SAN DIEGO -- Knowledge is power.

That was the takeaway from remarks by keynote speaker Brian Matsubara and David Totman at the Esri 2013 Survey Summit, held July 6-9 in San Diego. And knowledge about GIS was a main focus of the summit, which drew 165 attendees. The event provides the opportunity to learn about new industry developments, network with colleagues, and gain insights and ideas for themselves and their organizations.

Matsubara, Amazon’s head of global technology alliances, gave a quiet but powerful keynote with his presentation entitled “Normal is Gonna Change.” He discussed the meteoric development of Amazon’s web services, relaying how his company’s understanding of the global market and its commitment to customer service was underscored by the exponential growth in demand for Web services—something that the surveying profession cannot ignore either.

Totman, the public works, AEC, and survey industry manager at Esri, kicked off the conference by focusing on the importance of GIS. He reiterated some of the common myths about GIS held by many surveyors and others who are practitioners in the geospatial world. According to Totman, GIS can’t:

  • Store high precision data.
  • Deal with curves.
  • Collect high precision data.
  • Do epochs.

While these have all been true, development of GIS to meet user needs has steadily addressed these issues. More importantly, Totman said many geospatial practitioners who think GIS is irrelevant forget what business they are in. Practitioners often refer to their currency as data, but collecting and delivering data is not sufficient in today’s fast-paced, value-driven environment. Performing analysis and creating information is mandatory, Totman said. While that step is not often recognized, practitioners really deliver value with their knowledge. This is provided by giving those who are consumers of geospatial information access to it in a way that helps them shape it to their needs. GIS is often a key tool in achieving this highest level of currency, he said.

A round of lightning presentations followed Totman’s address and comments from survey industry specialist Donny Sosa. NSPS Executive Director Curt Sumner said it was time to regard GIS as standing for “Get Involved Seriously.” Other highlights included an update from Michael Dennis of NGS and a technology discussion by LiDAR industry expert Gene Roe.

The summit also offered sessions on a variety of topics, including geodesy; land management; geoeducation; decision-making with geospatial tools; surveying and field data collection applications with GIS; data management and analysis; and managing engineering projects with GIS. Roe presided over an ASCE-sponsored session that discussed surveyor licensing, LiDAR standards and professional practice. Several sessions covered the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Geospatial Technology Competency Model.

Exhibits for the Esri User Conference opened Tuesday, July 9. On that day, the Survey Special Interest Group (SIG) also met to discuss various topics of interest to the profession. Dennis talked about the upcoming changes in the national spatial reference system and brought attendees up to date on what progress has been accomplished. Another discussion focused on the large number of organizations representing some sort of professional association related to the geospatial industry. There was a lively discussion about a need for industry professionals to not be so splintered, and some proposed that an umbrella organization was needed to represent the profession’s interests.

John Lee, instructor at Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta, Ga., asked attendees to submit papers for presentation at the Esri User Conference. He said even simple surveying concepts such as how elevations are determined are not widely understood by the non-surveyor community that attends the conference. There was much support for this idea, and Sosa vowed to contact all attendees at the Survey Summit to propose and encourage this as an initiative for next year’s User Conference. Totman and Sosa also said Esri has several enhancements in the works for future Survey Summits, including additional engagement with engineering, public works and AEC professionals.