Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Surveying is the oldest geospatial technology and it is surveying that has undergone some of the most radical changes in terms of technology. It has gained from digital imaging, computation, GNSS and laser technologies, to name a few. Adoption of new technologies has enabled more accurate as well as faster data acquisition and in terms of applications, the range has extended beyond land administration and site survey to large scale mapping and structural photogrammetry.
While the traditional image of a surveyor is that of being very precisiondriven, technology-savvy professional who has the last word in any legal dispute relating to land and water boundaries, a new breed of surveyors is emerging. The same technological advances that have transformed surveying have also put unique capabilities in the hands of a common person, enabling them to contribute to survey information.
Meanwhile, spatial systems, which include spatial data infrastructure, are gaining stakeholders beyond the traditional government regulation-oriented bureaucracy. The recently concluded Rio+20 has squarely put the citizen on the centrestage. It has been recognised that any growth story must address the needs of the economically challenged, else the growth will not be sustainable.
Much depends on the direction surveying will take. While precise information shall remain the guiding principle, some concession will have to be made to encompass the somewhat imprecise but timely information that is emanating from technology-enabled citizens. It is heartening to see that NMOs (national mapping organisations) are actively considering the integration of such data into the mainstream survey data.
All this data must get integrated in the SDI and interactive access to citizens must be enabled. The technology exists but the data policies and access controls will need to move with the technological advances in data acquisition. The challenges are tricky but I believe they can be overcome. After all, which other technology has been around since 3000 B.C. and has thrived?