At present, it is very common to find terms such as Geodesy, Geomatics, Geoinformatics, Geospatial Science, which from the surface might seem synonymous, but in reality have fundamental differences of origin and meaning. At the same time, the use and interpretation of these terms may vary depending on the context (country, time, heritage, and audience). The issue could go beyond a matter of semantics, which has led to inaccuracies, confusion and even debates and discussions.
The fact is that some of these terms are becoming more popular every day both professionally, institutional and university, but especially commercially. It seems that the tendency is to use more general and global terms, although sometimes they are ambiguous or confusing. The reality is that more and more specific and classical terms, such as geodesy, cartography, photogrammetry, topography, hydrography, are used less and almost only used in a scientific and academic context.
The emergence of these terms and disciplines could be attributed to the strong influence of computing, information technology, the internet, GIS and especially the arrival of satellites for geodetic studies and Earth observation. On the other hand, this trend could be understood as the result of the current development of geo-technologies in the field of instrumentation and methods for the capture of geospatial data, and of marketing strategies that try to reach wider, diverse and multidisciplinary markets. All this has been shaping the industry and the geocommunity.
The purpose of this article is to provide a basis for the reader himself to discern and apply the most appropriate or convenient term based on his professional objectives and the context in which he operates. Understanding this issue could mark an important advantage, in a globalized and highly competitive world, where the internet, social networks, recruitment based on virtual robots (artificial intelligence and machine learning) play a predominant role. This information could be useful for those seeking to position themselves in a new job market, entrepreneurs, freelancer, companies, institutions, academies, etc.
Geodesy is the discipline that is responsible for determining the figure and the external field of gravity of the Earth, as well as its orientation in space as a function of time, using measurements on and from the outside of the Earth’s surface (Torgue, W. , 2012). Geodesy, in collaboration with other sciences, is also in charge of determining the surface and field of gravity of other celestial bodies. In fact, geodesy plays a key role in a wide variety of sciences such as geophysics, climatology, astronomy, and space exploration (T. Meyer, 2010). Therefore, Geodesy is the basic science that underlies Geomatics, Geoinformatics, Topography, GIS, etc.
Geomatics is the discipline that deals with the acquisition, distribution, storage, analysis, processing, presentation of geographic information (ISO-19122, 2004). The University of Calgary defines Geomatics as a moderate discipline, which integrates acquisition, modeling, analysis and management of spatially referenced data. Geomatics is based on the scientific framework of geodesy, it uses terrestrial, marine, aerial and satellite sensors to acquire spatial and other data. Geomatics includes the process of transforming georeferenced data from different sources into common information systems where precisions and accuracies are well-defined characteristics (Šíma, J., 2007). Another differentiating characteristic of Geomatics is that this discipline is considered a branch of engineering and is closely related to civil engineering and geosciences.
Geoinformatics does not yet have an official definition in the ISO standards. According to Dietmar Grünreich, “Geoinformatics is a discipline that deals with the theory of geospatial data modeling, its storage, management and processing, as well as the development of geographic information systems and the necessary information and communications technology” . Geoinformatics focuses on information technologies that support the acquisition, analysis, visualization and dissemination processes, including the computational infrastructure and wireless and wired networks necessary to ensure the optimal use of geospatial information. For example: development and management of spatial databases, analysis and modeling of geospatial data, development and integration of computational tools and software for the two previous activities (Šíma, J., 2007).
Geospatial Science, is the discipline that deals with the collection, integration, analysis, interpretation, integration and management of geospatial data, from which required information is derived. It covers a wide range of disciplines brought together to create a detailed but understandable picture of the physical world. This discipline is a science mainly because the scientific method is used to answer questions and draw conclusions, but also because the discipline acts as a bridge between the human and physical sciences. “Geospatial” is more accurate in many geographic information contexts than “geographic”, because geospatial information is often used in ways that do not involve a graphical representation or map of the information (OGC, 2020).
Starting from this framework of definitions and adding some years of professional experience in companies and institutions of the small, medium and large-scale sector, I allow myself to present a scheme (Table 1), where, in summary, an attempt is made to segment these disciplines with the intention of helping the reader to identify the predominant and differentiating characteristics of each one of them. For this, three criteria were considered: core activity, differentiating component and specialists.
