Editor's Points: What Is Innovation?

May 23, 2011
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This kind of issue is always fun to put together. A high-tech theme usually lends itself to some nice images, and it’s exciting to see how advanced technology is being applied in the real world to provide practical solutions.

But what fascinates me the most about an issue like this one isn’t the technology itself, although the capabilities of modern systems are certainly impressive. It’s the individuals applying the technology who capture my interest--people like Eric Andelin of Woolpert and Casey Saxton of GeoNav, who envisioned the potential of mobile mapping before it was deemed practical and had the courage to take the road less traveled (see page 22). I’m inspired by people like Bobby Tuck and the others who teamed up on a project for the Texas Department of Transportation, believing they could impact the way such projects are handled in the future (see page 18), and by people like Marshall McLeod and Lynda Burkett, who applied their skills and technology to help a local community (see page 32). I also admire individuals like Michael Davis and Donald Poole, who are always looking for new ideas and opportunities to test new technologies, even if they’re not quite ready to make an investment (see pages 36 and 40, respectively).

You see, I believe innovation occurs on a large scale, as with mobile and aerial LiDAR and terrestrial laser scanning. But I also believe it happens in small and seemingly imperceptible ways, as well. Every time someone ventures outside of his or her comfort zone and tries something new--whether it’s a new approach, a new technology or a new market--the potential for true innovation exists.

As I read through the articles in this issue, I notice a common set of challenges facing today’s clients. Utilities, transportation departments, architectural and engineering firms, government agencies, and communities are trying to achieve savings in their bottom line, certainly, but they’re also looking for improved field worker safety, a quick turnaround on deliverables, an easy and organized interpretation of the data, and, increasingly, an ongoing relationship with a knowledgeable resource that can help them pull more from the data later on. Technology plays an important role in meeting these needs. But ultimately, successful solutions require forward-thinking individuals to apply them.

How innovative are you?

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the 2011 Geomatics Innovation Awards contest by July 15 to share your story! For details and entry forms visit

Share your thoughts on this column at or To contact the editor, send an e-mail to

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