Bridging the Gap

An overview of the first ESRI-hosted Survey and GIS Summit.

As the industry morphs through manufacturer acquisitions and through the potential for encroachment of other professions into survey work, a representative percentage of concerned surveyors and GIS-ers gathered in San Diego last month to attempt to coordinate the nature of their work. The inaugural Survey and GIS Summit sponsored by ESRI of Redlands, Calif., from July 6-8, highlighted and encouraged the integration of survey data in GIS systems. “Bridging the Gap” (the theme and title of the event) ran concurrently with the annual ESRI International User Conference and fostered the theory that GIS is useful in many ways, but only if the data it consists of is accurate. The event provided an opportunity for surveyors, engineers and GIS-ers to discuss their proposals and “wish-lists” for an incorporation of sorts.

Mike Weir, ESRI surveying industry manager, sparked the event with an introduction and welcome. He said that any current gap between the two professions of surveying and GIS can be bridged with technology and people. Practitioners of these disciplines can overcome this apparent disparity through training, promoting, educating, learning new technology and building partnerships. Weir also suggested that joint training, conferences and participation, along with jointly decided standards could be solutions in integrating the two professions.

Leica Geosystems (Atlanta, Ga.) and Tadpole-Cartesia (Carlsbad, Calif.), UCLID (Madison, Wis.), Geodata Information Systems Pty. Ltd. (East Maitland, Australia) presented their solutions for efficient data collection and map creation through brief demonstrations. A Leica-Tadpole extension to ArcMap called MobileMatrix claims to save the user time in data collection by accepting on-the-fly measurements and utilizing a voice recognition (with response) option. UCLID highlighted its land records management tool, which takes a scanned document such as a deed and pulls the mathematical data into the GIS map. Pen scanners or voice recognition tools are optional. Australia-based Geodata, soon to enter the U.S. survey market, demonstrated GeoSurvey and GeoCadastre, field-to-finish software that accepts information from various sources and creates a coordinated numeric cadastre from survey plans. Weir provided minute-quick summaries of each presentation, each time reflecting back on the rich foundation of database use for efficient system implementation and tranference of survey data and GIS layers at any time.

Weir’s strategy paralleled the concept of Survey Analyst, the software extension to ArcGIS 8.3 released this past February to integrate survey data into a GIS. Jointly built by ESRI and Leica Geosystems, Survey Analyst is offered as a solution to store survey data within a GIS relational database management system (RDBMS) with the ability for GIS mappers to view a separate layer. The extension requires an ArcView 8.3, ArcEditor 8.3 or ArcInfo 8.3 license, programs many users must learn to adjust to.

“Conflation” was a word heard throughout the summit and exhibit hall. The sophisticated term for “blending,” conflation considers the efficient meshing of old (GIS dataset features) and new (location) data, further fostering the notion of integration between the professions. Weir hopes to enhance this beginning of conflation next year by raising the attendee numbers for the Survey and GIS Summit from this year’s 280 to 1,000 next year. Perhaps with each passing year, surveying and GIS professionals will indeed bridge the gap.

For a complete and comprehensive review of Survey Analyst, look for Mike Binge’s “In Review: Survey Analyst” in an upcoming issue.

For more editorial on the 2003 ESRI International User Conference, click here:,2338,104571,00.html.

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