lot like Carlson. We’re a bit older and a bit bigger, but we have a lot of the same corporate philosophy. We’re not publicly traded. We spent 22% last year of our annual revenue in R&D. And if you’re a publicly traded company you can’t get away with that. You give pretty much over 11% and the stock analysts are saying hey, you’ve got to fix this.
[ESRI has] solutions that are start to finish. But mostly what we try to do is we build core technology and recruit best of breed partners where there’s domain expertise and get them to develop on our technology and that’s really why we’re here, and that’s what we’re doing here with Carlson.
COGO to a GIS person means something entirely different than COGO to a surveyor
The key here is georeferencing. That is the same level of standardization as HTTP. It’s the same level of standardization as gasoline. The fact that we georeference allows us to use our data to communicate to the world. If you’re not georeferencing your data, you’re losing money, and you’re losing market share fast. I’ll talk quite a bit about that because that changes the surveyor’s world. And GPS changes the entire GIS footprint, and it changes the whole domain for surveyors.
…we see Google Earth and we see these maps. Behind that visualization there’s a rich analysis that takes place
The iPod is not anything new, it’s just cool. They didn’t invent anything with the iPod. They took all existing technologies and jammed them into a new form.
…we adopted the 41 so quickly, but then we didn’t move on after that, we just said okay, this is good enough for me
Okay, we’re surveyors, right? We identify with locating things. What happens when that game’s over, okay, what happens when we know where everything is? What’s our job now? I mean this is a pretty serious thing.
…but how many of you guys are working in plane coordinates? Those days are rapidly coming to a close, that’s what’s going to separate a new surveyor from an old surveyor. We need greater precision, and we need it over larger areas. These large DOT projects, you know the Earth is really round, and we need greater positions in larger positions, and you just can’t do that with assumed coordinate systems in plane space. The thing about GPS, it’s not going away. It’s not a trend; it’s not a program, all right?
…fifteen years ago, we would map a community, and five years later, we would map it again. And every five years there was a mapping update. And those projects were big. You know what? That’s not happening anymore. You’re not going to go remap and remap and remap. We’re building into our work loads the ability for incremental spatial improvement.
The other thing that’s happening is real time centralized positioning.
In the new world, you know, the surveyor is going to be sitting behind 652 inch plasma screens watching his crews in real time collect data and going hey crew 7, you missed the southeast corner of that building, would you go pick that up? Crew 5, hold tight for a couple minutes while I do some layout…
…This is the iPod. This is combining all the technologies that exist today, this is nothing new.
A chip set for a phone is under five bucks. Nokia owns all the patents to make a phone subfoot. They can take your phone, and they can position this subfoot.
I told you the world’s not flat, use your GPS, it doesn’t work in a flat world environment. Anybody bringing GPS into an assumed coordinate system flat drawing should be shot. Seriously, you’re just losing a lot of valuable data that can be reused over time. We talked about greater precision over larger areas, you guys got all the stuff, you don’t have to buy anything. Which is pretty cool, because we’re in tough times here, we need to figure out how to leverage out the resources we have.
Here’s the complete transcribed text of Brent’s presentation. Please forgive minor typos:
Thanks, it will take me a second to get set up here.
By the way, that was my cell phone. If your cell phone goes off, please answer it. Times are. . . well, times are tight. We want to take every call we can get, that’s for sure. And I think you know there’s a ball game on tonight. So I’ll tell you what King Henry the 8th said to each of his eight wives, “ I won’t keep you long, okay?” A little quick story about surveying. How many of you actually picked surveying as a career and said I want to be a surveyor when you were like 10 years old? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Same here. I was a cryptotechnician in the Coast Guard. And I joined the Coast Guard because I was really pretty lazy and wanted to figure out how I could retire at 38. You can see how that worked out. I was getting out of the service you know, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, not knowing much about anything and having great loving parents but getting absolutely no guidance. I was thumbing through college catalogues, not even knowing, you know, what different professions did. So I had to actually drill down and look into what courses you study. And I saw the word geodesy – how many of you guys at 21 knew what the word geodesy meant? Yeah, I didn’t either. So I looked it up in the dictionary. And you know, being pretty much an idiot 21 year old, I said, Oh, I’ll do that. And that was it, okay? So that’s kind of how I got into surveying to begin with. And then it got even worse after that. I ended up working for some real jerks and couldn’t take it so much end ended up getting transferred into some engineering groups and did that for a while. And after a while I figured you know technology was really where I wanted to be. And I went to talk to – this is a great story let me tell you it’ll be funny. So I fly to California – by the way I’m from Maine, and by the way Bangor, Maine is just like Redlands, California let me tell you. It’s an hour and a half to the coast and two hours to the border and that’s about the only thing it has in common. So when they interview you at ESRI, you know you get like twenty interviews, it takes two days, it’s kind of a long drawn out process. And I’m talking to the President of the company, which is the last interview, and he said “I’m sorry Brian, I didn’t get a chance to review your resume, would you give me a minute?” I said yeah, sure. You’re the guy with all the money, I’m the guy with no job, right? And he asked a couple standard interview questions and he says, “ It says here you’re a surveyor.” And I said yeah, that’s right. And he said, “Well what do you think of surveyors?” I said you mean with GIS? He said yeah. I said man; they’re a tough nut. And he said explain. I explained, I spent about twenty minutes laying out the problem. And the job that I interviewed for I didn’t get. I got the job of trying to convince surveyors that there’s a whole new world out there for them.
