Interview: Martin Nix, Position Partners

By on 17 January, 2022

Martin Nix, CEO and MD, Position Partners

In our new Leaders Forum, we ask experts to look ahead into 2022. Today we talk technology with Martin Nix.

Martin Nix practiced as a surveyor until 1984 and then joined Leica Geosystems where he held management roles until 2009. He has an advisory role with the School of Surveying UNSW, and has participated in working groups to develop Australia’ space policy and National Positioning Infrastructure.

Which technologies will revolutionise the surveying, space or spatial sectors in 2022?

There will be an increased focus on the validation and consolidation of data simultaneously accessible by various stakeholders: surveyors, engineers, project managers, contractors and others. AI and blockchain technology will enable further automation and validation of digital twin or BIM models representing reality in almost real-time. New sources of data capture sensors will enhance data quality and speed. It will be interesting to see the impact of data sourced from nanosatellites, complementing or substituting other sources such as RPAS. With an accessible national positioning infrastructure, upstream and downstream opportunities for accurate GNSS applications across multiple industries abound.

How can the industry play a role in the recovery from the COVID pandemic?

Forecasts for a post-COVID world point to increased automation with remote control systems supporting remote working conditions. Promoting the use of technology and automation is critical to assist customers scale and help meet demand for a stimulated construction sector. Ensuring the exponential demand for geospatial data is met — while the availability of surveyors is static — means positioning solutions are in the hands of application experts such as machine operators, builders and farmers rather than geospatial professionals. Training and support of these users requires us to take responsibility for informing and guiding on the quality and suitability of the geospatial data in the system.

How is Australasia placed in the global context? Are we racing ahead or falling behind?

Australia’s education sector and the limited availability of labour drive a high acceptance of technology, so adoption rates are advanced. As ‘first movers,’ Australian positioning professionals are well placed to advise and support adoption of new technologies in other countries.

Many positioning tasks once the exclusive domain of the surveyor, are automated and validated within systems that can be used directly. For example, machine control systems have substituted the road centreline set-out task. Surveyors are shifting to systems and data management activities. So, far from falling behind, migrating with that shift in responsibility lifts their value.

Which challenges or opportunities should the industry be focused on?

Training and support of positioning systems users who are less familiar with methods that guarantee the position quality, is a key focus, as systems become more automated. In many instances, there is a gap between formal education (ie. university) and training for new automated methods. Systems suppliers and users themselves have the responsibility to fill that gap. There is an opportunity to engage users of positioning systems — who don’t see themselves as ‘geospatial’ — into a broader community or industry.

What do you think your customers are looking for in 2022?

Our customers are under increasing pressure to deliver projects faster, whilst juggling supply issues and staff shortages. Efficiency is key — getting their teams upskilled quickly in new technology that will save time, increase productivity and secure safety. Integration between disparate systems is high on customers’ wish lists, as much time is lost reformatting data and design files to work on different systems. Customers expect to see significant workflow improvements and greater simplicity after adopting new technology. And as the benefits of AI outweigh privacy concerns, customers will look for easy, personalised digital experiences.

What are your organisation’s priorities for 2022?

Our focus is to empower our employees and enable them to provide an outstanding experience for our customers and that includes engaging them remotely. We must also prioritise wellness for customers and employees equally after a tumultuous two years. Our role as a distributor for positioning solutions is to continue to advocate for Australasian applications and our customers, ensuring solutions are fit for purpose and rigorously tested in real world scenarios.

What’s on your wish list for 2022?

A poll of my colleagues produced three wishes. First, more standardisation of data and formats that can enhance data sourcing and accessibility. Secondly, improved tender procedures for more cost/benefit innovation in proposals. And thirdly, a faster, more accessible and thorough rollout of 5G in Australia, as a core technology that will speed up technology deployment.

This article was first published in issue 116 of Position magazine.

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