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Convergence of technologies transforming surveying and other industries
At the South African Surveying and Geomatics Indaba 2013 today in Johannesburg today Trevor Ventor of Optron gave a very interesting presentation (by Peter Large who wsn't able to make it to Johannisberg) on the topic of the Our Changing World and the Role of Geomatics Practitioners.
By way of a bit of history he mentioned theodolytes which have been around since 1587 and which have been the basis for modern surveying until the advent of GPS in 1989-94. President Clinton turned off scrambling in 2000 and since then the impact of GNSS on surveying has been enormous. For survey precision you need an Earth station. A number of countries such as the UK have implemented national Earth station systems, which allows you to correct GNSS readings over the internet and achieve centimeter accuracy .
The Trimble Centerpoint RTX network which provides 4 cm precision in 40 countries worldwide was launched last year. It is most interesting that it is not surveyors who are the biggest users of the Centerpoint RTX system but farmers, presumably for precision agriculture applications.
Convergence of technologies
Another interesting point that Peter made is that at the present time it is not so much new individual techologies that are having the biggest impact but the convergence or integration of multiple technologies. An example is total stations which are a theodolyte and laser distance measurement device combined in a single piece of equipment.
But on a larger scale the integration of positioning devices such as total stations, laser scanners, wireless and internet connectivity, "big data" management, and analytics is set to transform not only the surveying industry, but agriculture, utilties and other sectors. Peter suggested that half of the world's GDP of $72 trillion is generated by industries that will be affected by the convergence of these technologies. For example, precision agriculture has become a major growth area for Trimble. It is also very interesting that Trimble, which like Hexagon used to be primarily a hardware company, now generates over half of its $2 billion or so annual revenue from software.