Guest Essay: Absolutely Exciting

If you ask Jeff Baldwin about the future of surveying, he will respond with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Licensed in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and a licensed engineer in New Jersey to boot, Jeff has three decades of multi-disciplined experience in dealing with the sometimes-harsh realities of our profession, but that doesn’t stop him from looking forward in awe and wonder of what might be headed our way.

This topic of the future of surveying is absolutely exciting. I get energized just thinking about it. We have all witnessed such a revolution in the profession these past several decades—it’s hard to imagine what changes or new technologies are just around the corner. Certainly there will be amazing innovations, saving time, increasing output, and enhancing the quality of our services.

To start to see the future of surveying, just look at past trends in terms of 3D mapping.  3D is everywhere. Surveying will continue along this path away from the flat 2D thinking into spatial presentations. I imagine the future surveyor (a woman at that!) walking through a property with her latest 2018 “Pulse Wave Reflex” device that I just now invented as I wrote this. This device surveys as you walk, literally carving out data in continual 360-degree waves like an echo sounder, but achieving this optically. Imagine delivering your client an interactive 3D walk-through map, the very same day! Yes, the surveyor of the future will be lightning fast to keep up with demand and with all this technology.

The future survey will be embedded with so much more information. Now, I am talking near future, the “on our doorstep” future—interactive deliverables! That’s what we need because that’s what our client needs. The future surveyor not only has measured, calculated, analyzed, and mapped the features on the Earth, she will organize the information associated with those features right within her deliverable. The “Digital Survey” will be the norm, and the paper survey will be found in our museums.

This new survey will allow the client to see all the research behind the survey. The map will be imbedded with raster data that will include real-world photos documenting the evidence, whether found or set.

Links within the survey will take advantage of every digital resource available, from environmental assessment data to zoning regulations.  Our future surveys will be robust with information, all related to and centered upon the property as a whole, no longer relegated strictly to the property lines.

Beyond all this technology is something more important that makes all these advancements not only possible but also inevitable.  That “something” is the digital child. You and I, surveyors, are not of this new species of humans, born in the digital age. To really see the future of surveying take a close look at the 9 to 13 year old. I will say up front that I qualify as an expert in this area because I have three of them at home.  See how they think, play, create, solve problems, and get information and what they are capable of, and you will see the future.  They represent not only the future surveyor but also the future client.

They will take this digital age that you and I were dragged into (some kicking and screaming) and they will mold it, like child’s play, because digital is in their bloodstream.  They won’t accept the old way just because that’s the way we always did it. They will challenge, tear down, and then re-create surveying, and everything else for that matter.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what they pull off … in the future. 

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