What is geomatics?


The word geomatics was invented in Canada in the 1980ies. It was intended to indicate a discipline which combines the acquisition, analysis, management and communication of spatial data. A discipline which would be indispensable for mastering the global challenges. Which would provide maps and models required for taking decisions and carrying out activities. – The term should sound similarly in English and French. And it should convey the idea that the upcoming problems could only be solved by combining the methods of the geo-sciences with the opportunities and tools of informatics.

In this sense, geomatics is the combination of geodesy and geoinformatics. The former refers mainly to data acquisition through measurement and the latter to data processing and visualization using computers. While scientific research usually requires focussing on parts of a discipline, it is mandatory to master spatial data from acquisition through analysis to visualization nowadays in education and practice. So, scientists often work on parts of geodesy (e.g. on Engineering Geodesy, Physical Geodesy, or Astronomic Geodesy) or geoinformation science only. Practitioners need to be aware of and us the state-of-the-art in both areas.

In Switzerland like in Canada and several other countries this "modern" term has established itself. With Geomatik, Géomatique and geomatica it is very similar in English, German, French and Italian. Not all countries have adopted this trend, though. In some, the original terms geodesy and geoinformatics have been maintained, in particular in Germany, where Geodesy alone is now often used as synonymous with geomatics. In other countries alternative modern terms have been introduced, e.g. geospatial engineering which is pretty popular in the United States. And in several countries the discipline is just called surveying, even if the modern methods of data analysis and acquisition are included just like spatial planning and land management

This variety of names is not overly helpful for a discipline which is hardly known in public anyway. However this is very difficult to change because the different terms are locally established just like different thematic focusses. But then, the variety of names also indicates that the discipline is varied and broad - and this is probably good news in the end because it means that there is a multitude of professional opportunities and the prospect of colorful workdays. More on this can be found here »