From the Editor: It All Begins with Surveyors

The new issue has several related articles. First is the stunning piece by Lloyd Pilchen about the massive land forming that took place in Seattle’s early days. Think something like this could happen nowadays? Today, local groups rise up in opposition to projects and we end up with cities sporting unfinished highways to nowhere. In my region, Baltimore and DC each have at least one glaring example. But the most outrageous aspect of Lloyd’s article can be seen on the cover. That big honkin’ building on the horizon was demolished, even though it had only been in existence for a few years, all to accomplish the singular vision of an engineer. And remember, this was back in the day before engineers abandoned their connection to surveying.

An installment by Carl De Baca describes a current brouhaha in California over who is allowed to do site plans. Now I know that many of you might think this doesn’t apply to you since engineers and planners are responsible for site plans in your jurisdiction. But as you can see in the article, Carl lists two other jurisdiction battles that have been fought in our country. My point being that turf protection generally fails, but we have to pick and choose our battles, and even though technology is changing the manner in which we work, we ignore it at our own peril. Remember, the Native Americans called the transit the thing that steals the land.

Which brings me to the third topic. In early November we attended Trimble Dimensions+ in Las Vegas, and the overriding theme was It all begins with surveyors. We were reminded that 1,463 days had passed since the most recent Dimensions, and 19 years since the first; still, 5,750 attendees (1,000 of which came from Trimble) spanning 62 countries, dusted off the cobwebs, ushering in the largest Dimensions to date. While Trimble has grown by leaps and bounds since I attended their early user group meetings in California in the 1990s, they’ve not lost sight of where they started. At this year’s event, they made it resoundingly clear that (because) surveyors understand sensors and what they collect, they have an innate grasp on data traceability and fidelity—ultimately, “surveyors make sure it’s correct.” All things considered, Trimble believes that we’re natural managers of the model driven workflows of the future. See Vicki Speed’s article on page 24 for an example of this.

At one point, it was shared that land surveyors at retiring at roughly 8% per year; from our perspective, Trimble intends to solve this dearth of new blood with automation. This ultimately means less of us around but better work for those that remain. While talk of a “one man crew” may illicit chuckles, it’s now a reality and will eventually become the norm in many instances. One of the high points of the keynotes included a visit from Apple co-founder Steve Wosniak who famously remarked “You want to be the disrupter, not the disrupted, and Apple was good at that.” A word for the wise.

At the event, we sat down with Dennis Kemmesat, co-founder and CEO of Frontier Precision, one of Trimble’s premier dealers today. Since founding his firm in 1988, Dennis has held a front-row seat to not only Trimble’s evolution but its effect on the surveying profession. He is quick to remind that Trimble has “changed the way we work.” Groups like Frontier continually extend a hand to those that wish to join the “Trimbleverse.” Check out our interview on page 30 for a quick summation of why surveyors remain in the catbird seat. It seems there’s no better time than now.

About the Author

Marc Cheves, PS

Marc Cheves is editor emeritus of the magazine. He has been a surveyor since 1963 and is licensed in five states. Since 1995 he has been a surveying magazine editor.