Is Automation Friend or Foe?

From Geodatapoint, written by Joseph Romano

Joseph Romano, PLS, oversees the surveying, mapping and scanning efforts for Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, based in Elmwood Park, N.J. His areas of special interest include boundary law, GPS/GIS technologies, scanning, and information modeling of existing conditions. He has authored a number of articles on these topics and is a frequent presenter at key events.

 

During the 2012 Ecobuild America conference held in Washington, D.C., in December, I had the opportunity to team with Seth Koterba, vice president of research and technology for Allpoint Systems, on a panel discussing laser scanning and its processes.

I touched on the history of scanning, provided some examples of the various deliverables, added some practical tips on hiring a scanning provider and closed with the need to accurately collect field data all the time. Seth focused on how Allpoint Systems’ software is advancing scanning workflows to be more efficient and cost effective and improve the entire data acquisition/registration process.

At some point during the presentation, we found ourselves having an open debate on the topic of automated cloud registration versus the more traditional survey-based methods. The audience sensed the shift in format and joined in. The session quickly became an interactive conversation with the 40 or so attendees.

There was a clear divide in the room. One segment of the audience—for the most part, the younger crowd—clearly accepted the theme of improving workflows with automation. Conversely, the more seasoned participants tended to mistrust automated workflows.

Seth did a great job supporting his position. To keep the debate even, I took the opposing point of view.

Throughout the debate, I found myself recalling the days of trying to get my boss to stop writing angles and distances in a field book and use a data collector, to let the CADD system collect the points and build a surface. Now the tables were turned, and I was the one voicing resistance to technology. But I had to hold to my position for the audience to hear both sides.

Ultimately, I believe that to improve our profession we need to challenge the status quo. We must continue to think for ourselves, but we should also believe that these new technologies and automated systems work. By accepting them and finding ways to integrate them into our workflows, we will provide better service to our clients and our follow professionals.

What do you believe? Is automation friend or foe?

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