The former are still quite modern, of course, and they offer increasingly powerful capabilities. High-tech total stations are fast, smart and highly accurate. They can capture images, sketch onsite, communicate easily with other tools for improved productivity, and, in some cases, even incorporate GNSS functionality. Advanced GNSS tools are compact, lightweight and able to track current and future satellites. Some of the latest GNSS solutions are designed to provide high reliability even in extreme environments and during connection outages. There’s nothing “traditional” about these cutting-edge instruments, and further advances are undoubtedly under development. It was understandable that someone challenged my use of the word.

Soon after I read the email on my laptop PC, I checked my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts on my smartphone. Later that evening, I browsed the news and watched a short video clip on my tablet, and then engaged in a real-time chat on that device. A decade ago, I couldn’t have imagined these technologies; now they’re indispensable to me in my life and work alongside my (traditional) laptop--and, yes, even my pen and paper. I watch in amazement as the next generation of devices (Google Glass?) is rolled out. Sure, the latest technology sounds cool, but what other gadgets and capabilities do we really need?

But that’s the wrong question. Rather, we should be asking what else we need to do. As far as technology has come, there are still gaps in the market, perhaps even more now than ever before. Each new piece of hardware and software creates a need for better understanding and application. At its best, technology is an enabler, allowing us to apply our own knowledge and experience to pursue opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible in the past.

That’s why this issue of POB is so intriguing. We’re featuring three technologies that are far from traditional in a comparative sense. Do you really need a sophisticated 3D modeling tool (page 12), an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) (page 18) or a remotely-operated survey boat (page 24) in your current workflow? Maybe not. But what needs could you serve if you had access to these tools, perhaps even through a teaming arrangement with another firm? How are surveying and mapping professionals using these tools already, and what does this mean for the future? What can you do in your business today to position yourself for improved success when the next-generation technology becomes mainstream?

Getting beyond the cool factor of innovation requires asking the right questions. What questions are you asking in your business?

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