Surveying, Mapping and GIS

Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development and enterprise architecture...

  • Geospatial Technology, End to End...

    Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development, enterprise architecture and policy

ESRI FedUC - Day 2 (sort-of...)

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/21/2008 09:01:00 PM 1 comments

I am just now making my way back on the Metro back from the reception at the National Geographic, tacking together some unfiltered notes from earlier in the day- my meeting was punctuated by outside meetings in Alexandria and Fairfax, so I managed to get in about 1.6 sessions, and got back just in time to find that the EPA Q&A session was shut out by the passionate Bern Szukalski.

Nonetheless, I attended the "What's New in ArcGIS Server 9.3" session this morning, hosted by Dave Wrazien.

Dave touched on a number of things slated for release, and which gave me some cause for interest, most notably the new APIs

Some bullet points and excerpts from my notes:

Effort is being made by the Server development team to reduce server roundtrips and traffic, via AJAX requests and the ASP.NET approach

A number of JavaScript enhancements have been made to improve the user experience, with an expanded JavaScript library, providing feedback and visual cues ala Flash and Silverlight, such as informative progress bars, pixel-zoom and fade-in zooms as the next zoom level loads.

In terms of OGC interop, AGS 9.3 features support for:

WMS and SLD: 1.0, 1.1, 1.1.1, 1.3 / ISO19128
WFS 1.1, GML 3.0, WFS-T 1.1
WCS 1.0, 1.1, 1.1.1

The REST and JavaScript APIs are probably the most exciting for me. Here, Dave highlighted integration opportunities for VE, Google, Yahoo and others, along with functionality for basic map display, navigation, querying, geocoding, and geoprocessing. Later on, there was mention that the JavaScript API makes use of the REST endpoints.

With respect to platform support, some of the highlights mentioned were

JDK 5.0
DB2 and Z/OS
SQL Server 2008 (to come in a service pack release)

In terms of usability, the aim in 9.3 is for fewer button clicks, enhancements to the web map viewer, streamlined processes and a simplified UI.

Improvements to Server Manager are likewise on the horizon for 9.3, with wizards to simplify:

Access Control
Cache Management

Along with a Mobile Management Console and a Web Map Migration Utility.

Cache Management makes some significant strides, allowing static datasets to be prerendered- and in the Mobile Management Console, improvements driven by user use cases allows opportunity for populating mobile devices with lower server and communications overhead. Additionally, while 9.2 only provided mobile developers with an SDK, 9.3 provides templates and other resources toward jumpstart.

More to follow…

A flying paleobeastie in the lobby of National Geographic...

ESRI FedUC Day 1

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/20/2008 08:18:00 PM 0 comments

You actually won't find a whole lot from me here on ESRI FedUC - today was mainly taken up by the Plenary session, and due to a number of meetings, I was bouncing in and out for a chunk of the day - but some of the highlights I picked up on:

A big emphasis was put on ArcGIS Explorer - speaking to notes, lightweight pushpin objects and other things which will enhance the geobrowser experience. Some good examples again highlighting custom tasks, however not a lot of detail on the plumbing and integration experience.

The other big highlight for me - ArcGIS Server previews - One very cool thing I noticed was the JavaScript API, where they did what appeared to be some very fast, painless and very nice integration with Virtual Earth, via JavaScript arcgisve_service calls. Definitely one feature I'd like to kick the tires on a bit.

The keynote was given via a prerecorded presentation from the Secretary of the Interior - this was followed by a few presentations and points from other areas within DOI - featuring NILS - the National Integrated Land System within GeoCommunicator:

But for me, the meetings have thus far been the highlight of the day....

And now... the obligatory blurry camera phone of the backs of heads:


And next... the comments about "lame blogging" and "why couldn't James be there..."

As I posted previously, Alabama House Bill 333 strives to allow unlicensed individuals to perform surveying in rural areas - however, quite often it's rural areas which have significant cadastral disputes, problems with records and field evidence, and so on - which all the more require professional expertise and judgement from a knowledgeable land surveyor.

To provide some additional background, the Press-Register in Alabama provides a few details on the dispute - evidently an unlicensed, retired individual with a background as a Process Engineer was seeking to offer surveying services, and was reprimanded by the Alabama licensure board. Claims have been raised that it's "impossible to get licensed" and "impossible to pay a reasonable amount" to have a surveyor retrace the boundary or help resolve disputes.