That’s why I’m here, I’m here to tell you why the whole GIS community needs surveyors. I have to run a d
ouble thing here, so hopefully this works out. If you don’t know much about ESRI, it’s a pretty big company. It’s the second largest privately held software company in the country. Annual revenue is over 700 million. In a way we’re a lot like Carlson. We’re a bit older and a bit bigger, but we have a lot of the same corporate philosophy. We’re not publicly traded. We spent 22% last year of our annual revenue in R&D. And if you’re a publicly traded company you can’t get away with that. You give pretty much over 11% and the stock analysts are saying hey, you’ve got to fix this. So you can’t spend money in R&D, if you spend too much the lending rating companies rate you poorly so the cost of borrowing goes up and it kind of spirals your company. So when you’re publicly trading you’re kind of caught in this narrow, thin line of actually what you can do. And at ESRI we have many bottom lines. One of them is financial, but many of them are also philanthropic. We are also a core technology provider. We have a couple end solutions, like if you were a national mapping agency, that kind of thing. We have solutions that are start to finish. But mostly what we try to do is we build core technology and recruit best of breed partners where there’s domain expertise and get them to develop on our technology and that’s really why we’re here, and that’s what we’re doing here with Carlson.
So what is GIS? You’re surveyors, get it out of your system right now. That should be one right there – Get it out of your system GIS. Well you know most times you say what is GIS to a bunch of surveyors they say get it surveyed. Well you do a quick acronym search and this is what you get. You know my favorite is green iguana society. Well don’t believe everything you hear about GIS, it’s not an evil empire, and it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a really different way to look at the world. It kind of grew up on the Galapagos Islands because it’s a whole new way to think, it’s a whole new technology. So when we use words we had to invent them in the GIS world that are unfamiliar, especially to surveyors. When I first got to ESRI they said Hey, we’re going to put cogo in arc view. I went hey, that’s pretty cool. Let me tell you, cogo to a GIS person means something entirely different then cogo to a surveyor, just keep that in mind. When you hear cogo it’s not what you’re expecting. So GIS is really a collection of a bunch of stuff, hardware and software. And you kind of jam it in, and you use it to manage Geographical referenced data. And that’s key right there. And we’re doing analysis, and we’re referencing this data, disseminating it in all different forms. The key here is georeferencing. That is the same level of standardization as HTTP. It’s the same level of standardization as gasoline. The fact that we georeference allows us to use our data to communicate to the world. If you’re not georeferencing your data, you’re losing money, and you’re losing market share fast. I’ll talk quite a bit about that because that changes the surveyor’s world. And GPS changes the entire GIS footprint, and it changes the whole domain for surveyors.
Most of you guys read the headlines, right? And you see all the stuff going on. Well behind the scenes, we see Google Earth and we see these maps. Behind that visualization there’s a rich analysis that takes place. Almost all that work is done on GIS servers. You don’t see it because it’s not very sexy, it’s just a bunch of computers crashing numbers. But when they display it on Google Earth, that analysis comes from somewhere, and the majority of that is done on GIS Servers. And we see this all the time. We see this a lot in emergency responses, like when the bridge collapsed, immediately in Minnesota they had reroute traffic, figure out long term, immediately, how they were going to divert traffic and stabilize that. You know the whole green movement – one of the big things for me was that was when the GPS became a hundred dollars. How many of you guys were up to 3 in the morning like in 1982 with those experimental satellites that sucked? You know what I’m talking about, you’re swapping floppies out, you’re using car batteries. We were pretty excited, and whoever thought that it would be what it is today? One of my favorite ones, I’m not going to play the video but there’s Arnold in there, GIS is like GoogleEarth, digital mapping only better.
So what do we see changing? How do we get down to practicalities? Let’s do some analogies with the Music Industry, okay? The iPod is not anything new, it’s just cool. They didn’t invent anything with the iPod. They took all existing technologies and jammed them into a new form. Awesome. I give Apple so much credit for figuring this out. You look at the way music went, the way video went, the way pictures went, and tweeter, strawberries, they’re all out of business. I mean they just changed the footprint of the music industry, and they didn’t do anything new. They just combined existing technologies in a new way and delivered it differently. Let me tell you right now – we’re on that change happening in our world. We don’t know how it’s going to come out. Nobody’s, – certainly we’re not smart enough to figure this out. But when you take a look at the way measurement technology has gone. Oh by the way, you see the picture of that – how many of you still have a HP41? All right. Mine died like five years ago, so you know, going around the world like this, I’ve been asking people to sell me theirs. How many of you would sell me your HP41? Yeah, it doesn’t happen. What’s wrong with us? You know, we adopted the 41 so quickly, but then we didn’t move on after that, we just said okay, this is good enough for me. So what we see now happening with the convergence with an i-pod or audio or video, we now see with measurement technology. We see this with existing data. This is the big thing about data. Once it’s digital, it’s game over. Once it’s georeferenced, and it’s published, everything changes because we can now combine this in entirely new deliverables and we have entirely new ways to think about things.
