Thursday, January 22, 2009

Keeping a Competitive Edge in Today's Survey Market with GIS, Imaging, and 3D modeling

Ken Shipley, PLS

Today's survey instruments and the technology that supports them have changed so dramatically in the last 5 to 10 years that they are almost unrecognizable, or are they? With new technology come new opportunities for the Professional Surveyor to traverse outside of their two dimensional boundaries. Keeping up to date on these new trends and modern data collection techniques can allow the Surveyor to not only broaden his or her current client base, but also remain profitable during these challenging economic times.

Feeding the GIS Monster

As the GIS based world increases users it is also requiring a huge demand for data, high quality, and reliable data. The Professional Surveyor is the expert in data collection and the perfect candidate to help feed the GIS beast. Data collection deliverables for the GIS market can be a bit different from the conventional methods that many Surveyors are akin to, however, not that hard to understand. Gaining the right knowledge for GIS data collection can be easy to do with the right approach, technique, and a proper understanding of the required deliverables. Modern data collection applications can help make this a reality, without having intricate knowledge of the inner most GIS secrets. Help feed the beast and create a new client base with GIS data collection.

Imaging Techniques for Survey

Typical data collection techniques and deliverables have remained consistently boring with CAD driven software and the black and white printed results of survey. Many of the current survey technologies now incorporate built-in color cameras that can bring the traditional deliverable to life through imaging. Built-in cameras can now be found integrated with Total Stations, Data Collectors, and Laser Scanners. By keeping current with the latest in camera technologies Surveyors can learn how these new hardware and software features can produce a more desirable deliverable through imaging. Surveyors can attach images to point data as attributes for GIS and CAD applications, create three-dimensional panoramic images of a job site, and capture an image directly from the scope of a Total Station. Allowing the client to visualize what the Surveyor witnesses on the ground can be a huge advantage for the client and increase the likelihood that they will return for more.

3D modeling and Laser scanning

The 3D modeling and Laser scanning business has proven to be anything but a downtrend in return business for the Professional Surveyor.
Having these capabilities will not only allow a Survey business to prosper during the current trends, but also help meet the ever increasing requirements for this type of service. The current movement 3D models as deliverables has increased dramatically over the years and will only get more popular as we enter into the age of infrastructure restoration and improvement. Preparing a 3D model can be as easy as using current topographic techniques with new modeling software or making an investment in a full 3D laser scanner for dense point cloud data collection. In combination with today's internet tools such as Google Earth and VRML (virtual reality modeling language) Surveyors can produce spectacular 3D deliverables for their clients.

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