News in 2022

FIG and the Sustainable Development Goals - Commission 5

July 2022

FIG Task Force on FIG and the Sustainable Development Goals together with the ten Commissions have worked on their role on the sustainable development goals relevant for their Commission.

Commission Chair Dan Roman gives his Statement on the sustainable development goals in relation to Commission 5 - Positioning and Measurement


The key involvement in Commission 5 is in developing the framework from which other geospatial data are obtained, modeled, and analyzed in order to make appropriate decisions and take effective actions. Therefore, those aspects of the SDG’s that have an explicit or implicit relationship to geospatial requirements are directly impacted by Commission 5’s body of work. Dan Roman shares how surveyor contribute to these SDG's.

Commission 5 focuses on meeting the highest level of accuracy for Positioning and Measurement. It provides the tools, techniques and procedures to educate and train surveying professionals everywhere. Appropriate methodology for data collection and processing are required to be successful in an era of global, integrated geospatial data. For many geospatial applications, positioning of built infrastructure and measurement of physical quantities of the Earth require precision and accuracy as well as a tie to a consistent reference framework. The ability to make all the geospatial data interoperable is one of the four tenets of the F.A.I.R. principals. 

As such, Commission 5 touches on all geospatial aspects of the SDG’s including: (1) Standards by which observations and analysis are performed, (2) a Geometric Reference Frame to reference geospatial data, (3) a Geopotential Reference Frame to reference water heights, (4) GNSS tools and techniques for determining geospatial coordinates, (5) Multi-Sensor Systems that integrate other data sensors and techniques, and (6) Cost Effective Tools to make all this more accessible in developing countries.

The key involvement in Commission 5 is in developing the framework from which other geospatial data are obtained, modeled, and analyzed in order to make appropriate decisions and take effective actions. Therefore, those aspects of the SDG’s that have an explicit or implicit relationship to geospatial requirements are directly impacted by Commission 5’s body of work.

SDG 6: Water and Sanitation

The flow of fluids that is subject to the Earth’s gravitational field and are measured via leveling, geopotential models, etc. The Earth’s gravity field doesn’t know political boundaries, so a uniform basis for determining the height and flow of water will aid transnational efforts. Accurately determining the height of water will better describe the flow of water and, thereby, provide efficient controls and mitigation. This applies broadly – pipeline flows, aqueducts, sewer pipes, and river overflow into flood plains. 

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

The focus on renewable energy here is hydroelectric as the clean, affordable energy source most related to Commission 5. Understanding the flow of water improves the regulation of this renewable source. By way of example is the hydrologic and hydraulic modeling of large bodies of fresh water such as the Great lakes. The large bodies of water bounding international borders require a common means of measurement to facilitate transnational cooperation and optimization of the renewable energy resource. Monitoring of gauges along streams and rivers will mitigate potential flooding issues (SDG 6) but also aid in optimizing water flows via damming.

For coastal Nations, the potential for harvesting tidal and wave forces exists. Modeling of the behavior of these water surfaces and their stored potential energy is likewise facilitated by an integrated approach to positioning and measurement along with hydrographic models.

SDG 9: Industry, Infrastructure and Innovation

The key to success here is in organizing the geospatial data of the Industry and Infrastructure. Smart Cities, Digital Twins, BIM, autonomous vehicles, precision navigation and many other areas related to Industry and Infrastructure will require Innovation globally but implemented locally – especially in developing countries.

Ensuring that all the geospatial data is interoperable will better ensure success. Ensuring that national reference systems are internally precise is important here. However, equally important is ensuring that they are tied to the international reference system to ensure maximum compatibility between Nations. Ensuring that all the geospatial data supporting these areas are accessed using consistent technology and implemented in a common framework will better ensure developing Nations will reap the benefits of a modernized world.

SDG 11:  Sustainable Cities and Communities 

The work of Commission 5 focuses on developing a geospatial reference system for locating real world infrastructure into a digital, geographic information system. BIM focuses on 3D positioning of walls, boundaries, conduits are located inside a structure. By applying absolute coordinates, the BIM for all structures can be integrated into a digital twin that provides not only the external boundaries of structures but also the internal component locations. This extends throughout the city to locations of buried cables, sewers, pipes to provide an overall model of city. This digital twin then provides the basis for sustaining and improving conditions in these communities. 

A digital twin not only provides the basis for sustaining the city internally, it can then be related to external factors such as a storm surge, flooding river or even the more inexorable change in sea level. Better relating climate related disasters to the built infrastructure will result in improved emergency and coastal management. This also applies to measurement of pollutants and other geospatially correlated variables. Knowing where something is located is as important as knowing how much is there for proper modeling.

SDG 13: Climate Action

Commission 5 provides support by determining a common reference system for geospatial coordinates and providing the tools & training necessary to provide uniform access. By providing this basis, observations of changes in climate can better integrated to develop refine models for prediction and, presumably, mitigation.

SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

With the advent of GNSS-derived hydrographic soundings, ocean measurements and modeling can be combined with their terrestrial counterparts to form a more integrated system. One area of cous is better relating bathymetric surveys through the coastal zone onto shore with digital elevation models. This forms a seamless model of the Earth’s crust from open air to beneath the water. Additionally, Streams and rivers are often gauges and measured based on terrestrial systems. Ocean modeling usually is in a different geospatial system. By adoption of a common geospatial system, the affects of pollutants running off from terrestrial sources downriver to the ocean can be better modeled.

SDG 15: Life on Land

A common geospatial reference system is integral to a number of areas for this SDG. By providing a common geospatial framework, data from disparate sources can be better integrated to meet these targets. Ecosystems are located in niches determined by lateral extents and, more specifically, the height above water. Different topics of flora exist in different stages above the water (e.g., rising sea levels destroy the roots of mangroves). Understanding these observations in a broader context and a common geospatial reference system better ensures the success of efforts to conserve, restore or sustain these different environments.

Dan Roman and Paula Dijkstra
July 2022