All right. I had about half of this slide before I did this entire presentation and I just did like a two second Google search. Look at all of these cartoons – I mean cartoons on GPS. My favorite is the one on the lower left, it’s a Super Bowl commercial; remember that a couple years ago? I can’t believe it, you know? In 1983, 3 o’clock in the morning, you’re out there with these boxes the size of this podium, trying to capture positions with a PHD Geodesist, just trying to figure this stuff out. Now it’s a push of a button and it’s like it’s a Super Bowl commercial, right? The two headlines from the newspaper up there, those are my local paper in San Bernardino California. The GPS, you know what they’re doing? They’re putting GPS’ in refrigerators, yeah no joke. And in dishwashers, and all the appliances in a house, so when somebody swipes them they can find out where they are. And this one here, this one came out right before Christmas. Don’t swipe the baby Jesus because it’s got GPS in it, right? I mean, so what does this mean for the rest of what we have, when position becomes ubiquitous?
Okay, we’re surveyors, right? We identify with locating things. What happens when that game’s over, okay, what happens when we know where everything is? What’s our job now? I mean this is a pretty serious thing. By the way, if you guys need a joke or anything, I’m not going to stand between a surveyor and Kentucky Bourbon, that’s for sure. All right, what’s changing for us? I mean, have you guys figured out the Earth’s not flat? How many of you guys are working – I’m not going to ask for hands on this, it’d be too embarrassing, but how many of you guys are working in plane coordinates? Those days are rapidly coming to a close, that’s what’s going to separate a new surveyor from an old
surveyor. We need greater precision, and we need it over larger areas. These large DOT projects, you know the Earth is really round, and we need greater positions in larger positions, and you just can’t do that with assumed coordinate systems in plane space. The thing about GPS, it’s not going away. It’s not a trend; it’s not a program, all right? They’re routing ambulances to your house with GPS, they’re fighting fires with GPS, they’re doing many critical functions with GIS. And it’s authoritative. This is not something that’s pushed together for a project – these are systems that are built, they’re implemented, there is as much IT as the Microsoft Exchange server. So these systems are becoming relied upon, they’re mission critical. Now with that said, how are we participating as surveyors in this group? With GPS – okay, remember back to the 1983 days, you got your answer, you’ve got all these matrixes to add up, all this other stuff you know, and you had a lot of smart people to help you figure out how good the positions really were. Now it’s a little button, and you get how exactly good that position is. And everybody’s gaining confidence. I was on a plane a couple months ago, and the plane lands, the guys says, “Well, if you weren’t on a machine landing, you are now.” The plane was landed entirely on GPS. So we’re landing planes with GPS, what are we going to do next? Thinking about that, thinking about those real time, centimeter positions, what’s our role as surveyors?
Well the next bullet is probably the most important bullet of the entire slide presentation tonight. I worked for a large…firm for a number of years. And fifteen years ago, we would map a community, and five years later, we would map it again. And every five years there was a mapping update. And those projects were big. You know what? That’s not happening anymore. You’re not going to go remap and remap and remap. We’re building into our work loads the ability for incremental spatial improvement. That’s where we come in. We can’t wholesale to remap, it’s too expensive. So how do we build into our workloads? One of these things- you know, you have a base map built of a community, maybe some partisan maps, built on maybe a five foot accuracy land base, that’s cool. What happens when they get one foot accuracy off those, and nothing fits? Who fixes the data? My contention is that should be us doing that. We understand spatial data, parcel data better then anybody, we should be the guys adjusting that parcel data to fit the new land base.
And you know, I mentioned it took a couple years to map one of these communities, that’s not happening anymore. How many of you guys can go, oh, I’ll get that to you in two years? You know what I’m saying? I mean, you say six months now and you better have incremental deliverables coming out a month after you start the project at best. So that is a total change.
There’s a couple of other things in how we model measurement that’s changing quite a bit, there’s a session tomorrow on BIM, that’s actually really important stuff. If you’re not involved in that community. The other thing that’s happening is real time centralized positioning. And what I mean by that is when we land that airplane, it’s not just the airplane that knows where it is; the tower knows where it is too. It’s a two-way communication. So in the new world, we collect our data in the field, that’s cool. In the new world, you know, the surveyor is going to be sitting behind 52 inch plasma screens watching his crews in real time collect data and going hey crew 7, you missed the southeast corner of that building, would you go pick that up? Crew 5, hold tight for a couple minutes while I do some layout, well I do a couple checks. And you’re going to finish your work in the field, and then you’re going to come back to the office and not have to go back to the field. You’re also going to sit out in the field and say, “Hey, hey boss, I’ve got an extra hour.” The boss is going to do a quick special query, he’s going to say, “Hmm, the municipality’s paying two bucks a manhole out there, why don’t you guys locate those manholes and then come in after you’re finished?” You ship those to the municipal server in real time, they credit your PayPal account, they take them offline, and away you go. That’s really where this is going.
