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Role of Traditional Surveyor

The traditional surveyor has provided an invaluable service capturing and certifying on-ground measurements in a 2D textual and graphical format that is authoritative... and translating them back onto the ground.


This has required understanding of the theory of measurement and how to calibrate their tools; as well as understanding of key aspects of property and planning law.

Changing Work Value

With the advent of new highly accurate and increasingly automated tools, the time needed on site is greatly diminishing.  Also, the need for a qualified person to do the actual measurements is reducing.  This is compressing the work value of traditional surveyors.


In time, it is foreseeable that consumer grade equipment will be capable of capturing 3D models of sites and buildings at the scales and accuracy required for most decision making.

Changing Context

       The Map is now the Territory

In another major change, the ‘map’ has gone from a ‘2D’ abstract representation to a ‘3D’ virtual model.  In time, every significant feature in the natural and built environment will be modelled in 3D at all scales required for decision making: 'm' in the outback, 'cm' for cityscapes, 'mm' for buildings and ‘sub-0.1mm’ for plant and equipment.


Unlike abstract 2D plans, 3D models are for all practical purposes no different to the territory.  These models can be understood by anyone… making them extremely useful throughout the Property Cycle (from planning to decommission).


       Ephemeral Nature of the Virtual World

In another change, while atoms in the built environment don't spontaneously move location, morph into something else, or disappear altogether, electrons in the virtual world create ephemeral objects.  The virtual world can also be made to lie: to appear larger or smaller, higher or lower, or in a better condition than the real thing... even in a (slightly) different location... anything that advantages one party over another.


        Multiplicity of the Virtual World

As well, while there is only one of each object in the real world, in the virtual world there can be unlimited versions and copies.

Need for Certification of the Virtual World.


The crucial 'measurement and certification' function traditionally performed by surveyors in the real world, will become even more necessary in the 3D virtual world - to provide certainty in decision making and trade without the need to re-check every measurement.

Need for Different Systems to Manage the Virtual World

Our management systems have been built to keep certified ‘locked’ copies of plans in paper form, as a permanent record to protect both private and public interests.  However, once signed and lodged, most 2D plans have little further use (unless a dispute arises, or there is a building failure).


Unfortunately, the processes used to manage 2D plans will not suffice for 3D models, as the models have much broader ongoing value, including for facility and asset management, through leasing and sale, to decommission – with many more stakeholders having an ongoing interest in the model, including: financiers, insurers, lessees, facility managers and emergency services, etc.


All these interests will need to be managed so as to balance competing rights and to ensure the model and the real world remain in sync.

New Role: Spatial Surveyor

One key to developing an Authorised Model (that is the single point of truth at any time), will be ensuring the data representing the ‘as-built’ form are correct (within specified limits) and not tampered with during capture and processing, or at any time subsequent.
This can be done if the equipment, applications and business processes used to capture and hold the data are professionally developed and/or certified as ‘fit for purpose’.


All legal boundaries (Cadastre, Easements, Lease, etc) also need to be identified within the model and certified and locked against change.  This needs to be done professionally because legal boundaries cannot be seen.  They exist only in law and are subject to interpretation.


These responsibilities require new skills (that are already becoming part of the surveyor’s tool kit) to understand:

  • use of professional grade lidar, photogrammetry and other survey equipment and software

  • how point cloud and polygon models are created, and their attributes determined

  • how to tie individual object models into the national position and elevation grids to a specified level of accuracy

  • how geo-references change over time due to various factors

  • how to determine and include all manner of boundaries within any certified model and lock the model against change

  • use of sensors to measure ground movement, and how the data is tied back to models and interpreted

  • use of quadcopters within a code of conduct to protect privacy, etc

  • use of consumer products that combine photogrammetry and lidar to capture 3D images for subsequent certification.

  • the design of consumer and commercial apps to assure original data/images have not been tampered with, so they can be certified within specified limits.

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