Positively Surveying: A 2020 Vision for Geospatial Professions

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series Outlook 2020

I’m imagining a world. It’s not a dream. It’s coming, and soon.

One in which we bring data from the field and step into a virtual reality (VR) environment made by our data points that we uploaded to the cloud. Where we’re crafting and sharing our surveys in 3D and real-time, in collaboration with surveyors from around the world.

I’m writing this at the end of the year 2019: the turn of a new decade and one we’ve all been eagerly awaiting. 2020 just sounds like the future, doesn’t it? It’s an exciting time to be a part of a profession so steeped in tradition yet forward-thinking.

I feel as though I am an artisan honing my craft trade. Yet also a pioneer on the cutting edge of new and creative ways to map our environment. Change is coming, and as I look ahead to the new year and years beyond, there are a few things I am particularly excited to see happening.

Technology and VR

From GPS rods you can stick sideways under a car and still get a good reading, to innovations in UAV mapping, and exciting new VR technology pairing with Google maps. We are just starting to see incredible ways that advances in technology can help us in the field and office. Surveyors have always been early adopters of new technology, and as our profession pushes us to bring more young surveyors into our ranks, the possibilities seem endless.

Thanks to the great work being done by organizations like The Young Surveyors Network, I have no doubt that, in the coming years, we will see bright new stars ready to bring our profession to a new level of accuracy and efficiency.


In 2019 the Women Surveyors Summit was held in Austin, Texas. It was championed by YSN-Texas president, Anna Rios. The president of NSPS is the esteemed Lisa Van Horn. Women serve as president of seven state associations, with one president elect and a sitting VP.

While our profession, as a whole, is still woefully behind in this area, I am inspired and encouraged by the efforts of amazing women like these. They not only serve as an example of great surveyors, but also work to encourage more women to join us.


Some of you may argue with me on this one, but I think collaboration is a good thing. We have long been just a little bit stingy when it comes to exchanging information. But remember that you taught your children the importance of sharing, and now we have grown up to lead a world in which interconnectivity and collaboration are preferred.

I look forward every year to see what John Hohol has learned and brought back from his FIG conferences. Thanks to LinkedIn and other social networking sites I am connected to surveyors from all over the world who enjoy sharing knowledge and expertise.

As virtual and cloud technologies become more real, useful, and integrated, I look forward to a world in which I can help survey ancient ruins in Greece from my office in Washington state. That could just be a dream, but in 2020, anything seems possible.

Banner image: The author and fellow surveyors survey on a crisp autumn day in Oregon. 

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