Geomatics/Geospatial update - winter 2017/18

James Kavanagh MRICS

MRICS, Director RICS Land Group (RICS)

Winter is extending its icy grip across the UK but things are heating up on the surveying and geospatial policy fronts.


Geo Lectures 2017/18

The annual evening lectures held at RICS HQ this year have featured outstanding sessions so far with lectures on intelligent geospatial algorithms, automatic feature recognition for laser scanned points clouds, the amazing advances in satellite imagery and its applications from MapAction on their year of mapping dangerously.

The lectures continue in 2018 with Colin Bray FRICS and Ordnance Survey Ireland CEO speaking on Thursday 25 January (Colin is also the 1st Chartered Land Surveyor President of SCSI Ireland) and a combined RICS/Chartered Institution of Civil Engineers (CICES) lecture on Survey4BIM at the new UEL Stratford campus on Thursday 22 February (1730 registration for 1800 start).

Police and thieves

The recurring issue of debate from several geospatial industry surveys has been the national increase (perceived or otherwise) of survey instrument theft. Thieves are becoming much more brazen and, as highlighted by the Lancashire Telegraph, are also exhibiting a flagrant disregard for the safety of others.

The Survey Association ‘instrument theft’ working group have monitored this development for a couple of years (involving manufacturers and survey firms). Indeed, the most popular workshop at GeoBusiness 2016 was the TSA survey instrument theft meeting and TSA have also produced a guide on instrument theft in addition to an ongoing blog.

Those on Twitter might also be interested in the ‘energetic’ posts of Mike Hopkins on the subject. Instrument theft is not confined to the UK and there seems to be aglobal increase. Our survey cousins in the US (National Society of Professional Surveyors NSPS) have launched a ‘stolen equipment’ online resource, which makes for depressing reading.

When a single survey instrument is now worth over £30k there is a real need to consider additional security protocols. A car worth that much would have a security tracker fitted as standard – could an internal ‘tag’ be fitted that would show up on customs scans should the instruments leave the UK? Could manufacturers share data? And what about the need for checking, servicing and calibration services?

RICS is keeping an eye on developments but would like to hear from members who have experienced instrument theft and their thoughts on what to do next. In the immortal words of Hill Street Blues - ‘let’s be careful out there!’

New monitoring/instrumentation guidance

CICES, TSA and RICS have been working collaboratively with major organisations such as Network Rail, Costain, HS2 and others on the production of a new ‘monitoring/instrumentation’ client guide and full best practice guidance note.

Monitoring is an expanding sector of geospatial survey practice and with HS2, Crossrail 2 and the Thames Tideway coming hot on the heels of other major infrastructure projects the need for best practice guidance in the sector has never been more timely.

It is expected that the new guide will be available on the TSA website early in 2018.

ISO TC307- Blockchain

Many will of have noted the furore and excitement around Bitcoin producing its first billionaires in late 2017, less of you will probably be aware of the incoming Bitcoin enabling technology ‘Blockchain’.

Blockchain technology is broader than finance. It can be applied to any multi-step transaction where traceability, transparency, security and visibility are required. Supply chain is a use case where Blockchain can be used to manage and sign contracts and audit product provenance.

This is perfect for land registration, cadastre, conveyancing, transfer and all manner of land/property lease information. ISO have put together a working group (TC307) to look into the production of ‘Blockchain’ standards. Numerous global experts have come forward and are working on this difficult task, producing case studies and surveying related ‘transactional’ standards, something to watch for the future.

Advanced apprenticeships

The geospatial advanced apprenticeships levels three & six have already been dealt with elsewhere in this issue, suffice to say that RICS has, and will always, view technical hands on geospatial surveyors as the bedrock of the profession and will continue to work with our colleagues in TSA, CICES and the apprenticeship working group to make this initiative a success.

Digital Built Britain

It might seem to some that the shine (and thankfully some of the hype) has gone from BIM of late as users, venders, surveyors and construction firms realise that level 2 BIM is a tough ask but level 3 is a real step up.

Survey4BIM raised some of the geospatial hurdles that need to be overcome to realise level 2 BIM and BIM is really starting to gain traction in the rest of the world. BIM got a well needed shot in the arm in the UK with the announcement of £5.4 million in funding for the launch of a new Digital Built Britain centre of excellence in Cambridge.

The centre is part of a landmark government-led investment in growing the UK’s construction sector and is quite similar in scope and concept to the successful catapult programme. The Centre for Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge to support the transformation of the construction sector using digital technologies to better plan, build, maintain and use infrastructure.

The Centre will focus on the ongoing transformation of the built environment through the digital tools, standards and processes of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Something to get our teeth into from a geospatial angle.

HM Government stated:

The Centre will continue the work of the Digital Built Britain Programme and the UK BIM Task Group to support delivery of the Government’s Digital Built Britain Strategy. The strategy seeks to digitise the entire life-cycle of our built assets; finding innovative ways of delivering more capacity out of our existing social infrastructure, dramatically improving the way these assets deliver social services to deliver improved capacity and better public services. Above all, it will enable citizens to make better use of their cities and infrastructure.

Land Registry- New Strategic Business Plan

Land Registry (England & Wales) recently released their new corporate strategy document which underlines their commitment to open data, full registration (15% of England/Wales is unregistered) and the exciting ‘Digital Street’ initiative (which also includes Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and improved conveyancing processes). This is a nicely designed document which contains a lot of information, is easy to read and is well worth a look.

Neighbour Disputes

I’ll end on bringing your attention to a couple of ‘neighbour dispute’ horror stories from the broadsheets. The Guardian has been running a series of articles on the consumer nightmare that is 'new build private estates', here is one on boundaries and another on ‘Fleecehold’.

RICS has a very strong neighbour disputes portfolio, expert panel and has been working together with the Law Society and Civil Justice Council on a new, more ‘robust’ form of boundary dispute mediation. More information will be available in 2018 as it develops.

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