Geomatics: Past, Present and Future


Geomatics Higher Education

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EdwardKurwakumire, University of Pretoria, South Africa,


Geomatics is one of the oldest professions dating back to ancient Egypt and Babylonia where it manifested as land surveying. The major purpose was then boundary demarcation and mapping of features on the earth’s surface. Ever since, technology and techniques for surveying and mapping have been in constant dynamism. The development of Geomatics has taken several eras which brought about ground, airborne and space borne techniques for taking measurements on the earth’s surface. These techniques have been introduced independently and sometimes concurrently. Currently the purpose of Geomatics have evolved from the traditional surveying and mapping to something much broader and diverse.

At the same time, Geomatics has become multi disciplinary and more cross cutting in different fields. Today various sectors to include, government, private sector and NGOs use products and services from geomatics to support their planning and decision making. Even society has become more spatially enabled as geographical information now forms a basic need for the public that is used in day to day life. The accuracies have, for various methods, improved while the precision of instruments have also improved. There has been evolution from plane table surveying, tape and offset surveying up use of satellite imagery and integrated survey for surveys and mapping. Even for satellite images, currently a resolution of 30cm is possible though not available for commercial use. Data collection has become much faster and cheaper.

Applications are increasing daily as Geomatics is gets more diverse. Spatial Applications now seek to have active and not passive users who contribute to mapping their environment and in improving the accuracy of spatial data by identifying and correcting errors. Even the maps themselves are now more intelligent as one can identify attributes and perform operations such as distance measurement or address extraction. Such additional tools from the data are useful to today’s spatial data user who lives in an information society. Today the purpose of geomatics have evolved not only to create, manage, disseminate spatial data, but to communicate intelligent data for a variety of applications for a wide range of users. Now vast amounts of data are available and there is need to extract meaningful knowledge and patterns that make the data more useful. This can be achieved through spatial data mining and knowledge creation. In future, Geomatics applications tend to increase, while accuracies improve.

Data collection devices continue to become portable and user friendly. In the academic sector there is need to promote critical geographic thinking and problem solving in Geomatics education.

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