In our annual Leaders Forum, we ask the experts to look ahead into 2024. Today we talk future technologies with Martin Nix.
CEO of Aptella (formerly Position Partners) since 2010, Martin Nix was a surveyor until 1984 before joining Leica Geosystems where he held management roles until 2009. He is Co-Chair of the Department of Home Affairs, Space as Critical Infrastructure group, and has participated in working groups related to space policy and positioning infrastructure.
Spatial Source: Workforce supply issues have dominated discussion in recent years. Do you think enough is being done?
Martin Nix: Whilst competition for talent is still rife, visa restrictions imposed by the pandemic are now easing and overseas recruitment is starting to gain momentum again, albeit with a lag. For the surveying profession, associations and education providers are trying new approaches such as engagement with TAFE and more inclusive membership to address the skills shortage, recognising that the gap in surveyors is so great it needs new initiatives to address it. Technology adoption to offset labour skills is by no means fast enough. We are slowly seeing a shift in the role of surveyors away from set out and as-builts and into data management and quality control, as building trades and engineers take up technology to perform some of the field work.
SS: What other challenges are facing the sector, and what are the solutions?
MN: Recent technology innovation has the capacity to reduce a great deal of manual labour and repetitive tasks. Digital construction set out tools to eliminate the need for stringlines and scaling off PDF plans is one example, with rapid adoption amongst the building trades. With more stakeholders using surveying tools, the challenge is in trusting the capability of the technology and maintaining the quality control. The same was true in the early days of machine control technology, with contractors and surveyors still pegging out designs until the technology proved itself to be reliable.
SS: Which technologies or innovations are going to make their mark in 2024?
MN: The adoption of automation and robotics is set to increase, with readily deployable options now available across multiple applications. Partners such as Fixposition are making field robotics and autonomy possible through augmenting GNSS positioning. We are now supporting mining and construction customers with autonomous mine trucks and supervised, remote-controlled earthmoving machinery.
Autonomous docking stations for survey drones will help to increase safety, and use of robots in the building construction sector is on the near horizon to further reduce reliance on time consuming, manual set out methods. The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning could also expand for predictive monitoring, enabling customers to extrapolate data and model what three-month figures might look like.
SS: What’s on your wish list for 2024?
MN: It may not be realistic for 2024, however truly national, reliable 5G network coverage would enable far greater connectivity and technology usage. It would better facilitate huge data sets captured by scanning and drone systems, with zero latency for data processing and options such as wireless data transmission so your data is ready to work with by the time you get back to your desk.
SS: What are your customers and collaborators looking for in 2024?
MN: Customers are looking for choice in their technology platforms, with better integration into existing workflows. As consumers, we’re all well accustomed to personalised service and make buying choices based on a company’s ability to align with our values and aspirations. I think customers now have similar expectations when it comes to their business purchasing decisions, and rightly so, because business decisions are made by people, not companies.
SS: What are your company’s plans or priorities for 2024?
MN: With a new company name and brand rolling out in early 2024, we are excited to connect with existing and new customers about this change and how the Aptella team can support their automation and positioning technology needs now and into the future.