These are countered by this analysis by Greg Spies, in the following points sent out to ASPLS:

House Bill 333

1. This bill is a slap in the face of everyone who is licensed or in the process of obtaining their license;

2. Evidently this bill was introduced for the sole benefit of an individual who is not a member of the surveying profession in Alabama; this individual, a retired engineer, allegedly, has been reported to the BOL for surveying without a license;

3. HB 333 is a retaliatory bill and places the interests of one individual (who allegedly has been surveying without a license) over the interests of every surveyor in Alabama who followed the legal procedure as defined by the Code of Alabama (1975, as amended) when they obtained their license;

4. HB 333 will set the practice of surveying back 100 years or more; it eliminates professionalism in surveying;

5. HB 333 was drafted without any input or notice from the surveying profession;

6. No licensed surveyor in the State of Alabama supports this bill.

7. The concept of a less educated, less experienced person being allowed to "survey" as a "rural surveyor" is ludicrous, to wit:

a.) rural areas in Alabama comprise approximately 90% of the geographical area of the state;

b.) 90% + of our major interstate and state highways traverse rural areas;

c.) rural areas are mostly more difficult to survey than urbanized areas in that there are fewer recent recorded subdivisions in near vicinity;

d.) surveyors are required to retrace older township plats generated during the U.S. Public Land Survey- these plats are 150 - 200 years old; the physical evidence generated during the original surveys is either lost, obliterated or difficult to find (i.e., the monuments set the bearing trees called for, etc.);

e.) prior surveys (c. 1850-1950) in rural areas were generally poorly done by so-called "rural surveyors" (e.g., non-professional surveyors, engineers, land owners, farmers, etc.) who had little if no experience and education in the art & science of surveying which has caused innumerable problems that must be dealt with by the surveyor of today;

f.) if "rural surveyors" as defined by HB 333 are allowed to practice in Alabama an increase in boundary disputes and subsequent litigation will occur; most boundary disputes and litigation occurring today is because of under-educated and under-experienced "surveyors" having determined the location of a boundary by using poor methods and extremely poor professional judgment and protocol;

g.) Elevation certificates and land title surveys require a knowledgeable and experienced professional surveyor to gather the requisite data for FEMA and the Land Title professionals; These specialized types of surveys require a surveyor to be able to accurately determine difference in elevation relative to a particular datum and require a surveyor who is trained to evaluate the record evidence as it affects a property he is surveying; the "rural surveyor" would not have the skill, experience or knowledge to accomplish these complex types of surveys;

Some have said that it takes too long to find a surveyor in certain parts of Alabama; This is true and the profession needs to address this issue and provide assistance to those counties that have no resident licensed surveyors; We should identify these areas in the vicinity of our practice and periodically offer our services in those areas;

Some have said that the cost of surveying a cotton field or a pasture is too great compared to the value of the land;

It makes absolutely no sense, however, to lower the standards of the profession of surveying for the sake of expediency and expense. Surveyors generally are some of the lowest paid professionals who work within the State.

The surveying profession has steadily sought to raise the bar of the profession over the past 80 years; the legislature passed a bill that was signed into law by the governor in 1996 that requires a four year surveying degree and an additional four years of experience under a licensed surveyor for an individual to apply to take the test to obtain his license; This method of obtaining a license to survey in Alabama supercedes an apprenticeship method that required 8 years of experience under a licensed surveyor to take the test; the window to obtain a license by the former method closed Dec. 31st, 2007.

Interestingly HB 333 was filed just a few weeks after this window closed.

What we need is a bill to strengthen the penalties for someone who surveys without a license. We do not need this "dumb down bill" that would gut the existing laws on the books related to surveying;

Tell your legislators to stop HB 333 from seeing the light of day; this bill needs to be seen for what it is- a veiled attempt to assist a constituent who has broken the law.

Topcon and Sokkia: Engagement leads to Marriage

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/17/2008 02:05:00 PM 1 comments

Looks like the discussions that started last year between Topcon and Sokkia have led to Topcon acquiring 94% of Sokkia's outstanding stock - 32 million shares, for $194 million.

It will be interesting to see what this does moving forward, along with prior relationships on the GPS front between Sokkia and Novatel, which was purchased by Leica since.

Topcon's press release:

Alabama HB 333

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/12/2008 08:02:00 PM 5 comments

The Alabama Legislature currently has a bill pending, HB 333, sponsored by Rep. Keahey, which essentially waters down Alabama's regulation for the practice of land surveying - an excerpt of the proposed bill is presented below:

Section 2. (a) The practice of rural land surveyor is limited to rural areas and municipalities with a population of less than 5,000.
(b) To qualify as a rural land surveyor one must meet one of the following requirements:
(1) Graduation from a four-year curriculum in civil engineering or forestry and successfully passing a written examination approved by the board relating to the laws, procedures, and practices of land surveying in Alabama.
(2) Graduation from an approved technical curriculum related to surveying or forestry; two years of supervised surveying experience; and successfully passing a written examination approved by the board relating to the laws, procedures, and practices of land surveying in Alabama.
(3) Eight or more years of field experience in land surveying and letters of recommendation from at least three individuals that will attest to satisfactory surveying work during these years.

Option 3 above bypasses the examination, it allows anyone to recommend the applicant, and thereby bypasses vetting of applicants. The traditional approach pursued, implemented and recommended by NCEES and most State Registration Boards has been to strive for a stable foundation which is not based on any single yardstick, but instead a combination of education, experience and examinations. Further, the case here in Pennsylvania has been to ensure that the applicant has some minimum amount of experience with boundary surveys, has been exposed to both field and office practices, and that experience gained has been progressive, and under the oversight of a licensed professional.

The full bill text is available here: AL HB333

This bill is inconsistent with all prior efforts toward regulation of the surveying profession in Alabama, is inconsistent with NCEES recommendations and their Model Law, and otherwise ill-advised in many ways.

