I had the opportunity recently to catch up with my friend Brent Jones. Brent is one of those renaissance men that are always a pleasure to talk with. He has a great sense of humor and wide ranging interests and understanding of history, land administration, surveying and engineering. A portion of our discussion is documented here. I hope to have more discussions with Brent in future posts.
Stu: Brent, one of your primary missions at ESRI these days is to expand the relationship between the GIS and Survey communities. In my experience, surveyors can be pretty skeptical about GIS. Are you making progress in opening a wider dialog with the Survey community?
Brent: The survey community is beginning to engage in the GIS market viewing it as an opportunity. All of the geospatial technologies are rapidly advancing and surveyors are using their expertise to help ‘keep the data in sync’. One example is when a community obtains new orthophotography. This newly acquired data is often more accurate than the existing base data in GIS and its beneficial to adjust existing GIS data to the new orthos. Surveyors have the equipment, technology and expertise to perform these ‘spatial updates’, and many are.
Stu: You have some pretty interesting ideas about how the availability of accurate but inexpensive GPS technology will bring fundamental changes to both GIS and Surveying. (I read today that Epson and Infineon have just announced a new GPS chip that is smaller than the head of a match) Why is this technology going to be so game changing?
Brent: Just imagine what the world was like before we could synchronize our activities with time. When sundials were the best we could do, we obviously didn’t work together as efficiently as we could. The same thought carries through to communication and the efficiencies that wired and wireless communications bring. Its hard to imagine the efficiencies that we will experience when we know where everything that we care about is, to the sub-foot, or even sub-centimeter level. We should always remember one of the laws of technology – cheaper, faster, smaller, better. . . . Its going to happen and its exciting to be part of.
Stu: ESRI is involved in a pretty awesome project in Ghana. What can you tell us about that project?
Brent: The Ghana ‘Loans to Land’ project is a very significant deployment of some of Hernando de Soto’s economic theories detailed in “The Mystery of Capital”. One of his landmark observations is that the securing land rights helps unlock the capital in land and is a factor in successful economies. There is so much to talk about on this, so I’ll reference a couple of articles in ArcNews. There will be a third and capstone article coming out in the Summer Edition.
Stu: You were recently the president of GITA. How has that organization changed in the past few years, and how to you see GITA evolving in the future?
Brent: GITA has been traditionally focused on utilities, but a close study by the board of directors revealed that the benefits of geospatial technology were being realized by all infrastructure owners and operators, not just utilities. So consequently we refocused the organization on infrastructure. This brought a couple of interesting synergies, particularly with the emergency response community. GITA now holds the GIS for Infrastructure Solutions conference along with a co-conference the Emergency Response Symposium. This unique forum allows the infrastructure operators interact with the emergency responders responsible for recovering infrastructure in the event of a disaster.
GITA will continue to be the leading organization for those interested in geospatial technology and infrastructure to get current, relevant education and to network with others with similar responsibilities. With changing demands on infrastructure operators and emergency responders, GITA will respond in kind. For those not active with GITA, it is a wonderful organization to find information and education that is difficult to get anywhere else.