The most recent edition of Florida Surveyor magazine featured two articles that caught my attention. One article, by J.R. Smith, was titled “The Tellurometer” and focused on a technology introduced in 1954. Able to measure thousands of miles, the tellurometer changed the surveying profession from triangulation to trilateration. The second article, by Joseph V.R. Paiva, was titled “New Surveyor’s Tool Puts Everything Up in the Air.” It focused on a modern technological innovation, the small unmanned airborne system (sUAS), a remote-controlled system that can fly in most weather conditions and obtain mapping-grade data.

It seems like yesterday that the surveying profession brought in GPS and then laser scanners; now, it’s unmanned systems. Where does it stop? Where do we stop?

All of this technology allows us to provide better data safer and more quickly, but it comes with a price. The cost of hardware, software and time is not inconsequential. Firms have to invest in training their staff and be able to withstand reduced productivity while individuals learn the new technology.

We assume that younger professionals are very good at adapting to and adopting new technology because they’re used to it. But as I find myself spinning in the technology vortex, I can’t help but wonder whether they might be caught in a vortex as well. Is the younger generation using high-end technology, like laser scanners, to create solutions for clients when a 6-foot ruler is all that is needed?

I find myself constantly reminding my staff that sometimes it is better to use a tape measure than a scanner, a total station rather than a GPS unit and a field book rather than a data collector. Maybe this comes from experience, or maybe I’m just old school. Whatever the case, we have to remember technology is just a tool.

Technology has its place, but we must try not to get caught in the technology vortex. Making sure we provide the right solution for clients is the bottom line.