This is the iPod. This is combining all the technologies that exist today, this is nothing new. So we’re talking about this change right? Right or wrong, there’s nothing we can do about it. Check out this deed, this is awesome. I’ll give you a second to read that. This is some dude with a Garmin writing his own deed out. Isn’t this our fear? Aren’t we all scared? We can be afraid of it. I used to have a collection of deeds before my house burned down – no joke, it really did burn down. But I did have a collection of deeds. One of them was beginning at a fast blue rock. One was beginning at the moose horn, so called. It’s no different then this chabloney here with a Garmin. So what are we going to do about that? Are we going to sit back and try to legislate this? I don’t think that’s the way to go. America’s a pretty free country; we can do whatever we want in a deed. You know, it’s how we retrace it. So how do we deal with this?
I’m going to draw a little analogy here, just to try and paint a picture of what’s going on. So let’s go back a couple of centuries and talk about how we kept time. So let’s meet for a beer. Okay, I’ll meet you for a beer at 3 o’clock. That’s it right there, that’s our device. On a sunny day we might be good for twenty minutes if you knew what you were doing. So that’s how we synchronize, that’s how we did it. We got clever, not everybody could afford a sundial, right? So we stuck them up on the sides of churches and municipal buildings, pretty clever. But that’s still sundial technology. Then we got really clever, we started building these clock towers so you could look out your window and say Hey, it’s getting close to three o’clock, better go meet Brent for a beer. Then we got even smarter, we went multimedia. We put some chimes in the clock. Actually, now I’m not sure on this, I’ve got to do a little more research, but I think those chimes were originally put in clocks to send people home when the bars closed. I think that’s what that was all about. So now we can really communicate in real time, the chimes go off every fifteen minutes. And we really begin to have a synchronization of time. How many of you guys know what this is? H2? This changed the world right here. This solves a fourth dimensional problem and a second dimensional problem. This is the Harrison 2 clock. Back in the 1700’s, actually, way before the 1700’s, they were sailing over from Europe, and they were crashing ships into the East Coast of the US and South America because they couldn’t calculate longitude. They could calculate latitude by the stars and sun pretty well, but they couldn’t calculate longitude because longitude is merely a function of time from one spot. You’ve got 360 degrees, you’ve got 24 hours in a day, 15 degrees per time zone, you can just keep drilling it down, that’s really how longitude works. So you really have to know the time in one spot and the time where you are. So some dude invents this clock, figures out how to calculate longitude, gets this 20,000 pound prize, which is like 10 million bucks or something. And then he gets really clever, and he makes it portable. And this thing now can be used on ships, it’s not pendulum based it’s spring based, it changed absolutely everything. We can now synchronize time throughout everywhere. And in 1850 the gross domestic product of a western worker in Western Europe and in the US was 6 and a half pounds of wheat per day. It was the same in China. So what happened? Some people theorize that the Western adoption of the clock is what changed everything. Because, you know, we’re
capitalists, we’re going to measure who produces more goods. So we standardized a lot of measurements, and we used this clock as a measurement of productivity. Well China dismissed the clock as a gadget. Clocks existed long before Harrison invented this portable clock, they had water clocks that dripped you know, all kinds of stuff. But nobody used the clock for measuring productivity. Some people theorize that that’s why the West was so successful so quickly. If you take a look at the clock on the left that’s the original H2, that’s the one that revolutionized navigation. The one on the right’s a Rolex which is pretty cool, it’s a pretty cool looking watch. I contend that that pretty cool looking watch, which is a wonderful machine device – you know, can you imagine building a mechanical watch? Just think about that, all right? I think it’s like a total station, which is one of the coolest devices on the planet. When you set up a total station and run the thing, it’s like driving a Mercedes – it is so smooth, so well machined, so précised, it’s awesome. I can’t imagine the technology it takes to build a total station, I really can’t. But you know, I can imagine the technology it takes to build a watch, an electronic watch. All right, check this out. 2 bucks on Ebay. You’ve got to watch the shipping, they’ll get you on that, but you have the same precise timing way better then that H2 that revolutionized the world, for a couple of bucks. So what’s that mean, when this profession, this whole element, this whole dimension of how we run our society is based on time, and it’s now on your wrist? It’s a fashion statement now, right? My contention is the Casio watch revolutionized time, and the GPS is the Casio watch of positioning. That’s what I think’s happening. What’s going to happen when GPS is just a stick on in the desert, no antenna, you just stick them on, you set your controller- you don’t even go pick up your control because it’s too expensive to go back out in the field- like setting driveway reflectors out on a mortgaged loan inspection or something, right? I’m serious, that’s the way this is going.