Alabama residents are strongly urged to consider contacting their representatives and recommending opposition to this bill - call (334)242-7600 and ask to be put in touch with your representative.

ESRI FedUC - February 20-22 2008

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/11/2008 09:31:00 PM 0 comments

One event coming up that I do plan on attending - the 2008 ESRI Federal User Conference:

Looking forward to attending it again, a lot of my friends in the federal sector and federal contracting will be attending. I also like the size, kind of like a mini San Diego.

Haven't yet heard if anyone's organizing a geoblogger meetup in any formal fashion... but I did create a Facebook event for it -

February 20-22, 2008
Washington DC Convention Center,
801 Mount Vernon Place NW
Washington, DC

A Composition on Surveying and Geodesy

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/10/2008 10:23:00 AM 1 comments

Poetic Verse on Surveying and Geodesy...

Survey the Whole, nor seek slight faults to find,
When Nature moves, and Rapture warms the Mind.
SCIENCE! thou Daughter of the Skies, 'tis thine
To make Perfection in her Beauties shine;
Thy darkest Clues endear the anxious Mind,
When Study labours thy great Worth to find:
In thy rich Stores our lab'ring Thoughts absorb,
Measure the Earth, and each celestial Orb.
Behold yon Gardens, Trees, and shady Bow'rs,
So often chequer'd with delightful Flow'rs;
Behold yon Buildings, high ascending Spires,
Yon Water, Castle, Mountains, stately Tow'rs,
Yon curing Brook, and cool expanding Shade,
Whose winding Course surrounds the fragrant Mead;
All their Dimensions we with Ease impart,
By GEODASIA, and the Rules of Art.

Thomas Sadler, 1771

The above is excerted from "To Arthur Burns, on his New Treatise, entitled, GEODASIA IMPROVED: A Poem", written by Thomas Sadler, Whitechurch, 1771.

Some background on Sadler from, the Virtual Museum of Surveying:
Mr. Sadler was a devoted student of Burns', a leading surveyor of the day.

The poetic style, like much of the language of the time, was ornate. The Century Dictionary of 1889 describes "Geodasia": Formerly, the art of land surveying in general, but now restricted to that branch of applied mathematics, distinctively called Higher Geodesy which investigates the figures and areas of large portions of geographical positions and the azimuths of directions, the general figure of the earth, and the variations of gravity in different regions, by means of direct observation and measurement."

GIS = "Get It Surveyed"

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/09/2008 10:59:00 PM 10 comments

The maxim in the surveying community of "GIS = Get It Surveyed" is still alive and well, where cadastral GIS is concerned.

Some GIS horror stories du jour:

  • Community in New Hampshire that's assigning parcel IDs to gaps and overlaps found in their GIS system

  • A county in Oregon that took the above one step further, and actually decided to try and auction off those gap and overlap "parcels" (fortunately the county surveyor stepped in and advised them otherwise)
  • Central New York state - a county tax department assigned parcel status to a gore area and the county auctioned it off, created many problems.

  • A county in Virginia that was fighting to keep their GIS data over that of actual survey data in the case of a discrepancy, strictly because the assessed GIS acreage was more than the actual acreage owned, resulting in more income for the county

  • And the most ridiculous of the lot - a county in Texas, that when they couldn't locate the current owner of the parcel, rather than researching it and resolving it, they filled it in with a fictitious name - "Arnold Ziffel".

When it comes to cadastral GIS, I've said it before, and I'll say it again - land surveyors still are and will always continue to be the domain experts when it comes to resolving property line location, relationship to adjoiners and senior ownership, chain of title, relationship to found evidence in the field, and toward discrepancies, gaps and overlaps. Let's also throw understanding of rights-of-way, easements, road dockets, riparian rights, PLSS and the like, and how these likewise affect and impact ownership and taxation.

If you have discrepancies, data gaps, quality issues, other issues, I cannot stress it enough to county tax departments - work with the surveyors. Some counties are very good about this- others are downright frightening if not dangerous.

Oracle Spatial User Conference

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/08/2008 07:24:00 AM 0 comments

Oracle Spatial User Conference
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Washington State Trade & Convention Center
Seattle, Washington USA

The agenda touches on some of my own hotbutton issues - integrating Oracle Spatial with Virtual Earth, Business Intelligence and other areas...

Javad is back!

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/04/2008 11:11:00 PM 0 comments

A buzz is going around in the surveying community, JAVAD is back.

Dr. Javad Ashjaee, after a lengthy non-compete hiatus, has returned to the market with Javad GNSS, Inc. - Arguably a highly recognizable figure and driving force behind the GPS success of Trimble Navigation, his former ventures Ashtech and Javad Positioning Systems, which he sold to Topcon in 2000 - he now returns with a number of interesting offerings: The Triumph chip, a 216-channel receiver, said to be able to receive "all existing satellite signals as well as all those planned for the future. This includes all GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, WAAS, EGNOS, and Compass/Beidou signals"

Javad is also unveiling a number of other offerings, such as 4-receiver cluster units, the "Victor" handheld data collector, software suites, and many other innovations.
This is GPS on steroids...