In practice, in companies dedicated to this sector, it is very common to find at least three specialists and / or three departments, which are exclusively dedicated to serving these lines of service. Naturally, this depends on the size of the company and its business models. In the case of larger companies, they have a Geomatics Department dedicated mainly to data acquisition. They also have a group of GIS users (consolidated or dispersed), Remote Sensors and Geospatial Data Management (Geospatial Data Department) with multidisciplinary profiles that support the core business areas of the company. And a third group dedicated to providing support from the corporate department of Information Technology and Communications (Geoinformatics) to the two previous groups.
In this section we will try to measure roughly and relatively how popular these disciplines are in different contexts (see Figure 1). The following are the results of a search carried out in Spanish, English and French on the Google.com engine [Dec / 1/2020]. The idea is to compare the 4 terms between them for each language.
In Figure 1, it can be seen that Geospatial is the dominant term in English, this discipline appears 7 times more than the rest, Geoinformatics being the word with the fewest appearances. Geodesy and Geomatics present very similar results, but well below Geospatial. In Spanish, we have that Geodesy is the discipline with the most presence, followed by Geomatics, and finally Geoinformatics, the discipline with the least presence. In French, Géomatique was the most frequently encountered term, followed by Géodésie.
In a second exercise (Figure 2) we tried to measure how popular these disciplines are in three different job seekers (Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn) in the US [Dec / 1/2020]. Jobs were searched with the words: Geodesy, Geoinformatics, Geomatics, and Geospatial. In Figure 2, it can be seen that Geospatial and Geomatics are the most popular words on the pages of these employers for that time and place. This agrees with Thurston, J., 2013, who affirms that Geospatial is the term with the greatest presence today in Australia, Canada, USA, both in the academic and institutional fields.
It should be noted that all these emerging disciplines share in an essential way, the use of reference systems and coordinate systems. It is precisely there where geodesy or geodest plays a fundamental role.
The profile of the Venezuelan Geodetic Engineer fits very well within the definition of Geomatics, but not 100%. Unlike other geomatics profiles or programs, the Venezuelan geodest profile includes a solid component of superior geodesy and also applied geosciences (geology and geophysics), which adds versatility, and a special value and attractiveness for geosciences, mining and the oil industry. The recommendation is to make the most of this differentiating element. But, on the other hand, this profile lacks a computing and computational component, which today is almost essential.
For those who are looking for a job, it is recommended to include keywords such as, geospatial, geomatics, GIS in their resumes. In this way, your resume will be detected by virtual robots based on their sourcing, filtering and matching algorithms and thus your profile will have greater digital magnetism and visibility. The general idea is that there is the closest match (reasonably possible), between the text of your resume and the description of the profile required by the employer.
In general, in the Anglo-Saxon context, it might be more advantageous to replace the term Geodesy (Geodesy) by Geomatics (Geomatics).
It is recommended to explore the local market and understand its mechanisms, terminologies and, above all, detect where the greatest opportunities lie. Performing a simple and quick exercise like the one in figure 2 would help increase your chances. In addition, incorporating networking tools, such as LinkedIn, that allow to publicize the profile, potential and thus progressively penetrate the labor market.
Keep in mind that making a literal or automatic translation of your resume and experience into another language is not recommended. It is best to consult a professional who knows both languages and knows the local market and technical jargon.
It is also very important to understand the equivalences between the different levels and professional profiles, which has a very important impact on salary, for example: TSU Topografia -> Land Surveyor, Ing. Geodesta -> Geodesist / Geomatics Eng.
Finally, for those professionals who are looking for job opportunities in Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, they could consider as reference the following terms: geodesist, surveyor, photogrammetrist, hydrographer (hydrographer), sig analyst (gis analyst), geospatial analyst (geospatial analyst), cad drafter (cad drafter). Ing. Geodesica (geomatic engineering, geodetic engineering, engineering geodesy), topography (land surveying), catastro (boundary and cadastral surveys), hydrography (hydrographic surveys / hydrogeomatics surveys), photogrammetry (photogrammetry), remote sensing or remote sensing .
Incorporating all these elements and others, making use of the appropriate terminology and in a strategic way, will help to increase your job opportunities significantly in a world that is dominated by digital dynamics and artificial intelligence.