A chip set for a phone is under five bucks. Nokia owns all the patents to make a phone subfoot. They can take your phone, and they can position this subfoot. To them it’s a business decision. I was at a conference in Stockholm, and FIG conference, and this young buck gets up and talks. He’s a twenty-something engineer, you know, business guy with Nokia, strong accent, and he goes “Don’t worry guys, we’re not worried about the last centimeter here.” And there’s a room full of surveyors going holy cow. Think about what it took for us ten years ago to get this centimeter position out in the parking lot. You’ve got to go find the control, you’ve got to go bring it in, you got all of this stuff. You’ve got to have the right crew if you’re going to have a centimeter. That game’s over. What’s it take you to do a centimeter position now? It takes an RT kit, a network, and a couple of minutes. What’s going to happen when that’s on your phone? It’s just a chip, there’s no big difference here. What’s that mean for surveyors? How do we participate in this changing market? So we’ve got the iPod, we go to the iPhone, and we’re going to these little handheld computers that do just about everything for you in your pocket. It’s going to be on your wrist, it’s ubiquitous. It’s a triple whammy, it’s not a double whammy that’s happened at this point. The time it takes to get an accurate position is decreasing and at the same time the cost is decreasing. It’s all happening at the same time.
What happens when everybody can do this? We’re integrating all kinds of data in real time. My favorite one is lightning strikes. Who cares about lightning strikes? We know lightning strikes to the meter in real time. You think anybody cares about that? Well you know when you’re an electric utility and you’re paid, and you get paid more by minimizing the length of your duration and the number of durations, yeah, you care where the lightning strikes are because you know the amount of fuel, you know the level of drought, you know where to deploy your crews, you know where your higher risks are. So we’re beginning to gather data, not just these digital data sets that get accumulated over time, we’re accumulating this real time data with sensors over time as well. You know I live in California, we have all earth quakes like all the time. It’s kind of incredible actually. But you can set a little parameter; you can get an email about any earthquake above a 4.0 within 50 miles of your house. And that’s immediately stuck into somebody’s system somewhere that does some other analysis. So this data’s all being accumulated real time. And with more and more networks, that real time data’s going to be more precise.
So how do we do this data integration, how do we actually pull this off? It requires accurate data – but I tell you, what they call accuracy is different then what we think of as accuracy as surveyors. We think of special accuracy. How close is this to where we think the true position is? Well there’s a lot of other kinds of accuracy that are just as important. When we begin to do analysis and when we begin to reuse data. What is topographical accuracy, and how do these relate to each other? What side of the street is this house on? What side of the divided highway is this house on, so when we route an ambulance, we’re at least on the right side of the highway. All the information about a fire hydrant for instance, what year it was installed, when it was last painted, when it was last tested – all that attribute information, that’s really important to the GIS community and the Asset Management community – it’s called the Asset Management community because the world we work in, the majority of it is infrastructure management or asset management and how surveyors relate to those. Spatial, we’re all over this, temporal accuracy, how current the data is. Relative accuracy, we work a lot in that environment, in a small neighborhood, how accurate is data relative to each other, and is it really what we say it is. These levels of accuracy are all very important, just the special component. And as we begin to grow into this new community, these will become more of what we do. And when we look at data, traditionally we treat the GIS community as treating surveyor data as vector data. Well, it’s not. Survey data is not vector data. It’s not rastor data either. They’ve very different types of data that have very different behaviors. You know, when we adjust to trappers we don’t toss away the original measurements, those are sacred. That’s how we treat survey data. So we need to think about, and educate the GIS community, about how we treat data. We have our own little systems on how to do this, but it’s really important to understand that it’s very very different then treating data as vector data. The components among us – and I’ll just spend a second on this, one of the big differences between dealing with kind of the wild west and cat data and structured data based data is that you have attributes, you have geometry, and you have behavior. Everybody know what geometry is? I asked surveyors this a while ago, it was great. The guys says. “It’s a class in 10th grade.” I said how about geography, he said, “ Same thing.” And again, it’s that language problem we have with GIS people – they must’ve just had the wrong stuff because nobody would listen to them for so long. Geometry just means it’s a point, line, or polygon, that’s it. And geography just means where you are. The real deal here is when you know the geometry and you know its attributes, and those are managed in databases. You can build rules about the behavior about road crossings, about measurements not being adjusted, about control never being able to be moved. You can build all these things you have in your heads into the
So why do we build GIS? We built it to solve some problems. We wanted to route emergency vehicles, we wanted to manage electrical outages; we wanted to better tax our people. We wanted to make sure we had zoning done properly, we’re building mines. We built this GISs for single purposes, and most of the worlds the surveyors come from comes with ones inside the municipalities, the tax parcels and parcel management. What happened is we built these to solve specific problems, we built the technology, and we built the data to fit the problem. What happens is those particular uses grow over time, people are adding applications, you know, you come to the municipal use office and you’re like hey, who’s got a map? They only have one map, and everybody’s using that map to solve their new problem. But the data on that map or the data in the system is not built for those problems. So the data becomes unfit for these new uses, and they don’t update the data. Big problem. We call it the geospatial peter problem, you know, rise to the level of your incompetence, right? Well that’s what’s happening with these GIS systems. You know, we built them for very simple problems, and we built the data to match those problems, and we keep adding and adding uses to those.
