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Geomatics on the cutting edge of information-age technology.

One of the fastest growing high-tech industries over the past decade is the geomatics industry. Although the recession has had an impact on this field, predictions are that the industry will begin to expand again in 1993.

What is geomatics? Even industry practitioners are still uncertain about the definition because of technological advances in the field and the varying applications.

Geomatics involves the computerized acquisition, management and dissemination of spatially-referenced data. The industry covers a wide range of activities which include remote sensing, surveying and mapping, geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems, as well as the production and marketing of associated hardware and software. The term geomatics is not widely used outside of Canada.

The various industry applications are used for a multitude of purposes, from satellite launches to helping develop effective land-use policies.

While surveying remains the largest source of business for this sector, GIS is the fastest-growing area within the industry.

Government is the primary user. GIS is used in the creation of maps, identifying items such as land use, forest cover, housing, tax base and transportation needs.

GIS was used extensively in the Gulf War. Geographical information identifying the terrain and various physical structures in Kuwait and Iran were transmitted to missiles to guide them to their targets. The high degree of accuracy enhanced this technology.

Tony Beswic, a professor of geology at Laurentian University, is actively involved in remote sensing, an area that uses aircraft or earth-orbiting sensors to pick up digital images from visible, infrared and microwave wavelengths.

Remote sensing captures, identifies, classifies and evaluates objects, areas or phenomena using digital data recorded by sensing devices in aircraft or in earth-orbiting satellites.

Remote sensing is utilized for a number of activities, including the detection and examination of patterns in crop growth, forest fires, pollution and environmental hazards. For example, using remote sensors you could fly over a home and determine the amount of heat emanating from the building.

The sensors take airborne and satellite images in the radar range. This is of vital interest in areas such as the Arctic or equatorial forest areas where there is heavy cloud coverage. As the sensors can see through cloud areas, high resolution topographical images can be taken.

The sensors can detect and monitor rock structures, ice formations and ice flows. The sensors are so well tuned that they can distinguish new ice from old ice.

Remote sensing is also used in the resource and agricultural fields. For example, Inco, Falconbridge and Placer Dome use it to identify potential sites for mine exploration.

Governments, from municipal to federal, are the primary clients of the geomatics industry. It is estimated that since 1985 this industry has doubled its billings to government for services and equipment. Total annual industry billings are in the $750-million range.

The industry is now looking at exporting its services to the U.S. private sector, foreign governments and international-aid organizations such as the World Bank.

One of the problems facing the Canadian industry is that it is competing against foreign companies that have been heavily sponsored or subsidized by their governments.

The industry has few practitioners in Northern Ontario. Two companies, LARIS of Sudbury and Thunder Bay Scanning & Information provide surveying, mapping and GIS services.

Thunder Bay Scanning is also involved in GPS (global positioning systems). GPS is a system that uses earth-orbiting satellites to determine land and sea positions. It is a technology that has revolutionized surveying.

LARIS, which stands for Land and Resource Information Systems, is primarily involved in automated surveying and mapping. LARIS specializes in GIS mapping.

The firm's largest clients are municipalities which are using this application to create digital maps for planning purposes.

LARIS is one of the few companies eligible to participate in the province's POLARIS project to produce a digital map of the provincial land registry system.

In addition, the firm has also worked with Inco to create computer maps of mineral deposits.

Adrian Bartolussi, an Ontario land surveyor with LARIS, says that the recession has had an impact on business as cities postponed activities to computerize their land registry systems. He notes, however, that business is slowly starting to pick up.

This slowness in business has also been experienced by Thunder Bay Scanning.

According to the firm, one of the problems is educating people about the technology. Seeing a need to provide training and knowledge in this field, the company has worked with Confederation College of Applied Arts and Technology and Employment Canada in providing courses and training.

It also provides special workshops and seminars to businesses and individuals who are interested in learning more about the industry.

Thunder Bay Scanning has conducted environmental assessments to assist local industries in their pollution-abatement programs.

The company is also involved in micromarketing which uses digital data to determine or identify consumers, delivery routes, services and advertising. According to the firm, micromarketing is described as "the greatest opportunity in modern-age marketing."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Resources Reports
Author:Campbell, Joan
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:Mining companies and the taxpayer facing steep mine reclamation costs.
Next Article:Hydro pulls the plug on much-needed jobs.

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