Police, Thieves and a Digital Future - 15/01/2018

James Kavanagh, Land Group Director, reports on activities of, and relating to, RICS and gives some thoughts on thefts of surveying instruments.

Winter is extending its icy grip across the UK but things are heating up on the surveying and geospatial policy and news fronts. I’m sure that many of you have been in attendance at one of the traditional evening lectures here at RICS HQ, it’s been quite and outstanding session so far with lectures on intelligent geospatial algorithms and automatic feature recognition for laser scanned points clouds (https://correvate.co.uk/), the amazing advances in satellite imagery and its applications and from MapAction on their year of mapping dangerously. The session continues in 2018 with Colin Bray FRICS and Ordnance Survey Ireland CEO speaking on Thursday 25 January (Colin is also the 1st chartered land surveyor president of SCS Ireland) and a combined RICS/CICES lecture on Survey4BIM at the new UEL Stratford campus on Thursday 22 February. Usual timings 17:30 for 18:00.

Several geospatial survey industry Christmas events have come and gone but a recurring issue of debate and loud conversation has been the national increase (perceived or otherwise) of survey instrument theft. Thieves are becoming much more brazen and, as highlighted in the URL below, are also exhibiting a flagrant disregard for the safety of others. http://bit.ly/2Dynw0w

The Survey Association (TSA) has always had one eye on this troubling development and has had an ‘instrument theft’ working group for a couple of years (involving manufacturers and survey firms). Indeed, the most popular workshop at GeoBusiness 2016 was the TSA survey instrument theft meeting and TSA have also produced a guide on instrument theft and an ongoing ‘blog’ www.tsa-uk.org.uk/. Those on Twitter might also be interested in the ‘energetic’ posts of @stormgeomatics (Mike Hopkins) on the subject. Instrument theft is not confined to the UK and there seems to be an increase globally. Our survey cousins in the USA (National Society of Professional Surveyors NSPS) have launched a ‘stolen equipment’ online resource, it makes depressing reading. www.nsps.us.com/?page=StolenEquipment

When a single survey instrument is now worth over £30k there is a real need to consider additional security protocols, a car worth that much would have a security tracker fitted as standard, the instruments must be leaving the UK by ferry or channel tunnel – could an internal ‘tag’ be fitted that would show up on customs scans? Could manufacturers share data? And what about the need for checking, servicing and calibration services? RICS is keeping an eye on developments but would like to hear from members who have experienced instrument theft and their thoughts on what to do next. In the immortal words of Hill Street Blues: ‘let’s be careful out there!’

New Monitoring/Instrumentation Guidance

CICES, TSA and RICS have been working collaboratively with major organisations such as Network Rail, Costain, HS2 and others on the production of a new ‘monitoring/instrumentation’ client guide and full best practice guidance note. Monitoring is an expanding sector of geospatial survey practice and with HS2, Crossrail 2 and Thames Tideway coming hot on the heels of other major infrastructure projects the need for best practice guidance in the sector has never been more timely. We expect the new guide to be made available through the TSA website early in 2018.

ISO TC307 – Blockchain

Many of you will have noted the furore and excitement around BitCoin producing its first billionaires in late 2017, fewer of you will probably be aware of the incoming BitCoin enabling technology ‘Blockchain’. Block-chain technology is broader than finance. It can be applied to any multi-step transaction where traceability, transparency, security and visibility is required. Supply chain is a use case where Blockchain can be used to manage and sign contracts and audit product provenance. As you probably imagine, this is perfect for land registration, cadastre, conveyancing, transfer and all manner of land/property lease information. ISO have put together a working group (TC307) to look into the production of ‘blockchain’ standards. Not an easy ask but numerous global experts have come forward and are busy working on some case studies and surveying related ‘transactional’ standards, something to watch for the future. (There will be an article on Blockchain in the next issue.)

Advanced Apprenticeships

The geospatial advanced apprenticeships levels 3 & 6 have been dealt with elsewhere in this issue, suffice to say that RICS has and will always view technical hands on geospatial surveyors as the bedrock of the profession and will continue to work with our colleagues in TSA, CICES and the apprenticeship working group to make this initiative a success.

Digital Built Britain

It might seem to some that the shine (and thankfully some of the hype) has gone from BIM of late as users, venders, surveyors and construction firms realise that level 2 BIM is a tough ask but level 3 is real step up. Survey4BIM raised some of the geospatial hurdles that need to be overcome to realise level 2 BIM https://survey4bim.wordpress.com/ and BIM is really starting to gain traction in the rest of the world. BIM got a well needed shot in the arm in the UK with the announcement of £5.4 million in funding for the launch of a new Digital Built Britain centre of excellence in Cambridge. The Centre is part of a landmark government-led investment in growing the UK’s construction sector and is quite similar in scope and concept to the successful catapult programme. The Centre for Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge to support the transformation of the construction sector using digital technologies to better plan, build, maintain and use infrastructure. The Centre will focus on the ongoing transformation of the built environment through the digital tools, standards and processes of Building Information Modelling. Something to get our teeth into from a geospatial angle.

HM Government also stated that ‘The Centre will continue the work of the Digital Built Britain Programme and the UK BIM Task Group to support delivery of the Government’s Digital Built Britain Strategy. The strategy seeks to digitise the entire life-cycle of our built assets; finding innovative ways of delivering more capacity out of our existing social infrastructure, dramatically improving the way these assets deliver social services to deliver improved capacity and better public services. Above all, it will enable citizens to make better use of their cities and infrastructure.’ www.cdbb.cam.ac.uk/news/2017NovPressRelease

Land Registry New Strategic Business Plan

Land Registry (England & Wales) recently released their new corporate strategy document www.gov.uk/government/publications/hm-land-registry-business-strategy-2017-to-2022 which underlines the land Registry’s commitment to open data, full registration (15% of England/Wales is unregistered) and the exciting ‘Digital Street’ initiative (which also includes Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and improved conveyancing processes). This is a nicely designed document which contains a lot of information, is easy to read and is well worth a look.

I’ll end on bringing your attention to a couple of ‘neighbour dispute’ horror stories from the broadsheets, The Observer has been running a series of articles on the consumer nightmare that is 'new build private estates', here's one on boundaries and another on ‘Fleece-hold’. www.theguardian.com/money/2017/nov/26/house-problem-neighbours-own-half-bedroom-boundaries-wrong


RICS has a very strong neighbour disputes portfolio and an expert panel has been working together with the Law Society and Civil Justice Council on a new, more ‘robust’ form of boundary dispute mediation. More in 2018 as this develops.

This article was published in Geomatics World January/February 2018

Last updated: 08/04/2020