So, how do we get started as surveyors and engineers in this market? First off, I told you the world’s not flat, use your GPS, it doesn’t work in a flat world environment. Anybody bringing GPS into an assumed coordinate system flat drawing should be shot. Seriously, you’re just losing a lot of valuable data that can be reused over time. We talked about greater precision over larger areas, you guys got all the stuff, you don’t have to buy anything. Which is pretty cool, because we’re in tough times here, we need to figure out how to leverage out the resources we have.
The next two bullets kind of go together. We’re relying on GIS in big ways, and surveyors have such a high respect as a profession in the community that we need to leverage that and take advantage of our position, take advantage of the leadership roles in these authoritative systems. Not legisly, take a role and say that your data is crap, I know about data, I can make it better, I can make this system more reliable. We need to be part of the solution. We need to be part of this incremental update process, we need to understand the workflows inside the municipal government, inside these utility and infrastructure owners that need to maintain accurate information. And they trust us, you know? There’s not a person out there, I don’t think, that doesn’t have a lot of respect for surveyors and for what we do, we just need to leverage that reputation, and we need to do it quickly. We can’t sit back and do a needs assessment over the next three years and figure out how to do this, we need to jump in. A long time ago when CAD first came out, the company I worked for, we got into CAD, and we did CAD for ourselves, and provided CAD for a service also. Kind of a double thing right? It was a big expense for us, it was complicated, it was a new way to think, computers were expensive, we charged by the hour. So we contracted work where we would take other people’s CAD work and we’d actually do the drafting. So we used that as a way to get better and defray some of the costs – well the same thing exists in the GIS environment. You guys have all the equipment to jump into the GIS environment and do some of that work using exactly what you have. So, how do we get started? You load up a little bit of new software, and we’ll give you all the links for this, we can show you where it is. So there’s these state GIS sites. One thing cool about the United States is if you pay for something with taxpayers’ dollars they can’t charge you for it. How cool is that, that they can only charge you once. So that means all that rich, valuable mapping data that’s out there is yours for free. Really. And it’s pretty cool stuff. So we just did this site on Kentucky and we went out to NGS. How many of you guys use NGS’s website right now? We just downloaded a file, dumped it right in here, we have all of NGS’s controls right here. Then you can load your own control, this is pretty important, because everybody knows NGS’ controls a little too sparse. And then you can import USGS – you’ve got soils, you’ve got wetlands, you’ve got NAIP photography, you’ve got all this free information. How many of you guys use NAIP photography? It’s a pretty common thing, it’s very valuable stuff, the photography from the 30’s. Well you can import that and you can overlay that on all your project data. This slide’s a bit hard to see, but this is using two levels of imagery called the swipe tool, so we’re looking at old imagery verses new imagery, and we can look at these things together, we can say, “Okay, we can do our analysis, you know?” As surveyors, we’re doing this all the time, you know, we’re just kind of monkeying around. But there’s ways to centralize this data, do it once, download it once, and it’s in your system. So you can reuse this, and this is some Carlson data input imported directly into arc view, and overlaid with the historic imagery. It’s just imported for visualization and for reuse. Don’t think of using your tools differently, think of when you’ve completed a project, taking your project data and turning it into a system. It’s a real new way to think, and it’s taken us a long time to figure out what the difference is between the GIS community and the project based community. Well these GIS people build systems, they get a base map, they get a bunch of data, they start adding data and applications into their system. We all work in projects. He mentioned billable hours, man I move 3500 miles away from billable hours, it’s tough. But after we’re done billing those hours, after we’ve finished that project, you put that CAD file in an optical and call it good? If your data’s georeferenced, ship it into a central repository and reuse it for competitive advantage for the next job, or just to know what’s going on in the neighbor, or just use it for your digital archive. So georeference all your work. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but this 5,000, 10,00 thing? It’s over. You’ve got to get rid of it. You’ve got to think like – even if you go out there with a $200 Garmin, or a receiver and get a coordinate that’s good to six feet, georeference your data. It puts your work on the map, and it makes it reusable. You participate in the rest of the world-wide data community. 5,000 – 10,000 puts it on a floppy disk on a shelf and you can’t use it again.
