Geomatics – What’s in Name?

There is quite a debate going on north of the U.S. border concerning the use of the term “geomatics” to describe the surveying profession. In this article from GoGeomatics Magazine (see also the Geomatics group on LinkedIn) the author Jon Murphy indicates that,  “In Canada, the term “geomatics” was widely accepted for the most part, and if you were doing GIS, surveying, remote sensing, geodesy and such, you were doing “geomatics”.

Seems logical to me, but I guess the issue is with the general public who are not familiar with the term geomatics, particularly when compared to surveying. Now most of you have probably stopped reading this by now out of shear boredom, but for those who are still here as you know I believe our profession is in a major transition driven largely by the shift from 2D to 3D.

With change comes pain, but if you think back to the early 90’s when GPS was “launched” the general public had never heard of it. Today everyone in the developed world and perhaps the emerging countries uses it as a slang term.

Once again it is up to us to promote our profession. I am not as worried about the term as I am the symptoms underlying our inability to project our profession in a professional light with the general public. We all have to take responsibility for this and start the process.


1 Comment

  • Gene –

    Indeed, changing a name for a profession or organization can be traumatic. The OGC went through such a name change in 2004: from Open GIS to Open Geospatial. In spite of considerable outreach, time, and education many still call us the Open GIS Consortium!
    When one considers the mainstream consumer of geoenabled (location) services, I doubt that only 1 or 2 percent have even heard of GIS. But they all use online mapping, navigation, location services, and so forth. As you state, many know that “GPS” = my location. They have no idea about the technology that makes GPS work – much less about the hundreds of mobile applications that depend on GPS.
    So, “What’s in a name?” and devils advocate here: While we professionals care about terms and definitions (even more important in standards work), that vast majority of consumers of what we produce could care less. They just want the apps to work. And in reality, this is the way perhaps things should be.

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