Spare me the drama of rapid change in favor of an orderly transformation that yields sustainable results.

Walking through a crowded conference or exhibit hall is a bit like channel surfing. With too much to see, you give each possible choice a moment to register before you decide if you will linger or move on. The experience is both visual and audible.

The juxtaposition of the disconnected phrases as you walk down the aisle often spells out a joke that only you can hear. Next time you see someone chuckling to themselves as they’re walking through a trade show cut them some slack because they’ll never be able to explain the joke.

Some of what you hear is not a joke when it is linked to other conversations and observations. It might even provide some insight. Here are some samples from InterGeo and elsewhere:

“That’s a cool dataset.” This gets my “nerdiest” statement award, but it reflects just how much data plays a role in surveying today and into the future. If you doubt that, ask yourself how often you used terms like “point cloud” or “cloud computing” five years ago. Then look in the Trimble booth where they debuted the SX10 total station with imaging and 3D scanning. One thing that’s new is the price point they are aiming at. The incremental cost versus a conventional total station makes it a reasonable first purchase or upgrade. They’re not the only manufacturer aiming to put more data into more hands on demand.

“When does the surveyor go away? Never.” Topcon talks about solutions and visualization that result from the data being collected at the jobsite, but they stress that when surveyors move inside, they bring their understanding of the outside to the data. Getting a survey done won’t change, but it will focus on bringing the data together and drawing one picture.

“Technology is the top driver.” You can’t avoid talking about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and Hendrik Bödecker of DroneII is quick to point out they are already a game changer. When some of the regulatory and privacy issues are overcome, remote data collection will improve.

“Transform, don’t change, how surveyors work.” This is already happening. More powerful tools are supplementing small crew sizes to improve productivity. Riegl talks about productivity but also reflects this in product introductions from airborne mapping systems to miniaturized LiDAR sensors. The tools aren’t just getting more powerful, they’re getting smaller and lighter and networking and communicating together more easily.

“What’s traditional is changing.” At nearly any trade show, there are still plenty of rods and chains and survey markers on display. But, with the adoption curve for new technologies and new tools potentially shortening, what we count as the traditional tools of the surveyor is changing, and that is truly transforming the way surveyors work.

Even on a quick walking tour, the visual and audible aspects of recent conferences and trade shows are definitely in synch. There may be a revolution going on in technology, but it is driving an evolution in the geospatial professions. That’s good, because we can’t integrate it all in disjointed bits and pieces, we need to move more strategically than that.