How many of you guys have surveyed the same property twice? No show of hands again, we don’t want to embarrass too many people because it’d probably be half of the room. Nobody really wants to admit, but I’ve known a lot of people who have gone out there, they’re finishing up their job, and their going damn, you know, I was here five years ago and not realized it. It’s a two second process to take a list of your jobs with their addresses, geocode, that’s another term, geocode is another one of those GIS code words for putting the coordinate on an address, that’s all that means. So if you know where your work was, at least by an address, put it on a map, so you know where you’ve been. There are new tools in GIS for taking work out of DWGs. You can build entire data feature sets and feature classes straight out of a CAT drawing and work in a nice structured CAT environment. You can take that data when you’re finished and put it into your GIS system. Because you need to be ready for what’s coming next, and that’s the high accuracy GIS, you know, right back to the initial slide and get it surveyed, pretty soon it’s going to mean got it surveyed. GIS people are beginning to think about – you know, these orthols are coming in with three-inch pixels and subfoot accuracy, their data doesn’t fit. They want accuracy. Accuracy is addictiv
e, it’s been said many times. It’s like synchronization with your BlackBerry, you know, you want to always be connected. It’s the same kind of prediction, you know. So the GIS community is now discovering this high accuracy, actually, Bruce is launching a product line of GPS drivers to work within the GIS environment for high accuracy GIS. I have to tell you, that’s going to shake up part of the GIS world, I’m really excited about that. So build a comprehensive data system, don’t think of your projects. You know, you get paid for your projects, but think of your projects as building a data system. How many of you – the average age of a surveyor is like 57 or something. It keeps saying 57. It’s gotta go up right, because we’re not breeding too many new surveyors.
So what happens when you go to build your business? You going to point to a tank file? You going to point to a bunch of floppies, you going to say here’s a bunch of DWGs, I don’t think that’s a way to sell your business. What if you had every point you located, every job you ever did in one database? Then you could say, “Here’s everything I did for the last thirty years.” I think it’s worth quite a bit of money. But I think all the flat files sitting in the tank, I don’t think they’re worth a thing. So it’s one way that we can think of building our businesses for the long term.
All right, we’re going to talk here a little bit about – I want to point to where I think some of the money is and how to access some of that money. When we look at the infrastructure life cycle, the way we build things, – We plan, we collect data, we do some analysis, maybe that’s some kind of environmental analysis, maybe that’s some kind of structural design analysis, we design, we build, we asbuilt, then we operate. And then we do it again. And if you look at it this way – kind of the operations and planning tier – that’s really done in GIS, it’s really a strong suit of GIS. If you look at the surveying and engineering tier, that’s really this community here, that’s the Carlson community.
So how do we make this work together, and how do we leverage our existing investments? Well if you take a look at the Carlson product line, it fits about like this. Again, ESRI is a technology company, we’re trying to build technology, and our relationship with Carlson, you know, we’re very selective with who we pick as partners. I won a job a long time ago. It was for a very large utility company, and the guy said, “You know what, we knew you were strong in this part, we knew you were weak in this part. But we knew you would figure out how to get the job done.” That’s how we feel about Carlson. And I think that’s how Carlson feels about us, we have a pretty good relationship in this space. So that diagram of plan, collect data, analyze, design, construct, as-built, operate, if we lay that flat it would look like this – so the blue line depicts how we are existing work flows, we pass data off to the next guy down the line, in the work flow and we pass off when we want to pass off, maybe we only pass off what they ask for, or we pass off just what they want to have, maybe we’re worried about our little fiefta. But if we collect that data centrally as we pass it off, by the time we get to the O&M phase, we have so much rich data to operate that facility, and that’s what the facility operators want. 75% of the cost of infrastructure through out its life cycle is in operation and maintenance. Only 25% is designed in construction. So as we learn how to communicate to the world infrastructure, and we bring them rich data and more things they can do, we develop a specific competitive advantage that working in the stovepipe environment can’t do. This is kind of top secret, but we are here to try and share some things – this is where our focus is for 2009. We’re in a lot of different markets, but where it relates to engineers and surveyors is right here; asset management is a real struggle in the asset operating companies – electric, gas, transportation, utilities, telecoms. They don’t have accurate information through out their facilities, they don’t. You go inside these places, it’s crazy. We did a job several years ago for a pipeline company, they had 11,000 miles of gas transmission, you know, the kind that blows up and kills people? And they had USGS quad sheets with like crayon marks on it. That’s where they do their pipelines; they had no detailed facility information. Okay, there’s big work there. Those guys are highly regulated, the integration of work management in asset management, that’s not really a peach for the surveyor to do that integration. But the data involved in the process is there. And that accurate data is very important.
Planning, we talked a little bit about that. The thing that we’ll see, that may appear as a threat to us, is how utility and infrastructure companies become mobile. These guys are going to have GPS in the field, they’re going to have it connected to their operational GIS systems. We need to become knowledgeable in how this works because we know field operations. We know field operations probably better then any other profession. We need to leverage those skills, educate the infrastructure owners, and become their field people. This piece on operational awareness is really kind of interesting. The best example of this I guess would be the mortgage crisis. There’s absolutely no operation awareness of the mortgage industry in the United States, that is painfully clear. If we had an operational cadaster in this country, we would be able to look at the land records, tied to the mortgage, tied to valuation, tied to income, and look at trends and look at what the risk is. We can’t do that because of the way we manage our records. Inside utilities, they don’t do it that way. They have real time information inside a mining company. You take one truck down, they’ve got a little dial here that says how many thousands of dollars a minute they’re not making. So the idea of having that level of operational leverage, that type of dashboard, requires having the type of data that surveyors have.
