Geo Week descended on the Colorado Convention Center in Denver February 13 to 15 bringing together an intersection of people, technologies and organizations to explore how geospatial technology is being utilized to tackle complex projects, develop new workflows and solve real-world problems in both the built and natural world.

This year’s program featured crossover topics for the construction industry with three days of speakers, workshops and equipment demonstrations for the more than 2,500 registrants.

Autodesk, Caltrans, Esri, Hexagon, Skanska and many other vendors, contractors and owners showed their latest uses of Geographic Information Systems data. In his well-attended keynote address, GIS pioneer Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, reviewed recent applications of GIS technology and remote sensing and discussed how these technologies can help address the complex challenges the world is facing — from building smart cities and helping farmers, to managing land information, public safety and working on disasters. 

“Considering the state of world affairs, we need you as players in moving the arrows in a different direction … You are in the understanding business — providing the underpinnings which drive so much good that can go on in society — looking underground, above ground, doing surveying and imaging,” he said, emphasizing the role of GIS professionals in breaking down silos of information between disciplines. “Collectively, we can create a future that’s more sustainable,” he said, warning that “we are decades away from big doom and gloom if we don’t act rapidly.” 

Other conference sessions focused on key challenges across several industries, including a conversation about the future of AEC workflows. Kara Fragola, field engineer with Skanska Civil USA, walked attendees through the contractor’s use of drones for reality capture on the $1.6-billion Portal North Bridge project for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak. Drones were necessary to visualize the site before putting anyone on the ground in marshy conditions. They also allowed Skanska to make their GIS maps throughout the project and integrate them with other tools such as AutoCAD.

Six launch locations and two drones were used to map more than two miles of critical infrastructure which has been key to project monitoring and inspection. The drones are moving beyond just reality capture and are also being used to eliminate the need for some work at height, enabling crews to see if equipment is in the right position and how many materials are available on site.

“Drones are revolutionizing the construction industry … allowing us to build projects safer and at a better cost,” Fragola said.

Attendees also learned from Jacobs about the potential that artificial intelligence could bring to geospatial data, and how BIM for infrastructure is a game-changer for addressing infrastructure assessment, repair and construction.

The World Geospatial Industry Council hosted a session on diversity, equity and inclusion, issuing a resounding call for intentional recruitment, retention.

“DEI means we’ll be better able to serve the populations our industries serve,” said Valrie Grant, founder and managing director of GeoTechVision. She noted that a diverse workforce will bring enhanced perspectives, more creative solutions and even increased productivity due to job satisfaction. “Millennials are looking for organizations that have that diverse representation, so it will pay dividends,” she added.

Barbara Ryan, executive director of the World Geological Industry Council, urged the industry to put efforts in place now to get the younger generation more excited about and aware of the various STEM disciplines. She also issued a call to action for white males to step up and speak out about diversity initiatives in the workplace. It counts more when white, male executives say this is important and that we want these programs in our organization … people listen.”