Point of Beginning

Sight Lines: Report from the ESRI SEG Summit

July 12, 2009
I’m in San Diego this week at the ESRI Survey & Engineering GIS Summit and User Conference. According to Brent Jones, PE, PLS, Survey/Engineering Industry Manager for ESRI, 36 percent of the attendees are here for the first time. Attendees are looking for networking opportunities, business ideas, new technologies and, in some cases, simply confirmation that their firm is on the right track.



I’m in San Diego this week at the ESRI Survey & Engineering GIS Summit and User Conference. The SEG Summit has a decent-sized crowd. I haven’t been able to pin down attendance numbers, but some of the people I’ve talked to say they think the crowd is on par with last year. According to Brent Jones, PE, PLS, Survey/Engineering Industry Manager for ESRI, 36 percent of the attendees are here for the first time. Attendees are looking for networking opportunities, business ideas, new technologies and, in some cases, simply confirmation that their firm is on the right track.

In his opening remarks, Jones noted that the drive toward high-accuracy GIS is creating opportunities for surveyors. He challenged the audience to turn project data into system data that can be used to develop a competitive advantage. “Data inside your organization is an asset and needs to be treated as such,” he said.

Juliana Blackwell, director of the NOAA National Geodetic Survey, provided a historical look at the NGS along with a glimpse of the future. She noted that the NGS is looking at ways to refine its Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) system to better serve the surveying and mapping professions and cited statistics from the recently updated Socio-Economic Benefits Study: Scoping the Value of CORS and GRAV-D. She said that the GRAV-D initiative holds a significant amount of promise for the future. When fully implemented (which is estimated to occur somewhere between 2019 and 2022, depending on the drivers), the GRAV-D initiative will bring an estimated $522 million in annual benefits to the nation, primarily through better floodplain management and improved planning for other natural disasters. Blackwell also noted that kinematic and real-time networks are an emergent technology. While the real value of these networks hasn’t yet been determined, this is where we’re going, she said.

Attendees had a choice between two sponsored sessions for lunch-Trimble and JAVAD GNSS-and I sat in on the latter. JAVAD introduced the TRIUMPH RTK system, which is built around a high-tech chip featuring 0.09 micron (90 nm) integrated circuit technology. The chip has 216 channels for tracking all types of GNSS signals including GPS, Glonass, Galileo, QZSS, WAAS, EGNOS and Compass/Beidou. According to Javad Ashjae, founder of JAVAD GNSS, the TRIUMPH chip allows for fast signal acquisition even when the signal strength is very low. The product line includes the TRIUMPH-1 and the TRIUMPH-4x-a “cluster” RTK system that processes 16 baselines of eight points in every RTK measurement.

After lunch, Joseph W. Betit, PLS, survey manager for Dulles Transit Partners (Bechtel) in Virginia, presented the second keynote address, in which he presented an overview of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. The project utilized just about every available survey technology, including laser scanning and 3D and 4D modeling. Betit said that the surveyors of the future will be “value-added surveyors”-leaving behind operational survey and positioning system with real-time control and supporting an integrated geospatial facilities management system.

The Industry Leadership Discussion panel gave attendees a chance to discuss the various ideas that had been presented throughout the day. The panel was moderated by Joseph V.R. Paiva, PhD, PLS, PE, POB contributing editor and a respected geomatics consultant, and the panelists included John Matonich, president of Rowe Engineering; Curt Sumner, LS, executive director of ACSM, and J. Peter Borbas, PLS, president of Borbas Surveying & Mapping LLC. The discussion was animated and addressed topics such as licensing for GIS professionals (most agreed such licensing isn’t practical), the best ways to see a fast bottom-line return on GIS implementation (ideas included hiring a recent college graduate and letting them run with their ideas, and partnering with firms that have complementary strengths), and the need to continue educating the public about the surveying profession (Sumner emphasized that a collective effort is needed). As in past years, the panel ran out of time before the audience ran out of questions. The members of the panel graciously agreed to continue the discussion at pobonline.com. If you have a question about implementing or expanding GIS in your firm, please e-mail it to me at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com, and we’ll post it in our ASK THE GIS EXPERTS forum.

Sunday’s sessions promise to be equally informative, and I’m looking forward to the keynote addresses as the User Conference kicks off on Monday. Unofficial estimates have put general attendance at about 11,000, which is down from last year’s crowd of 14,000 but still a significant number.

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