So specifically, this is the list of where there’s reasonable work. I’m going to narrow this down to just a couple where I think there’s big work. Facilities management. College campuses, industrial facilities – that area where there’s small geography and they need accurate data. We have a lot of work going on with these types of institutions, taking all the CAD data and integrating it into an operational system where they can manage those facilities. Campuses don’t know where the empty classrooms are. They don’t know where the classrooms are verses the class times and classrooms are verses the parking. They can’t keep building more parking lots because they don’t know what’s going on. You could do a little spatial analysis and you could figure out where the students are. You could figure out which students have cars and where their classes are, and give them special permits to manage it in that way. It’s kind of shocking, I don’t know how many of you guys have kids in college, but there’s a real rush to have kids study abroad. You know why that is? You think it’s part of cultural enrichment and seeing new points of view, it’s not that at all. They can’t manage their facilities so they’re shipping kids overseas for a year so they can have 25% more kids in their college. You know the defibulator in the hospital? They have three times as many as they can use, they just can’t find them. So this whole idea of being able to manage exactly what you have more accurately, there’s a lot of money here. So you can go in and say here’s your return on investment with this technology and us collecting this data. Here’s your solution. You don’t have to buy any new blanks, that’s a real opportunity. So we do see an awful lot of work there, that’s been a growth area for the past six or seven years in facilities. The other area wh
ere we see a fair amount of work – and you might not think this – but it’s in parcel managing. This idea of getting new orthos every four or five years, everybody’s doing it you know, they’re really cool, the assessors love them, they can find out where the new swimming pools are, they’re cheap, they’re easy. But you know, as they become more accurate, the parcels don’t fit. And nobody likes getting online and pulling up a website and seeing a parcel line running through their house. All that means is there’s calls to the town office. What’s a town official want to do? Minimize the calls. Government workers don’t want anything to be their fault. So there’s this whole move, and we don’t have time tonight to discuss this, but there’s a whole technology out there about using survey methodologies for managing parcels the way they should be managed. But those are a couple of areas where we see an awful lot of opportunity. But most importantly, do new things, you know, that’s what we have to do now. When I was surveying in Maine many moons ago, one of the competitors of the company I worked with had a big tree length hard wood dumped in the dooryard every year. So when the crews didn’t have work they went out and cut firewood all right, they cut and split this wood. And I don’t think that’s what we want to do. Maybe our roots came from there, but I don’t think that’s what we want to do. I think we want to spend our time doing other things.
So here’s the deal that we have right now. And we’ll see how interested people really are in doing new things and breaking new ground. For every Carlson IntelliCAD user, ESRI’s going to grant them a copy of ArcView. We’ve worked out some of the work flows, there’s still more to be worked out, but we will help you get started in this business. Forging a relationship with your technology with Carlson, and hopefully ESRI and Carlson opening up some new markets for you. In about a month you’ll receive an email, from Bruce describing how to go about this, putting down the landing pages and things like that, trying to get as much starter information together as possible, so it’s not real difficult. But the reason the title of this presentation is “Why GIS Needs Surveyors” – this is a very small market for ESRI. It gets very little attention for its financial value, it gets a lot of attention for its strategic value. What would happen if all data in GIS were survey grade? Just think of the applications you can build, of the problems we can solve. Think about – the example I always use is blind driving a car. You want to take your hands off the wheel of your car and go into the back seat for a couple of minutes, you need some pretty good data and you need some pretty reliable systems. And I don’t think we’re going to get that data from anybody but surveyors. And I know the president of ESRI feels the same way, it’s a very important market. So we need surveyors to help us improve the data and hopefully we can open some new markets for some new surveyors and break some new ground.
Thanks. (end of speech)
Comments by Bruce Carlson:
Thanks, that was quite a visionary look at the GIS market. It compelled me to come up here and suggest this to the surveyors in the room – so many of the board of registrations in the various states seem to concern themselves with continuing education, protecting sort of the knowledge base of the surveyor profession, and perhaps protecting the wage base. But if that’s one of the major goals, it seems to me like that have a far bigger and forward looking opportunity in this area of GIS. What this implies to me is that the society as a whole would be greatly helped in terms of efficiency, data availability – for the private sector as well as the public sector – if the land were mapped from a tax-mapping standpoint to a project standpoint to a precise centimeter level. If this became a specification coming from our state board, that all surveys going forward must dovetail and fit into an accurate mapping mosaic. This would cause a rush of business into the survey profession. Our emphasis to a continued education, to me, well to some extent is placed in that it doesn’t look forward; it looks in a protective way at the profession. The amount of work available to the land surveyor would greatly increase upon these requirements, they would be called upon for both property surveying but also project surveying to deliver the mapping with this level of accuracy. It would potentially transform this industry. So I think this was a very visionary and important message for those professionals in the room to consider and take from here – perhaps get active in your board of registration. It could be very beneficial for our profession. I also wanted to thank David Palumbo for his earlier presentation; I hope it was an inspiration to many of you out there, particularly at the dealer level, to consider stronger efforts in the civil market. With that, Bob, do you have any closing comments? Well I’d recommend after this very long day that we all get the rest we can in the remaining time, and we’ll see you tomorrow, thanks.