Editor's Points: Metrology is Dead; Long Live Accuracy
If you want to get the attention of your audience — especially an audience of media people — declare a core function or principal practice dead.
Ola Rollén, president and CEO of Hexagon AB, made a startling observation that “metrology as an isolated phenomenon is probably dead” at a media event at HxGN Live in Anaheim, Calif. Out of context, that sounds damning for the geospatial world. But, in his keynote presentation the previous day, he supported his controversial opening line and the follow-up statement that metrology will be integrated “so that we can utilize the knowledge we capture.”
So, metrology isn’t dead. Integrating data into the bigger story was a theme for the event, and Rollén provided examples of how data plus narrative changes perception and informs decisions. His real message was, “Use metrology data — put it to work.”
Measurement, even highly accurate measurement, has little meaning out of context.
Though his examples were, at best, indirectly linked to land surveying, many of the points seem appropriate. Manufacturing measures components to ensure they are within specification. Land surveyors measure to determine whether property boundaries match the title descriptions. And, in construction, and all disciplines, “No plan is good unless we follow up and measure.”
The message is clear. Measurement, even highly accurate measurement, has little meaning out of context. Just as Rollén’s comment about the death of metrology carries a very different meaning out of context from his other comments, land surveying, point clouds and the data of the geospatial professions need to be part of a larger story.
I received a call from a long-time surveyor who told me about a case where his survey showed a previous surveyor’s pin was placed in the wrong spot, effectively depriving one property owner of a significant piece of his property. State law, he pointed out, says a surveyor “shall” report such errors. Simply getting a good measurement and resetting the pin to the correct boundary aren’t enough. In this case, the law required him to inform the parties of the result of his good metrology.
That’s the big story. It got much bigger after that, but that’s a tale for another time. Whether the new boundary was to the advantage or disadvantage of his client, the land surveyor in this case was duty-bound to tell the whole story. This was what Rollén was talking about when he used his manufacturing, construction and public safety cases to describe how linking the data to the narrative helps to identify and understand the root causes of many problems each of the disciplines face.
The goal is to put accuracy into action. Use the metrology data to understand the reality and inform decisions. Before we start harvesting that timber, is that the correct boundary line? Before we start pouring concrete, before we assemble the car, before we lay that pipe, do we have all of the accurate information we need to avoid costly errors and rework?
The good news for the land surveying and geospatial profession is, there are increasing opportunities to use your skills to make a contribution on many levels and in some new and interesting ways. And that’s great news for POB because we love telling those stories.